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Harry Potter: The Forbidden Forest Experience – guide, review, video and top tips

Harry Potter: The Forbidden Forest Experience – guide, review, video and top tips

We follow Harry Potter, Ron and Hermione into the Forbidden Forest and test our nerve among the creatures who live there

Name

Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience.

What is it?

A night-time trail through the ‘Forbidden Forest’, known from being in the grounds of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books and films.

You walk at your own pace around an illuminated route, seeing and hearing some of the iconic forest scenes as well as magical creatures from Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts such as Hippogriffs, centaurs and spiders.

Hagrid ad Fang at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Hagrid and Fang

Where is it?

At the gorgeous Arley Hall & Gardens, in Northwich, Cheshire, England.

What did we think?

This is a magical trail as befits a magical world. The experience is carried out on an impressive scale – it was created by Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment, in partnership with Thinkwell.

It is very atmospheric and spooky, with Harry Potter music, sound effects, characters talking and eyes watching you pass, which could be a bit too scary for some younger children.

It would make a great Halloween or pre-Christmas treat for fans of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts.

Ron's flying Ford Anglia at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

The flying Ford Anglia

Highlights

*Conjure a Patronus – choose your wand, point it and utter the words ‘Expecto Patronum’ to cast this spell, which sees off Dementors.

The Patronus Charm at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Expecto Patronum!

*Bow to a hippogriff and it will bow back.

Hippogriff at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

*Try some Butterbeer (it’s alcohol-free), the wizarding drink loved by Harry Ron and Hermione.

Buy a butter beer at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Buy a butterbeer

*The food is delicious.

*Try out a deluminator – to put out the lights like Dumbledore.

*Hear Harry and Ron crashing in the flying Ford Anglia and see the car lights sweeping through the forest.

*Catch a glimpse of a white unicorn slinking through the trees.

Top tips

*Spiders: Aragog and other big spiders lived in the Forbidden Forest and scare Ron in the Harry Potter books and films. They lurk in this forest too but those with arachnophobia don’t have to see them. You will walk through a section with ‘webs’ in the trees, then can choose to divert from the path if you DO want to see the spiders. Those who don’t, stay on the path. If you do divert, you will see large spiders drop down from overhead, stopping just above your heads.

*It is an outdoor trail in the dark so dress warmly with sensible shoes.

Light trail at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

*You can buy Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts merchandise.

Access and restrictions

It is a woodland walk so can be uneven so is not the best terrain to push a wheelchair. Motorised wheelchairs can be hired.

Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Age

All ages are welcome, younger children may be frightened in places.

Time taken

Allow about an hour and a half to do the trail and eat at the end.

Food

There are places to buy food along the way or you can stop at the magical village at the end where our highlights included big marshmallows on sticks you can toast and smother with chocolate sauce , fish and chips, Cornish pasties and a roast dinner in a Yorkshire pudding. My son also enjoyed an edible wand.

Enjoying toasted marshmallows with chocolate sauce at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

When is it on?

It runs from Mondays to Sundays, from October 16 to December 15, 2021.

Opening hours:

Sessions start at 6.30pm (October 16 to 31), 5pm (November 1 to 9), 4.30pm (November 11 to 28) and 4pm (November 29 to December 15). All sessions finish at 10pm.

Cost

Ticket prices vary by date and time, starting from £19.

Children under five are free and from five to 15 are a reduced price.

Buy tickets here.

Address

Arley Hall & Gardens, Arley, Northwich, CW9 6NA.

Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

*We were given complimentary entry for the purposes of this review, all views are our own.

 

The 10 top family days out in Shropshire

The 10 top family days out in Shropshire

Read our guide to the best attractions for children in Shropshire

Shropshire is a fantastic country for children and families with lots of lovely outdoor space and attractions to explore.

Here are some of the best family days out, in no particular order. Have you tried any of them?

1. The Sabrina Boat (Shrewsbury)

The Sabrina Boat on the river in Shropshire

The Sabrina Boat

Take a relaxing boat trip along the River Severn in Shrewsbury.

This triple-decker modern passenger boat carries 60 people

Address: Sabrina Boat, Victoria Quay, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY1 1HH.

Website: https://sabrinaboat.co.uk

2. Hawkstone Park Follies (Shrewsbury)

Hawkstone Park Follies

Hawkstone Park Follies

Explore 100 acres of parkland with magical follies, bridges, towers and caves, to spark children’s imaginations.

Address: Hawkstone Park Follies, Weston-under-Redcastle, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY4 5JY.

Website: https://www.hawkstoneparkfollies.co.uk

3. Park Hall Farm (Oswestry)

Sheep at Park Hall Farm in Shropshire

Park Hall Farm

There’s lots to do at this award-winning farm park with hands-on animal activities, two indoor play barns, adventure courses, woodland walks and a lovely lake.

Children can drive electric cars, visit the Victorian School, Iron Age Roundhouse and Welsh Guards Museum.

Address: Park Hall, Oswestry, Shropshire, SY11 4AS.

Website: https://www.parkhallfarm.co.uk

4. British Ironwork Centre (Oswestry)

Statue at The British Ironwork Centre

Statue at The British Ironwork Centre

This is the biggest display of decorative metalwork in the UK from suits of armour to animal sculptures and lamps.

It also features live work from the some of the best artists and blacksmiths in the country.

There’s over 60 acres of land to explore, a cafe, ice cream parlour, shops, sculpture park and an outdoor children’s adventure play area.

Address: The British Ironwork Centre, Whitehall, Aston, Oswestry, Shropshire, SY11 4JH.

Website: https://www.britishironworkcentre.co.uk

5. Ludlow Castle (Ludlow)

Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle

This ruined medieval fortification overlooking the River Teme, was one of the first stone castles to be built in England.

There are also shops, a tea room and a walk around the outside of the castle with lovely views.

Address: Ludlow Castle, Castle Square, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 1AY.

Website: https://www.ludlowcastle.com

6. Severn Valley Railway (Bridgnorth)

Severn Valley Railway

Severn Valley Railway

This 16-mile railway in Shropshire and Worcestershire, runs along the Severn Valley from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster. It operates full-size, mainly steam-hauled passenger trains.

Most of the route follows the course of the River Severn.

Address: There are six stations https://www.svr.co.uk/Stations.aspx

Website: https://www.svr.co.uk

7. Blists Hill Victorian Town (Madeley, Telford)

Blists Hill Victorian Town

Blists Hill Victorian Town

This open-air museum recreates the sights, sounds and smells of a Victorian Shropshire town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Address: Blists Hill Victorian Town, Legges Way, Telford TF7 5UD.

Website: https://www.ironbridge.org.uk/explore/blists-hill-victorian-town/

8. Enginuity Ironbridge (Telford)

This interactive design and technology centre has lots of interactive exhibits great for children aged up to 12.

Address: 10 Wellington Rd, Coalbrookdale, Telford, TF8 7DX.

Website: https://www.ironbridge.org.uk/explore/enginuity/

9. Shewsbury Canoe Hire (Shrewsbury)

Explore the River Severn from a canoe, which can be hired from two locations – Shrewsbury Quarry Park and Attingham Park.

Website: https://www.shrewsburycanoehire.co.uk

10. Shrewsbury Prison (Shrewsbury)

Shrewsbury Prison

Shrewsbury Prison

Shrewsbury Prison was built in 1793 and has been home to thousands of criminals.

Now it is open to the public with guided tours, evening ghost tours, escape events, prison experience events and history days.

Address: Shrewsbury Prison, The Dana, SY1 2HR.

Website: https://www.shrewsburyprison.com

We stayed at a fabulous holiday park when we visited Shropshire read our review and see our exclusive video tour : Review: Love2Stay – a fantastic holiday park in the middle of Shropshire with loads for children to do (and dogs)!

For more ideas see the official tourism website for Shropshire Visit Shropshire.

Review: Love2Stay – a fantastic holiday park in the middle of Shropshire with loads for children to do (and dogs)!

Review: Love2Stay – a fantastic holiday park in the middle of Shropshire with loads for children to do (and dogs)!

We take our children and dog to Love2Stay in Shrewsbury where we make exciting finds at our lodge before we even start to explore the rest of the site

Name

Love2Stay, Shropshire

Where is it?

Love2Stay is in the countryside on the outskirts of Shrewsbury in the centre of Shropshire.

What is it?

This UK holiday park is a fresh, modern, 22-acre resort where you can stay in anything from your own caravan through to a luxury lodge.

Watch our video tour below and then read on for lots more information.

Is it family-friendly?

Yes, it’s very family-friendly with lots for children to do.

There are two outdoor pools, a sand/beach area, a huge play area/playground and somewhere to play football. There’s also a pizza restaurant and numerous activities ranging from paddle boarding and archery through to den making and tie dying t-shirts.

Accommodation

You can bring your own touring caravan or motorhome or stay in a glamping lodge (Safari Lodge) or luxury Woodland Lodge on the site.

Our woodland lodge at love2stay holiday-park in Shropshire

Our woodland lodge

We stayed in a lovely new Woodland Lodge in a spacious plot – the children were thrilled when we arrived to find we had our own hot tub, huge hammock, bean bags and fire pit in the garden!

They decided this was going to be the best holiday ever, before we even got through the door.

Inside the lodge at Love2Stay holiday park in Shropshire

Inside the lodge

Inside was a modern open plan lounge/kitchen/dining area, two bedrooms (one with two small single beds and one with a double), a bathroom with shower and an en-suite without.

The twin room inside the lodge at Love2Stay holiday park in Shropshire

The twin room

The double bedroom inside the lodge at Love2Stay holiday park in Shropshire

The main bedroom

It’s fully equipped with a microwave, dishwasher, fridge/freezer, oven and hob. The appliances were of a high standard and it was extremely clean.

In the hot tub outside our wooden lodge at Love2Stay holiday park in Shropshire

In the hot tub

If staying in your own caravan or motorhome, there are fully-serviced pitches, warm clean facilities with private showers and complimentary toiletries.

Food and drink

The lodges are self-catering and we cooked in the kitchen and on the fire pit at ours. Each lodge has firelighters, kindling and logs supplied to get your fire pit roaring.

Plus there is a communal outdoor kitchen area with a fire pit, barbecues and woodfired pizza oven you can use.

There is an on-site cafe and pizza restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, selling delicious pizzas, breakfast snacks and other sharing dishes like nachos.

A few items like eggs and milk are sold at reception. There are nearby supermarkets including Sainsbury’s Local, Co-op, M&S and Asda, all within a few minutes’ drive.

Facilities

*Two outdoor swimming pools and beach.

The natural swimming pool at Love2Stay holiday park in Shropshire

The natural pool

A BioTop natural swimming pool – free of chemicals and filtered through a reed water garden. This gets very cold, you may need to bring a wetsuit.

A shallow pool for children to splash about in with water sprays that come on every so often, alongside the beach.

The children's pool at Love2Stay holiday park in Shropshire

The children’s pool

*Small lake for kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing.

Paddle boarding on the lake at Love2Stay holiday park in Shropshire

Paddle boarding on the lake

*Gym/fitness suite.

*Grassy sports field with two goals for playing your own games.

*A big playground/play area for climbing, swinging and sliding. It was an excellent play area mainly suited for slightly older children aged 6 and above.

The playground/play area at Love2Stay holiday park in Shropshire

The playground/play area

*An assault course for aged eight and over, which can be booked as an activity.

*A small cinema in a tent showing three films a day. All the films when we were there were family films.

*Spa treatments.

*Yoga and pilates sessions.

*Woodland School sessions with fun activities.

*A cafe and restaurant.

The restaurant and reception at Love2Stay holiday park in Shropshire

The cafe/restaurant and reception behind the outdoor pool

Is it dog-friendly?

Yes, our lodge was dog-friendly and our dog Charlie loved it here – there is a lovely fenced-in space where they can run around off the lead and play and a fantastic adjoining agility area.

They need to be kept on the lead around the rest of the site and are not allowed in some areas such as the pool areas.

A dog in the agility area at Love2Stay holiday park in Shropshire

Charlie in the dog agility area

Nearby 

Love2Stay is in the heart of Shropshire, a county with lots for children to do.

There are open spaces, woods and hills plus it has a rich history. Read our  guide here for ideas: The 10 top family days out in Shropshire

*Shrewsbury

The holiday park is on the outskirts of the town of Shrewsbury.

We crossed over the River Severn and had a walk through its 29-acre park The Quarry.

In the centre of the park is a stunning sunken garden called the Dingle. This is a lovely area to explore and you can also enjoy the historic town centre.

Flowers intThe Dingle garden in the Quarry park, Shrewsbury

The Dingle garden in the Quarry park, Shrewsbury

There is loads more to do in Shrewsbury including Shrewsbury Prison, a canal ride, a boat ride and a visit to a fabulous park Hawkstone Follies, read about them here.

Love2Stay information

Address: Love2Stay, Emstrey, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY5 6QS.

Phone: 01743 583124

Website: www.love2stay.co.uk

Book a touring pitch.

Book a lodge.

RELATED CONTENT: The eight best places for children on and around the Llangollen Canal

RELATED CONTENT: We review an Anglo Welsh canal boat with our children – is it family friendly?

(We received a complimentary stay for the purpose of this review, all views are our own).

The Buxton Crescent REVIEW and GUIDE – we discover if this luxurious spa hotel is popular with children

The Buxton Crescent REVIEW and GUIDE – we discover if this luxurious spa hotel is popular with children

Buxton’s historical Georgian centrepiece wows on a trip to the Peak District

The Buxton Crescent is a beautiful hotel in the heart of a Peak District town which for centuries has been famed for the healing properties of its spa waters.

This iconic, curved, Georgian building, started out as two grand hotels. And now, a 17-year project has restored it to this luxurious hotel and contemporary spa which sources the natural spring water from beneath it.

Visitors are travelling from all over to stay here, but is it suitable for children? We take our two, to find out what it can offer for youngsters.

Name

Buxton Crescent Health Spa Hotel

Where is it?

It is in lovely Buxton in the Derbyshire Peak District, in a brilliant, central position opposite the Pavilion Gardens.

What is it

The Buxton Crescent is a five-star spa hotel which opened in 2020 following a £70 million restoration.

It has 81 rooms and a big thermal spa and is run by Ensana Hotels.

The history

Buxton first became a spa resort when the Romans discovered warm, bubbling springs underneath what is now the hotel and settled in the area in around 78AD.

In 1789, the Crescent was built by the Fifth Duke of Devonshire to establish Buxton as a Georgian spa town.

It was originally two hotels, vsited by spa seekers who travelled from all over to bathe in Buxton’s thermal waters.

The building was later used for other purposes but by 1992 was derelict.

It was reborn following a huge renovation and the Buxton Crescent Health Spa Hotel opened in October, 2020.

The indoor to outdoor rooftop swimming pool at the Buxton Crescent Hotel.

The indoor to outdoor rooftop swimming pool.

Is it family friendly?

The hotel’s main market is adults including couples, older families and friends but it is surprisingly child-friendly and our two absolutely loved it.

They adored our suite (see accommodation below), the food and especially the indoor to outdoor rooftop swimming pool.

Plus, the location opposite the park was a huge bonus with its two play areas, boating lake, ice creams and mini train.

And there are so many amazing things to do in the surrounding area (more below).

Accommodation

We stayed in a junior suite which can hold two adults and two children. We parents slept in the main bedroom in a sumptuously comfortable four-poster bed beneath a magnificent chandelier.

Bedroom in the junior suite at Buxton Crescent Hotel

Our bedroom in a junior suite

The children were in the lounge area where a sofa bed had been converted into a small double. They loved having their own room (and tv opposite the bed)!

The lounge/children's bedroom in a junior suite at the Buxton Crescent Hotel

The lounge became the children’s room

There was a separate bathroom with the biggest overhead shower head I’ve ever seen and a freestanding bath outside the bathroom within the area between the two bedrooms.

The bath in a Junior Suite at the Buxton Crescent Hotel

Food and drink

The restaurant is lovely, it’s elegant and serene so keep your fingers crossed for well-behaved children but it’s big enough to be able to relax.

There is a children’s menu with a great choice of food for younger diners. The pasta and meatballs went down well with our two as did waiter Joe’s napkin tricks.

The restaurant at the Buxton Crescent Hotel

The restaurant

Our meals were so tasty and there was a great choice of wine.

Breakfast was equally delicious, there was a good choice of cereals and lovely pastries, plus pancakes and cooked breakfasts.

There is also a Spa Cafe serving lighter meals and desserts with indoor and outdoor seating.

Highlights

The main swimming pool

The rooftop swimming pool was the best I have ever been in, thanks to its warm temperature, which meant that for the first time ever I was able to get straight in instead of very slowly, while shivering. There was also the novelty of being able to swim from inside to outside and vice versa.

Children aren’t allowed in the spa or its two smaller pools but they are thankfully allowed in this one.

The drinking water

I know it’s just water, but the water here tastes so nice, we all drank a lot more than we usually would in the restaurant.

The town’s drinking well, St Ann’s Well, is opposite the hotel and you can fill up your own bottles here but the hotel is supplied directly.

Buxton Mineral Water is still bottled here and sold around the world.

The spa

Buxton is one of only two Roman spa towns in England – the other being Bath.

Famous faces who have travelled here include Mary Queen of Scots who came to ‘take the water’ in Buxton to treat her rheumatism.

Visitors to the hotel spa now find a relaxing, contemporary space where they can also bathe in the town’s water – it flows chemically untreated into a thermal pool surrounded by wall tiles dating back to 1924 and covered with a stained glass canopy.

Use of the spa is included with all stays and also includes a relaxation pool, spa baths, three saunas, two steam rooms, a gym, a salt cave, two relaxation pools and an ice fountain.

The spa is not for children so we parents took turns individually to enjoy it.

Treatments from the spa menu cost extra and include traditional beauty therapies along with wellness and holistic treatments.

The building

The grade one-listed crescent-shaped building was designed by architect Sir John Carr.

Modelled on the Royal Crescent in Bath, this fine example of Georgian architecture feels wonderfully impressive as you arrive.

The staff

The staff were so friendly and helpful and went out of their way to assist and chat and make our stay extra special.

Nearby

The Peak District is the country’s oldest National Park and there are loads of great family walks to enjoy among its rolling hills.

There are also lots of attractions that children will love. We visited:

*Poole’s Cavern and Buxton Country Park

A two million-year-old limestone cave with fabulous formations, read our review and guide to it here.

A tour at Poole's Cavern

Poole’s Cavern

*Peak Wildlife Park

A lovely zoo where you can walk among some of the animals. It also has play areas, read our review and guide here.

A girl interacts with a penguin at Peak Wildlife Park

Peak Wildlife Park

*We also climbed Shutlingsloe Hill, known as the Matterhorn of Cheshire.

The third highest peak in the county has a distinctive profile. It’s very steep and rocky towards the top.

Climbing Shutlingsloe Hill - the Matterhorn of Cheshire

Climbing Shutlingsloe Hill – the Matterhorn of Cheshire

Conclusion

We had an amazing time at the Buxton Crescent Hotel and we all would love to return, it’s a perfect destination for all ages to relax and enjoy the luxurious surroundings and beautiful Peak District.

Buxton Crescent hotel information

To book: https://www.ensanahotels.com/buxton/en

Address: The Crescent, Buxton, SK17 6BH, United Kingdom

Email: reception.buxtoncrescent@ensanahotels.com

Phone: 01298 808 999.

More of our Peak District content

Poole’s Cavern & Buxton Country Park – REVIEW, GUIDE and top TIPS

Peak Wildlife Park – REVIEW, GUIDE and TIPS for this Staffordshire Peak District zoo

(We received a complimentary stay at the hotel for the purpose of this review, all views are our own).

Poole’s Cavern & Buxton Country Park – REVIEW, GUIDE and top TIPS

Poole’s Cavern & Buxton Country Park – REVIEW, GUIDE and top TIPS

We take our children to explore spectacular caves on a family day out in the Peak District

Name

Poole’s Cavern & Buxton Country Park

What is it?

Poole’s Cavern is a two milion-year-old limestone cave. It is one of the best show caves in England – there are vast illuminated galleries to explore, filled with fantastic formations like crystal stalactites and stalagmites.

From the car park here is an entrance to Buxton Country Park – an uphill stroll though woodland to a hilltop viewpoint where you can look out across the Peak District.

Where is it?

It is on the edge of Buxton in the Peak District, in Derbyshire.

What did we think?

Poole’s Cavern is a fascinating all-weather attraction. The ancient, natural limestone caves are exciting with fascinating formations and an interesting history, which the guide explains. (All tours are guided).

Visitors explore Poole's Cavern

Visitors explore the cavern (Credit: Visit Peak District & Derbyshire)

To be able to follow our time below ground with a walk high above in the country park, with great views, is brilliant.

Highlights

*Austin, our fantastic guide around the caves, really kept the children (and us) interested with tales including what happened to the cavern’s biggest stalagmite and pointing out graffitti on a cave wall left by the Victorians. He also told us about the geology behind how the caves and formations were created.

*I had a secret chuckle at the prominent shape of the ‘poached egg’ stalagmites – you’ll see why when you get there!

*Solomon’s Temple – a tower at the top of the hill in Buxton Country Park – climb it to appreciate the Peak District views.

Top tips

*The temperature in the cave is always 7C, so don’t forget jumpers or coats, especially in summer when you may not think to bring them.

*Guided tours are every 20 minutes and leave from the visitor centre exhibition area. Tours last around 50 minutes.

*The caves are lit but are still quite dark. At the end of the tour, the guide will turn all the lights off for a few seconds so you can imagine what exploring the cave by candlelight used to be like. You may want to hold your child’s hand for this bit. If one of you would not like this darkness, you can let the guide know beforehand.

*Buxton Country Park – we took the yellow route up to the to Solomon’s Temple and the green route back down again. It is quite steep.

Solomon's Temple in Buxton Country Park, the Peak District

Solomon’s Temple

*Also here is one of Go Ape’s highest adventure courses, with zip wires and aerial walkways. This needs to be booked separately.

Where did we stay?

We stayed at a beautiful five-star, spa hotel, the Buxton Crescent, read our full review of it next.

Poole’s Cavern and Buxton Country Park information

Facilities: There is a visitor centre which shows archaeology found in the cave and is interesting to look around while you are waiting for your tour.

There is also a shop selling rocks and minerals, toys, gifts and books.

And there are accessible toilets with baby changing facilities.

Food: There are two picnic areas plus a cafe selling drinks, snacks and light meals.

Opening hours: First tour at 10am, last tour at 4.30pm, every day.

Cost: Adults (aged over 16) are £12.50, children (aged five to 16) are £6, students and seniors with valid ID are £10 and a family ticket for two adults and two children is £32.

Best for: Ages six and above.

Time needed: The cavern tour takes around 50 minutes. The walk to the top of the hill in the adjoining country park and back can be done in an hour.

Access and restrictions: There are walkways and handrails. The first main chamber is 100 metres long and is accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs. After that are 14 steps up and 14 back down again (you return the way you came).

Are dogs allowed at Poole’s Cavern? Dogs are allowed in the cafe and the visitor centre but not in the cavern, except for guide dogs.

Parking: There is a pay and display car park.

Address: Poole’s Cavern Visitor Centre, Green Lane, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 9DH.

Phone: 01298 26978

Email: info@poolescavern.co.uk

Website: www.poolescavern.co.uk

Book tickets: here.

*Our visit was organised with help from Visit Peak District and  Derbyshire, the official tourist information hub.

For more great ideas of family activites in the area, go to the VIsit Peak District and Derbyshire website.

Peak Wildlife Park – REVIEW, GUIDE and TIPS for this Staffordshire Peak District zoo

Peak Wildlife Park – REVIEW, GUIDE and TIPS for this Staffordshire Peak District zoo

We take our children on a family day out to Peak Wildlife Park

Name

Peak Wildlife Park

What is it?

A small zoo with exotic and endangered animals from three continents including wallabies, lemurs and penguins.

It specialises in walk-through experiences.

Where is it?

Peak Wildlife Park is in Winkhill, Leek in the Staffordshire Peak District.

What did we think?

We had a lovely time here, it’s a nice size attraction to explore, not too big to tire out little legs.

Being able to walk among some of the animals, without enclosures, is fantastic.

Lemurs eating at Peak Wildlife Park

Lemurs

Highlights

*The lemurs

You can walk among the lemurs, who entertained us with their playing and swinging, especially a cute baby lemur.

*The wallabies

You’re allowed go gently stroke the wallabies, which resemble small kangaroos.

Wallabies at Peak Wildlife Park

Wallabies

*The penguins.

The penguins can be seen from three different vantage points, including through a window to watch them swim under water. You can also get right up close to them and they may even cross a path in front of you.

*Play areas

There are different play areas including an indoor soft play which is free to use. Outdoors is a bouncy castle, sandpit and more traditional play equipment.

An outdoor play area at Peak Wildlife Park

An outdoor play area at Peak Wildlife Park

Top tips

*Don’t miss any of the site 

We thought we had explored everywhere but when we were near the exit, discovered an extra bit with more animals and play areas past the cafe.

Food orders

You can pre-order food and drink from your smart phone and collect at a time that suits you by following this link.

We hadn’t done this so ordered, in person, a pizza to share and used the 20-minute wait time while it cooked to explore more. Staff give you a buzzer to carry which alerts you to when your food is ready if you don’t go too far out of range.

Animal experience

If you want go get even closer to the animals or it’s a special occasion, you can buy an Animal Experience.

Where did we stay?

We stayed at a beautiful five-star, spa hotel, the Buxton Crescent, read our full review of it next.

Peak Wildlife Park information

Food

*The Courtyard Cafe serves stone baked pizzas, sandwiches, crisps, cakes and ice creams. There are gluten-free and vegan options.

*There are outside picnic areas and a family room you can eat in.

*Another area serves ice cream.

Opening hours: Peak Wildlife Park opens at 10am. It closes at 6pm in the Spring/Summer season and at 5pm in the Autumn/Winter season.

Cost: Adults aged 17 to 64 pay £12.95.

Children aged two to 16 are £10.95. Under-twos are free.

Concessions – senior citizens from aged 65 and students with valid card photo IDs pay £10.95.

Carers are free.

Annual pass: Peak Wildlife Park offers an annual pass which entitles you to visit as many times as you want for a year.

It costs £35.99 for adults (aged 17 to 64), £29.99 for children aged two to 16 and also for concessions (senior citizens from 65 and students with valid ID cards).

Best for: All ages who like animals but especially two to 10-year-olds.

Time needed: Two to four hours.

Access and restrictions: The park is fully accessible and wheelchairs are available to borrow for free. The paths are wide enough for mobility scooters.

There are disabled toilets.

Baby changing facilities: Baby change facilities are in the ladies toilets, disabled toilets and baby change rooms next to the family room.

Are dogs allowed?: No, dogs are not allowed at Peak Wildlife Park. Foxtwood Kennels, situated 10 minutes from the park, is happy to take dogs for the day, you can call them on 01538 266 667 to make a booking.

Address: Peak Wildlife Park, Winkhill, Leek, ST13 7QR.

Sat nav users should use the postcode ST13 7QR.

Parking: Parking is free

Website: www.peak wildlife park.co.uk

Email: info@peakwildlifepark.co.I’m

Book here: https://www.peakwildlifepark.co.uk/tickets

*Our visit was organised with help from Visit Peak District and  Derbyshire, the official tourist information hub.

For more great ideas of family activites in the area, go to the VIsit Peak District and Derbyshire website.

 

Cheshire’s best traffic-free family cycling routes

Cheshire’s best traffic-free family cycling routes

Take children on a new bike ride in Cheshire with our guide to the best cycle routes

Cycling has never been so popular and it’s a great way for families to be together for exercise, fresh air and fun.

When children are confident on their bikes, it’s great to find safe new cycle routes to explore and there are lot to choose from in Cheshire.

So here is our round-up of some of Cheshire’s best traffic-free cycling spots for families.

Make sure to check out the routes in advance for hazards such as drops, gates or roads to cross.

Middlewood Way

Middlewood Way is a 10-mile, traffic-free path through beautiful scenery along the route of the former Macclesfield, Bollington and Marple Railway.

You can start in Macclesfield, Marple in Stockport or at other points along the way such as Middlewood, Poynton or Bollington.

The Salt Line

Children cycle the Salt Line

Salt Line

The Salt Line, south of Sandbach, makes for a lovely family bike ride although keep an eye out for some steep drops to the side.

This former railway line, the North Staffordshire Railway, runs through part of Cheshire that was once famous for salt making.

It is 1.8 miles long and there is a small car park at one end near the canal at Hassall Green.

Wheelock Rail Trail

North east of the Salt Line is the Wheelock Rail Trail which follows the same former railway line.

The 1.24-mile path links Elworth and Malkins Bank near Sandbach.

Biddulph Valley Way

This disused Cheshire railway line was used by trains carrying coal from the Potteries to Congleton.

It is a traffic-free, flat route for cyclists, walkers and horse riders.

The Cheshire section is 2.1 miles through countryside but the route continues into Staffordshire.

It can be reached from the car park off A54 Brook Street, Congleton (CW12 1RG) and via the local public rights of way network.

Connect 2 Crewe to Nantwich Greenway

Cycling Connect 2 Crewe to Nantwich Greenway

Connect 2 Crewe to Nantwich Greenway

This five-mile traffic-free route goes between the Cheshire towns of Crewe and Nantwich along the A530 corridor.

It’s well-surfaced and takes in parks and open countryside with plenty of places to stop and eat along the way.

Chester to Connah’s Quay 

This route follows the disused railway from Chester into Wales and can be linked up with a ride along the River Dee on the way back.

It’s an eight-mile surfaced path with countryside views.

Delamere Forest

Children will love to ride through the forest – there are two cycle routes here with sandy tracks.

Hunger Hill trail is four miles and Whitemoor trail is 6.8 miles.

There are hills to navigate so wait until little legs are ready.

There is also a cycle hire shop here and electric bikes are available.

The Whitegate Way

This six-mile traffic-free route is from Winsford to Cuddington.

The Whitegate railway line, which closed in 1966, carried salt for almost 100 years.

Old A556

Just north of Knutsford, the old A556 dual carriageway through Mere has been turned into a single-track road and a separate cycle path.

It is around three miles long, wide and relatively flat with good visibility.

Bridgewater Way

This traffic-free route links Altrincham to Manchester city centre and the Trafford Centre.

Cyclists can ride on the resurfaced canal towpath from Broadheath, through Sale, Stretford and Trafford Park where you can pick up paths to Salford Quays and MediaCity.

There are lots of places to join the 11-mile route.

*Anywhere we have missed? Let us know in the comments. Happy cycling!

BeWILDerwood Cheshire – review, guide and top tips on this family attraction

BeWILDerwood Cheshire – review, guide and top tips on this family attraction

The woodland adventure where adults can join in the fun as well as the children

Name

BeWILDerwood Cheshire.

What is it?

BeWILDerwood Cheshire is a family attraction based on the adventures of magical characters from children’s books written by Tom Blofeld.

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld

It’s all in a wood and includes treehouses, slides, den building, storytelling and zip wires.

Where is it?

It’s north of Whitchurch on the A49 in south west Cheshire near the border with Shropshire.

Balancing on a beam at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

What did we think?

This is a lovely day out for families.

It’s a great size and laid out nicely in a circle so it’s easier to navigate.

The best bit for me was that adults are encouraged to join in all the fun!

A mum and daughter on the zip wires at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Racing my daughter on the zip wire

Highlights

*The zip wires: There are three sets of two zip wires with staff helping people on and off them. They are longer and faster than the ones you get at play parks and exhilarating to do together.

*The slides: You grab a little bag to sit in to ride the ‘slippery slopes’.

*Parents included: the fact that children and grown-ups are all allowed on everything together is really fun.

*Toddlers: There are smaller sized versions of the equipment for really little ones to go on.

*The mazes: The mazes are all created from wood and go up and down steps and over little bridges.

Tree trails at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Tree trails

Top tips

*Get there early: We were there at 10am when it opened on a Sunday and got straight on everything and nowhere was crowded. After lunch, we spotted queues for the zip wires.

*Times: Make a note of the times for any events like the storytelling (every hour from 12noon) and get there early to get a seat.

*Crafts: There is a craft activity on every day so remember to leave time for this.

My daugher wears her craft creation at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

My daugher wears her creation

*Clothes and shoes: Wear comfortable clothes and shoes such as trainers. If the weather is wet, you may need a change of clothes.

*Other BeWILDerwood sites: This is the second Bewilderwood, the first is in Norfolk.

*How to pronounce BeWILDerwood: the WILD is not pronounced wild but willed – I asked as  I like to know these things.

BeWILDerwood information

Food: You can buy food and drink from two places – the Munch Bar and Cosy Cabin.

There are lots of places to eat a picnic.

Opening hours: 10am to 5pm, last entry at 4pm.

Cost: Prices are based on height and everything is included in the cost. Under 92cm are free, 92cm to 105cm are £17.50, those over 105cm are £19.50. Adults 65 and over are £12.50. Wheelchair users are free. Parking is free.

Best for: Children aged 2 – 12 but adults will enjoy it too.

Time needed: We stayed for four hours but you could stay longer.

Access and restrictions: There’s a path around the site which slopes in places. There is no access on the equipment for wheelchairs or pushchairs/buggies/prams but they can be taken in to the park.

Are dogs allowed at BEWILDerwood: No.

Address: BeWILDerwood Cheshire, Bickley Moss, Whitchurch, Cheshire, SY13 4JF.

Website: https://cheshire.bewilderwood.co.uk/

Lappa Valley review and guide – where a steam train ride starts a traditional day out for young children

Lappa Valley review and guide – where a steam train ride starts a traditional day out for young children

We take our children and dog to this outdoor attraction for young children in Cornwall

Name

Lappa Valley

What is it?

Lappa Valley is an outdoor attraction for young children with traditional activities, which you access via a miniature steam train from the car park.

Where is it?

Near Newquay in Cornwall (south-west England).

Our highlights

The trains

At the car park is a ticket office and a station – known as Benny Halt – where you catch a miniature locomotive.

It travels a mile to East Wheal Rose station where the park is nestled in a valley.

There are two other little trains when you get there – one which goes twice around a track and another which takes you to another part of the site.

The park

There is a small lake with swan-shaped pedalos and canoes, a nine-hole crazy golf course, little cars to drive around tracks on, trampolines, trains and play areas.

Swan pedalos at Lappa Valley

Swan pedalos

What did we think?

Starting the visit with a train ride was different and exciting – especially as it was our dog’s first time on one too.

The play areas are varied and there was a quiz to fill in as you walked around the site, which our children enjoyed.

Our two were perhaps a little old at 10 and 7 for Lappa Valley overall but this is a lovely treat for younger children, particularly train fans.

Our top tips

*Check out the train times so that you are not hanging around at the beginning or end of your trip.

*Try to visit on a dry, sunny day – the weather could make or break your visit.

Crazy golf at Lappa Valley

Crazy golf at Lappa Valley

*There is a buggy wagon on the steam railway to put prams and pushchairs.

*Dogs on a lead are welcome, there weren’t many there but we took ours with us. It costs £1 per dog and they are allowed on the train, boats and walks. Assistance dogs are free.

Lappa Valley information

Food

There is a cafe, the Whistlestop Cafe, which includes a children’s menu.

Picnics are allowed and there are several places to eat them.

Opening hours: 10am to 5.30pm

Cost: Adults £13.95, children up to age 16 are £11.95, over 60s are £11.95, children two and under are free.

A family ticket is £47.50 for two adults and two children and is £50.50 for two adults and three children. Dogs are £1.

There are discounts for disabled visitors, carers and public services personnel.

Everything is included in the cost including the trains, boats and crazy golf, except coin-operated rides.

Best for: Children aged three to seven.

Time needed: Two to four hours

Access and restrictions

This site is hilly and half of it is accessible by wheelchair. Wheelchairs of a certain size can fit on the train in adapted, ramped compartments. There are two wheelchairs available to borrow.

Address: Lappa Valley, St Newlyn East, Newquay, TR8 5LX.

Email: info@lappavalley.co.uk

Telephone: 01872 510317

Website: Lappa Valley

More Cornwall content

Don’t miss our reviews and tips for other Cornwall attractions – the Lost Gardens of Heligan and Tintagel Castle.

Plus see the fabulous dog-friendly luxury cottage complex where we stayed: Review: The Valley in Cornwall – we take our children and dog to this five-star site near Truro

And our full Cornwall holiday review is here: We take our children and new dog on a family holiday to Cornwall – find out how we get on

*Our trip was supported by www.visitcornwall.com – the number one website for visitors to Cornwall, helping visitors find everything they need for a great time in Cornwall.

Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall – review, guide and top tips

Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall – review, guide and top tips

We take our children and dog to explore this once secret garden in Cornwall

Name

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

What is it?

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are Europe’s largest garden restoration project.

This secret garden was lost for decades until a door to a walled garden was discovered in 1990.

After an award-winning restoration, there are now 200 acres of subtropical gardens, woodland and jungle to explore.

Where is it?

The gardens cover steep ground in Cornwall, near the town of Mevagissey, not far from St Austell. It is in quite a remote location with small lanes leading to the entrance.

What did we think?

This is a wonderful place for children with a huge playground, lots of space, a farm and a brilliant jungle area. It’s a lot of walking and some of it is steep so younger children may get tired.

A giant's head at The Lost Gardens od Heligan

A giant’s head

Highlights

*The Jungle

This is the best area, jungle plants in a valley with boardwalks to explore and a wobbly rope bridge to cross. This was the part which captured our children’s imaginations the most.

Crossing the rope bridge at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Crossing the rope bridge

*East Lawn playground

This large playground has a lot of modern equipment and plenty of space to run around. There are also great views and it is a good spot for children to let off some steam

*Home Farm

A small farm with pigs, sheep, chickens and horses. Ideal for younger children to get up close with farm animals. It is also near toilets and food outlets.

*Woodland Walk

A fun stroll through woodland you can do either at the start of end of your visit. There is a small play area called the Giant’s Adventure Trail and look out for the Mud Maid sculpture.

Tha Mud Maid at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Mud Maid

Our top tips

*Plan your route

There is a lot of walking involved so we suggest making your way to the furthest point of the site initially and working backwards towards the entrance. That way you will avoid the crowds and won’t be too tired when you are furthest away from the way out!

*It’s uphill on the way back

Take into account that all the routes back to the entrance are uphill. It is a very steep walk back, so plan your route accordingly.

*A manageable route

The simplest way for families to see the most child-friendly parts of the gardens is as follows: Go down the Woodland Walk and then head for The Jungle, go around that area and then visit the East Lawn playground, then you can use the toilets and facilities at the Steward’s House Cafe and enjoy the farm before making your way to the exit through the beautiful Flora’s Green.

*The rope bridge

The rope bridge in the jungle area is 100ft high and among the longest in Britain.

Crossing it is a wobbly, fantastic experience.

But dogs are not allowed across it and people with a fear of heights might not fancy it either.

Fear not, there are ways around it, then you may also be able to get a picture of family members crossing towards you.

*Toilets

There are only two areas with toilet and facilities – at the entrance and then near Home Farm. There are large parts of the gardens with no facilities.

*Dogs

Dogs are welcome on a lead and it is a great place for them to enjoy and explore. The Lost Valley is the quietest area and a good one for those coming with dogs who want a more strenuous walk.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan information

Food:

*Near the ticket office – Heligan Kitchen, Coffee Bar, Ice-cream Hut.

*In the Steward’s Garden near Home Farm – Steward’s House Cafe, BBQ Hut, Ice-cream Hut.

*Picnics are welcome and there are lots of benches to sit on.

Opening hours: Daily April to September 10am to 6pm, October to March 10am to 5pm.

Cost: Adults £17.50, children aged 5 to 15 £8.50, under 5s free. Family ticket £48. Book here.

Best for: Children aged 5-15, you do need some stamina to get around so younger ones may get tired.

Time needed: Minimum of 3 to 4 hours to explore the best parts of the site. You could easily spend a whole day here though.

Access and restrictions: Mostly accessible but some steep slopes to navigate. The Jungle and wider garden routes are not accessible and not open to wheelchairs. Accessible Maps available from the ticket office.

Address: The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, St Austell, PL26 6EN.

WebsiteThe Lost Garden of Heligan

More Cornwall content

Can’t get enough of Cornwall? Don’t miss our other stories, including reviews of Tintagel Castle and Lappa Valley.

Find out all about the amazing cottage we stayed in at The Valley in Cornwall.

And read about our whole holiday here: We take our children and new dog on a family holiday to Cornwall – find out how we get on

*Our trip was supported by www.visitcornwall.com – the number one website for visitors to Cornwall, helping visitors find everything they need for a great time in Cornwall.

Review: The Valley in Cornwall – we take our children and dog to this five-star site near Truro

Review: The Valley in Cornwall – we take our children and dog to this five-star site near Truro

We have a family holiday at a complex of luxury self-catering cottages in the middle of Cornwall

Name

The Valley, Cornwall.

Where is it?

The Valley is in a fabulous location in the centre of Cornwall near to Truro and Falmouth – perfect for exploring in all directions.

What is it?

A 13-acre complex of 46 luxury self-catering cottages and exclusive leisure facilities including an indoor pool, outdoor pool and tennis court.

Cottages at The Valley, Truro, Cornwall

Cottages at The Valley

Is it family-friendly?

Yes, it feels safe and secure and there are facilities for children including an outdoor play area, games room and swimming pools.

The Valley provides lots for free including highchairs, stair gates, bed guards and travel cots. There are toys and books to borrow from a room next to the reception too.

Plus, babysitters can be arranged if needed.

Accommodation

The 5-star two and three-bedroom cottages are spaced out across the site.

There are six types, we stayed in a Villa Gallery and absolutely loved it – we felt at home straight away.

Our Cottage at The Valley in Cornwall

Our cottage

It was modern and clean and spread over three levels as it is set on a hill.

Lounge of our cottage at The Valley, Truro, Cornwall

The kitchen/dining room was on a mezzanine floor overlooking the lounge, all under a high ceiling with beams.

The kitchen of our cottage at The Valley, Truro, Cornwall

The kitchen

Off the kitchen was a balcony overlooking the pool.

The beds were really comfortable – our double bedroom had a desk, television and en-suite. The children’s twin room also had a desk and there was a separate bathroom.

Bedroom of our cottage at The Valley, Truro, Cornwall

There was a warm laundry room with washing machine and a third toilet in a cloakroom next to the front door.

It all felt really fresh and clean, with loads of room and storage.

Food and drink

The cottages are self-catering and our kitchen was well-equipped with everything we needed.

The on-site restaurant, called Azura, opens from March 30 until October half-term. It was closed when we visited but serves children’s meals and has an area where you can sit with your dog.

There are also restaurants and takeaway options in nearby Truro and Falmouth.

Facilities

*Swimming pools

The outdoor pool heated from mid-June to mid-September.

There is also a heated indoor pool, with a spa pool next to it.

Indoor pool at The Valley, Truro, Cornwall

Indoor pool

*Gym

There is a small fitness suite in a room next to the pool.

*Tennis and squash courts

You can borrow rackets and balls from reception to enjoy games of tennis or squash or teach your children to play.

Tennis court at The Valley, Truro, Cornwall

Tennis court

*Games room

The games room has a table tennis table, pool table and table football.

*Playground/play area

There is a lovely play park with equipment for different ages, including swings, slides and climbing walls.

Is it dog-friendly?

Yes, dogs are really welcome here, which we really appreciated, this being our first holiday with our puppy Charlie.

A box walking his dog at The Valley in Cornwall

Dog walks around The Valley

Ours was one of several dog-friendly cottages. Charlie received his own welcome letter, box of luxury food, ball and dog basket. Our cottage was near to an entrance to a dog footpath.

Lots of attractions and beaches nearby are dog-friendly so we could take him with us everywhere. The Valley can provide details of dog sitters if needed.

Nearby

As The Valley is in central Cornwall, it is easy to reach dozens of beaches, gardens, towns and attractions.

Both north and south coasts are easily accessible.

*Eden Project

This huge tropical garden and massively popular tourist attraction has been recognised by the British Travel Awards as the best UK Leisure Attraction for five years’ running.

*Beaches

Beaches – we were blown away by the spectacular beaches and beautiful blue sea. We visited during the Easter holidays and they weren’t too busy.

Holywell Bay beach in Cornwall

Cartwheels on Holywell Bay, where Poldark was filmed

Nearby beaches include Perranporth on the North coast, Holywell Bay near Newquay (which features in Poldark), Gwithian near Hayle and Gyllyngvase (Gylly Beach) in Falmouth.

We also visited Carne Beach on the south coast and Porthmeor Beach in St Ives.

Carne Beach in Cornwall

Carne Beach

*St Mawes

We caught the King Harry car ferry to visit this small, pretty fishing village on the south coast.

St Mawes Castle

St Mawes Castle

Our children enjoyed exploring St Mawes Castle, one of Henry VIII’s coastal fortresses, now run by English Heritage.

*Trellisick Gardens

This National Trust garden on its own peninsula has stunning views over the Fal estuary as well as woodland walks. There is also an art gallery, cafe and gift shop.

*Truro

A few minutes’ drive away from The Valley is the cathedral city of Truro, with shops, restaurants, parks, streams, a theatre and museum.

*Falmouth

The port of Falmouth is a 15-minute drive from The Valley.

*Walks

There are walks you can take from and around The Valley – itineraries are available from reception.

Tintagel Castle

A girl enjoys the view at Tintagel Castle

Enjoying the view at Tintagel Castle

Further afield but worth the trip, we visited these ruins of a 13th century Cornish castle with links to the stories of King Arthur set high on the coast in north Cornwall with fabulous views, read about it here.

Lappa Valley

A tourist attraction for families with younger children – with visitors catching a steam train from the car park to the site, filled with outdoor play areas. Read our report on it here.

The Valley information

To book: The Valley

Address: The Valley, Bissoe Road, Carnon Downs, Truro, Cornwall, TR3 6LQ.

Email: info@valleycottages.net

Phone: 01872 862194

More Cornwall content

Can’t get enough of Cornwall? Don’t miss our other stories, including reviews of Tintagel CastleThe Lost Gardens of Heligan and Lappa Valley.

And read about our whole holiday here: We take our children and new dog on a family holiday to Cornwall – find out how we get on

(We received a complimentary stay for the purpose of this review, all views are our own).

*Our trip was supported by www.visitcornwall.com – the number one website for visitors to Cornwall, helping visitors find everything they need for a great time in Cornwall.

We take our children and new dog on a family holiday to Cornwall – find out how we get on

We take our children and new dog on a family holiday to Cornwall – find out how we get on

We stay in a beautiful cottage and explore the area and discover if Cornwall is dog-friendly as well as child-friendly

Our dog is barking furiously, drowning out the sound of waves washing the rocky Cornish shoreline below, as our daughter approaches a huge, sword-wielding man.

High on a rocky headland, peaceful family picnics are interrupted by what Charlie, our nine-month-old golden retriever, believes to be an urgent life-or-death situation.

Thankfully, the rest of us can see the the sword-wielding giant is only a statue – that of the warrior Gallos at Tintagel Castle.

Gallos bronze statue at Tintagel Castle

Gallos

It’s the first day of our dog-friendly family break to Cornwall and we’re exploring the dramatic castle, mythical home of King Arthur.

It’s a site which tests dog and human stamina. There are steep walks from the village to the castle and then down to the beach which houses Merlin’s Cave. It’s a challenging spot to visit but a worthwhile one, don’t miss our full review.

In fact, steep Cornish hills are quite a feature of our break, especially at our accommodation.

The aptly-named The Valley is in – yes – a valley, near the village of Carnon Downs just outside Truro.

It’s perfect for children and dogs. For the kids, there are indoor and outdoor pools, a tennis court, brand-new playground, games room and activities laid on during school holiday periods.

Swimmng pool and play area at The Valley, Truro, Cornwall

Swimmng pool and play area at The Valley, Truro, Cornwall

For the dogs there’s a range of walks on footpaths around the site, a cosy bed, welcome treats and his or her own comprehensive guide of dog-friendly activities, all waiting in our holiday cottage.

Children and a dog walking near to The Valley cottages in Truro, Cornwall

A walk near our cottage

The cottage, one of 46 on the site, is clean, fresh and very well equipped. Ours is a two-bedroom Villa Gallery over three levels.

There’s two bedrooms and bathrooms on the ground floor, then a lounge, toilet and utility room on the middle tier with a kitchen-diner on the top level complete with balcony overlooking the swimming pool and green fields.

Cottage at The Valley, Truro, Cornwall

Our cottage at The Valley

Read our full review of the accommodation for more details.

The staff are happy and efficient, their reception has a treasure trove of books, DVDs and games you can borrow. Every evening, a note drops through the door of our cottage with suggestions for activities around Cornwall.

We take Charlie to a range of dog-friendly attractions. As well as Tintagel Castle, we visited Lappa Valley to enjoy his first ride on a steam train and the Lost Gardens of Heligan where he could sniff out plants from around the globe.

Children visit Lappa Valley in Cornwall

Lappa Valley

But could he run free on the beaches? The answer is yes on most of them. Our handy cottage guide showed more than 60 beaches welcoming dogs across the county and we found some gems.

A dog on Holywell Bay beach

Charlie on Holywell Bay beach

Probably our favourite was Holywell Bay with huge sand dunes protecting a stunning beach framed by cliffs. Rock pools, caves and streams kept the children happy and there was space for Charlie to stretch his legs and chase balls – mainly those belonging to other dogs unfortunately.

Holywell Bay beach is where some of Poldark was filmed

Holywell Bay beach is where some of Poldark was filmed

Among the other sandy spots we loved were Carne beach on the Roseland Peninsula, Porthmeor at bustling St Ives and dramatic Gwithian with acres of wide-open space.

Carne Beach in Cornwall

Carne Beach

The Valley is centrally located in Cornwall meaning none of the county’s attractions – or its beaches – are that far away.

But one of the most spectacular sights is just a few miles from our cottage via ferry.

The King Harry car ferry gently delivers your vehicle across the River Fal on the way to the pretty village of St Mawes.

King Harry ferry to St Mawes

King Harry ferry

Once there, the stony shoreline, working harbour and gorgeous views lead up the St Mawes Castle, which overlooks the bay and has protected the area since it was built by Henry VIII.

There are benches in the grounds where we all sit and relax with the sun on our faces, Charlie gently snoozing at our feet, finally worn out by our Cornish adventures.

St Mawes Castle

St Mawes Castle

We decide to let sleeping dogs lie and reflect on the truth that Cornwall is definitely dog and family friendly – unless you come face-to-face with an eight-foot high warrior statue.

More Cornwall content

Can’t get enough of Cornwall? Don’t miss our other stories, including reviews of Tintagel Castle, The Lost Gardens of Heligan and Lappa Valley.

And find out all about the amazing cottage we stayed in at The Valley in Cornwall.

RELATED CONTENT: Review: The Valley in Cornwall – we take our children and dog to this five-star site near Truro

RELATED CONTENT: Tintagel Castle in Cornwall – review, guide and top tips for your visit to the King Arthur attraction

RELATED CONTENT: Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall – review, guide and top tips

RELATED CONTENT: Lappa Valley review and guide – where a steam train ride starts a traditional day out for young children

*Our trip was supported by www.visitcornwall.com – the number one website for visitors to Cornwall, helping visitors find everything they need for a great time in Cornwall.

Tintagel Castle in Cornwall – review, guide and top tips for your visit to the King Arthur attraction

Tintagel Castle in Cornwall – review, guide and top tips for your visit to the King Arthur attraction

We take our children and dog to explore the historical Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall

What is Tintagel Castle?

The ruins of a 13th century Cornish castle with links to the stories of King Arthur and Merlin the magician.

Where is Tintagel Castle?

This English heritage site is in north Cornwall (south-west England), set high on the coast next to the village of Tintagel with stunning views over the Atlantic.

It lies half on the mainland, half on a peninsula in the sea, known as Tintagel Island.

What did we think?

This was a memorable trip, the link to the myth of King Arthur captured the imagination of my son. He also enjoyed reading all the historical information dotted around.

But it is the stunning views from these clifftop ruins that will stay with me (along with the memory of all the steps)!

We all thought our picnic spot was our best ever – we found a little private bit away from the path with the most incredible views over the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Picnic at Tintagel Castle

Best picnic spot

Our children’s verdict: amazing.

Highlights

The history

Tintagel is thought to have been where Cornish kings lived between the 5th and 7th century.

Then the 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth named it in his History of the Kings of Britain as the place where King Arthur was conceived.

These legends are said to have inspired Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to build the castle here in the 1230s.

Tintagel Castle Bridge

This stunning footbridge, finished in August 2019, links the two halves of the castle for the first time in over 500 years since an original crossing was lost.

A family cross the Tintagel Castle bridge

We cross the bridge

Before this, visitors had to climb steps and queue for a small bridge at the base of the cliff.

If you fear heights look away now – the bridge travels over a 58-metre drop.

Tintagel Castle bridge

Tintagel Castle bridge

Gallos

This bronze statue of an ancient king stands high on the cliff – popular with photographers, not so much with our dog who didn’t know what to make of it!

Gallos bronze statue at Tintagel Castle

Gallos

The beach and Merlin’s Cave

Below the castle is a secluded beach known as Tintagel Haven with rocks and a waterfall.

Tintagel Castle beach

Best of all, it is where you can explore Merlin’s Cave .

This large cave in the cliffs under the castle is said to have been home to Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian legend. (See our top tips for information about access to the beach).

Tintagel Castle top tips

Mobility and fear of height

This site is not suitable for anyone with mobility issues or a big fear of heights – there are steep paths and sheer drops.

Steep drops and the bridge at Tintagel Castle

When we went, a one-way system was in place due to Coronavirus restrictions and the route included a LOT of steep steps.

The path from the village to the castle and back is steep – so make use of the Land Rover service if you need to, particularly on the way back up. There is a small charge for people and dogs.

Steep road at Tintagel Castle

Beach

Check the tide times and visit when the tide is out. That way you can get to the beach and go into Merlin’s Cave.

The beach is accessed via steep steps and when we went, we also had to clamber over rocks.

Weather

Try to visit on a fine day – the ruins are all outdoors and the area is exposed.

The castle sometimes closes due to bad weather or high winds, so check before you travel, via the website, Facebook or by calling 01870 770328.

Dogs

Dogs are welcome – we took ours – but they need to be kept on leads due to the steps, cliff edges and nesting birds. Water is available for dogs at the cafe.

Tintagel Castle information

Food: There is a cafe at the bottom of the hill (Castle Road) near to the beach. You can also take picnics.

Opening hours: From 10am to 4, 5 or 6pm, depending on the time of year.

Cost: English Heritage members are free. Adults are £15.70 (off-peak £14.50. Children are from £9.40 (£8.70 off-peak). Concessions are £14.10 (£13.10 off-peak)

A family of two adults and up to three children costs £40.80 (£37.70 off-peak) and a family of one adult and up to three children is £25.10 (£23.20 off-peak).

Best for: Children who can cope with the hilly site.

Time needed: We spent three hours here including the beach.

Toilets: At the bottom of Castle Road near to the beach are toilets. And there are others in the village.

Other facilities: A small shop and an exhibition exploring the stories linking Tintagel to King Arthur which includes a 3D model of the site showing how it has changed over the centuries.

Parking: There are pay and display car parks in Tintagel Village, 600 metres away from the site.

Access and restrictions: This site is set on a steep hill and there are uneven surfaces, drops and slopes. A Land Rover service is available along the road – Castle Road – down to the cafe and exhibition and back,. There is a charge and there may be queues. It doesn’t run during winter.

Address: Tintagel Castle, Bossiney Road, Tintagel, Cornwall, PL34 0HE.

Telephone: 01870 770328.

Website: Tintagel Castle

How to book tickets

Advance booking is essential for all visitors, including English Heritage Members who can visit for free. Tickets are timed but once there you can stay as long as you want.

More Cornwall content

Can’t get enough of Cornwall? Don’t miss our other stories, including reviews of The Lost Gardens of Heligan and Lappa Valley.

Find out all about the amazing cottage we stayed in at The Valley in Cornwall.

And read about our whole holiday here: We take our children and new dog on a family holiday to Cornwall – find out how we get on.

*Our trip was supported by www.visitcornwall.com – the number one website for visitors to Cornwall, helping visitors find everything they need for a great time in Cornwall.

New Cheshire family attraction BeWILDerwood has opened

New Cheshire family attraction BeWILDerwood has opened

A 70-acre adventure park has opened in South Cheshire a year later than planned

Tickets are now on sale for a new family day out, which opened its doors for the first time on April 12 (2021).

BeWILDerwood Cheshire – the Curious Treehouse Adventure – was meant to open last May (2020) but this was delayed due to the Covid pandemic.

The park encourages children and their families to enjoy traditional, imaginative, and healthy outdoor play.

We’ve already been and our children loved it, read our full review, guide and top tips here.

The multimillon-pound woodland adventure park is based on the BeWILDerwood book series by Tom Blofeld and follows the success of a first site in Norfolk.

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld

Tom said: “We can’t wait to finally open the gates to the people of Cheshire and beyond.

“When thinking about opening a second park and after looking at a few options, I just knew Cheshire was the right choice.

“The woodland is the perfect setting for the Boggles and Twiggles and all the other curious characters from the books.

“I hope our visitors love the wonky world of BeWILDerwood just as much as the Norfolk folk. The key is to use your imagination and simply have fun together as a family”.

The woodland adventure park is located next to Cholmondeley Castle, in South Cheshire.

Tree trails at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Tree trails

It is in a forest setting where children can ‘run wild’ and promises ‘no noisy rides, no technology and no junk food’.

It includes big wonky wooden play structures and treehouses in the trees, a massive maze to get lost in, wobbly zip wires and giant slippery slides.

Slides at Tree trails at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Park manager Hannah Monteverde said: “We’d originally planned on opening last year, but due to the pandemic, we’ve had to push it back.

“It’s given us even more time for our team to ensure everything is extra WILD before our visitors enter through our wonky gates.”

Swings at Tree trails at Swings at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Face painting and activities like interactive storytelling shows and crafting sessions are included in the ticket price and parking is free.

It is aimed at children aged two to 12 but teenagers and adults can enjoy the equipment too as the focus is on family fun.

Grandparents having fun at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Fun for all the family

Toddlers and children who are too small to go on the bigger bits have their own areas, Toddlewood on the Hill and Tiptoe Valley.

A todder at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Food can be bought at the Cosy Cabin and Munch Bar and picnics are welcome.

Tickets are based on height rather than ages and can be bought online.

Grandparents having fun at Tree houses at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Books from the BeWILDerwood series including A Boggle at BeWILDerwood, The BeWILDerbats and A BeWILDermuddle are also available to buy online.

Gate admission prices for 2021 are:

Born to BeWILD (Under 92cm): Free

Almost WILD (92-105cm): £17.50

BeWILD Now (over 105cm): £19.50

Still WILD (65 years+): £12.50

Address: BeWILDerwood Cheshire, Whitchurch Road, Bickley, Malpas, Cheshire, SY13 4JF.

We’ll be visiting to review soon and will report back!

The 8 BEST beaches in and around Abersoch in north Wales

The 8 BEST beaches in and around Abersoch in north Wales

The best beaches for children and families around Abersoch on the Llŷn Peninsula

Families staying in Abersoch on the Llŷn Peninsula are spoilt for choice when it comes to fabulous beaches.

It’s one of the reasons that people with children return to the area year after year.

Our two children adore the beaches around the area – here are our favourites.

Abersoch main beach

The main beach in Abersoch is the busiest, easiest to reach and most user-friendly in the area.

Barbecue on Abersoch Main Beach

Beach hut barbecue on Abersoch’s main beach

It stretches about a mile and a half with plenty of golden sand, a steep hill up to beach huts and sand dunes to explore.

At the far left end (if facing the sea), near the South Caernarvonshire Yacht Club/SCYC, there are some rock pools at low tide.

At the other end of the beach towards the lifeboat station, there is less soft sand but it tends to be quieter and dogs are allowed.

The beach is sheltered and safe for swimming under normal conditions, with a motor boat exclusion zone. It is also popular for water sports like sailing and wind surfing.

There are great views – it faces St Tudwal’s islands and behind that, west Wales mountans.

Where is it?

The beach is a short walk from the centre of Abersoch and and can be accessed from two car parks detailed below.

Parking

*The main car park is Beach Car Park, Golf Road, Abersoch. You have to pay to park all year round. A very short walk brings you past a shop/cafe and out on to the slipway in the middle of the beach.

There is another, smaller, pay car park at the SCYC (yacht club) end of the beach and there is also a cafe there. Access to the beach is via a short, steep slope.

Abersoch main beach facilities

*Three cafes along the beach serving ice creams, sandwiches and burgers plus beach equipment.

*Toilets in the main car park.

*Some of the beach huts are available to hire.

Dogs

*Dogs are allowed on the right side of the slipway all year and the rest of the beach except between April 1 and September 30.

The Warren beach

This long sandy beach is mostly used by people with chalets at the upmarket Warren Holiday Park.

 

The Warren Beach in Abersoch

The Warren Beach

However it is still a public beach and one of our favourites. It’s a good beach for bathing and there are several streams to play in.

You can also explore the rocks around Llandbedrog Head. The wide expanse of wet sand at low tide means plenty of space.

It’s usually pretty quiet as it can be harder to access unless you are staying at the Warren.

Where is it?

This one and a half mile long beach is in front of the Warren Holiday Park and stretches from Abersoch harbour to the headland of Mynydd Tir-y-Cwmwd.

The Abersoch end is known as Traeth Tywyn y Fach while the headland side is called Quarry Beach.

Parking

*Abersoch end: Park along the A499, then walk through the National Trust’s Tywyn y Fach property.

*Quarry Beach end: There is a car park behind the beach which can be reached via narrow lanes off the main Abersoch to Pwllheli road by the red postbox.

*Via The Warren holiday park: Park in a layby on the main road and walk through the holiday park along a public footpath.

The Warren beach facilities

There are no toilets apart from at the holiday park for people staying there.

There is no cafe or shop, so take supplies!

Dogs

Dogs are allowed at all times.

Hell’s Mouth (Porth Neigwl)

Porth Neigwl, better known as Hell’s Mouth, is a windswept beach which gets its name from the amount of shipwrecks which washed up here.

Hell's Mouth beach

Hell’s Mouth beach

This is the area’s premier surfing beach and often sees big waves.

The beach is mostly stony with some sandy areas and – at four miles long – has plenty of quiet spots.

Take care when swimming as there are strong currents and undertows – it is only suitable for strong swimmers.

There are low sand dunes with some World War Two concrete training structures to discover but stay away from the crusty cliff edges.

We love it for a wild and windy walk as it’s only a short drive from Abersoch.

Where is it?

It is on the south-west side of the Llŷn Peninsula in Llanengan, near Pwllheli, LL53 7LG.

Parking

There’s a free car park with about 15 spaces and then a five-minute walk down a sandy path to the beach.

Facilities

There are no toilets or catering.

Whistling Sands (Porth Oer)

Porth Oer is better known as Whistling Sands for the noise the sand makes if you step on it. A noise and an idea which children love.

Sand castles at Whistling Sands beach

Whistling Sands beach

This beautiful golden beach is a perfect size for families.

There is plenty of soft sand, a nice gentle bay for swimming and rock pools at either end to mess about in.

The beach is in one of the more remote parts of the Llŷn Peninsula and a 25 minute drive from Abersoch but is well worth it.

Explore the small caves at the right hand end of the beach, and climb up the footpath there for spectacular views (hold on to small children).

Where is it?

It is in Aberdaron, Pwllheli, LL53 8LH. (Not to be mistaken for Aberdaron Beach).

Parking

There is a National Trust car park on the road above the beach. It is a very steep three-minute walk down (and a slower walk back up)!

Facilities

*Toilets

*A cafe on the beach serving hot and cold food and drinks including pizza and ice-cream which you can eat there or take on to the beach. The pizza is delicious.

Pizza at Whistling Sands

Pizza at Whistling Sands

Wishing I was there now and eating this pizza instead of just writing about it!

Llanbedrog Beach

This beach is an easy stop-off with children as there’s a car park, toilets and a cafe.

Beach huts at Llanbedrogg Beach

Llanbedrog Beach

It’s a good place for children to swim, plus there are streams and pools to play in.

Intrepid families can walk from the beach up the steep steps to the top of Llandbedrog headland Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd, but keep hold of children.

hildren play in the stream on Llanbedrog Beach

Llanbedrog Beach

Half way up is the Tin Man sculpture.

You can also walk to Oriel Plas Glyn y Weddw art gallery and cafe.

But there’s a restaurant right on the beach plus as it’s a sheltered spot, you could try a beach barbecue.

Where is it

In Llanbedrog, between Abersoch and Pwllheli on the south side of the Llŷn Peninsula.

Parking

There is a National Trust car park a two-minute walk from the beach (up a hill and steps). Address: Llanbedrog, Pwllheli, LL53 7TT.

Facilities

*Toilets near the beach.

*Restaurant on the beach serving alcohol, hot meals and ice creams Aqua Beach Bar.

Porth Iago Beach

This small horseshoe-shaped bay is spectacular but tricky to reach.

Porth Lago Beach

Porth Lago Beach

To get there you must drive through a private farm and pay an entrance/car park fee to reach a grassy parking area.

From there you walk down narrow and steep tracks to reach the remote beach.

It is a sheltered cove with some excellent rock pools and makes a good swimming spot.

The sand is soft and there are amazing views to be had by following the Wales Coastal Path in either direction from the cliffs above the beach.

Where is it?

Port Iago beach faces south-west on the Llŷn Peninsula in Aberdaron, between the headlands Graig Ddu and Dinas.

Parking

The car park above the beach is accessed through Ty Mawr farm which has a pay and display parking machine so take some £1 coins.

Address: Rhoshirwaun, Wales, LL53 8LP, United Kingdom.

You can also reach the beach on foot from the Wales Coastal Path via sand dunes.

Facilities

None.

Dogs

Dogs are allowed but have to be in vehicles when going through the farm.

Porth Colmon Beach/Penllech Beach

This large beach is a tricky one to get to but is a rewarding find once you get there, at low tide.

Porth Colman Beach

Porth Colmon Beach

It can be muddy as the route from a car park follows a stream. Once you reach the beach, there is a steep walk down to the sand.

The beach itself is wide with dramatic rocks, lots of rock pools and in the middle there is a channel which you can paddle and play in.

There can be strong currents so swimming is not advisable.

Aerial view of Porth Colman

Porth Colmon

Where is it?

Penllech Beach is a mile north of Llangwnnadl on the northern tip of the Llŷn Peninsula.

Parking

You can park at a small car park on Afon Fawr and then follow the beach path for about 10 minutes across a field.

Facilities

None, there is a cafe at a near by campsite about a ten minute walk from one end of the beach.

Dogs

Dogs are allowed.

Morfa Nefyn Beach/Nefyn Beach (Porth Nefyn)

This is a lovely, sandy, two-mile beach but the most memorable part of it is the pub at one end, the Ty Coch.

Nefyn beach with Morfa Nefyn and a heart written in the sand

Picture available to buy as a greetings card or picture at Sand-Writing

There are a few beach huts and some great views as well as rock pools at low tide near the headland.

We like to walk from the car park down on the beach, along to the next section, Traeth Porthdinllaen, where the pub invitingly waits and then back along the road through the golf course.

Where is it?

Between the village of Nefyn and the fishing hamlet of Porthdinllaen on the north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula.

Parking

There is a National Trust car park above the beach – address Morfa Nefyn, Pwllheli , L53 6DA.

Nefyn Beach Facilities

Pub Ty Coch selling lovely food and drink, hailed amongst the best beach bars in the world!

Toilets: at the National Trust car park.

Dogs

Dogs are allowed on one side of the beach all year but are banned for the other side between April and September.

*Main picture available to buy as a canvas, print or greetings card from sand-writing.com.

Lightopia REVIEW: Christmas at Heaton Park, Manchester 2020

Lightopia REVIEW: Christmas at Heaton Park, Manchester 2020

We take our children on a family trip to an award-winning Christmas light festival

Family festive opportunities are in short supply this year so our trip to Lightopia at Heaton Park in Manchester was eagerly awaited.

Organisers promise a safe and socially distanced event.

We took our children after school for a 5.20pm start, here is our full guide to the Christmas festival.

What is it

The Lightopia Festival – Christmas at Heaton Park – is an award-winning and socially-distanced lantern and light festival.

It takes place around a series of lit art installations and laser beams, which have been set up at the park in Manchester.

Heaton Hall

Heaton Hall

When it it

Lightopia at Heaton Park runs from November 20, 2020 to January 3, 2021.

The event is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except during school holidays and closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Gates Open at 5pm, last entry is 8.30pm and it closes at 10pm.

How much are tickets

Tickets are booked in advance, they are £20 online for adults (or £22 on the day), £13 for children (or £15 on the day) and £60 for families of two adults and two children (£68 on the day). Children under three can go free.

Essential carers of disabled visitors can attend for free, the disabled visitor pays the normal admission fee.

A peacock at Lightopia, Heaton Park, Manchester

Our highlights

*What we called the Rainbow Tree

Children stand on a circle and their moving feet sends different coloured lights shooting up the tree, creating a beautiful display.

Rainbow Tree

Rainbow Tree

*The laser show on the lake.

Visitors are directed to stand in socially distanced spaces to watch this lovely show towards the end of the trail.

*Food and drink

There are stalls and bars dotted around the trail selling food like hot dogs, carvery baps, chips, donuts, malled wine and hot chocolate.

Tunnel of light at Lightopia, Heaton Park, Manchester

Top Tips

*Prepare to queue at the start, entry is in 20-minute time slots and we did have to wait when we arrived, but it is organised very well so that you are spaced out from the groups in front and behind.

*It’s quite a spaced out route, you will walk a bit further than some other light shows, so take a buggy if you have young children.

Tinkerbell/a fairy at Lightopia

*It is all outdoors so dress for the weather and ensure children are wrapped up warm and wearing sensible footwear. You will always be on a path but look out for the occasional bit of uneven ground as it is dark.

Other questions

Is everything included in the price?

All the displays are included in the ticket price. There are stalls selling food, drink and those flashing hand-held contraptions that our daughter loves. It was card only for payment.

How long will it take?

It takes about an hour and a half but that depends on how fast you walk and whether you buy food and drink. Take your time walking around, to take it all in, you certainly don’t need to rush.

Where to park

There are car parks on site and it is best to book in advance, then follow the directions on your email confirmation.

How to book

To book tickets, visit www.lightopiafestival.com

Address:

Heaton Park, Sheepfoot Lane, Manchester, M25 0BP.

Social media

Follow on Instagram and Facebook @lightopiafestival #Lightopia

Animals at Lightopia

(We received free entry for the purpose of this review, all views are our own).

The eight best places for children on and around the Llangollen Canal

The eight best places for children on and around the Llangollen Canal

Top family activities around the Llangollen Canal

The Llangollen Canal is 46 miles long and crosses the border between England and Wales.

This navigable waterway runs from Llangollen in north Wales, through Ellesmere in Shropshire to Hurleston in south Cheshire.

We travelled much of it with our children: Canal boat family holiday review – we take our children on a 67-foot barge.

There was lots to keep them entertained, here are our top tips for what to do with children on a family boat trip along the canal or a holiday in the area.

Llangollen

The market town of Llangollen is a fabulous day out for children.

When travelling by canal, the part between Trevor Bason and Llangollen town is narrow and not suited to beginners.

If you don’t attempt it, it’s still worth spending time in Llangollen before you collect your boat or after you have finished your canal cruise if you are nearby.

To enjoy the town centre, join families relaxing on the rocks next to the River Dee. There are lots of flat stones to walk acroos on the river and shallow pools in between. Families often pop down there to enjoy an ice cream or fish and chips with a view.

Stepping stones in Llangollen

Llangollen

You reach the river stones via the Victorian promenade, which is a lovely walkway raised above the river. Next to it there is a large playground.

Children will also love the spectacular Horseshoe Falls, where the canal and river meet to form a weir, a couple of miles west of the town.

You can see kayakers flying down this part of the River Dee and there are pleasant walks.

Horseshoe Falls near Llangollen

Horseshoe Falls

Ellesmere

There are three meres near to this stretch of canal. You can moor up to walk around Colemere, or stop at Blakemere to admire the view.

If you moor up overnight in Ellesmere there is a walk to the town’s lake through woodland off the towpath near Blackwater Marina.

Blakemere at Ellesmere

Blakemere at Ellesmere

It is about a 10-minute walk through a lovely wood to the mere, then you can go to the visitor centre, or head clockwise around to the sculpture trail and wide-open playground.

The town itself is pleasant enough to stroll around with a few takeaways and Vermeulens Delicatessen famed for its pork pies. You can walk back to your boat along the canal next to a giant Tesco, which is handy if you need to stock up.

Llangollen Wharf

This wharf in Llangollen is part of a World Heritage site.

Welsh cream teas are served at the Wharf Tea Room, with views out over the town and canal.

You can try a horse drawn boat trip from here – they have been running from the wharf for more than 100 years. Trips are 45 minutes or two hours.

Horse drawn boats from Llangollen Wharf

Horse drawn boats from Llangollen Wharf

Llangollen Steam railway

This heritage railway line starts at Llangollen Station and runs alongside the River Dee, travelling through the picturesque Dee Valley.

It has events for families throughout the year such as meeting Thomas the Tank Engine.

Passengers can enjoy afternoon tea on a Llangollen Steam railway train.

Chirk Castle

This huge National Trust castle with 480 acres of parkland is a popular attraction.

If you arrive by canal, it is a long walk but if you have bicycles it is manageable. If you make it you will discover one of Edward I’s castles.

You might catch a demonstration of the guard’s armour and weapons.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

You can cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct by narrowboat or on foot – it’s the highest navigable aqueduct in the world.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

It takes the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee valley and has fantastic views as long as you don’t have a fear of heights as it’s nearly 40 metres high!

Completed in 1805, it was designed and built by Thomas Telford and has 19 arches.

The aqueduct, which has World Heritage status, is a popular tourist attraction.

Trevor Basin

Next to the aqueduct is Trevor Basoi. It is worth stopping at this marina, which is the base for Anglo Welsh boat hire. We hired our boat from here: We review an Anglo Welsh canal boat with our children – is it family friendly?

Canal boats at Trevor Basin

Trevor Basin

There is a small cafe and a couple of lovely walks to view the aqueduct. One walk heads along the Llangollen Canal a short distance, down the original Offa’s Dyke path, through some narrow, steep woodland and out onto a bridge with a great view.

Alternatively, you could head out of the marina towards the aqueduct but before you reach it, turn left onto a public footpath signed Ty Mawr Country Park. Walk along the path and then turn right and head down to the river. It is a lovely spot, with a muddy beach, rocks to climb on and even a paddle in the river on a hot day. You then walk back towards the aqueduct and end up underneath its huge towers. This gives children a chance to appreciate the scale of the 200-year-old structure.

Moor up and explore

The beauty of travellng by boat on the canal is that you can stop almost anywhere. We found lots of lovely country walks this way.

The towpath is usually flat and often gravelled so is fine to cycle or scoot in a lot of places.

If your children are older you can send them off the boat along the towpath and collect them when you catch up with them further ahead.

Enjoy your trip!

RELATED CONTENT: Our 10 top tips for taking children on a canal boat holiday

RELATED CONTENT: Canal boat holiday guide for beginners – EVERYTHING you need to know

RELATED CONTENT: Top 10 canal boat family holiday destinations in England and Wales

The best beaches in and around Dawlish in Devon

The best beaches in and around Dawlish in Devon

Family-friendly beaches that children will love around Dawlish

There are a great selection of lovely beaches in and around Dawlish.

We stayed at Cofton Holiday Park and had a great time exploring the area – read our review and ideas – Delight in Devon on a family holiday to Dawlish with our children.

Here are our pick of the best beaches in and around  Dawlish.

Dawlish Warren

This is a flat, sandy beach with shallow waters. It is very family-friendly with lifeguards keeping watch over the summer months.

It is a Blue Flag beach – awarded for high standards of cleanliness and safety.

The large car park is set behind a grassy area which you walk through to reach the beach.

Dawlish Warren

Dawlish Warren

The sand is separated into sections by rows of wooden groynes. There is a high, sloped wall above the sand so only walk down via the regular steps provided and hold on to younger children’s hands as you approach.

There can be big waves on a windy day which makes the beach good for bodyboards and surfing.

Body boarders in the waves at Dawlish Warren beach

Dawlish Warren

But when the weather is calm it is a safe bathing spot too.

Heading from the town to the beach you drive past a large funfair and there is an ice cream shop and cafe opposite.

If you fancy a good walk, the beach travels up to the mouth of the River Exe. It also backs on to a wildlife reserve.

Dogs are not allowed on Dawlish Warren beach.

Address: Dawlish Warren Beach, Beach Rd, Dawlish, EX7 0NF.

Dawlish

The town of Dawlish has a beach which is a short walk from the centre.

Dawlish railway, beach and sea

Dawlish

It’s quite pebbly and travels all the way to Red Rock at Dawlish Warren.

We went on a windy day and the sight of the big waves bashing the sea wall was spectacular. Although paddling/swimming in the sea was definitely off the agenda.

There’s a railway station next to the beach. The railway line runs alongside the beach and there’s a wide footpath between the line and the sand.

Dawlish is a small but pleasant place for a stroll and there is a car park and on-street parking.

The river and church at Dawlish in Devon

Dawlish

The river runs through a park with ducks and swans. There is mini-golf in the park and plenty of cafes or ice cream shops.

We visited Gaye’s Creamery for their famous ice cream cone with clotted cream on top!

Dogs are allowed on part of the beach.

Address: Dawlish Town Beach, SW Coast Path, Dawlish, EX8 5BT.

We walked right alongside Dawlish beach and found:

Coryton Cove

This beach is about a 10-minute walk from the centre of Dawlish, if you start at the railway tunnel, you can follow the sea path round to the right (with the sea on your left).

Our childen had a great time here, it’s a sandy/stony beach with a sheltered spot/open cave, good for keeping warm unless there’s an easterly wind.

The curved bay is good for swimming and the dramatic red sandstone cliffs with the railway at the bottom forms a spectacular backdrop.

Coryton Cove beach, Dawlish, Devon

Coryton Cove

There are rock pools, a few colourful beach huts (some available for hire), a cafe with ice cream shop and occasional dolphin sightings.

The beach used to be known as Gentleman’s Beach, because in Victorian times only men were allowed to bathe there!

The nearest parking is on the street opposite the railway line. You can cross a footbridge from there to get to the beach or enjoy the view from the coastal path above. There is also a car park and on street parking in Dawlish town centre.

Dogs are not allowed on Coryton Cove beach from May 1 to September 30.

Holcombe Beach

This is one for the adventurous families.

Children on Holcombe Beach in Devon

Holcombe Beach

You park in Holcombe village and then walk down the steep Smuggler’s Lane to access the beach.

From there head under the railway line and up onto a sea wall path.

Keep a close eye on little ones as there are steep drops until you reach some steps down onto the beach. And the steps are narrow and open to the beach.

It is a sandy beach with good waves for bodyboarding.

You also get dramatic red sandstone cliffs at each end which you can imagine as ideal cover for smugglers who made use of this remote beach in years gone by.

There is a kiosk at the bottom of Smuggler’s Lane selling drinks and snacks.

This is also an excellent spot for train spotters as you can get really close to the trains heading in both directions along the line.

Holcombe Beach in Devon

Holcombe Beach

This narrow, isolated beach is used mainly by locals and there are no lifeguards.

Dogs are allowed on Holcombe beach.

Address: Holcombe Beach, Holcombe, Teignmouth, Devon, EX7 0JL.

Cofton Holiday Park near Dawlish in Devon – Family Holiday Guide review

Cofton Holiday Park near Dawlish in Devon – Family Holiday Guide review

We discover if Cofton Holidays is as good as it sounds for a break with children

Name

Cofton Holiday Park/Cofton Holidays

Where is it?

Cofton is at Starcross near Dawlish in south east Devon, 20 minutes from the M5 and Exeter.

What is it?

It’s a five-star holiday park. The 80-acre site is family-run and has won multiple awards and we are very impressed, it’s one of the nicest holiday parks we’ve stayed at.

Camping, tents, caravans and motorhomes at Cofton Holidays in Devon

Is it family friendly?

Yes, very much so, there are lots of facilities for children – indoor and outdoor pools, an arcade and a woodland adventure area.

There are indoor and outdoor play areas for younger children and bookable activities.

It’s a great holiday park for children – our two love it as do we.

Accommodation

There are various options – from camping through to more luxurious options.

Luxury lodges at Coftons

Luxury lodges at Coftons

You can take your own tent, caravan or motorhome.

There are static caravans, luxury holiday lodges with hot tubs and holiday cottages and apartments to choose from.

We stay in a static caravan in a great location, next to the centre where reception, the pools and restaurants are based.

Our static Caravan at Coftons Holidays

Our static caravan

It is warm and cosy with two bedrooms and very comfy beds. The main bedroom has an en-suite, and there’s a separate bathroom with shower.

The double bedroom of our Tamar static caravan at Cofton Holiday Park

The double bedroom

The kitchen/diner/lounge is open plan.

The lounge area of our Tamar static caravan at Cofton Holiday Park

The lounge area

It feels modern and clean, very comfortable with everything we need, except maybe a dishwasher!

The kitchen area of our Tamar static caravan at Cofton Holiday Park

The kitchen area

Food and drink

Two of the restaurants on site serve from the same good menu.

The Swan pub is on the ground floor and includes an outside patio.

The Swan pub at Cofton Holidays

Swan Inn

Amelia’s upstairs is bigger and also includes outdoor seating overlooking the pool. There is a soft play area off this restaurant for under-eights.

Evening meals and Sunday carveries are also served in the Warren Retreat – an area which hosts children’s discos, live cabaret and other entertainment. This area is closed when we visit due to Covid restrictions.

Warren Retreat restaurant and bar at Cofton Holidays

Warren Retreat

There’s also a fish and chip takeaway and a small shop selling essentials including bread and milk.

Facilities

*Swimming pools

There’s a lovely heated indoor swimming pool, which we use nearly every day. It is perfectly warm and a real hit with us all.

It is all one depth, there are splash taps and large, clean changing rooms.

The indoor pool at Cofton Holiday Park

Indoor pool

There’s also a heated outdoor pool, open over the summer, great for warmer days.

Outdoor pool at Cofton Holiday Park

Outdoor pool

*Arcade

There is an arcade with lots of games. It also has American pool tables and a mini tenpin bowling alley with four lanes.

*Gym

*Woodland adventure area

At the top of the site and at the base of a forest Is a wooden adventure area complete with zip wire, assault course and climbing nets.

Woodland adventure play area at Cofton Holidays

Woodland adventure play area

*Playground

There is an outdoor play area with swings and climbing frames.

*Soft play

There’s a soft play area for younger children (closed when we were there due to Covid restrictions).

*Coarse fishing

Anglers are well catered for here – there are well-stocked fishing lakes and fishing competitons. Assisted fishing is available for adults and children. All fish caught are put back into the water.

Fishing lake at Cofton Holiday Park

Entertainment

There are activities for children in the day – when we stay, youngsters can learn to fish or try pond dipping. At other times there are children’s discos in the evening and other entertainment.

Children's fishing lesson at Cofton Holidays

Learning to fish

Nearby

*Beaches

The nearest beach is the Blue Flag beach at Dawlish Warren. It’s a 35-minute walk or a seven-minute drive. There’s a big car park next to it which can get busy and a fun fair. Life guards are on duty during the summer months.

Dawlish Warren beach

Dawlish Warren

*Dawlish

The town has a river, sea walk, crazy golf and places to eat plus Dawlish Town Beach.

Dawlish railway, beach and sea

Dawlish

*Haldon Forest Park

This is 3,500 acres of woodland with three walking trails and four cycling rails (bikes can be hired).

We also see a few groups on Segway tours.

*Exeter

Exeter is twenty minutes away, read our review and guide for visiting Exeter with children.

Dogs

Dogs are welcome at Cofton – and are even allowed in the Swan Inn. Plus there are loads of dog walks in the area.

Covid restrictions at Cofton 2020

Coronavirus restrictions were in place for our visit  – we find the site to be very clean and the staff are fantastic.

Precautions have been taken – activities and entertainment adapted, pool sessions are an hour and need to be booked and there is an app you can use to order food in the restaurants.

Masks have to be worn by adults in the shop, reception and arcade.

There is hand sanitizer in key places such as at the playgrounds.

All in all, we feel very happy with the arrangements.

Try to book pool sessions, activities and restaurants before you go if possible as they are popular.

*For Cofton’s latest Covid-19 policy, visit here.

For more information on the area surrounding the park and a full review of our holiday read: Delight in Devon on a family holiday to Dawlish with our children.

Cofton Holidays information

Holiday homes start from £165 for a three-night weekend stay, £148 for a four-night mid-week break or £224 for a week.

Wheelchair accessible, dog-friendly and hot tub holiday homes are available.

Cofton also has luxury lodges (new for 2020), dog-friendly cottages and Georgian-style apartments available.

To book: visit coftonholidays.co.uk or call 01626 890111

Address: Cofton Holidays, Starcross, Near Dawlish, South Devon, EX6 8RP

Email: info@coftonholidays.co.uk

Phone: 01626 890111

RELATED CONTENT: Delight in Devon on a family holiday to Dawlish with our children

RELATED CONTENT: We discover all the best places and activities for children in Exeter, Devon

(We received a complimentary stay for the purpose of this review, all views are our own).

Delight in Devon on a family holiday to Dawlish with our children

Delight in Devon on a family holiday to Dawlish with our children

We take our children to Cofton Holiday Park and explore the surrounding beaches and attractions

“This is amazing,” says our son and we all feel the same.

The sheer joy of a family swim makes the months of lockdown seem a distant memory.

This perfectly warm indoor pool is just one of the excellent facilities at Cofton Holiday Park near Dawlish in Devon.

The indoor pool at Cofton Holiday Park

Indoor pool

Swim sessions are pre-booked and limited to an hour to ensure the pool isn’t too crowded while Covid precautions are in place.

It is the same with Cofton’s large outdoor pool, which opens over the warmer months.

The pools are at the centre of the sprawling site along with restaurants and arcade and it’s all just a short walk from our static caravan.

We are in a Tamar model and it is a superb place to stay – modern, spotlessly clean, with two smart TVs, fast WiFi, two bathrooms, good kitchen facilities and plenty of space in the well laid out lounge/dining area.

Our static Caravan at Coftons Holidays

Our static caravan

There are also luxury lodges with hot tubs, holiday cottages or you can bring your own tent, caravan or motorhome.

The lounge area of our Tamar static caravan at Cofton Holiday Park

The lounge area

Children could spend their whole holiday at Cofton – there’s also a woodland adventure park with zip line, small playground, fishing lakes and woods to explore.

Woodland adventure playground at Cofton Holiday Park

It would also be pretty easy to eat here every night with three restaurants (one closed during our visit), serving good family food and drinks at reasonable prices. There is also an excellent fish and chip shop and a small store on site selling essential food and drinks.

The outdoor pool and restaurants at Cofton Holidays

The outdoor pool and restaurants

Plus there are children’s activities run by the entertainment team with daily activities like pond dipping, fishing lessons and pirate adventures, when we visit.

Our daughter gives you a tour of the site in this video! Plus read and see more details of our caravan and the site here: Cofton Holiday Park near Dawlish in Devon

Exploring the area

With beautiful Devon on our doorsteps we have to get out and about too.

The beaches are our main aim and the nearest is Dawlish Warren. You can walk from the site – up steep woodland, along a footpath to a walk which takes about half an hour.

Alternatively it is a 10-minute drive from Cofton to the beach’s large car park, past a popular funfair.

This child-friendly flat beach stretches along a sand spit at the mouth of the Exe estuary.

Dawlish Warren

Dawlish Warren

It’s good for games and sandcastle building, there are lifeguards patrolling during the summer and a cafe and ice cream shop.

We also spend time at Coryton Cove near Dawlish, a sheltered partly sandy spot with a cafe.

For an adventurous trip out, try Holcombe Beach. You can’t park there but have to leave your car in the village and negotiate the steep Smuggler’s Lane.

Once you walk under the railway line, which hugs the shore, you come out on a high sea wall path (beware, there’s a sheer, high drop) with steep, narrow steps leading down to the sand.

Holcombe Beach in Devon

Holcombe Beach

The beach is good for bodyboarding and offers great views with dramatic red sandstone cliffs at both ends. If you love train-spotting then you can stand inches from the main railway line as services whizz past.

For a more sedate pace of life, try Dawlish town with its gentle river running though the park and traditional seaside appeal.

The river and church at Dawlish in Devon

Dawlish

Devon clotted cream ice creams from Gaye’s Creamery, eaten beside the ducks floating along the weirs on the river makes for a relaxing afternoon.

You can also enjoy the crashing waves along the sea wall and games of mini-golf.

Cofton Holdays is only 20 minutes from Exeter and a similar drive to the hills of Dartmoor.

Haldon Forest Park with its range of bike and walking trails is another good option if you want to head inland.

Back at the park

Coftons Holiday Park - view from the hill

After one hearty dinner at the park’s Amelia’s Cafe, as the evening sun shines over the rolling hills, we set out to explore the area on foot.

We look down to the holiday park laid out before us. “This is amazing,” I say.

RELATED CONTENT: Cofton Holiday Park near Dawlish in Devon – Family Holiday Guide review

RELATED CONTENT: We discover all the best places and activities for children in Exeter, Devon

We discover all the best places and activities for children in Exeter, Devon

We discover all the best places and activities for children in Exeter, Devon

We take a trip down memory lane in Exeter and find out if it is family-friendly and good for children

A tatty white door, three overflowing bins and a weed-covered driveway isn’t the normal tourist photo opportunity.

But it’s the outside of this terraced house in Exeter which has inspired our visit.

It’s where my husband lived when he was at university in Devon – and now he’s come back with a wife and two children in tow.

Dad and children at Exeter University

His time as a student hadn’t resulted in much knowledge of whether the city was child-friendly.

But on our short break we discover there is plenty – apart from taking a trip with dad down memory lane – to entertain the little ones.

Exeter’s Quayside

This is the best place to start – the bustling waterfront has quirky shops, bars, restaurants and wide paths for cycling, scooting and strolling alongside the River Exe and Exeter Canal.

The exterior of Saddles & Paddles in Exeter

Saddles & Paddles

We take a different mode of transport by hopping into a canoe, hired from Saddles & Paddles on the Quayside. As the name suggests they hire bikes and boats from a waterside store.

After a cheery and comprehensive briefing, the four of us are paddling, occasionally even in unison, along the river and then canal.

Family canoe ride on the River Exe in Exeter

Family canoe ride on the River Exe in Exeter

We work as a team to travel the two miles or so to the Double Locks pub where you can moor up and grab a drink in the large garden, which has a playground and plenty of space.

We then turn round and head back to the Quay, returning via a super low bridge which you have to duck under.

The canal is very safe as no motorboats are on it, just canoeists, kayakers and paddleboarders. It is a peaceful and fun way to start our visit.

Where is child-friendly to eat in Exeter?

After working up an appetite, we tuck into giant pizzas at On The Waterfront, which is next to Saddles & Paddles. It has good outside seating and an atmospheric inside in an old customs house.

On the Waterfront pizza restaurant in Exeter

On the Waterfront restaurant

The children’s pizzas, only £6 each, disappear in a flash and even our large adult portions go down well. This is a good, friendly, relaxed family restaurant.

On the opposite side of the water, in a glass building, sits another excellent eatery.

Lobster at Rockfish in Exeter

Lobster at Rockfish

Rockfish is a chain with restaurants around the South West. It’s known for its fresh seafood and changes its dish of the day daily to reflect what’s come out of the waters around Devon.

I have a fabulous lobster and our children tuck into tasty fish and chips.

Child fish and chips at Rockfish in Exeter

The children’s menu, well priced at £7.95, includes an ice cream dessert and a great pack of goodies to keep them entertained.

It has a puzzle book, dolphin jigsaw, card games and colouring pencils.

The activities all carry a message about protecting the maritime environment.

Children's bag of goodies at Rockfish restaurant in Exeter

Exeter Cathedral

Once you’ve headed up the steep streets (Exeter is a fairly hilly city) into the city centre, the cathedral should be your first stop.

The Cathedral Green is a lovely space and inside the large cathedral (entrance £5 adults, children free) you can collect a free children’s activity booklet, guiding you around the building with questions and clues to answer about what’s inside. There is also brass rubbing sheets you can do at a cost of £2.

Mum and children outside Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral

Northernhay Gardens

Exeter is an historic city with links to the Romans, Normans and more. You can wander past Sir Francis Drake’s favourite pub – the half timbered Ship Inn, as you walk from the cathedral to the castle.

It is more castle walls really than traditional fortress but most of the walls sit in Northernhay Gardens, the oldest public open space in Britain, which dates back to the 1600s.

Northernhay Gardens in Exeter

Northernhay Gardens

Today the gardens are peaceful, picturesque and a good space for children to run around.

Gandy Street

If you exit the gardens via the war memorial and turn left you come to Exeter’s most colourful street, Gandy Street, with coffee shops and bars lining the cobbles. It is a good spot to stop for snack or drink.

The RAMM and Underground Passages

Two of the city’s other top attractions are closed when we visit.

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) reveals the area’s rich history and global connections.

And we were sad to miss the city’s Underground Passages where guided tours have taken place since the 1930s. They were designed to bring clean drinking water from natural springs outside the walled city.

Underground Passages in Exeter

The Underground Passages (pic: Mike Alsford)

Haldon Forest Park

One place which wasn’t closed – and very much open to the elements as we discover on a wet walk – is Haldon Forest Park.

Stick man at Haldon Forest Park

Haldon Forest Park

About four miles outside the city, this large woodland area is packed with walkers, cyclists and Segway riders.

There is a Go Ape course, cafe, playground and lots of different length trails to tackle. As it’s pouring, we take the simple green route, which is a 1.5 mile circular walk with spectacular views out towards the sea.

You could easily spend most of the day at this large park, especially if you brought bikes with you.

Surrounding area

There are other attractions on the outskirts of Exeter like Crealy Theme Park and Darts Farm Shopping Village.

The city is only around half an hour from the seaside resorts of Exmouth and Dawlish, as well as the hills of Dartmoor.

If you wanted to you could base yourself in the city and explore all of those areas.

But our time in Exeter is up and we have created plenty of new family memories to add to the student stories from two decades ago.

For more ideas go to Visit Exeter.

RELATED CONTENT: Delight in Devon on a family holiday to Dawlish with our children

RELATED CONTENT: Cofton Holiday Park near Dawlish in Devon – Family Holiday Guide review

We were provided with complimentary meals and activities through Visit Exeter for this trip. All opinions are our own.

Liverpool family attraction popular with young children, closes for good

Liverpool family attraction popular with young children, closes for good

Mattel Play! will not be reopening following coronavirus closure

It was popular with youngsters who loved children’s favourites Thomas & Friends, Fireman Sam and Bob the Builder.

But now Mattel Play! on the Royal Albert Dock has closed for good.

The adventure play centre at the Albert Dock launched in 2016 and was the first of its kind in Europe.

It was split into three themed areas dedicated to the iconic characters.

The Heritage Great Britain attraction closed in March to prevent the spread of coronavirus but has now revealed that it will not reopen.

Harold the Helicopter's sits in the middle of a ball pool at Mattel Play

Harold the Helicopter’s ball pool

A spokesperson said: “Following five wonderful years at the Albert Dock, we have taken the difficult decision to close Mattel Play! Liverpool.

“As the focus of the Albert Dock continued to be more bars and restaurants, we have therefore, following a discussion with the landlord, agreed to exit our lease earlier than planned.

“We would have very much liked to have remained at the Albert Dock throughout the summer months but the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and the consequences which are likely to be felt for many months, made this ambition untenable.”

This website reviewed Mattel Play! and thought it was great for younger children who were fans of Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder and Thomas.

Fans of Thomas & Friends would also love Drayton Manor Park, reviewed here: Thomas the Tank Engine proves just the ticket for a boy’s birthday break at Drayton Manor hotel and theme park

Review and pictures: Abbeywood Estate and Gardens in Cheshire

Review and pictures: Abbeywood Estate and Gardens in Cheshire

We take our children to Abbeywood Estate and Gardens in Delamere

What is it?

A country house with 45 acres of gardens, a small playground and woodland trails. Also a wedding venue.

Children at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Where is it?

Between Northwich and Chester directly off the main A556 road.

What did we think?

This is a quiet, relaxing spot for a fun family walk with an excellent cafe. The gardens are beautiful.

Gardens at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Highlights

Woodland trail – The landscaped gardens are stunning but the best part for our children was the woodland trail around the perimeter of the site.

You can follow the signs around, with a few shortcuts available if you want. The walk takes around an hour.

Woodland trail through Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Playground – There is a small playground in shaded woodland with a climbing frame, swings and trampoline (closed when we went due to the Coronavirus).

Play area at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Animals – You can spot different animals on your walk.

There are a few horses, goats, sheep and an enclosure with chickens and rabbits. There aren’t loads of animals like a petting zoo but they are a pleasant distraction on the walk.

Animals at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Top tips

The map you are given at the entry doesn’t show the full size of the gardens so make sure you don’t miss out on parts of the woodland trail.

You can’t take picnics so make sure you eat in the car park or use the cafe.

Gardens at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Abbeywood Estate and Gardens information

Food: There is a large, pleasant cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, selling hot meals, sandwiches, cakes, drinks and tubs of ice cream.

Opening hours: The gardens are open Wednesday to Sunday in summer between 9am and 5pm.

Cost: Adults £6 each, children free.

Best for: Ages three and above.

Time needed: 90 minutes.

Access and restrictions: The site is mainly lawned with a few gravel paths. It is fairly flat but isn’t fully accessible for wheelchair users and for prams and pushchairs.

Address: Abbeywood Gardens, Chester Rd, Delamere, Northwich, CW8 2HS.

 

We review an Anglo Welsh canal boat with our children – is it family friendly?

We review an Anglo Welsh canal boat with our children – is it family friendly?

We share all the details of our 67 foot bond class Anglo Welsh barge

Boat hire company Anglo Welsh has more than 160 narrowboats at 11 bases across England and Wales.

We hired one from its Trevor Basin site in north Wales to take across the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal into Shropshire.

It was our first canal boat trip and we booked it through Drifters Waterway Holidays.

We had a great time (read our full review) Here we’ll look at the boat in more detail and explain how suitable it is for children.

Our boat

We hired a 4-6 berth canal boat called Askrigg, a bond class narrowboat, which is one of the most luxurious that Anglo Welsh offers.

Askrigg narrowboat from Anglo Welsh, bond class

Bond class narrowboat, Askrigg

Space

Let’s start with space and there was plenty of it. The length of the boat is 67 feet and it’s nearly 7 feet wide. It doesn’t even feel that narrow.

It’s quite dauntingly long when you take the helm for the first time but it is fabulous for the children to have so much room to move about and play.

Layout

Starting at the rear is a bedroom with two small single beds.

One f the bedrooms on the canal boat Askrigg with two single beds

There are two small beds in one bedroom

A narrow corridor, which could be a squeeze for some, runs alongside the next three rooms.

There is a bathroom, a bedroom with a double bed followed by a second identical bathroom.

One f the bedrooms on the canal boat Askrigg with a double bed

The other bedroom has a small double bed

It opens up into a galley area with kitchen and dining table with sofa-seating which converts into another bed if needed.

At the front of the boat are two leather chairs facing a TV and radio.

Inside the Anglo Welsh narrowboat Askrigg

Inside the Anglo Welsh narrowboat Askrigg

It’s a great layout and worked well for us – having two bedrooms and two bathrooms is a real bonus.

There are places to sit outside at the front and rear of the boat.

Was it easy to helm?

It is straightforward, once you’ve grasped that turning the tiller right makes the boat go left and vice versa.

As you steer from the rear, take glasses if you need them!

It’s good fun, rewarding but never relaxing when you are at the helm. It’s definitely best to take it in turns if there are two of you, to give each of you a chance to fully enjoy the experience.

What about equipment?

The boat is very well equipped. We found plenty of crockery, pots and pans, cutlery and cooking utensils. It was all in an excellent condition, very clean, and most of it looked new.

There is a gas oven, grill and four-ring hob as well as a microwave (only use the microwave when the engine is running or it will sap all your power). A kettle to boil on the hob is provided as well as a fridge freezer.

Bedding and towels are provided, along with a hairdryer and a couple of folding chairs.

What about gadgets?

There is a small TV with signal dependent on your location – we didn’t get ours to work but it does take DVDs.

There is also a radio and CD player.

In the lounge area are two plug sockets and underneath the television is a cigarette lighter point.

Try to charge mobile phones and other devices while the boat is moving as electricity drops when the engine is turned off.

Is there space to shower?

The bathrooms are a fairly tight squeeze for an adult around the toilet and sink areas but the showers were large, powerful and warmed up instantly.

Don’t forget to pump out the shower using the button at the side of it where you are done. A new bar of soap is supplied in each bathroom.

The chemical toilets are flushed using a lever with your foot.

Canal boat toilets use a sealed holding tank on board which you empty at a pump-out point if and when you need to – we didn’t.

Is there enough water and can you drink it?

There is initially enough water onboard for at least a day.

You can stop at a water point (marked on the map and signposted) and access the tap using a key Anglo Welsh give you.

You connect one end of the boat’s hose pipe to the tap and insert the other end into the hole of the boat’s water tank.

It’s a really simple process once you’ve managed to moor up!

We were told that it’s best to fill up every day, but we were careful with our water usage and managed every other day.

You can apparently drink the water but we took bottled.

How does electricity work on an Anglo Welsh boat?

We never ran out of power. An inverter on the boat converts the power from the onboard batteries.

The amount of power available depends on how long the engine has been running so keep it running for a time when you are moored (but not after 8pm).

It’s recommended to charge mobiles and tablets etc when the engine is running so you don’t drain the batteries.

Was there heating on the boat?

All the company’s boats have gas central heating with radiators and ours was cosy and warm.

There’s also a multi-fuel stove, which we didn’t use.

Are there life jackets/buoyancy aids?

If you request them when you book, you can chose a life jacket to fit when you are at the boatyard before you depart. Both our children had one and were happy to wear them.

Girl wears a life jacket on a canal barge

Are pets allowed?

Yes, up to two dogs are allowed, one is free to bring, a second costs £25 or £35 depending on the length of stay.

Are bikes allowed?

You can take one or two bikes but they have to be kept outside and you need to be careful when going under bridges or tunnels if you leave them on the roof.

Was it clean and Covid-compliant?

Canal boating is an excellent socially-distanced holiday option as you have self-contained accommodation and you are never too close to other people.

Our boat was very clean and had been thoroughly disinfected beforehand. Anti-bacterial spray and cleaning products were supplied on board.

Do they tell you how to use the boat?

Yes, the handover is very thorough. Ours took an hour as the Anglo Welsh staff member explained every aspect of the boat, how to helm it, all the safety precautions and more.

He also had plenty of time for questions and even headed out of the marina with us for the first few hundred yards of our journey to help with any teething problems and offer tips.

On arrival back, the staff turned our boat round for us and moored it.

Trevor Basin

We collected our boat from Trevor Basin in north Wales. There is free parking at the boatyard and we were able to park right next to the barge, which was great for loading and unloading.

Conclusion

A great space for children with everything you could need.

This was a Drifters holiday, for more information go to www.drifters.co.uk.

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*We were given a complimentary break, all views are our own.