All you need to know about the new Christmas trail Land of Lights Festival North 2023
A new festive lights trail has joined the list of popular illuminations events in the north-west of England.
The theme park Gulliver’s World Resort in Cheshire has launched its Land of Lights Festival 2023.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
Land of Lights Festival North (there is another one in Milton Keynes).
What is it?
A lantern trail through 12 themed areas.
Visitors walk through illuminations including giant animal and monument lanterns, enjoying festive food and drink.
Where is it?
It is at Gulliver’s World Resort in Warrington, Cheshire.
What did we think?
This was a lovely, long route, longer than most festive trails, past a lake, through play areas which younger children made the most of and felt really magical in places with lots and lots of illuminations.
*Our favourite bit was a mesmerising walk through an insect and bug section with blue lights cascading down from above.
The insect-themed area
*It was great seeing all the different themed areas, ranging from dinosaurs in a Jurassic section through to skeletons in a Halloween part. Illuminations included Dennis the Menace, animals and Santa.
*A naughty highlight was a ride on the log flume – naughty as we found out afterwards, this wasn’t included in our lights package (see top tips).
*Offers – there is a Land of Lights Festival voucher code if you book for a date in January or February – LIGHTS20 gives you a 20 per cent discount.
*Will you get to go on any rides at Gulliver’s World? Not with just a ticket to the lights, this is a separate event. It can be a bit confusing as some of the rides might still be open for other guests – we had two goes on the log flume, without realising that we shouldn’t! Also not included is a Christmas show that visitors were queuing for and a train ride to Santa’s grotto. It is useful to know this before you go else it can get confusing particularly towards the exit and you don’t want your children spotting other things going on and being disappointed. There are different Christmas packages that include the various options if you want to do more than just the lights. One of the festive packages this year called Twinkle includes the Christmas activities (rides, North Pole Express, Elf Workshop and Santa’s Grotto) and also allows access to Land of Lights.
Dennis the Menace
*Gulliver’s Annual Passport holders must still by tickets and don’t receive any perks as this is a stand alone event, say organisers.
*What to wear? This is all outdoors so make sure to wrap up warm and bring waterproof clothes.
*There are some dog-friendly nights (they must be kept on a lead) on November 16 and 30, December 14 and 28, January 7 and 21 and February 4 and 18.
*Can you buy tickets at the event – yes, at the higher price if they have not sold out.
*There is no strobe lighting but some lantern features do include flashing, twinkling and colour changing lights.
Land of Lights Festival Warrington information
Dates: It runs until February 25, 2024.
Food: There is festive food and drink to enjoy at The Food Hub at Safari Kingdom where you can buy churros, Yorkshire pudding wraps, German sausages and drinks.
There are other drinks stalls around the trail. And Lagado’s Restaurant and Grill (next to the entrance and exit plazas) is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings if you prefer to sit down in the warm.
Opening hours: Depending on the night, it runs from about 4.45pm until 8pm or 9pm
Cost: Depending on the date – there are peak and off-peak dates), tickets bought in advance online are £15 or £19 for adults and children. Concessions £9 and £11.
Tickets not bought in advance are £18 or £22 for adults and children and £9 and £11 concessions.
Under-twos are free.
There is no senior rate, the concessionary rate is for those with a Blue Badge, DLA or PIP letter and their carer.
Best for: All ages.
Time needed: The trail takes around 90 minutes, depending on walking speed and how much you stop to eat, drink and look at the lights.
Access and restrictions: The route is mainly flat and firm, with some slight inclines.
There is a boardwalk which will not suit all mobility requirements but marshals will assist people on an alternative route if required.
Accessible toilets are available along the route.
Address: Gulliver’s World Resort, Old Hall, Warrington, Cheshire, WA5 9YZ.
*Is Lanterns and Light free for Chester Zoo members? Chester Zoo members pay the same price for tickets as everyone else. Organisers say this is because it is a special event outside usual opening hours which raises funds for the zoo and its mission.
*What to do if you are visiting the zoo in the day – you need to go back to the main entrance at 3.30pm when it closes and wait for your ticket time so book as early as you can.
*What happens if the weather is bad? The event will only be cancelled in extreme weather and you will be contacted in advance.
*What to wear? This is all outdoors so make sure to wrap up warm and bring waterproof clothes.
*There are three little rides for younger children including a carousel, which cost £3 each. The virtual reality experience at the end costs £6 each or £10 for two and there are three different options. Ours enjoyed a Christmas experience where they became an elf – the other two are animal-based.
Lanterns and Light map
*You might catch a glimpse of Santa.
Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light information
Dates: It runs on various dates from November 17 to December 31.
Food: There is festive food and drink around the trail to enjoy, mostly within a Christmas Market Foodhall. Stands include pizza, burgers, hot chocolate, popcorn, crumble and giant, stuffed Yorkshire puddings.
Yorkshire pudding menu
You are also allowed to take your own food, just no alcohol.
Opening hours: There are timed tickets every 15 minutes with sessions from 4.15pm to 8pm. The event closes at 9.15pm.
Cost: Prices for Lanterns and Light range from £18 to £22 for adults and £12 to £17 for children, depending on the day. Children under two and carers are free but still need a booked ticket.
Best for: All ages.
Time needed: The trail takes 60 to 90 minutes.
Access and restrictions: The trail is flat but a bit uneven in places, plus it can be hard to see in the dark.
You can hire a mobility scooter or wheelchair by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or a buggy at rentals when you get there.
For guests who need a quieter environment there are quiet times at 4pm on November 18, 23, 24, 25, 29 and December 6, call 01244 380280.
We take a family holiday to a holiday park on the beach in Filey, Yorkshire
The Bay Filey Holiday Resort
Where is it?
On the North Yorkshire coast near to Filey, south of Scarborough.
What is it?
A dog-friendly holiday park where you can stay in a house or a lodge, with access to a sandy beach.
Facilities include a swimming pool, gym, restaurants, pharmacy, playground, shop and arcade.
Our lodge at Bay Filey Holiday Park in Yorkshire
Is it family friendly?
Yes, there’s lots for children to do – there’s an indoor heated swimming pool (and separate baby pool), arcade and small adventure playground. They can play tennis, basketball or football and you can book activities (for an extra charge) such as pottery painting, archery and teddy-bear making.
Plus, of course, the beach – Hunmanby Gap Beach – is a short walk away for long, sunny days or even rainy day walks.
Is it dog friendly?
Yes, it really is and a lot of the people staying here had a dog with them. There was a box of goodies waiting in the lodge for our dog Charlie, containing a ball, travel bowl, blanket, poo bags and bag holder.
Charlie’s box of dog goodies
They are even allowed in the pub and pizza restaurant – which is good as holidaymakers are encouraged not to leave their pooches alone in the accommodation.
Although they need to be kept on a lead around the site, the beach is a perfect place for well-behaved dogs to stretch their legs and enjoy the ball from their goody bag.
Charlie on the beach
When you first drive into this park, it feels like you are entering a modern housing estate. There are lots of pretty houses to stay at, but further into the park, you find sections with roomy lodges.
Houses at The Bay Filey
We stayed in a four-person lodge near to the lake – larger six-berths are also available.
It had an open plan lounge/kitchen-diner with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Inside our lodge
One bedroom had a double bed, the other had two singles and both rooms had tvs, plus there’s one in the lounge.
A bedroom at our lodge
A sliding glass door at the front opened out on to a small outside terrace with a table and chairs and a partial view of the lake.
The outdoor terrace
The kitchen was well-equipped with an oven, hob, microwave, dishwasher and even a washing machine.
Wi-fi was available in our lodge. But it is not available in every holiday home here, so check before you arrive.
Food and drink
The kitchen in our lodge was big enough to make self-catering a breeze.
There are also two restaurants on site – a pizza restaurant and takeaway called The Four Cats and a pub called John Paul Jones – both with great menus.
The Four Cats pizza restaurant/takeaway
The woman making delicious pizzas at The Four Cats was lovely and worked so hard, with takeaway orders coming in as well as for those dining in. Two pizzas was plenty for the four of us. There is even a dessert pizza, topped with chocolate and marshmallows.
*Access to the beach – being able to walk to a lovely beach has to be a big tick on anyone’s holiday wishlist – see our top tips for more details of how to access it.
*Arrivals – unlike many parks, here you can arrive any day at any time of the year, even during peak times. The only requirement is that stays are a minimum of two nights.
*Dog walking – outside our lodge was a lovely meadow with paths to walk dogs and explore, plus the footpath to the beach via the cliffs and other walk along footpaths in the area.
Activities need to be booked in advance – download the Away Resorts App to book. The tennis court also needs to be booked this way. You can start booking 21 days before your stay so make sure you download the App in advance especially during busy periods to reserve the activities you want.
Making a glitter globe activity
How to get to the beach
There are two paths to the beach from the site – the main route off Silversands Way is steep in places, not suitable for anyone with mobility issues.
The main path to the beach.
The second way, from a gate on Sunrise Way, is a longer and narrow walk with clifftop views towards the end (and steep drops). It takes you through the beach car park and past a lovely beach café at the end.
Alternative way to the beach
If you don’t want to walk too far or have a lot of beach paraphernalia to transport, you can drive a mile to the beach car park, which costs £5 for the day. There’s a steepish slope down to the beach but it’s not too far this way.
You can pay to use Portaloo-type toilets here at 20p a go.
There is a beach cafe in a glorious spot overlooking the beach and sea. It serves food like toasted sandwiches, all-day breakfast, cakes and quiche and is great value. We had a lovely lunch, enjoying the view.
The beach cafe
If you are driving, turn left out of The Bay Filey and go left at the first roundabout and the car park is about 1 mile down the road.
But you will walk directly past it if you travel to the beach from the beach car park or if you take the clifftop walk from the site.
You don’t need to book the pool but this can mean it is full when you arrive and you will have to return at another time, so check with staff when the best time would be. It’s a nice big pool but can get very busy and the changing rooms are a bit tight and could do with a revamp.
The swimming pool
Hunmanby Gap Beach
The nearest attraction is obviously the beach. Hunmanby Gap Beach is a big sandy beach with a lovely café overlooking it. Great for swimming in the sea and perfect for dogs.
The beach when the tide is in
When the tide if out, you can walk from here to Filey Beach.
The traditional seaside town and former fishing village of Filey is a couple of miles away. There is a promenade and an award-winning beach. Filey Beach is dog friendly but they are only allowed on certain parts of it from the start of May to the end of September.
Parking can be tricky, we parked at Filey Country Park and walked down steep steps and a steep slope to get to the beach. Attractions on the seafront include crazy golf, a bouncy castle and arcade.
Crazy golf at Filey Beach
Scarborough is around 25 minutes away and has beaches, a busy town centre, harbour and attractions like Sealife, Escape Rooms, Burton Riggs Nature Reserve and Alpamare Waterpark.
The waterpark has an indoor wave pool and an indoor splash area with two toddler slides. There are four big water slides, one that you slide down on a mat and two on inflatables. There are also two gorgeously warm outdoor pools – which we surprisingly loved and spent a lot of time in on a cold, rainy day, while feeling sorry for the lifeguards on duty under umbrellas.
Away Resorts exclusive discount code
Away Resorts is a UK holiday park operator with 20 parks across the country in locations including Scotland, Lincolnshire, Isle of Wight, North Wales, Hampshire and Dorset, Cornwall, Hayling Island and Essex.
The company says its sites are all different but make the most of their individual surroundings.
We have an exclusive discount code for you when booking a holiday with Away Resorts until September 3 for 2023 holidays.
Use the code FAMHOLGUIDE10 for your excusive discount.
This offer excludes Away Resorts Boston West, Clumber, Gara Rock, Kenwick, Piperdam and Woodland Lakes.
The football pitch
Address: The Bay Filey, 1 Moor Rd, Primrose Valley, Filey YO14 9GA
England’s popular spa town is named after and famous because of its Roman-built baths.
Often voted among the best places in the country to live, work or visit, the city boasts stunning architecture, Roman remains, was once home to the author Jane Austen and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bath is on the banks of the River Avon, in the west of England.
More specifically, it’s in the north-east of the county of Somerset, 97 miles west of London and 11 miles south-east of Bristol.
The city is brimming with things to do, here are some of the best attractions and ideas:
With more than one million visitors a year, the Roman Baths are a huge tourist pull.
The Romans built this grand temple, bathing and socialising complex in around 70AD.
Constructed around Britain’s only hot spring, it is now one of the best-preserved Roman remains in the world.
Sadly, it’s not possible to swim in the Roman Baths today but you can taste the water which has been freshly pumped.
Spoiler: The drinking water is warm and rather unpleasant but a good experience!
Tip: Make sure everyone takes an audio guide. You wear them around your neck and hold them to your ear like a phone. In each area is a number to type in and there are different guides for children – theirs are the numbers on orange backgrounds.
The city is not huge but if it’s your first visit, you struggle to get around, need a rest or just fancy a fun way to see the city, take a hop-on, hop-off bus.
On a sunny day, it’s a treat for children (and grown-ups) to sit on top of an open-air bus.
We went with TOOT BUS and tried both their tours – the City Tour and the longer Skyline Tour, take a look at the route maps.
They stop near all the major attractions and have audio in 10 languages – you collect headphones when you get on and plug them in next to your seats under the window.
TOOT BUS Tour
Why is travelling by open-topped bus so much more fun and relaxing than going anywhere by car?
Tip: The app works well for showing where all the buses are so you aren’t waiting around. Your e-ticket is swapped for a paper ticket when you first board and you will need it every time you hop on and hop off so don’t lose it!
The Royal Crescent
As we said at the start, the architecture in Bath is a sight to behold.
And The Royal Crescent is one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the UK – this iconic landmark was built between 1767 and 1775.
Formed, as you would expect, in the shape of a crescent, it’s a 538-foot wide, curved row of 30 terraced houses overlooking Royal Victoria Park.
Many important people have lived or stayed here and it has been the location for films and dramas including Bridgerton, Persuasion, Inspector Morse and The Duchess.
Curious visitors can even get a look inside one – a museum resides at Number 1 Royal Crescent. This restored town-house shows what fashionable life would have been like in the 18th century. Children are enthusiastically welcomed and can turn detectives on a trail around the house.
Inside Number 1 Royal Crescent
There is also a hotel located in two of the town houses – The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa.
Tip: Make the most of the staff’s expertise and don’t miss the chance to dress up in Georgian clothing. Also, there is a lovely small park opposite the Crescent, which makes an excellent picnic spot.
Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House
This cafe/restaurant – hailed a world-famous tea and eating house – is set in one of the oldest houses in Bath.
It is known for its regional speciality – Sally Lunn Bath Bunns – a type of bun baked to a secret recipe.
The Bunns are similar to brioche and can be eaten with sweet or savoury toppings.
Sally Lunn’s is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
Tip: The restaurant gets really busy, if you don’t want to queue (you can only book if eating after 5pm), you can bypass the queue to visit a tiny museum and shop downstairs which sells Bunns to take home to toast and eat at your leisure.
England’s largest gorge is a great family adventure but follow our advice to stay safe and enjoy it for free
What is it?
A popular tourist attraction, Cheddar Gorge is a stunning limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills with show caves.
Visitors can complete a three-mile circular walk around the naturally-formed gorge – up one side, along the cliffs 900 feet above sea-level and back down the other side and through the village of Cheddar.
You can also visit the caves where the so-called Cheddar Man was discovered – a 9,000-year-old skeleton. There are two – the largest is Gough’s Cave which is over 500,000 years old with cathedral-like caverns, a large underground river system, stalagmites and stalactites.
Where is it?
It’s near the village of Cheddar in Somerset in the west of England.
What did we think?
This stunning landscape is well worth a look.
The walk would be quite tough for younger children and less fit adults – there are lots of steep parts and the pebbly way means you have to watch your feet a lot of the time.
But the views at the top, and the satisfaction of completing the route, make it worthwhile.
We can see why it is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
How to enjoy Cheddar Gorge for free.
If you do the circular walk clockwise, like we did, you will descend Jacob’s Ladder – not a ladder but a challenging 274 steps – down from the cliff tops into the village, for FREE.
If you want to walk UP the steps instead (there are four resting stops on the way up) – you will need to buy a Cheddar Gorge Caves and Day Ticket. If you’ve got any leg power left, another 48 steps takes you to the the top of the Lookout Tower and some fabulous views.
The ticket includes entrance to the steps and the Lookout Tower, both caves, the Museum of Prehistory and a cinematic experience called Beyond the View.
But it’s a fantastic experience without the extras and you can even park for free too if you park on the road instead of in one of the car parks.
There are more spaces further up the road away from the village – a good place to park is near to the Black Rock entrance to the trail.
*There are some incredibly steep, sheer drops, keep an eye and a hand on children and keep dogs on a lead. I wouldn’t risk this with a child who could run off or anyone who wouldn’t appreciate the dangers.
*Wear walking boots or other suitable footwear, it’s a rocky walk.
*In need of some Christmas decorations? There is an all-year round Christmas shop in Cheddar!
*There is rock climbing and adventure caving for adults and children aged eight and above. Thrillseekers can also try out the Black Cat Freefall – where participants (minimum age 11), climb a 30-foot ladder and take on a big cave jump, attached to a safety line.
*If you want to find out more about the area, visit the Cheddar Man Museum of Prehistory.
Cheddar Gorge information
Food: The route around the gorge takes you through the village of Cheddar where you can buy ice-cream and other food or try cheese tasting at The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. Alternatively, take a picnic like we did, to enjoy at the top (it can get very blustery but the views are fabulous).
Cost: The cliff-top walk is free if you do the circular route and descend Jacob’s Ladder. Fees apply to ascend the ladder, visit the caves or museum or to take part in the activities like caving and rock climbing.
Best for: Older children and relatively fit adults.
Time needed: Around 2.5 hours for the walk, longer if you include the caves, museum, activities or a look around the town.
Access and restrictions: The walk, the caves and the Jacob’s Ladder steps are not suitable for wheelchairs or anyone with limited disability. You can get a sense of the place via car – the drive through the gorge is one of the most scenic in Britain.
Address: Cheddar Gorge and Caves, The Cliffs, Cheddar, Somerset, BS27 3QF.
Parking: We parked by the side of the road – there seemed to be more spaces further up the road away from the village. A good place to park is near to the Black Rock entrance. Car parks include Cheddar Gorge Car Park and Cliff Street Car Park.
To book: The walk is free but to book paid-for parts of the experience go to the website Cheddar Gorge
Where to stay: We stayed at Wookey Hole Hotel, just eight miles from Cheddar Gorge and on the site of Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions, if you are inspired to explore more cavern, don’t miss our hotel review here.
All you need to know about Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions, near Wells in Somerset
Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions
What is it?
A family attraction centred around one of the UK’s largest series of show caves, said to be home to the Witch of Wookey Hole.
Aside from the caves, there is crazy golf, dinosaurs, a vintage penny arcade, 4D cinema, soft play and a circus theatre.
Where is it?
In the Mendip Hills near Wells in Somerset, in the south-west of England, 20 miles south of Bath.
What did we think?
The caverns are well worth a look, a stunning natural phenomenon. Eight of the chambers are open to visitors. You can see underground pools and even a cheese tunnel, home to Wookey Hole cheese.
Cave-aged cheddar cheese
The rest of the attraction is curious in that it is quite a mish mash of themes and ideas filling the space – I still can’t decide if that makes it charming or confusing.
Nevertheless, we easily filled over half a day and all enjoyed ourselves.
*The caves – they are filled with history – they began to be formed millions of years ago and have been used over the last 50,000 years by various inhabitants including giant hyenas, lions, bears, Neanderthals and Romans. More recently they have featured in films and tv shows such as Doctor Who.
Inside the caves
The temperature is a constant 11° Celsius.
*The Enchanted Valley area when you exit the caves is great for dinosaur fans – there are lots of them to see, some moving and roaring, along with a huge King Kong and a woolly mammoth.
Digging for dinosaur fossils
*There’s a maze of mirrors which is fun to explore, inside a traditional arcade area.
*The circus theatre is worth a look – it stars local young performers who really impressed us with the scale of their skills including aerial, unicycles and even a sprinkling of magic.
Circus at Wookey Hole Caves
*The 4D cinema plays different films – we saw a Scooby Doo show.
*There’s a nine-hole pirate-themed golf adventure course (crazy golf) included in the ticket price.
*We all enjoyed an area with soft foam balls that you can fire out of cannons.
*The staff are very friendly with some getting into character dressed as wizards and witches to enhance the experience.
*The layout can be confusing. Buy/collect your tickets opposite the ice cream parlour near to the hotel (we stayed here, don’t miss our review), then cross the road and walk up the slope to access the caves first.
You walk past the dinosaurs on your way to the caves and through them afterwards.
*The caves take around 35 minutes to get around. They are dimly lit and a bit slippery, with some steps. And watch your head as it can be low in places, but this all adds to the fun of exploring.
*We went during school holidays, but during term-time, you book on a guided tour of the caves. Make the most of the staff stationed in the different caverns to ask them questions as it enhances the experience.
*Wookey Hole Caves is one of over 200 attractions around the UK that Blue Peter badge holders can get into for free. Badge holders with a valid badge card must be accompanied by a full paying adult.
* Look out for the human-shaped stalagmite that legend says is a witch turned to stone by a monk from Glastonbury, hence the legend.
*When you first go into the 4D cinema experience, you enter a room with a talking bat (he natters on for rather a long time) and a witch on a big phone screen – it could be rather dark and scary for some younger children. The 4D cinema experience involves the chairs moving and shaking at times and sensations such as puffs of air. Children under three are not allowed in.
Wookey Hole Caves information
Where to stay: We stayed at the hotel on site Wookey Hole Hotel, which means we were first in the caves in the morning, read our review to find out more.
Wookey Hole Hotel
Food: There’s a large restaurant on site selling meals such as chicken nuggets and sausages and chips. There are a few sandwich and cake options too. It has a bit of a canteen feel so could be nicer to sit on one of the few tables outside.
Next to the car park is an ice cream parlour with a delicious array of flavours.
We stay at the hotel next to the famous Wookey Hole Caves in Wells
Our video tour of the hotel and attraction
Wookey Hole Hotel
Where is it?
At the famous Wookey Hole Caves attraction in Somerset, two miles from the cathedral city of Wells and 20 miles from Bath.
What is it?
A 58-room hotel with a memorable turret shaped like a witch’s hat.
There’s a nod to witches in other details too including the curtains in our room.
A witch peers out of a bush at the hotel
This is due to the legendary Wookey Hole witch – said to have lived in the caves until she was killed by a monk.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, there were lots of families here when we stayed and it is the target market for the hotel. Many are likely to be here to visit the adjacent Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions.
Children also benefit from a well kitted out games room and a great children’s menu in the restaurant.
We had a family room with a comfortable double bed and two singles, a great alternative to the usual offering of two double beds and the children were pleased to have a bed each.
There was lots of good storage space, tea and coffee facilities and a tv plus free WiFi for unlimited devices.
Our family room
There are also double, superior and luxury family rooms. And a Witch’s Hat Suite for two adults with a bedroom and lounge. It can be found, as you might imagine, under the Witch’s Hat tower turret.
Food and drink
The Bistro is the bar and restaurant on site. It’s a nice room with wide windows on two sides.
Breakfast is served between 7.30am and 10am daily and there’s the choice of a buffet-style continental or a cooked alternative such as an English breakfast or eggs benedict.
There’s a good selection of evening meals, with something for everyone, served from 5.30pm to 8.30pm.
*The location – this is fantastic if you want to visit Wookey Hole Caves as it’s right next door. You can also do some scenic walks around the village and to Ebbor Gorge, which is about a 30-minute walk from the hotel.
*There is free car parking.
*The games room includes a giant Connect Four, air hockey table, table football, Jenga and classic arcade games.
Part of the games room
*As you’re staying on the same site, make sure to get up and out early as you can be first in the caves like we were – they opened at 9.30am when we stayed.
*Book the restaurant for breakfast or evening meals before you arrive to make sure you get one at your preferred time.
*Adjoining rooms are available if needed as are travel cots – only the bottom sheet is provided so bring your own bedding.
*There are often special packages available with stays including tickets to Wookey Hole, breakfast and discounts to other attractions, if you book directly with the hotel.
*The adjacent Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions is a series of show caverns which date back millions of years. Alongside the caves are a dinosaur park, 4D cinema, adventure golf, soft play and circus theatre. Read our full review of Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions.
*It’s two miles from beautiful Wells – the smallest city in England. We spent a fantastic afternoon here, spending ages exploring the Bishop’s Palace glorious gardens.
Bishops Palace and Gardens, Wells
*It’s 20 miles from Bath, where we spent a lovely couple of days visiting attractions like the Roman Baths, the Royal Crescent and the American Museum and Gardens as well as enjoying hop-on, hop-off open air bus tours. Read our full guide: Things to do in Bath for families
Harlech Beach is about a 20-minute drive from Porthmadog.
It has lovely soft sand and fun, high sand dunes to explore.
The wide bay is inviting for paddlers and swimmers.
It is a fairly long walk from the pay and display car park (about 10 minutes), which also houses the nearest toilets, along a footpath which cuts through the golf course (watch out for flying golf balls).
Harlech Castle is set on a steep hill in this small village and proves very popular with visitors.
The fortress, built by Edward I nearly 800 years ago, is in superb condition.
You can scale the castle walls and see stunning views across North Wales.
There are good explainer boards around the castle showing what each area was used for in the 13th century.
Entrance costs £27.50 for a family of four unless you are members of Cadw (a Welsh version of English Heritage). There is also a small shop, bustling cafe and a short video you can watch before walking across the bridge to the castle.
There aren’t many parking spaces at the castle and it’s a steep walk to other options, so it’s best to drop off children and passengers who may struggle before finding somewhere to park.
While you are at the castle, it’s worth walking a few metres up the road to see what claims to be a Guinness World Record-breaking road.
Ffordd Pen Lech is apparently the World’s Steepest Street with a 40 per cent gradient.
Well worth a quick walk to say you’ve scaled a spot in the record books.
There are also cafes, ice cream parlours and shops on the high street in Harlech.
Walking is a great way to explore this pretty town.
(Our video of the hotel above, includes many of the attractions in this article).
You don’t have to go far from the hotel for a stunning stroll, you can head around the back of the building to a footpath which takes you around a lake. A 20-minute walk brings you back to the hotel.
If you want to head further you can walk along the harbourside and down Lombard Street to the small cove of Borth-y-Gest which has a nice, small beach.
Walks towards Snowdon
We did two brilliant walks in the hills above Porthmadog heading towards Snowdon.
We walked along the Aberglasyn Gorge from the National Trust car park at Aberglasyn to the village of Beddgelert.
The walk is challenging, particularly the first mile from the car park along the side of the river. There are some steep drops and no barriers in places.
Our children aged 12 and 8 loved the adventure but younger ones will need to be watched throughout. After the first mile,the path changes to a more straightforward flat, paved walk all the way to Beddgelert.
There are places to stop and have a paddle in the river along the way so bring a towel and some swimming gear if it is a warm day.
The walk ends at Beddgelert – the pretty village made famous by the story of the faithful dog Gelert slain by Prince Llewellyn after he mistakenly thought the dog had attacked his baby son.
You can visit Gelert’s grave under a tree and read about the tale. Beddgelert has several cafes, a busy ice cream parlour and a village shop if you need supplies for the walk back.
Gelert’s grave at Beddgelert
Further towards Snowdon into the mountains is another great walk we tried. This one starts from the National Trust site at Craflwyn. You can park there and cross the busy A498 onto a riverside footpath, which runs for just over a mile to Llyn Dinas.
The footpath goes past the Sygun Copper Mine, where you can take a self-guided tour down the mine.
If you carry on along the footpath towards Nantmor, you emerge at the stunning lake Llyn Dinas.
This is a wonderful spot for a swim on a hot day, there were lots of people out on the water on paddleboards and canoes. You can also walk around the lake on a solid, flat path. There are a few picnic tables near the small boathouse next to the main road but apart from that, no other facilities.
Llyn Dinas lake
For anyone who doesn’t fancy the walk from Craflwyn, there is roadside parking alongside the lake but it gets busy quickly on a sunny day.
The hotel is really well-positioned about 10 to 15 minutes from the city centre in a quiet spot next to the river.
Radisson Blu Hotel Durham
It’s idea for families – our large, modern family room contained two TVs and excellent WiFi.
Its indoor swimming pool is a real bonus for children and we used it every day. And parents can enjoy the jacuzzi, sauna or a spa treatment if they’re lucky.
However, for us there was too much to do to spend long relaxing.
We even managed to take a trip back in time at Beamish – the living museum of the north.
This popular day out is great fun for all the family as you travel by tram or old bus to different eras.
We visited the 1950s, 1940s, 1910s and 1820s with a cast of staff and volunteers in period costume manning traditional bakeries, sweet shops and hairdressers.
Particular highlights for us was our daughter getting a 1950’s hair-do and having a family photo in Edwardian outfits.
Our Edwardian family photo
The museum is on a large site in lovely countryside with woodland walks between some of the different attractions.
But we had to wait until our last day to fully explore County Durham’s countryside.
Heading inland, our destination was the Northern Pennines. On the edge of the hills lies Raby Castle – a beautiful castle with deer park to explore and a new play area called Potters Forest with a wooden assault course for adults and children to explore.
Our final stop was England’s highest waterfall.
A few miles outside the pretty village of Middleton-in-Teesdale lies High Force.
You can buy a ticket and snacks at a kiosk next to the High Force Hotel and then set off towards the waterfall.
An accessible 15-minute walk brings the gushing water into view. It is a spectacular sight and you can get right down onto the rocks near the waterfall.
High Force Waterfall
Once you’ve enjoyed the sight and sound of High Force, the trail takes you through woodland back to the car park – but don’t forget to keep an eye out for the wooden carvings of people and animals on the route.
A visit to High Force makes for a suitably spectacular end to a wonderful mini-break with a little bit of everything.
Address: Durham Cathedral, Palace Green Town Centre, Durham, DH1 3EP.
Palace Green Library (Durham City)
Also in the city, near to the cathedral’s main entrance on the Green, is this small museum.
It contains treasures detailing the history of Durham dating back more than 2,000 years. There are also rooms dedicated to the history of the Durham Light Infantry and another with information about Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage status.
Palace Green Library
And there’s a children’s trail you can collect at reception for them to do.
You can hire traditional, hand-made rowing boats to explore the River Wear from Browns Boats. The river is nice and wide so ideal even for novice rowers.
The team at Browns will give you advice and guidance on where to go and how to row safely before you get on board.
The boats have one seat at the front and two at the back with the oarsman in the middle.
In an hour you have time to head in both directions along the river.
Cost: Adults £8, children £5 (plus £10 refundable deposit).
Address: Browns Boats, The Boathouse, Elvet Bridge, Durham, DH1 3AF.
Dig for Sea Glass at Seaham Hall beach (Durham Heritage Coast)
It’s a strange sight to arrive at the beach at Seaham Hall, everyone is either stooping over as they walk or sitting and digging at the sand.
They are hunting for sea glass and it’s strangely addictive.
So, what is sea glass? It is coloured gems found along the shore.
They are formed from bottles, jars and other discarded glass which have been weathered, smoothed and rounded into frosted glass.
Our haul was mostly green and white in colour but there was the odd blue, yellow and even pink find.
Parking: There are steps down to the beach from the free car park above.
Address: Seaham Hall Beach Car Park, SR7 7AF.
Locomotion railway museum (South Durham)
Locomotion museum has all sorts of different trains from the national collection of railway vehicles.
It’s in the town of Shildon, which was the world’s first railway town.
Highlights include peeking inside a Royal Train which carried Edward VII’s wife and a game where you test your reaction times on railway signals.
Looking at the royal carriage
There are locomotives from different eras from the 1830s onwards with a huge variety including cattle carriages, 19th century fire engines and more.
Food: There is a small cafe but you can also bring picnics to eat inside or out.
Cost: Parking and entrance to the museum is free.
Address: Locomotion, Shildon, County Durham, DL4 2RE.
Beamish (North Durham)
Beamish is a living, working museum, where the staff are dressed up to bring to life people and places from the past.
You can experience life in the 1820s, walk around a 1900’s town, a 1900’s pit village, a 1940’s farm and a 1950’s town.
Our highlights included dressing up for an Edwardian family portrait and our daughter having her hair styled in a 1950’s hair salon.
You can get around the sprawling site by tram or old-fashioned bus and buy food from places like an Edwardian bakery or a 1900’s sweet shop.
Tickets are booked in time slots at 10am, 11am and 12noon, try to get 10am as it seemed to get busier later. If you arrive after 1pm you don’t need to reserve a timeslot. We were among the first to enter and went straight to the hair salon first for our daughter and managed to get an appointment straight away.
Food: There are various takeaway and sit-in places to eat, we bought some delicious savoury pastries from a takeaway in the mining village.
Cost: Payment includes membership for a year, it costs £21 per adult, £15.50 for students and seniors aged 60 plus and £12 for children (aged 5 to 16). Family reductions start at £37 for one adult and two children.
Address: Beamish Museum, Beamish, County Durham, DH9 0RG.
Raby Castle (Durham Dales)
This is one of England’s best medieval castles and was built in the 14th century.
The grounds of Raby Castle include a scenic deer park with lakes.
A real highlight here is The Plotters’ Forest, a woodland adventure playground for children.
Food: Take a picnic or enjoy lunch or a snack at the Yurt Cafe.
We take our children to stay at the Radisson Blu hotel on the River Wear in a great location in Durham
Radisson Blu Hotel
Where is it
It is overlooking the River Wear in Durham city centre, in the northeast of England, a mile from the cathedral and the castle.
Durham is a really beautiful city, full of culture and charm and there’s also loads to see and do.
What is it
This is a four-star hotel with 207 bedrooms.
Radisson Blu hotels are part of the Radisson Hotel Group. (Other brands in the group are Radisson Collection, Raddison, Radisson Red, Radisson Individuals, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radisson, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson and prizeotel).
The company describes the Radisson Blu hotels as ‘memorable, stylish and purposeful’.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, our room was perfect for a family and the swimming pool is the icing on the cake.
Our family room was a good size, split into two areas – a spacious bedroom for us and around the corner, an area for the children with a sofa bed. Both areas have a tv and a desk.
There’s also an en-suite bathroom with an array of toiletries. The room was equipped with tea and coffee facilities, dressing gowns, iron and ironing board, safe, hair dryer and ice bucket (ice is available along the corridor).
Food and drink
The hotel’s Collage restaurant serves breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner.
Breakfast is a buffet with a range of good quality hot and continental items including pastries, croissants, cereals, bacon, egg, mushrooms, toast, cheeses, fruit and yoghurt.
We stayed over a weekend and it seemed particularly busy on the Sunday morning.
There is a separate big bar area too, serving drinks and bar snacks.
*Our room was a fabulous size and a perfect layout for us with the two sections.
*The location is brilliant – we could walk everywhere we wanted to visit in the city centre.
At night, it’s a short stroll along the river to bars and restaurants and an Odeon cinema at The Riverside.
We particularly like the relaxed nature of the Food Pit – a street food hall. Set up like a restaurant but with seven independent food vendors offering different menus, so everyone can choose from a different section but all sit together. Food included Greek, Thai, Mexican, plus there’s a bar and an ice cream/waffle dessert option. There’s even pizza and chicken nuggets and chips if you look hard enough.
*The swimming pool – we LOVE a pool and this one, at 15 metres is a great size. There were even a couple of lanes sectioned off for lane swimming.
*There is also a good-sized gym/fitness suite, but we didn’t have the tine to try it out, we were too busy swimming!
Our video tour
This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the best examples of Norman architecture in England and has been in use for almost 1,000 years.
Of more interest to us though, is the fact that it has been used in the Harry Potter films.
The Cloisters served as Hogwarts’ quadrangle and outdoor corridors including the scene where Ron has a spell backfire and pukes up slugs.
And the Chapter House was used as McGonagall’s Transfiguration class.
This part is usually closed but we managed to see a bit of it by peering through the keyhole!
Hire a traditional rowing boat and make your way along the River Wear.
Collect sea glass along the shore at Seaham, it’s surprisingly addictive.
This railway museum is a free attraction. It has trains of all shapes and sizes and is in Britain’s first railway town, Shildon.
Beamish – the living museum of the north, is a great day out for all the family. Near the town of Stanley, it tells the story of the people of North East England in the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s.
We take our children to stay at this hotel in the centre of Porthmadog opposite the railway station
Premier Inn Porthmadog Hotel.
Where is it?
This Premier Inn hotel is in Porthmadog in the county of Gwynedd, North Wales, a small coastal town on the Glaslyn Estuary.
It’s in a great location, opposite Porthmadog Railway Station and the estuary. The rear of the hotel has views over Snowdonia National Park.
What is it?
Premier Inn is the UK’s biggest hotel chain with over 800 hotels and this one only opened in 2022.
Our Standard Family room had three beds – a really comfortable and cosy king size, a single and a smaller pull-out.
Our Standard Family room
All rooms have an en-suite bath and shower with shower curtain, tea and coffee facilities, hairdryer, desk and chair, plus free Wi-Fi and a flat screen Smart TV.
Other room options are a Standard Double, Premier Plus Double, Standard Twin and Standard Accessible which includes adjustable beds, more space and wider entry bathrooms.
We were very grateful that the room had very effective air conditioning, as we stayed during a heat wave.
Food and drink
The hotel’s Thyme restaurant serves breakfast and evening meals.
Breakfast is self-service and includes hot options like bacon, eggs, hash browns, mushrooms and baked beans plus fruit, cereals, croissants and yoghurts.
You can toast your own bread, pancakes and crumpets. Breakfast was £9.50 per adult or £7.50 for just the continental options when we stayed.
In the evening, you can choose from a huge menu which includes reasonably-priced standard pub favourites like lasagne, steak and pizza.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, this is a family friendly hotel, our room was a great size for the four of us.
Breakfast is free for children (up to two children eat free with a paying adult).
Also, travel cots are available at no extra cost.
*The location – this is a great spot to explore Porthmadog and we enjoyed several walks from the hotel.
It’s a two-minute walk to the pretty harbour and town centre.
*Spooner’s cafe bar at the railway station opposite serves good value drinks and its terrace has a nice view across the bay.
*The views – from our window at the front we could watch steam trains arriving and departing from Porthmadog Station and the estuary beyond.
Windows at the back look over a pretty pool with mountains beyond.
*The comfortable beds and the room’s air conditioning were a real bonus, as was the cleanliness and the modern fresh feel of the whole hotel.
*Car parking is described as limited on the website. Although the hotel was full when we visited we did manage to park on site each day. If you are keen to ensure your vehicle is left in the hotel car park, then we suggest arriving earlier as it rapidly filled up from around 5pm.
*Don’t miss out on a lovely short walk directly behind the hotel around a lake. If you follow the green railings around the back of the hotel, it looks like a dead end, but you can head out on to Cob Crwn – a short, circular stroll.
A view of the hotel from the lake behind it.
*Breakfast times were allocated at 6.30, 7.30, 8.30 or 9.30am. The area was busy around 8.30am but quietened down afterwards so we suggest if you don’t want to wait for a table, get there either before 8am or after 9.30am.
*There are six electric car charging points in the car park. However, none of them were working when we visited! The nearest charging points in Porthmadog are at the Tesco supermarket, which is a 10-minute walk away.
Porthmadog Railway Station
Porthmadog Railway Station is opposite is a major hub with three lines – the Ffestiniog (which runs to Blaenau Ffestiniog), the Welsh Highland Railway (which goes to Caernarfon) and the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.
Porthmadog Railway Station is opposite the Premier Inn
The Welsh Highland Railway is the UK’s longest heritage railway and runs 25 miles between Porthmadog and Caernarfon.
The Ffestiniog Railway is a vintage railway which has been running for nearly 200 years. It is 13.5 miles long and runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway offers a short train ride in historic narrow-gauge railway carriages to Pen-y-mount station and back.
This Italian-style tourist village, built between 1925 and 1975, is two miles south east of Porthmadog.
It is famous for being The Village in the tv show The Prisoner.
Black Rock Sands (Morfa Bychan)
This big beach is two miles west of Porthmadog. It’s very accessible as you can park your vehicles on it.
Just be careful of little ones running around and also keep an eye on the tide and your car – one had to be towed out of the sea when we were there.
Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands
We visited Harlech Castle and Harlech Beach, which were 20 minutes away.
Harlech Beach is large and sandy and is a fair walk from the car park.
It is overlooked by the castle, set high on the cliff.
You don’t have to go far from the hotel for a stunning stroll.
The marina is very close or you can head around the back of the building to a footpath which takes you around a lake. A 20-minute walk brings you back to the hotel.
You can find out more about the attractions by reading our feature on what to do around Porthmadog with children here.
Premier Inn Porthmadog Hotel, Britannia Terrace, Porthmadog, Wales, LL49 9NB.
We take our children to stay at a landmark hotel in the centre of Stratford
What is it
The Grosvenor Hotel is a landmark hotel in Stratford town centre with 76 rooms. It used to be known as the Villare Hotel but now has its original name back.
Where is it?
It’s in the centre of Stratford, a few minutes’ walk from the main attractions.
Our ground floor room had a large bed and a sofa bed, tv, desk and en-suite. It was very hot but a fan was set up ready.
Our room was a good size and simply decorated.
It is family friendly?
There were quite a few families staying here when we visited. There is nothing specific designed for children but the rooms are a reasonable size and it is walking distance into Stratford.
Food and drink
Breakfast was a simple choice of cereals, toast, fruit and hot options like egg, bacon, sausages and tomato. Our children enjoyed having branded cereals they could choose from.
Breakfast at the Grosvenor Hotel
We also had afternoon tea here which included a selection of sandwiches – egg, cheese, coronation chicken and tuna, plus chocolate brownies, lemon cake, strawberries and scones with cream and jam.
Afternoon tea at the Grosvenor Hotel
There is a lounge and bar area which serves discounted drinks during Happy Hour between 9pm and 11pm.
*The hotel’s position is good, it’s a nice walk along the canal to the very centre. Don’t miss the entrance to the canal, which is across the road from the hotel.
*The staff did their best but I felt like more were needed, they were run ragged on reception and at breakfast. The young man who served us afternoon tea did an excellent job and seemed happier than some of the other employees.
The hotel bar
*There is a back entrance from the car park so you don’t need to keep going up and down the front steps.
An outdoor area at the back of the hotel
*As it is a grade two-listed building there is no lift so let the hotel know if you need a downstairs room.
It’s a short walk into Stratford town centre if you cross the road, turn right and take the canal path.
There is loads to do in Stratford – Shakespeare-related attractions such as his birthplace and school, shops, boating on the River Avon, restaurants and cafes and of course theatres. See our top picks here.
Address: Grosvenor Hotel,12-14 Warwick Road, Stratford upon Avon, CV37 6YW.
Parking: There is a car park and it costs £9 per night to park your car. The car park did get full when we visited so arrive early to park and then leave your car to walk into Stratford.
This is the school where William Shakespeare was taught in the 1570s, where he wrote his first works and saw inspiring actors perform plays.
Shakespeare was able to attend this local grammar school as his father was Mayor of Stratford.
The attraction is guide-led and their passion and enthusiasm for the building shines through.
The best bit is where you get to sit in the schoolroom with an actor playing the part of Shakespeare’s teacher Master Thomas Jenkins. We even had a Latin lesson. It is very interactive with adults and children getting involved in the fun. The 20-minute lesson was a real highlight of our visit, especially when our daughter got to play the part of Julius Caesar.
A lesson at Shakespeare’s school
The visit here starts with a guide explaining about the history of the building, visitors watch a short video and then learn about a painting discovered in the Guildhall.
Later, you can dress up in Tudor clothes and learn to write with a quill and ink in a classroom still used by King Edward VI School in Stratford.
Writing with a quill
Time taken: One to two hours.
Address: Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6HB.
New Place, built in the 1480s, was William Shakespeare’s home from 1597 until he died there in 1616.
At the time it was also known as the Great House as it was the largest in Stratford and the only one with a courtyard.
Sadly, the medieval house was demolished in 1759, today you will find a museum there and an Elizabethan garden.
The gardens at Shakespeare’s New Place
The museum has a nice introductory animated video about Shakespeare and his return to Stratford which was interesting.
However the gardens are definitely the best part of New Place, they are beautiful with space to run around and lots of statues and information boards for children to learn about Shakespeare and his plays.
Time taken: Around 45 minutes with children
Address: Shakespeare’s New Place, 22 Chapel Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6EP.
We try out a city centre hotel in Stratford close to its top family attractions
Hotel Indigo Stratford upon Avon.
Where is it
It is in a great location in the centre of Stratford, opposite two tourist attractions – Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Shakespeare’s New Place.
What is it
It’s a boutique hotel with 93 rooms in a stunning building made up of a Georgian townhouse, a 16th century building and a modern wing.
Is it family friendly?
Our children really enjoyed our stay but we didn’t see any others during the trip – this classy hotel seems more aimed at couples, friends and older families.
Inside the hotel
However, staff couldn’t have been nicer.
Our suite was in the Tudor section of the hotel and was a heady mix of modern comforts and 16th century character.
The main bedroom in our suite
The fun layout was made up of two rooms with a Jack and Jill bathroom in between and a wide, furnished corridor which also links the two.
The main bedroom had a big comfy bed and the second room had a sofa bed which the children loved.
The second room
The decor was modern and quirky. There are plenty of nods to Shakespeare with paintings of characters from his plays on the walls. Our children enjoyed discovering which plays the characters were from.
Further rooms are in the Georgian townhouse section and the contemporary wing. There are rooms suitable for families in all three areas of the hotel depending on if you want traditional Tudor or a more modern-style room.
Food and drink
Breakfast was served in the ‘Feasting Room’ and included a good continental spread of cereals, pastries, toast, hams, cheeses and extras like carrot muffins.
Breakfast at Hotel Indigo
Hot food to order such as a cooked breakfast, French toast with fruit and honey or egg, hash brown and spinach on a brioche bun, was delicious.
You can book a table to eat dinner in the upscale, on-site restaurant The Woodsman, which serves a changing menu made up of farm-to-table dishes like deer, boar, beef and lamb.
The chefs cook in an open kitchen, using a wood fired oven and charcoal grill.
It is quality over quantity – there were five main course options when we ate there including cod and a vegetarian mushroom option. My pork was melt-in-the-mouth delicious with a side dish of crunchy potatoes.
This is not the restaurant for you if you are after very simple food or pub favourites, but we really enjoyed the tasty fare and the desserts were equally delicious and well presented.
There was no printed children’s menu, but they offered to make a smaller version of any of the main meals or serve sausage and mash, chicken or fish goujons and chips.
Chicken goujons for the children
*The snacks in the hotel room like popcorn and crisps, are complimentary.
*The fun layout of our room.
*The great central location – we could just leave our car here and explore the town, without having to worry about finding somewhere to park in Stratford.
There is a gym/fitness room, bar, nice little seating areas dotted around and also a pretty little garden with tables to sit at.
Opposite is Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall. This is where William Shakespeare went to school and has guides showing you around the different sections who are passionate about the site and its history.
Also opposite is Shakespeare’s New Place – the site and gardens that housed his home for 19 years.
Plus, there are other interesting places to see nearby, boat trips on the River Avon, shows at the Royal Shakespeare Society and dozens of places to eat and drink on the doorstep.
Read our full, detailed round-up of the best places to visit in Stratford.
The hotel entrance at the back of the building
Address: Hotel Indigo, Chapel Street, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6HA.
Parking: There is a small car park which costs £10 per car per night. It can not be booked in advance and is first come, first served.
We stay at the magnificent Mallory Court Hotel in Leamington Spa
Could there be a warmer welcome than the one we received at the glorious Mallory Court Country Hotel and Spa in Warwickshire.
This stunning venue is everything a hotel should be – a luxurious home from home, exquisite food, wonderful staff and beautiful gardens – take a look at our exclusive video tour below.
We were thoroughly spoilt here and loved every second.
Mallory Court Country House Hotel and Spa.
Where is it?
Between Warwick and Royal Leamington Spa in Warwickshire.
What is it?
This beautiful country house hotel and award-winning restaurant is set in 10 acres of gorgeous gardens.
Mallory Court Hotel
It also has a spa, function suite and civil license. Plus, some of the rooms are dog-friendly.
It’s privately owned by the Eden Hotel Collection and is one of the most prestigious hotels in the county.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, our two loved it here and made the most of the grounds, exploring every lovely section.
The hotel’s main market is for adults who enjoy fine-dining and luxury but there is still a very relaxed vibe.
Our suite was fabulous for them – they had their own room, sofas and bathroom. They were even given a mini-welcome pack on their beds including a mini-bathrobe, slippers and a soft toy.
The ability to swim and play tennis or croquet, plus use the gardens to burn off energy is another plus.
There are other family rooms in the hotel plus standard rooms can take an extra foldaway bed or cot. Children are £25 per night including breakfast. Cots are £15.
There are 43 luxurious bedrooms.
We stayed in the Blenheim Suite, a very spacious two-bedroom, two-bathroom area with its own private corridor. In both rooms there are desks/dressing tables, televisions, coffee machines, lots of storage and plenty of places to sit and relax.
One of the bedrooms in our suite
It really was so easy to unwind here, there is everything you could need including toiletries, drinks and snacks.
Relaxing in their bedroom in the Blenheim Suite
The main bathroom even has two baths as well as a shower.
Food and drink
There are two options for dinner – we ate in The Dining Room. This restaurant offers fine dining at its best and has three AA rosettes.
The dining room
We enjoyed a five-course tasting menu, which was absolutely delicious including a choice of two main courses of lamb or plaice.
They use organically grown, seasonal produce from the hotel’s kitchen gardens to keep the menus fresh.
For children, they can make separate dishes such as sausages, chicken or pasta. Their children’s desserts included a heavenly sticky toffee pudding.
There is another restaurant called the Brasserie in the spa building where they do a £12.50 three-course dinner for children.
The breakfast is of a high quality – there is continental or cooked – both are served to the table by the attentive staff. They didn’t even act surprised when my daughter asked for three different types of cereal at once.
*The swimming pool is lovely and warm and a nice size to enjoy a family swim. It’s located in the spa in the grounds.
The swimming pool in the spa area
*The grounds are stunning – there is even a huge croquet pitch and equipment to play as well as a tennis court.
In the grounds
*Enjoying a drink on the terrace in the sunshine before going inside to eat.
*The welcoming staff throughout the hotel – on reception, at dinner and at breakfast they were so lovely and interested in how the children were enjoying the stay.
*Swimming costs extra, it is not included and is pricey at £15 per adult and £7.50 per child for one hour. Children under four can’t use the pool and family access is at set hours and needs to be booked.
*Car parking is free and there are plenty of spaces.
*Dogs are welcome at the hotel but check in advance to see if there is a dog friendly room available. We saw several dogs during our stay enjoying the grounds!
We stay at this revamped aparthotel in the centre of Leicester with our children
The Gresham Aparthotel.
What is it
This is an aparthotel (apartments with a hotel booking system), which opened at the end of 2021 following a £17 million refurbishment.
It’s in an iconic building which was once a department store, made up of several buildings designed in the 1800.
There are 121 apartments, a restaurant and bar, a gym and conference facilities.
Where is it
It’s in Leicester city centre, a five-minute walk from the cathedral.
Rooms range from a studio through to a two-bedroom apartment and a sky room with city views.
Our two-bedroom apartment
They all have a kitchenette, dining area and lounge area with television.
The one we stayed in was modern and clean with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. It was one of the apartments on the inside of the building so only had one window, but the lights are bright.
One of the bedrooms in our apartment
Is it child friendly?
It is not in the most salubrious of areas, but once inside, the children loved exploring the apartment. We entered through one of the bedrooms and gradually discovered more and more rooms, there was definitely plenty of space.
Another bonus was the smart tvs in both rooms which enabled them to catch up with YouTube and Disney+.
The other bedroom
Their bedroom was bright and spacious and it’s great having access to kitchen facilities, a fridge and dining table.
The lounge area was big enough for us all to sit down and enjoy a movie although the sofa could have been comfier.
It’s an open plan kitchen-diner and living space
There is a restaurant and bar on the ground floor called Black Iron Social which serves breakfast, brunch, bar snacks and dinner and seems really popular.
The bar and restaurant Black Iron Social
Plus there’s a Tesco Express around the corner if you want to eat in.
*The rooms are modern, fresh and clean. The size is great with lots of space to relax in.
*The modern facilities are a big bonus
*It’s a good central location in Leicester, you can walk to all the major attractions in the city centre.
*Make sure to ask for a room on the outside with windows, if you want them.
*It is on a pedestrianised street so if you have heavy luggage, get one person to drop the other off nearby before going to park your car.
Leicester has some great family attractions, including the National Space Centre and the Richard III Centre, read our full guide to places to go in the city here.
Address: The Gresham Aparthotel, 36 Market Street, Leicester, LE1 6DP.
Parking: The hotel does not have its own car park. There are car parks within a short walking distance, we used Newarke Street car park, which is about a 2/3 minute walk.
Leicester is a city in the East Midlands area of England with plenty for families to do, here is our guide to the best attractions to visit with children.
The National Space Station
The National Space Station is arguably the main family attraction in Leicester.
The National Space Centre
It’s been open for around 20 years and although the outside looks a little dated now, inside is a fresh and modern museum with plenty of hands-on attractions.
There’s a large ground floor area which explains all about the galaxy, with plenty of interactive elements.
You can also see space suits worn by the likes of Buzz Aldrin and Tim Peake.
There is a planetarium showing a film narrated by Ewan Macgregor which lasts around 20 minutes and explains the life of an astronaut.
You book a time slot and sit watching a domed-shaped projection screen above and around you – we made the mistake of sitting at the front so I would suggest sitting towards the back.
It feels as if you are moving around space which can be a bit disorientating plus it’s worth noting that it includes some medical details about the human body and sickness.
When getting to floors two, three and four you pass two rockets which are inside the centre.
The second floor showcases the UK’s contribution to the space race. There is a good video about some of the country’s pioneers and a nice interactive screen where children can design their own rocket and then see it fire into space.
Floors three and four are all about the Space Race between the Soviet Union and USA.
The third floor talks about the Russians’ role and you can take control of a capsule similar to Yuri Gagarin’s – the first man in space.
The top floor explains the timeline of the moon landings, telling the story of Apollo 11 and subsequent flights.
The timeline is clear and simple for children and they can feel a replica of the moon’s surface, as well as having a look at tiny piece of the moon too.
Suitable age: Best for children aged eight and above as some of the exhibits are quite detailed.
Food: There are cafes and snacks available on the ground floor. There was an ice cream van outside when we visited too plus picnic benches outside.
Parking: There are two large car parks with tickets costing £3 for the whole day.
Where is it: Two miles north of Leicester City Centre, off the A6 between Leicester’s inner and outer ring roads.
Address: National Space Centre, Exploration Drive, Leicester, LE4 5NS.
The discovery of Richard III’s remains under a Leicester car park in 2014, led to this excellent new museum.
Set over two floors, the first explains the story of Richard and the Wars of the Roses. It uses videos, timelines and interactive screens to set out how Richard became king between 1483 and 1485 and how he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth.
The second floor details how Richard’s remains were discovered.
A group of dedicated historians and enthusiasts thought he may be buried under a city car park. A huge dig proved them right and this exhibition shows how DNA testing and various techniques proved it was the king.
It is mostly aimed at adults but there is a good dressing up area where children can wear Tudor clothes.
Dressing up in Tudor clothes
The centre also gives children an activity sheet on entry with a quiz, colouring and a wordsearch to do around the museum.
The end of the museum is a simple room with an area of glass floor through which you can see where Richard’s remains were discovered.
The room has a friendly member of staff on hand to answer questions and children will enjoy walking over the glass to look closely at the site.
The glass floor through which you can see the spot where Richard III’s remains were found
Parking: There is no parking and the area around is pedestrianised. Long-stay nearby car parks include St Nicholas Circle NCP (next to the Holiday Inn, postcode LE1 4LF) and at the Highcross Shopping Centre (accessible from Vaughan Way, postcode LE1 4QJ).
Where is it: In the heart of the city centre, next to Leicester Cathedral.
Address: King Richard III Visitor Centre, 4A St. Martin’s, Leicester, LE1 5DB.
Leicester Museum is free to enter and has lots of sections including Ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, wild space, Leicester stories, the Victorian Art Gallery, arts and crafts, Picasso Ceramics along with the Attenborough Collection and Leicester’s German Expressionism collection.
Leicester Museum and Art Gallery
It also hosts lots of temporary exhibitions and has activities including talks and lunchtime concerts, plus there is a gift shop.
Food: There is a museum cafe.
Parking: The museum’s own car park is in Princess Road West, use the postcode LE1 6TR.
The nearest major car park is the NCP on East Street, use postcode LE1 6NB.
Where is it: In the south of Leicester city centre.
Address: Leicester Museum & Art Gallery, 53 New Walk, Leicester, LE1 7EA.
All you need to know about popular Warwick Castle – the perfect family attraction
What is it?
Warwick Castle is a medieval castle, originally built by William the Conqueror as a wooden fort in 1068, and rebuilt in stone in the 12th century.
This historical tourist experience is hugely popular and attracts visitors from all over the world – we heard plenty of American accents on our visit.
Inside the castle
There is lots of to see and do plus there are live shows and experiences during the year including large arena jousting performances and the UK’s biggest birds of prey show, to help bring the castle alive for visitors.
Where is it?
It is unsurprisingly in the town of Warwick in Warwickshire on the River Avon, less than two miles from junction 15 of the M40.
*A fantastic show, the Falconer’s Quest – an outdoor bird show, made into a story.
There are a few rows of benches, but hundreds of other people sat around on the grass and on picnic blankets nearby to watch and had just as good an experience.
*The Horrible Histories Maze, where children can get a little book stamped at various stages.
*Archery and jousting lessons with enthusiastic staff dressed in medieval outfits.
Archery lessons at Warwick Castle
*Interactive storytime in the Princess Castle.
*For younger children, there are attractions based around the Julia Donaldson character Zog, including a great outdoor play area.
Zog play area
Warwick Castle Top Tips
*The Castle Dungeon is a 50-minute walk with live actors and special effects but is scary and so for over-tens only. You have to pay extra for this attraction, it isn’t included in the entry price.
*Get there early – we arrived about 9.30am for a 10am opening which meant we were at the front of the car park – although it was still a bit of a trek – and one of the first through the doors.
*Pay for your car park at the start – about 50 yards before the entrance on the right – there can be queues if you leave it to the end and it’s a set price (£6) anyway.
*If you want to extend your stay, you can sleep over at Warwick Castle in the Knight’s Village. There are 24 standard Woodland Lodges which sleep up to five and four Knight’s Lodges which are bigger and sleep up to seven people.
*There are tours running every half an hour covering different areas of the castle and its history. We joined a 30-minute tour which explained the 1,000 year story of the castle with an enthusiastic guide. It was well explained to suit children and gives you a good grounding for your day at the castle.
*You can scale the towers and ramparts but be aware this is a one-way trip and there are a lot of spiral stairs to climb that will tire out little legs (and big ones). But there’s a great view from the top.
*We used a Shakespeare’s England Explorer Pass which gives you entry to 10 top attractions across Warwickshire including Warwick Castle, Avon Boating and Stratford Butterfly Farm.
View from the top
There are plenty of food and drink options but it isn’t cheap. There was a pizza van making fresh pizzas (£11.90 for a basic Margherita), along with a fish and chip stall, ice cream vans and drinks outlets.
Lots of people brought their own picnics and there are plenty of lovely places to eat on the lawns and loads of benches to sit at.
The very first Masked Singer Live UK tour has begun
The Masked Singer is the surprise television hit that is part singing competition and part guessing game which sees celebrities dress up in crazy costumes.
Clues are given about each celebrity so you can try and guess ‘who is behind the mask’.
In our house we are avid viewers – the children love it – so we were thrilled when it was announced that a stage version was to tour the UK.
We bought tickets to the first night in Liverpool, so here is our review plus all you need to know.
The Masked Singer Live
We saw it at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool for the very first live show.
It will also be in London, Birmingham, Newcastle upon Tyne, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Nottingham.
Who is in it?
*The host – as in the ITV show – is comedian and presenter Joel Dommett.
He got a great reception from the audience.
Joel Dommett on stage in Liverpool
*The panel is made up of singer and tv personality Denise Van Outen (Fox in Series one) and JLS star Aston Merrygold (Robin in series two), plus a different third celebrity judge in each city. Ours in Liverpool was Samia Longchambon from Coronation Street.
*Five of the favourite characters sing and dance – at ours were Panda, Badger, Dragon, Unicorn and Traffic Cone.
Sadly it is not the original celebrities inside the costumes, but other great singers. They don’t take their masks off so younger children may not realise.
*Then there are two new celebrities to sing and be unveiled at each venue in new costumes – Space Pug and Baby Dino.
Who was behind the mask?
In Liverpool we had Simon Gregson (Steve McDonald, Coronation Street), who performed as Space Pug.
Simon Gregson as Space Pug
And singer and friend of Simon Cowell, Sinitta, as Baby Dino, voted best by the audience clapometer.
*Solos, duets and group numbers from the favourite characters.
Badger, Dragon and Panda, plus Unicorn heading out on stage
*Most of the audience and all of the judges (including his Coronation Street colleague) guessing Simon Gregson to be Space Pug. The clues are much easier to guess than the television series thankfully.
*Joel going into the audience to ask people who they thought the masked stars were.
When is it?
April 2, 2022: M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
April 3, 2022: The O2, London
April 5, 2022: Utilita Arena Birmingham
April 8, 2000: Utilita Arena Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne
April 9, 2022: OVO Hydro, Glasgow
April 10, 2022: AO Arena, Manchester
April 13, 2022: First Direct Arena, Leeds
April 15, 2022: Utilita Arena Sheffield
April 16, 2022: Motorpoint Arena Nottingham
April 18, 2022: OVO Arena, Wembley, London
Who are the guest judges at each venue
The third judge at each venue to sit alongside Denise Van Outen and Aston Merrygold will be:
Full guide and review of BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail
BeWILDerwood Cheshire’s first ever Christmas lights event has begun.
The woodland attraction is already an established favourite day out for lots of families since it opened last year.
And now lots are going to experience its Sparkly Light and Panto Trail by night.
We were lucky enough to get a sneak preview, here is everything you need to know.
BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail
What is it?
It is a light trail along new woodland pathways, a 10-minute pantomime, BeWILDerwood characters and a glimpse of Santa Claus himself, with a special gift for all children to take home.
A giant Christmas pudding
BeWILDerwood itself is a family attraction based on magical characters and their adventures from children’s books written by Tom Blofeld. The adventure park is all in woodland and includes treehouses, slides, den building, storytelling and zip wires – BeWILDerwood Cheshire – review, guide and top tips.
Where is it?
At BeWILDerwood Cheshire – north of Whitchurch on the A49 in south west Cheshire near the border with Shropshire.
What did we think?
This was a lovely Christmassy, magical evening out to get you in the festive mood.
It’s a lengthy walk along twinkly trails through gingerbread men, candy canes, disco lights, snowmen and more with occasional interactions with BeWILDerwood characters.
Halfway around is the mini pantomime and food stop, the second half of the walk is even better with Christmas trees, a lake and fake snow falling.
The 10-minute pantomime
As it was the launch night, we were lucky enough to talk to the BeWILDerwood author himself Tom Blofeld, who was walking the route to see everyone’s reactions.
He has written a new Christmas-themed story to add to his collection of books, which introduces new characters. There are glimpses of the story along the route.
*The staff are welcoming and friendly.
*There is hot chocolate available to buy before you begin the trail.
*There are a couple of parts in the second half where ‘snow’ falls – you will still be wearing dots of it in the car on the way home.
*Every child receives a copy of Tom Blofeld’s new Christmas story to take home as well as a craft.
*You get to see Santa at the end, you can wave at him but there is not a meet and greet or grotto situation.
*Tickets need to be booked in advance and you are given an arrival timeslot of 4pm, 4.30pm, 5pm, 5.30pm, 6pm or 6.30pm.
*The park closes at 8pm.
*This event runs when it is dark so all the play structures, zip wires, slides etc are closed. Also, parts of the trail are very dark such as around the pantomine area, you might need to use a phone light to see where you are going.
*Annual pass holders get free entry but still need to book a space by calling 01829 830 730.
Tom Blofeld’s books include A Boggle at Bewilderwood, The Bewilderbats and A Bewildermuddle.
He hopes the event will bring the magic of Christmas and the magic of BeWILDerwood together.
BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail information
Dates: It runs on selected dates from December 2 to 23.
Food: Food is available at the Munch Bar where there are warm snacks and hot drinks for sale including hot dogs, turkey baps, steak slices, cheese slices and picnic boxes for children including a ham or cheese roll and crisps.
Munch Bar menu
Opening hours: Time slots start at 4pm and the park closes at 8pm.
Cost: Tickets must be booked in advance online and cost £15.50 per person. Children under 92cm, carers and wheelchair users are free but everyone needs a ticket.
Best for: All ages.
Time needed: An hour and a half.
Access and restrictions: The trail is accessible for wheelchairs, pushchairs and mobility scooters but can be very dark, narrow, bumpy in places and may be muddy.
How to pick the best cottage near the beach in Cornwall
This post was brought to you in collaboration with Classic Cottages – all words and opinions are my own!
If you are dreaming of a family holiday near a world-renowned beach making happy memories with your children, look no further than Cornwall.
Its striking coastline and golden sands are among the reasons why it is one of the leading holiday destinations in the UK.
And if you want to wake up just a stone’s throw from one of its glorious beaches, there are a lots of holiday cottages you can stay in.
They make the ideal base for a family, allowing you more space and freedom plus the ability to prepare your own meals, picnic on the beach or dine out when you choose. Cornwall has fabulous restaurants and delicious produce, not forgetting of course Cornish pasties and cream teas.
Some cottages have spectacular sea views and many also welcome dogs, so you don’t have to leave your pooch behind. Classic Cottages offers beach-side retreats of all sizes from cosy through to big properties for large groups.
They are all handpicked, inspected, regularly maintained and equipped with everything from bed linen through to coffee pots.
So, all you need to decide is which part of this beautiful county do you want to visit.
Where to stay in Cornwall
The Far West
If you are drawn to the turquoise waters of the unspoilt Far West, there is lots to do, including a trip to the island of St Michael’s Mount.
You can see this jewel in Cornwall’s crown from the village of Perranuthnoe, where you can stay at Classic Cottages’ The Hideaway.
This intriguing ‘Hobbit-style’ glamping retreat is on the edge of the village with a beach, pub and cafe on the doorstep.
The waves of the North offer famously good surfing conditions.
The area is great for all types of extreme sports including scuba diving and rock climbing. If you fancy staying here in a beach hut by the sea, you’ll love the accommodation known as Krowji.
It’s in the popular seaside resort of Polzeath and has wonderful sea views and even a conservatory.
The South Coast
A holiday home on the south coast of Cornwall is perfect for a family-friendly getaway, with fabulous beaches at Mevagissey, Falmouth, Looe and St Mawes. And if it’s sea views you are after, 4 The Beach has got them in abundance through floor to ceiling bi-fold doors.
4 The Beach
The apartment, north of Cadgwith, has board games to keep everyone entertained, plus a lawn and patio.
It’s a short stroll down the hill to Kennack Sands, which has a lifeguard in the main season and a beach cafe selling drinks, snacks and ice cream.
Further east on the south coast you’ll find Mimosa Cottage in the heart of St Mawes with views over the Percuil River.
It’s just a two-minute walk to the waterfront with restaurants, cafes and shops to explore and boats offering fishing trips, sunset cruises and regular ferry services to Falmouth.
Family fun, laughter, dance and song – plus Covid references – in Snow White panto at the Blackpool Grand
Christmas pantomimes are a fun festive tradition that fans had to forgo last year – oh yes they did!
So we decided to enjoy a bit of ‘he’s behind you’ this year with a trip to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in Blackpool.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Blackpool Grand Theatre
It stars Vicky Entwistle (Janice Battersby, Coronation Street) as the Wicked Queen and Steve Royle (Britan’s Got Talent finalist/presenter/juggler/comic) as Muddles in his 18th annual Christmas appearance on the Blackpool Grand stage.
Jamie Steen plays Nurse Dolly, Chris Warner-Drake is Prince Frederick and Ellie Green is Snow White.
Warwick Davis’s son Harrison plays Soppy, one of the seven dwarfs. While another of the dwarfs, Pip, is played by Harrison’s auntie Hayley Burroughs.
Snow White and Muddles
*An alternative, frantic and very funny version of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
*A TikTok segment with audience participation.
*Vicky Entwistle is excellent with no trace of her Coronation Street character Janice Battersby!
*Steve Royle and Jamie Steen are hilarious and work well together – Steve even gets in a bit of juggling.
*The modern references to Covid alongside traditional Panto slapstick.
*The first half felt a little long but the laughs and the silliness really build in part two.
*The dancing and songs.
*The venue – it’s a lovely traditional theatre, plus you can combine the trip with a visit to the Blackpool Illuminations which run until January 3 for a double dose of festive magic.
When is it?
The show runs until Sunday, January 2
Tickets are £20.50 and £25.50 for adults, children and those aged 65+ are £2 less and a family ticket is £84.
We take our children on a family trip to a Christmas light festival in Manchester
We return for a second year to Lightopia, here is our full guide.
What is it
The Lightopia Festival – A Christmas Fantasy – is an award-winning and socially-distanced lantern and light festival, which also runs in London and at Alton Towers.
It takes place around a series of lit art installations and laser beams, which have been set up at the park in Manchester.
When is it
Lightopia at Heaton Park runs from November 5, 2021 to January 3, 2022.
Gates Open at 5pm, last entry is 8.30pm and it closes at 10pm.
How much are tickets
Tickets booked in advance 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.
Food and drink
There are stalls and bars dotted selling food like hot dogs, carvery baps, chips, donuts, malled wine and hot chocolate.
There are also Dine in the Light experiences, a formal and a less formal.
The Dome dining experience is a three-course meal in one of 10 illuminated Dining Domes which seat up to six or twelve people, before or after the light trail. This must be pre-booked.
Also new for Lightopia Manchester 2021 is a more casual dining experience at The Stables Courtyard Bar and Dining.
Tables are under a heated canopy and guests choose from a variety of food and drink outlets serving things like tacos, pizza, roasted chestnuts and festive beverages. You can reserve a seat or walk in on the evening.
*Prepare for a bit of a walk from the car park and a queue at the start.
*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.
*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.
*We have tried both car parks and the walk from the North, St Margaret’s Road, car park is slightly easier and quicker than walking from the South, Sheepfoot Lane, car park.
Is everything included in the price?
All the displays are included in the ticket price. You pay extra for fairground rides, food and drink and those flashing hand-held contraptions that our daughter loves.
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.
North – St Margaret’s Road, M25 2GT
South – Lake Car Park, Sheepfoot Lane, M25 0DL
Buy a parking ticket here – the same page you book your event tickets and scroll down – the parking is below event tickets.