REVIEWS

Interrailing review – we take our children on a train trip around Europe

Interrailing review – we take our children on a train trip around Europe

The highs and lows of a family Interrail holiday using Global Passes

I get some strange looks as I edge down the corridor in my pyjamas.

I’ve already had to stand on a suitcase to get out of the room without waking the other three occupants.

It’s the smallest bedroom we have ever slept in and it’s moving at 100mph.

We are on our first overnight train and it’s certainly an experience we won’t forget in a hurry.

After boarding at nearly midnight, we have to make up the beds as the train rattles along.

There’s no room for us all to stand let alone store our two suitcases.

But it’s all part of the adventure. We have set ourselves a challenge to travel around five countries in 10 days by train.

And it’s made possible thanks to Interrail. We are trying out its Global Pass which allows us to travel on almost all trains around Europe.

This includes Eurostar and trains in our own country while on the outbound and inward journeys.

Frankfurt to Nuremberg train, Interrailing around Europe with children

Although the less said about our outward journey the better – signal problems saw our easy trip to London mutate into a four-train nightmare which left us wondering if we would even make it to the capital, let alone our Eurostar from St Pancras.

But we did. And it has been mostly plain sailing from there. Or plain railing, if that is even a word. And if it isn’t then it should be.

First stop Brussels. We visit Mini Europe with its miniature replicas of famous landmarks and indulge in Belgium’s famous waffles and frites (not together).

Most memorable is the famous Manneken Pis sculpture of a boy urinating in a fountain – he is everywhere we look – replicas are in shop windows, on socks and even made into mini chocolates.

The local trains we catch here are double decker delights to the joy of my daughter.

On day three we depart for Germany, changing trains in Frankfurt to get to Nuremberg.

The trains feel so clean, modern and spacious. Plus, we are lucky enough to have the first class Interrail option – the price difference is relatively small and worth the extra if you can afford it.

After settling into a big apartment hotel (review here) and armed with a Nuremberg Card (which gives free access to attractions and free local transport), we start at the city’s pretty zoo where we spot polar bears and enjoy a dolphin show.

We get a glimpse of German culture, lederhosen and bratwurst at the twice annual fair Volkfest and explore the Old Town.

Nuremberg
Nuremberg

Munich is our day five destination. Although it’s nearly 200 miles from the sea, we join crowds of spectators watching surfers take turns to ride the waves of the Eisbach River where it gushes out from under a bridge.

It then meanders through a huge park, the English Garden, where thousands are gathered enjoying the sunshine and the relaxed atmosphere.

We view the city from the top of St Peter’s Church and my son enjoys a visit to the home of Harry Kane and Bayern Munich – the Allianz Arena.

Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany
Allianz Arena

And you can’t visit Munich without stopping for a traditional Bavarian meal at world famous tavern The Hofbrauhaus, by far the biggest restaurant I have ever seen.

It’s nearly midnight when we take to our (not so comfortable) beds on the aforementioned overnight train, which is taking us from Munich to Venice in eight-and-a-half hours.

And the reason I am to be found early in the morning wandering around in my pyjamas? I’m in search of a toilet and my clothes are firmly inside the one suitcase we could fit under a bed. Our night has been disturbed by noisy passengers getting on and off and I’ll do anything to avoid waking the children.

Although I nearly turn back when I realise everyone else is fully dressed!

A couple of hours later, we arrive in Venice, not exactly refreshed from the journey.

But stepping out of the station is a feast for the eyes – the turquoise waters, fabulous architecture and gliding gondolas soon wake us up.

A canal in Venice
Venice

And the room back at our hotel later feels gloriously spacious after our cramped conditions the night before.

A travelling day beckons next. We take three trains from Venice to Paris with stops at Milan and Zurich. It’s our most stunning journey to date as we pass through the spectacular scenery of Switzerland.

We have three nights in Paris and manage a whistlestop tour of all the main attractions, without the help of trains, using the Tootbus hop-on hop-off buses.

A trip up the Eiffel Tower takes me back to the last time I looked over Paris from on top of it when my boyfriend asked if we could move it together.

Up the Eiffel Tower
Up the Eiffel Tower

So it is nice to return, now, married with children.

We can’t resist a trip to Disneyland for our last day where another train leaves an impression – but it’s just one of the rides, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Then it’s back on the Eurostar home.

We have been on 28 trains this holiday – so you would think I would know how to exit one.

But at our final top, our village station, I press the wrong button, only to sound an alarm that makes everyone jump.

What a way to announce our arrival home.

Are you interested in an Interrail trip, check out our full guide: Interrail – our guide and top tips for travelling around Europe by train – The Family Holiday Guide

If you would like to hear more about this journey, here is our full day-by-day diary: Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

*All views are, as ever, our own. To help us review the experience and areas travelled around, we were given complimentary Interrail passes, Tootbus passes, a Nürnberg Card and accommodation in Nuremberg.

Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

The highs and lows of our Interrail trip including a very memorable overnight train

We are off on a 2,000-mile train adventure around Europe, only it hasn’t started off quite as planned..

Day 1: Disaster

Route: Cheshire to Brussels. 

Our day starts on a high with a plan to catch three trains.

But fate will soon intervene. 

Carrying as little luggage as possible, we catch our local train to Crewe, a big hub for the north west and here is where our problems start. 

Our train to London Euston is cancelled with talks of a signal problem on the line. 

We find another train but it has to terminate at Birmingham due to the same issue between Milton Keynes and Watford. 

Panic around us is rising as are passenger numbers as people from multiple trains cram on to a platform at New Street awaiting another one. 

We make it on and breathe a sigh of relief. We even find seats. 

But catastrophe rears its head again. After a 20-minute wait at Rugby, the screens aboard ominously declare that the train is not stopping at stops including our destination of Euston. 

Eventually the train driver confirms this to be true and the entire train has to get off at Northampton. The issue means that the platform already resembles a cattle grid and we join the tense throng. 

We have been creeping further south train by train but it seems we may not get any further. Will we even make it to London today let alone Brussels? We start to look at buses and coaches, our journey by train apparently foiled at the first hurdle. 

Suddenly an announcement that a train to London is leaving from platform one and everyone – now waiting upstairs in the concourse – surges down the stairs and back on to the platform, staff urging caution.

To make it worse, we then get separated, three of us packed into one carriage like sardines, my husband in another one with the luggage. We get off and reunite and I’m amazed to see how much clearer this furthest away carriage is. Lesson learned. 

Might we still make it to Euston and then St Pancras in time for our Eurostar to Brussels? 

Train one!

Day 1, part 2 

After a challenging journey and four trains, we are thrilled and relieved to finally arrive at London Euston. 

A hurried walk to St Pancras and we are miraculously still on time for the Eurostar and we sail through security and two passport checks (UK and French).

We have been given Interrail Global Passes to try out for this review – train tickets that allow us to travel on almost all trains in Europe. 

This includes Eurostar and trains in our own country while travelling on the outbound and inbound journeys. 

We are lucky enough to have the first class option, which actually doesn’t cost too much more and is well worth it. 

Our Eurostar carriage feels plush and quiet and we have a meal included. 

It only stops once, in Lille and we arrive in Brussels, Belgium in just two hours. 

Our sixth and final train of the day delights us all. It’s a sleek double decker and we make sure to sit upstairs despite the short journey from one part of Brussels to another.

We walk to our hotel near the main square. 

The city is bustling, it’s fabulous and there are more frites and waffles than you can shake a stick at. 

Waffles in Brussels

Day 2: Brussels

We wake in Brussels. It’s a bustling, thriving, fabulous city whose most famous resident is a boy urinating in a fountain. 

If you’re on a European rail trip then this, the capital of Europe and home of the EU, is a great place to start.

And Mini-Europe is the place to learn more about the continent.

Travelling there is our only train ride of the day. 

It’s got miniature 1/25 scale replicas, made by hand, of famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Mount Vesuvius and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

We also visit a chocolate factory – Choco Story Brussels and a fun, famous sculpture. 

Manneken Pis, a bronze statue of a little boy and a fountain, was designed by Jerome Duquesnoy in 1619, and has become a familiar symbol of the city.

You can’t miss him, there are replicas all over the place!

And yes we tried the waffles, they’re delicious. And more frites. 

Only one train today. But three tomorrow, we are off to Germany. Next stop Nuremberg. 

Manneken Pis in Brussels

Day 3: Back on the rails 

Route: Brussels to Nuremberg 

After breakfast, we pack up and catch a train back to the main station in Brussels.

Comfortably settled on our next train to Germany, we are happy everything is going to plan.

‘Please get off the train. There is a technical problem. Please get off the train’.

We are good at this now and obligingly gather up all our stuff and exit, hoping this isn’t a repeat of day one in England. It’s not. 

Twenty minutes later, we are back on and moving. The train is so, so nice. So much nicer than any I’ve used back home in the UK. The glass doors between carriages automatically slide open as you approach. 

The seats are fabulously comfortable – recliners with foot stands. 

There are tempting, private little booths for four behind glass screens available to book. 

These trains just feel so clean, fresh and spacious. And yes we are lucky enough to have complimentary first class passes with Interrail but all the spaces feel more luxurious.

The children are engrossed in their tablets and I read a book (via the Kindle app on my phone in honour of the first Interrailing rule to travel light) and properly relax for the first time in a long while. 

The gentle swaying, the views – trains are my favourite way to travel when things go to plan. And with me they often don’t.*

A car is never an altogether relaxing experience, even when you’re not the driver, planes feel so cramped and your ears pop. 

The station at Frankfurt is a further revelation, it’s bright, airy and welcoming.

We board our final train of the day for Nuremberg. 

Boarding at Frankfurt for Nuremberg

*Just ask my friends about the time last month when I was meant to be meeting them for a long-awaited catch-up in Birmingham and accidentally ended up on a non-stop train to London Euston.

Day 4: Nuremberg

I wasn’t expecting to see polar bears in Germany. Or a dolphin show.

But both are highlights of our trip to Nuremberg Zoo, a pretty site and an unexpected workout (it’s very hilly). 

Travelling around this city is easy as it has both a tram service and underground trains.

And the tram drops you directly outside the zoo.

Paying for attractions and transport is a doddle* too as it is all free if you buy a Nürnberg Card.**

Worth it for the convenience as well as the cost – zoo entry alone would be over half the price of the card.

We are lucky enough to be here for the twice yearly fair Volksfest.

There are lederhosen, bratwurst, a great family atmosphere and lots of funfair rides. A real glimpse of German culture – and the weather helps as it’s an unseasonably warm and sunny 25 degrees. Shame I forgot to pack our sunglasses while ‘travelling light’. 

We are staying at The Living Hotel in the suburb of Gostenhof on the outskirts of the city.

It’s nice to be able to spread out as our roomy apartment has two floors, plus the bonus of a small kitchen and two bedrooms.

The Old Town is just a 20-minute walk away.

We have more exploring to do here tomorrow before we leave for Munich.

And I must buy some sunglasses. 

Nuremberg Zoo

*I pledge to drop this expression into conversations more regularly, it’s not used enough! 

Day 5: Munich 

Surfing and flirting 

Munich may be nearly 200 miles from the sea but it doesn’t stop professional surfers from flocking here.

They come to enjoy some of the best river surfing in the world and it’s a spectacle to behold as they take it in turns to ride waves that surge from under a bridge.

Crowds of spectators watch to see how long they last before plunging into the water and being whipped downstream. 

It happens on the edge of a park, the English Garden. The Eisbach river continues to flow through the park, creating a lazy river effect.

Today in 25C temperatures, dozens are using it to cool off.

There are thousands of mainly younger people enjoying the warm weather in this huge open space. There’s an amazing vibe and it’s fascinating to walk among them as they dance, play volleyball, sunbathe and flirt. It takes me back a few years. Or possibly decades. 

Games continue in another beautiful nearby park – Hofgarten – with groups of people playing boules.

There’s an almost film set feel about the place that I can’t quite put my finger on not least because of the appearance of some of the buildings. 

Loads get around by bicycle, but transport options are plenty, you can use trams, underground trains and electric scooters. 

It feels like a salubrious university city, which it is. This the country’s third biggest city is also one of its wealthiest. 

It took just an hour to get here from Nuremberg where we started the day wandering the historic streets around the Imperial Castle.

We’ve got another full day to enjoy here tomorrow before our very exciting overnight train to Venice. 

Surfing on Eisbach river in Munich

Day 6: Munich 

Workouts and lederhosen

I have an unexpected workout today. Three hundred and six steps to climb St Peter’s Tower in order to tremble on a narrow ledge with great views over Munich. 

We also look around the Viktualinen market which has opened every day (other than Sundays and public holidays) since 1807. And then wait with a crowd, phones all around pointed in the air, to watch the 11am Marienplatz clock tower show. It’s a mechanical clock which re-enacts scenes from Munich’s history on the grand New City Hall. 

Meanwhile my son is keen to see the home of Harry Kane – and Bayern Munich – the Allianz Arena. 

Inside you can do a tour of the stadium and visit the Bayern Munich museum and club shop. The museum’s very well done, with displays in German and English.

Next we take a flight through 7,000 years of Bavarian history (Munich is the capital of Bavaria) with VR technology at TimeRide Munich. 

There’s plenty of history in our dinner choice.

The Hofbräuhaus has been serving beer, sausages and more since the 1500s.

It’s absolutely huge, full of atmosphere, music and filling German food. 

Sat at tables around us are some of the regulars, often in lederhosen, drinking out of their own beer jugs – kept under lock and key for them. 

No time for trying too much beer though for any of us – we’ve got a night train to Venice to catch.

Next stop Italy.

At the top of St Peter’s Tower in Munich

Day 7: The reality of an overnight train and tears for Venice 

So I don’t get much sleep. 

As it turns out, overnight trains are rather noisy and the beds do not feel like fluffy clouds.

I’m a two-pillow kind of girl but I may as well be lying horizontal, they are so thin. 

Our compartment is obviously tiny. With four of us and two suitcases plus a ladder to get to the top two bunks taking up valuable floor space, attempting to make up the beds when we get inside at nearly midnight on a moving train, is a bit of a challenge. 

The passengers laughing, shouting and  chatting as they get on and off at the various stops, sound like they are in the room with us as we try to sleep. 

Plus a loud ‘Get off the train, get off the train,’ by a guard at one point to a man who presumably has wandered on when he shouldn’t have, is slightly alarming. 

I’m also not sure of the sleep train/pyjama etiquette. There is no en-suite to our cabin and I have to pop to the loo early in the morning while the other three are sleeping.

My clothes are shut in our smaller case which eventually had fitted under a bed (no such luck with the bigger one which I have to clamber over to get out of the room). So I am forced to shuffle self-consciously along the corridor in my PJs. 

EVERYBODY else I see is fully clothed. Is this an embarrassing faux pas? Should I have slept in my clothes? 

I also miss the nearest toilet and have to get into the next compartment along a wobbly connector. Then do the walk of shame all the way back!

Hoping for a final hour of sleep, the guard then brings around four breakfast trays which I balance on the bed around me, until they wake up. Then he is back again to collect all the bed sheets and pillows that they are still sleeping in.

It’s not all bad though. Although I won’t be hurrying to try out an overnight train again, I’m very glad we did it. 

What an experience to travel in a bed and wake up (if I’d slept) in another country for the cost of a hotel room. 

And what a country it is. We love Italy and the children have never been to Venice before. 

We’ve only had one weekend here pre-children and I feel emotional as we leave the station and our eyes feast upon the turquoise waters backed by picturesque architecture. 

My favourite part is standing on the little bridges watching and photographing as the gondolas pass underneath.

We make the most of our day in Italy to dine on divine pasta and pizza.

And I have never appreciated a hotel room as much as the one we are in now, its spaciousness is heaven-sent.

The view from the famous Rialto Bridge 

Day 8

Location: All over the place

We are having a travelling day, working our way across Europe from Venice to Paris with stops in Milan and Zurich. 

The route through Switzerland is slow through the mountains but scenic and I wish we had time to stop for a night here to take in the views some more. 

I also wish for the first time that I’d taken a travel sickness tablet as it is rather winding! 

The children have done well with journeys of two, four and four hours. 

Our last train is a double decker and we sit upstairs although much of the journey is through darkness as night falls. 

I sleep on and off despite the interior automatic doors sounding like the drum sequence used after a joke’s punchline on opening and firmly shutting on everyone on closing, even trapping my handbag in its clutches at one point. 

Other sounds come from our fellow passengers. We aren’t in first class for this leg. Despite our first class Interrail Global Passes (kindly gifted for our review) some trains require seat reservation costs and the charge for the better seats was much higher for this particular train. 

The family next to us make their presence known and break many unofficial train travelling rules throughout the hours. Starting with a loud FaceTime call to a toddler, continuing while watching music videos without headphones and ending with a series of loud, unapologetic burps from the dad! 

The seats are still lovely and comfortable with plenty of leg room. 

We set off at 8.30am and are due to arrive in Paris at 10.30pm. 

Day 9: Paris

I love the Eiffel Tower. Standing on it looking over Paris many years ago, my then boyfriend asked if we could move in together. 

So to return today, not only living together but married with two children, feels special. 

Although this time he says he wants to ask me to move out instead. He jokes. I think. 

Not only do I go back up it, I also photograph and film it from all different angles. 

Including from the top of a hop-on hop-off Tootbus. 

It’s a fabulous vantage point for lots of key Paris landmarks including the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysées.

There’s an audio guide on board and place to charge your phones. 

And it stops at all the best tourist spots so we can explore around the Louvre and enjoy a crêpe in the Tuileries Garden.

Notre-Dame is still impressive despite being under reconstruction following the fire nearly five years ago while a violinist gets even more attention than the cathedral itself as she shimmies about while playing beneath it. 

We finally alight back outside the Eiffel Tower, completed in 1889 and now surrounded by men trying to sell miniature sparkly models. 

My daughter, having started off the day excitedly spotting the Eiffel Tower, ends the day clutching a rose pink replica to take home. 

And I have another crêpe. 

Day 10: Paris

We hurtle along at an alarming rate, thrown from side to side while people scream all around us. 

This train is not the relaxing, comfortable experience we have come to expect over our mammoth railway journey. 

Thankfully it’s not part of our Interrail experience. 

It’s a coal train – the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride to be exact. 

We have decided to spend our last day before we travel home at Disneyland Paris. 

And it’s another sunny, warm day to end our Easter Holidays European adventure. 

We enjoy lots of rides and a fabulous Disney show under Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. 

Meanwhile we are getting our beauty sleep in a hotel for the last time. Tomorrow we are homeward bound.  

Disneyland Paris

Day 11: The journey back

After nearly 30 trains in 11 days you would think I would know how to exit one. 

But typically, it seems I don’t and have to bring attention to our arrival home. 

I confidently press the green button to open the door at our village station and a loud alarm sounds. 

I have inadvertently pushed the SOS button, scaring passengers and driver alike. 

It’s the end of another travelling day and the end of our Interrail adventure. 

Arriving in England on Eurostar I’m pleasantly surprised at how grand and welcoming St Pancras station is after being impressed with its European counterparts like Frankfurt. 

And impressed with the speed of the journey – six hours from Paris to our home in Cheshire. 

We have travelled over 2,000 miles on this trip.

If you include every journey, long and short, we have been on 28 trains, six trams, five hop-on hop-off buses and one water taxi. 

Plus of course, there’s been a lot of walking.

What an experience but now I’m glad to be at our final stop. 

We are home. 

Catching Eurostar home from Paris

All views are, as ever, our own. To help us review the experience and areas travelled around, we were given complimentary Interrail passes, Tootbus passes, a Nürnberg Card and accommodation in Nuremberg.

Madeira – an island of highs, views and pretty red roofs

Madeira – an island of highs, views and pretty red roofs

We take a trip to the home of Ronaldo – the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira

There’s a spontaneous and enthusiastic round of applause as our plane touches down in Madeira.

We are cheering both the gentle landing and the stunning approach to this airport said to be so challenging to land at that pilots need special training.

Stepping off the plane, I catch a first glimpse of the countless red-roofed homes scattered over the hills which will become an abiding memory from this trip.

That and the view from our hotel room, pina colada slipping down as easily as the waves roll over the rocks in the Atlantic Ocean below us.

I’ll be as bold as to say this might be one of the best hotel room views we’ve ever had.

But then we are in Madeira – an island where stunning scenery is around every corner.

Our particular corner of this Portuguese island is the village of Canico de Baixo.

And our hotel is the Riu Madeira. A large, all-inclusive resort with two outdoor pools, an indoor pool, as much fresh food as you can eat and as many cocktails as you can drink.

One of the outdoor pools at the Riu Madeira hotel

One of the outdoor pools

There’s also a tennis court, games room, an area to play bowls and evening entertainment from singers, bands, magicians and a ballroom dancing duo who call up our daughter to help demonstrate her Strictly Come Dancing skills.

The applause makes her day. And it’s the staff here, especially those in the busy restaurant area, who deserve a pat on the back.

It can’t be easy to keep guests from over 300 rooms fed and watered but they come round to top up your wine glass with an efficient smile before it’s even half emptied.

We’re almost as quick to clear our plates of tasty food. The main restaurant is buffet style catering to every possible preference. There’s also a more adult focussed Kulinarium restaurant with table service. And a poolside bar and grill.

The main bedroom in our junior suite room at Riu Madeira hotel

The main bedroom in our junior suite

Our room is a junior suite with two large beds and a sofa bed for the four of us to choose from.

Having a separate lounge area allows us to spread out as does the large dressing room area – all kept spotless by our lovely maid.

Oh and that balcony I mentioned earlier overlooking the sea. It is literally a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean.

Sea view from the balcony of a junior suite room at the Riu Madeira hotel

Sea view from the balcony of a junior suite room at the Riu Madeira hotel

And there are plenty of stones to throw on the rocky beach.

The area around the hotel is a fun place to explore with caves, a small seawater pool, exercise equipment and a busy promenade to enjoy.

The lure of the swimming pool at our hotel is just as popular with our children – indoors if the showers sweep in, or outdoors when the sun shines.

Fortunately the sun is out for most of our week in Madeira so we can explore the narrow, hilly roads around the island.

We head east to the stunning clifftop walk of Ponta de São Lourenço .

The view from our walk at Ponta de São Lourenço

The view from our walk at Ponta de São Lourenço

Drive north west through mountains and tunnels to the natural seawater pools and aquarium in Porto Moniz.

Seawater pools in Porto Moniz

Seawater pools in Porto Moniz

And go south to Câmara de Lobos – a fishing village made famous by Winston Churchill, who painted its pretty harbour when he came in 1950.

Children looking at Churchill's view in Camara de Lobos

Looking at Churchill’s view in Camara de Lobos

One must in Madeira is to head up high.

We take the cable car from the centre of capital Funchal to Monte. It’s a spectacular ride and at the top you can enjoy the beautiful Monte Palace gardens before riding back down again on the cable car.

A statue and flowers in Monte Palace Garden, Madeira

Monte Palace Garden

Another way down is by toboggan on a traditional wicker basket sleigh along steep streets, guided by two people with nothing for brakes but the grips on their shoes.

If you like heights it’s worth stopping by at the Madeira Skywalk. You can walk across a glass walkway on a balcony 580 metres above the sea attached to some of the highest cliffs in Europe.

Madeira Skywalk

Madeira Skywalk

After a busy week of highs, it’s nearly time to leave.

The cliffs beneath the Madeira Skywalk

The cliffs beneath the Madeira Skywalk

For a last time, we awaken and pull back the curtains to enjoy the view and the sound of the Atlantic from our bed.

Then it’s back to the airport, named after the island’s most famous export.

Not its fortified wine but the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

He was born here and returns regularly and this is one happy family which may follow suit.

 

Where we stayed

The Riu Madeira hotel in Canico de Baixo, a four-star all inclusive, read our full guide and review to it here.

What to do in Madeira

*Visit the capital Funchal and take the Madeira Cable Car up to the large Monte Palace Gardens which are set on the steep hillside.

*Take a toboggan ride on a traditional wicker basket.

*Visit the traditional fishing village of Câmara de Lobos, visited by Winston Churchill and find the spot where he painted the view. Also look for his statue in the village.

*Visit the salt water pools at Porto Moniz and the small aquarium in the town.

*Take a walk at inland Levadas – similar to canal paths – at various sites throughout Madeira. The Fanal forest walk in the north west of the island is one of the best places to explore.

*Take a walk at Ponta de São Lourenço for stunning scenery and ocean views,

*Visit Santa Catarina park Funchal with its large playground, busy lake and views over Funchal and its port.

*Football fans can stop at the CR7 Museu – a museum dedicated to Cristiano Ronaldo on the waterfront in Funchal. There is a statue of the footballer outside.

*Stop by at the Madeira Skywalk on the cliffs of Cabo Girão and walk across the glass walkway on a balcony that juts out of some of the highest cliffs in Europe, 880 meters above sea level.

RELATED CONTENT: Riu Madeira – all you need to know about this refurbished all-inclusive hotel

*We received complimentary accommodation for some of our stay at the Riu Madeira, all views are our own.

 

 

Florida in 10 days – where to stay and what to do

Florida in 10 days – where to stay and what to do

Our 10-night Florida itinerary – Universal, Disney World, Legoland, a basketball match, five hotels, three waterparks and four days by the coast

A trip to Florida can be a once-in-a-lifetime holiday so if you are lucky enough to be going, you need to plan wisely.

There is SO MUCH to see and do that when you first sit down to organise this adventure for your family, it can seem overwhelming.

We’ve just taken our children to Florida – it was their first time in America and very special.

Our trip included Universal, Disney World, Legoland, a basketball match, five hotels (including one dream hotel – more of that later), three waterparks and four days by the coast staying on two of America’s best beaches.

I feel tired just writing all that! But it was manageable thanks to enthusiasm and some down time.

So here is our 10-day itinerary, we hope it inspires you.

 

Day 1

Travel and settle in at our first hotel

Hotel 1 – Springfield Suites at Marriott Village Orlando.

Springfield Suites, Marriott Village Orlando, Florida

Springfield Suites

This was a great location – a 20-minute taxi drive to Universal and a free shuttle to Disney World.

Read our full review here: Marriott Village Orlando hotels near to Disney World and Universal Studios

Day 2 and 3

Universal Resort Orlando (Universal Studios)

Olivander's Wand Shop, Universal Studios Orlando, Florida

Olivander’s Wand Shop

The amazing attraction that is Universal Resort Orlando is made up of the theme parks Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure plus the Volcano Bay water park.

This had the edge over Disney World for us especially as three of us are Harry Potter fans. It’s where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is – Diagon Alley is at Universal Studios and Hogsmeade is at Islands of Adventure. You can even catch the Hogwarts Express between the two.

Highlight: Our son being chosen by ‘Olivander’ to select a wand for him in the mini-show at Olivander’s Wand Shop.

We’ve got a full guide, pictures and video for you – Universal Orlando Resort – guide and top tips for one of the most popular attractions in the world

Day 3 evening

Basketball match

We wanted to do something authentically American like a sports match and our son is a basketball fan.

We went to the Orlando Magic home stadium the Amway Center, to see them take on Boston Celtics.

Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics basketball match at the Amway Center

Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics at the Amway Center

Everyone arrives an hour early to soak up the atmosphere and gets to their seats early to enjoy the entertainment.

It was a fantastic experience, read about it here: Want to watch a basketball match in Orlando? Here’s all you need to know

Day 4

Hotel 2 – Four Seasons Resort Orlando

Relaxing at Four Seasons Resort Orlando

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

Widely named the best hotel in Florida, this was a real treat. It is a very luxurious place to stay with such attentive staff, delicious food and sumptuous surroundings.

Best of all, there’s a little water park so it’s a great place to enjoy a more relaxing day amid all the busy parks.

It’s within Disney World grounds and has a free shuttle bus service there.

We had a fabulous day enjoying the five-star surroundings, trying out the water slides and the lazy river, before hitting Disney the next day.

Read all about this glorious place – Top luxury hotel review and tips – Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Disney World

Day 5

Disney World

In front of the castle at Magic Kingdom, Disney World

Disney World

Disney World is one of the reasons that Florida is so popular. There are four parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios plus water parks.

We did a long day here to maximise the value of the expensive tickets. We started at 8am and left Epcot at 8pm. Yes, it was tiring but we saw a lot in one day.

We bought a Park Hopper ticket and started at the iconic Magic Kingdom, leaving after the parade in the afternoon and heading for Epcot. This was a great decision as the Frozen Ever After boat ride there is amazing.

Day 6

Legoland Florida Resort

Now with a hire car, we drove 45 minutes to Legoland.

Legoland Resort Florida entrance start

Legoland Florida

Fantastic for younger ones and without the queues of Universal and Disney World (at least not when we went), this was a slower-paced couple of days in the park and at its water park.

We stayed on site at its Pirate Island Hotel and our favourite part was the Ninjago ride, which we went on four times.

Read all about it – Legoland Florida Resort – park and hotel review, guide and top tips

Part 2 – the coast

After a fast-paced few days, we were ready to head to Florida’s Gulf Coast – to lovely Clearwater and St Pete.

Day 7

After spending the morning at Legoland we headed for hotel 4 – Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club in Clearwater.

The private beach at Winter the Dolphin's Beach Club hotel in Clearwater

The hotel’s private beach

This hotel has a swimming pool and is on a private beach so it was nice to chill out for the afternoon after we arrived.

Day 8

We went to Clearwater Aquarium where film star Winter the Dolphin from A Dolphin’s Tale was rescued and rehabilitated.

In the afternoon we took a boat trip on Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise and in the evening, enjoyed the sunset, a market and a lovely meal.

Captain Memo Pirate Cruise, Clearwater, Florida

Captain Memo Pirate Cruise

Day 9

We moved again to St Pete Beach and our final hotel – RumFish Beach Resort.

Enjoying the beach at RumFish Beach Resort, St Pete, Florida

Enjoying the beach at RumFish

Our room opened out on to the beach and we enjoyed water slides and zip wires and an evening’s magic show.

Day 10

We headed into St Petersburg to enjoy its pier, markets, museums and laid-back harbour vibe and our final lunch overlooking the water before a last beautiful Florida sunset. For more ideas on what to do in Clearwater and St Pete, read our guide to the best attractions for families.

Sunset at St Beach beach, Florida

Sunset

Day 11

After pancakes for breakfast, we left for our flight home.

What do you like to do in Florida? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

More Florida content

RELATED STORY: The best things for families to do in Clearwater and St Pete

RELATED STORY: Top luxury hotel review and tips – Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Disney World

RELATED STORY: Universal Orlando Resort – guide, video and top tips for one of the most popular attractions in the world

RELATED STORY: Legoland Florida Resort – park and hotel review, guide, video tour and top tips

RELATED STORY: RumFish Beach Resort on one of America’s best beaches – St Pete in Florida

RELATED STORY: Clearwater hotel review: Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club in Florida, USA

RELATED STORY: Marriott Village Orlando hotels near to Disney World and Universal Studios 

*We received complimentary or reduced prices for some of the attractions and hotels, for review purposes, all views are our own.

Legoland Florida Resort – park and hotel review, guide, video tour and top tips

Legoland Florida Resort – park and hotel review, guide, video tour and top tips

We take our children to stay at Legoland Florida Resort in the US

As part of an action-packed holiday in Florida, we squeezed in two days and nights at Legoland Resort, enjoying the main park and waterpark and staying at one of its three hotels.

The entrance to the park was just a few quiet steps from our room at Pirate Island Hotel – bliss after racing throngs of people at Disney World and Universal.

When we arrived in our hotel room, the children were thrilled at the bunk beds, the theming, the LEGO to play with and the treasure hunt for LEGO gifts.

And we adults were quite content to sleep opposite a giant image of a bearded Lego pirate next to wallpaper and curtains depicting Lego pirates.

If first impressions are anything to go by then Legoland Pirate Island Hotel was a hit. And we still hadn’t entered the park!

Read all about our mini-break to find all about what we thought of the park and hotel and don’t miss our top tips to make the most of your visit.

Name

LEGOLAND Florida Resort.

Where is it?

Legoland Florida is in the Winter Haven area. It is about an hour’s drive from Orlando in central Florida, America.

The resort is in its own grounds next to Lake Eloise in a self-contained safe site.

What is it?

LEGOLAND Florida Resort is a holiday destination made up of Legoland theme park (the second biggest in the world after Windsor), Legoland Waterpark, a new Peppa Pig theme park and three on-site hotels – the Legoland Hotel, Pirate Island Hotel and the Legoland Beach Resort.

Is it family friendly?

Do you really need to ask? The resort is all about families and their target age is two to 12.

The hotels have themed rooms, bunk beds, Lego to play with around the hotel, evening entertainment and specialised family dining at breakfast and in the evening.

Then there’s the theme parks…

The rooms

At Legoland Pirate Island, the rooms are, you may have guessed, pirate-themed. Images cover every wall, curtains and even the carpet.

The rooms themselves have a children’s area with bunk beds, and a rollaway third child’s bed if needed, a tray of Lego and a child’s TV which can play all the Lego movies on demand.

Bunk beds and Lego to play with at Pirate Island Hotel, Legoland Florida Resort

Bunk beds and Lego to play with

Adults get a king-sized bed (which was surprisingly high off the ground), plus side tables with lights and their own larger HD TV.

Double bed in a room at Pirate Island Hotel, Legoland Florida Resort

The bathroom is compact with toiletries provided in Lego-branded tubes.

The room also has a small desk, safe and good storage for cases.

With lots of pirate ship-style brown wood it is quite dark in the room and the corridors of the hotel.

For a fresher, brighter feel – but fewer pirates – consider the Legoland Hotel which is next door.

Food and drink

The Shipwreck Restaurant serves breakfast and dinner.

Breakfast (included free with all rooms) is unusual as it is table-service and you get a family skillet (basically a big round tray) with hot food on it to share.

Ours had waffles, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, American breakfast biscuits (a type of savoury scone) and a gravy/creamy sauce to go with them.

Breakfast at Pirate Island Hotel, Legoland Florida Resort

Breakfast at Pirate Island Hotel

Friendly waiters and waitresses take your drinks orders and you can request other items like cereal.

A big shout out to our lovely waitress Bailey who went the extra mile to get us some fruit and pancakes on request.

We enjoyed experiencing something different, but the skillet won’t suit every family at breakfast time.

There is a similar skillet offering in the evening for all courses of a three-course menu (adults $36 and children $15).

We were given a salad starter with bread then a choice of two skillets as a main course with a range of meats or fish and sides like mashed potato, rice and beans.

Pirate Island Hotel at Legoland Florida

Pirate Island Hotel

The restaurant will also do specific dishes for children like chicken and chips on request.

Dessert was either an ice cream and cookie dish or fresh fruit and marshmallows with chocolate sauce to dip in.

The quantities are absolutely huge, if you have a big appetite you will get value for money here. For those who prefer smaller portions, it might be a bit daunting!

Nearby

More Lego stuff – the adjoining hotel next door has a large reception area and Lego to play with. There is also a nice bar area, more pleasant than the Smuggler’s Bar in Pirate Island.

Lego fun to play with in the hotels at Legoland Florida Resort

Lego fun in the hotels

But of course, the main nearby attraction is the theme park itself – only 130 steps and 30 seconds away.

We could see the entrance opposite our room!

Legoland theme park

Legoland Florida has most of the rides you might expect if you have been to Windsor.

Lego Ninjago was our favourite as all four of us could compete together, shooting the villains with 3D glasses on as we spin through the ride.

Fortunately, the park was lovely and quiet when we visited during the week in October half-term so we could ride it four times!

Children with a Lego punk at Legoland Florida

Lots of photo opportunities

The site is spacious and with the lake on one side and plenty of greenery, it is quite a relaxing place to visit.

Most of the rides are suited to younger children, but there are some speedier ones.

We also enjoyed the aqua coasters and the fire engine ride where you have to pump your own engine to reach the blaze and put it out.

Some of the rides might feel a bit dated and quaint if you have just been to Disney World or Universal Studios but our children really enjoyed driving their own motorboats or steering a car in the driving school. Plus it was a relief to escape the crowds and the queues from the bigger parks.

Meeting a life-sized Lego figure at Legoland Florida

Meeting a life-sized Lego figure

There are several places to cool down from the Florida heat – such as indoor spaces where you can create with Lego and a 4D theatre.

For a bigger cool off there is Legoland Water Park on site.

Legoland Water Park

You can only enter the water park with a ticket to the main park itself, but you need to pay extra.

Frustratingly it is at the far end of the park – a 15/20 minute walk from the entrance which means if you return to the park after a break/lunch like we did, you have to carry your swimming gear past all the rides – there is no separate entrance.

Once you make it inside, there is a nice, long lazy river with giant Lego bricks floating along to play with and a pool with a wave machine which runs every 10minutes. The water is lovely and warm and it feels very safe.

There is seating at the front of the wave pool and some umbrellas for shade.

Opposite the wave pool is a section with small slides and a splash park for younger children.

Splash zone and water slides for younger children at Legoland Florida

Slides and splashes for younger children

It has a large bucket which tips water over everyone every few minutes, five or six gentler slides and spray guns to fire water at parents.

For older children, there are the Twin Chaser and Splash Out rides. These were much bigger, faster water slides but unfortunately were closed when we visited.

There is only one changing room at the entrance to the water park and it is fairly basic.

We enjoyed our visit to cool off but parts of it do need updating and painting.

Peppa Pig Theme Park

The new Peppa Pig Theme Park is aimed at young fans of the children’s tv phenomenon.

It includes interactive rides, themed playgrounds, a cinema and character shows and an indoor cinema for quieter moments.

There’s a splash pad for practising jumping in muddy puddles, fair games and a little roller coaster.

Our highlights

*Location – it is amazing to be staying so close to Legoland park. You can leave your hotel room just before the 10am opening and be straight on a ride minutes later.

No accommodation at Disney, Universal or most UK theme parks gets you so close to the entrance.

*Rooms – the theme is fun, the treasure hunt on arrival is entertaining and it is a magical experience for small children. It is brilliant to see their faces when they enter the room for the first time and discover their bunk beds, TV and Lego tray.

*Pool options – you can choose the theme park waterpark or there are smaller, shallow pools at both Pirate Island Hotel and the Legoland Hotel. The pool at the Legoland Hotel had its own small slide.

Legoland Hotel swimming pool at Legoland Florida Resort

Legoland Hotel swimming pool

*The setting by Lake Eloise – it feels very calm and tranquil compared with other theme parks. You can do a short boardwalk along the lakeside, although the signs warning of possible alligators and snakes could be alarming (we think we spotted an alligator eyeing up its prey in the lake near to the shore).

Top Tips

*Go to the park at opening and you get the place to yourself for a bit. It is so close to the hotel that it makes sense to get in first. We visited on a quiet midweek in October and didn’t have to wait more than five minutes for any ride all day. At the same time of year at Disney and Universal, some ride waits were 90 minutes!

*Breakfast got very busy after 8.30am so try and go beforehand if you don’t want to queue for a table. Also, the restaurant is more relaxing when it is quieter – the rest of the time it sounded like a full-on children’s party!

*Grab some towels from your hotel pool area to take to the waterpark if you haven’t brought your own with you. You use your room card to access the towels from inside a cabinet and check them back in when you return after your swim.

*There are strollers and lockers to rent just inside the entrance to the park.

Strollers and lockers to hire at Legoland Florida Resort

*Download the Legoland app for help navigating the park and seeing theatre times etc.

Video Tour

Legoland Florida Resort information

Food: There are various food outlets around the parks serving a range of fast food, ice creams and drinks.

For bigger meals there’s a pizza and pasta all-you-can eat buffet.

Address: Legoland Florida Resort, 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884, USA.

Opening hours: Opening Hours change depending on the season but are generally – theme park 10am to 5pm, waterpark 12noon to 4pm.

Parking: Parking is free for hotel guests. Otherwise, it costs over $23 pre-paid or over $37 on the day.

How to book: LEGOLAND FLORIDA booking

More Florida content

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RELATED STORY: Top luxury hotel review and tips – Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Disney World

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RELATED STORY: RumFish Beach Resort on one of America’s best beaches – St Pete in Florida

RELATED STORY: Clearwater hotel review: Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club in Florida, USA

RELATED STORY: Marriott Village Orlando hotels near to Disney World and Universal Studios 

RELATED STORY: Florida in 10 days – where to stay and what to do

*We received complimentary or reduced prices for LEGOLAND Florida Resort, for review purposes, all views are our own.

We enjoy an action-packed family break in delightful Durham

We enjoy an action-packed family break in delightful Durham

We take our children on a fantastic short break to Durham city and county

There aren’t many places where you can enjoy an historic city, visit the beach and explore dramatic countryside all in one day.

But you can in Durham where we began an action-packed short break with a trip to the sea at Seaham.

A striking stretch of sand where the main attraction is what’s washed up by the incoming water.

Some of the sea glass we found at Seaham beach, Durham

Sea glass

The beach is famous for its sea glass with dozens of hunters at a time scouring the sand for tiny bits of the precious material.

We found searching for sea glass strangely addictive – within a few minutes all four of us had joined everyone else on our hands and knees looking for it.

It wasn’t so tricky to find the main attraction at another of our early stops – Locomotion railway museum.

This home to trains of all shapes and sizes in Shildon – Britain’s first railway town – is a free attraction.

Testing reaction times on railway signals at Locomotion.

Testing reaction times on railway signals at Locomotion.

Also free to visit – though you are encouraged to donate £5 per person – is the striking Durham Cathedral.

The incredible 11th century building stands over the city, its three towers regularly visible as you stroll the riverside and the cobbled streets.

Inside, you can learn about the history of the building and, if you’re fit enough and eight years old or over, you can climb the 325 steps to the top for views over the city.

The spiral staircase gets increasingly narrow at the top but makes for an exhilarating destination when you step out onto the roof.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

The busy cathedral is also a great place for Harry Potter fans with several scenes from the first two movies filmed there. You can stroll the cloisters where Harry, Ron and Hermione walked.

Apparently, the scene where Ron’s spell backfires and he starts throwing up slugs was filmed here (find out more in our video below).

If the thought of this doesn’t put you off your lunch, you can buy something to eat and drink from the Undercroft cafe and eat it opposite the atmospheric square.

Thanks to its compact size, Durham is an excellent city to walk around – with riverside strolls and car-free cobbled streets. 

We even managed to get out on the water when we hired a traditional rowing boat from Browns Boats.

The hand-made boats fit a family of four and you can spend an hour exploring both directions on the River Wear.

A girl rows on a Browns Boat rowing boat hire on the River Wear in Durham

Rowing on the River Wear

The sweeping, wide waters of the river were visible from our hotel – the Radisson Blu – read our hotel review and guide.

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 on the River Wear

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.

An old bus on a cobbled street at Beamish Museum in County Durham

Beamish

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 at Beamish museum in Durham

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

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.

More details on the all the attractions we visited here: Best places to visit around the English city of Durham and the wider county

This is Durham

For more great ideas, visit the county’s official tourism website This is Durham.

Telephone: 03000 26 26 26

Email: visitor@thisisdurham.com

RELATED STORY: Best places to visit around the English city of Durham and the wider county

RELATED STORY: Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham City Centre – review and guide

(We received complimentary accommodation and entry to attractions for the purpose of this review, all views are our own).

Hotel review: New Premier Inn in Porthmadog, North Wales (and our video tour)

Hotel review: New Premier Inn in Porthmadog, North Wales (and our video tour)

We take our children to stay at this hotel in the centre of Porthmadog opposite the railway station

Name

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.

The rooms

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 at Premier Inn Porthmadog

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.

A Standard Family room at Premier Inn Porthmadog

Our room

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.

Check in and the bar at Porthmadog Premier Inn, Wales

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.

Our highlights

*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.

Top tips

*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 Porthmadog Premier Inn hotel from the lake behind it.

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.

Nearby

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 hotel, Wales

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.

Portmeirion

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, near Porthmadog, Wales

Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands

Harlech

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.

Porthmadog

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.

Boats at Porthmadog Harbour, Wales

Porthmadog Harbour

You can find out more about the attractions by reading our feature on what to do around Porthmadog with children here.

Address:

Premier Inn Porthmadog Hotel, Britannia Terrace, Porthmadog, Wales, LL49 9NB.

How to book:

www.PremierInn.com

Feline amazing on a family holiday to Cyprus

Feline amazing on a family holiday to Cyprus

Exploring Cyprus – and the Columbia Beach five-star resort – with our children

Leo is sauntering airily through reception like he owns the place.

“He’s the leader here,” says the receptionist.

Leo’s a cat and at Columbia Beach you share your five-star stay with a few furry friends.

We even find one stealing our sun lounger. But you can’t blame the cats – this five-star resort in Cyprus is a fantastic place to be.

Columbia Beach Resort hotel and pool in Cyprus

And the owner has helped rescue and look after the local feline population since the hotel opened 20 years ago.

A cat on the sunbed at Columbia Beach Resort in Cyprus

Indeed, this is a resort where they look after everything down to the finest detail.

Crafted into the hillside overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea in Pissouri Bay – about halfway between Paphos and Limassol – Columbia Beach is an upmarket family favourite.

Pool at Columbia Beach Resort in Cyprus

There are three main pools, two outdoor ones on either side of the resort and another good size indoor pool.

There are also two toddler pools, a pair of tennis courts, swings and The Den children’s club.

If you don’t fancy a sun lounger by either pool you can get one on a quiet lawn area or on the beach itself that the hotel is set on.

Sunbeds next to the beach at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

A sunbathing area next to the beach

When the tide is high, the warm waters of the Med lap within a few metres as you relax.

(If you’d like more details and pictures of the hotel, read our article: We stay at Columbia Beach Resort – a beautiful five-star hotel in Cyprus).

The stony beach isn’t the most comfortable for children to play on but there is fun to be had skimming stones and walking along it – to the nearby village in one direction or – in the other – to the spectacular Cape Aspro hiking trail.

If you want to travel a little further, the popular Aphrodite’s Rock, reputed as the place where the Goddess emerged from the sea, is just a few miles away.

Aphrodites Rock in Cyprus

Aphrodite’s Rock

Or you could enjoy more Cypriot history at Kourion Amphitheatre and Kolossi Castle – both less than 30 minutes’ drive.

A similar journey gets you to the tourist hotspot of Paphos with the Tombs of the Kings archaeological site and the bustling harbour worth a visit.

More active families can enjoy the water park, Luna Park funfair or the zoo.

(For more details of family attractions read The best places to visit around Pafos/Paphos in Cyprus on a family holiday).

But it is hard to leave Columbia Beach Resort, especially in the evening.

We enjoyed all three restaurants on site. Fresh fish at Cape Aspro overlooking the sea, classic Cypriot meals at Apollo Taverna and fine dining at Bacchus.

Cape Aspro restaurant at Columbia Beach Hotel in Cyprus

Cape Aspro restaurant

There is a good children’s menu at all three (main courses around 10 euros) with pasta, pizza and more.

Adults are spoilt for choice – the food is divine. Similarly at breakfast with a large buffet and dishes cooked to order – we enjoyed the fresh pancakes every morning.

Despite its size, Columbia Beach doesn’t feel busy, there are only 169 suites and they are all large and spacious.

Our family suite was huge with two bathrooms, lounge, balcony and separate children’s bedroom. But even the standard rooms are a good size.

Our suite at Columbia Beach Resort in Cyprus

Our suite

We didn’t want to leave. As we enjoyed our final meal in the warm evening air, our table of four became – temporarily – a table for five.

Yes, one of the Columbia Beach cats had come to say goodbye by nudging each of our legs in turn under the table.

No wonder the cats are happy here. Even for just a few days’ stay, we felt like the cats who had got the cream.

Now watch our exclusive video of the hotel here:

 

Hotel Indigo Stratford-upon-Avon review and guide

Hotel Indigo Stratford-upon-Avon review and guide

We try out a city centre hotel in Stratford close to its top family attractions

Name

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.

Hotel Indigo sign and frontage, Stratford upon Avon

Hotel Indigo

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 Hotel Indigo, Stratford upon Avon

Inside the hotel

However, staff couldn’t have been nicer.

The rooms

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 at Hotel Indigo, Stratford

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 in our suite at Hotel Indigo in Stratford

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, Stratford

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 at the Woodsman, Hotel Indigo, Stratford

Chicken goujons for the children

Our highlights

*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.

Anything else?

There is a gym/fitness room, bar, nice little seating areas dotted around and also a pretty little garden with tables to sit at.

Nearby

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.

More information

The hotel entrance at the back of the building, Hotel Indigo, 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.

How to book: Hotel Indigo Stratford

Hotel Indigo is a chain of small, individually owned boutique hotels, which is part of IHG Hotels & Resorts.

NOW READ:

The best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon for families

We received a complimentary stay, all views, as ever, are our own.

 

Mallory Court Country Hotel and Spa in Warwickshire – review and guide

Mallory Court Country Hotel and Spa in Warwickshire – review and guide

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.

Name

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.

The rear of Mallory Court Hotel and gardens in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

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.

Slippers, robes and toys left on the twin beds at Mallory Court Hotel, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

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.

The rooms

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.

The master bedroom in the Blenheim family suite, Mallory Court Hotel, Leamington Spa

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 at Mallory Court Hotel

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 at Mallory Court Hotel, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

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.

Our highlights

*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 at Mallory Court Hotel in Leamington Spa

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.

A pond in the grounds of Mallory Court Hotel in Warwickshire

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.

Top tips

*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!

Nearby

Warwick Castle – review, guide and top tips 2022

The best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon for families

Our video tour

More information

Address: Mallory Court Hotel & Spa, Harbury Lane, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV33 9QB.

How to book: Mallory Court Hotel and Spa

*We received a complimentary stay, all views as ever are our own.

The Gresham Aparthotel, Leicester – review and guide

The Gresham Aparthotel, Leicester – review and guide

We stay at this revamped aparthotel in the centre of Leicester with our children

Name

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

Rooms range from a studio through to a two-bedroom apartment and a sky room with city views.

Sofas, lou0nge area, dining table in a two-bedroom apartment at Gresham Aparthotel in Leicester

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.

A double bedroom in Gresham Aparthotel in Leicester

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+.

A twin room at Gresham Aparthotel in Leicester

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.

An open plan kitchen-diner and living space at our apartment at Gresham Aparthotel in Leicester

It’s an open plan kitchen-diner and living space

Food

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.

Black Iron Social bar and restaurant at Gresham Aparthotel in Leicester

The bar and restaurant Black Iron Social

Plus there’s a Tesco Express around the corner if you want to eat in.

Our highlights

*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.

Top Tips

*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.

Nearby

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.

More information

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.

Book here: The Gresham Aparthotel

We had a complimentary stay, all views are our own.

 

The Masked Singer Live UK tour 2022 – review and guide

The Masked Singer Live UK tour 2022 – review and guide

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.

Name

The Masked Singer Live

Venue

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 at The Masked Singer Live

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 (Steve McDonald, Coronation Street) performs as Space Pug at the Masked Singer Live in Liverpool

Simon Gregson as Space Pug

And singer and friend of Simon Cowell, Sinitta, as Baby Dino, voted best by the audience clapometer.

Best bits

*Solos, duets and group numbers from the favourite characters.

Badger, Dragon and Panda at the Masked Singer Live

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:

O2, London: Jonathan Ross

Birmingham: Mo Gilligan

Newcastle: Scarlett Moffatt

Glasgow: Sanjeev Kohli

Manchester and Leeds: Nicola Roberts

Sheffield: Martine McCutcheon

Nottingham: Natalie Imbruglia

OVO Arena Wembley: Davina McCall

Tickets

Tickets are available here.

Conclusion

A great family night out for fans of the show.

 

 

A surprise to wake to in Mallorca at a hotel full of swimming pools

A surprise to wake to in Mallorca at a hotel full of swimming pools

We take a family holiday to Mallorca and stay at the five-star Zafiro Palace Alcudia

To land at night is to preserve the mystery of your surroundings until morning – and we were in for a pleasant surprise on our break to the Balearic island of Mallorca.

Early signs are good – we land at Palma and are out of the plane, the airport and into our hire car in a record-breaking 20 minutes.

Safely at the hotel a little later, we love our big, open-plan, ground floor room despite the partially see-through frosted toilet door!

Zafiro Palace Alcudia aerial view of the pools

Zafiro Palace Hotel

The huge comfortable bed and sofa which converts into two singles mean it’s easy to sleep.

And when we pull back the curtains the following morning, we are greeted with a sight befitting this five-star hotel, Zafiro Palace Alcudia.

Our room at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Our room

A big terrace awaits us, furnished with a table and chairs and comfy sun loungers.

But there’s also a gate. A gate which leads on to a swim-up pool. Bliss.

Swim-up pool at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Swim-up pool

In fact, most ground floor rooms here have this luxurious option while top floor suites benefit from a hot tub.

Water is a common theme, perfect for a Mediterranean island known for the aqua sea surrounding it – I count at least 12 swimming pools.

For children, there’s a pirate-themed pool with water slides and another with a ‘wet bubble’ in the middle to climb and bounce off which opens out into the biggest pool here, with a swim-up bar.

Water slides in a pirate-themed children's pool at Zafiro Palace Hotel, Mallorca

Water slides in a pirate-themed children’s pool

But as it’s October and the water is a little chilly, the warmest pool here is the busiest, with one lane sectioned off for serious swimming and double sun beds over the water on the other side for those who’d rather watch.

The warmest swimming pool at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

The warmest pool

All that swimming builds up appetites and the food here is fantastic. Thankfully the main buffet restaurant has enough pancakes, pizza and pasta to keep even our daughter happy.
Plus a good variety of Spanish favourites like Paella and fish and other international cuisine to satisfy all palates.

There are several a la carte restaurants too – an Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean and Bistro/Grill. All of them offer high quality food in a relaxed atmosphere which caters to children.

And the younger ones are also well-served by a playground, entertainment such as mini discos in the afternoons, a mini golf course and a basketball court/football pitch.

The hotel is in Puerto de Alcudia, in the north of this popular island.

It’s surrounded by mountainous scenery and is within walking distance of Playa de Alcudia, a long sandy beach with shallow waters and playground equipment.

Play equipment for children on Playa de Alcudia beach

Playa de Alcudia beach

We also spend time on other stunning beaches and explore Port de Pollensa, which inspired Agatha Christie’s story Problem at Pollensa Bay.

The beach at Pollensa

The beach at Pollensa

Alcudia Old Town is also worth a look as are the fabulous Caves of Drach with its stalagmites and stalactites and stunning musical experience.

One day we take the twisty mountain road up to a clifftop vantage point at Es Colomer, with fabulous sweeping views of this wonderful island.

Es Colomer - walking up to a view

Es Colomer – walking up to a view

We admire the keen cyclists cruising up the steep slopes – they didn’t appear to have overindulged in a hotel buffet like I had.

We may have arrived at night but we departed in the morning – just time for a final trip to the breakfast buffet.

*For more details of the hotel, read our full review and guide next – Zafiro Palace Alcudia.

(We were guests of Zafiro Palace Alcudia, all views are my own).

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.

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.

Canal boat family holiday review – we take our children on a 67-foot narrowboat

Canal boat family holiday review – we take our children on a 67-foot narrowboat

Our first boating holiday takes in the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal

I have been in charge of an 18-tonne canal boat the length of a lorry for roughly a minute.

Concentrating hard, I navigate on to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the width of our craft Askrigg, trying to ignore the 40-metre sheer drop on one side into the River Dee.

The expert, who has just given us an hour’s worth of thorough instructions, steps off the barge and we are alone crossing the longest aqueduct in Britain and the highest in the world.

As introductions to canal life goes, there’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end as our two children enjoy the ride and my husband helps direct from the front – almost 70 feet away.

We are on a Drifters waterways holiday and our Anglo Welsh boat has just left Trevor basin near Llangollen in north east Wales.

About to depart in a narrowboat from Trevor basin

About to depart from Trevor basin

Our four-day route is along the Llangollen Canal with overnight stops at the border village of Chirk and the Shropshire town of Ellesmere.

I quickly discover that canal boating is simultaneously very relaxing and stressful. Once we cross the aqueduct with its amazing views, there are other boats to dodge, tight turns to master and long tunnels to chug through.

There’s even a swing bridge to lift and our six-year-old gets out, armed with the windlass (the tool to lift canal locks and bridges) and starts helping turn the gauge to raise it high above the canal and allow us to pass through.

Children can help lift swing bridges on the canal

At first, bridges and locks may be daunting but they quickly become part of the fun, giving the children some activity and making them feel part of the team.

Luckily, every boater seems friendly and happy to help if you get in a fix.

Helming takes some practice, the boat is steered from the rear with a tiller. You may find yourself gently bumping the sides, glancing off low bridges or getting stuck in shallow water.

Coming out from a tunnel on the Llangollen Canal

Coming out from a tunnel

It is all part of the adventure and steering quickly becomes second nature, even if you can never entirely relax at the helm.

We take it in turns so one of us can be with the children, prepare food or even relax, lazing at the front, enjoying the scenery.

There’s something pretty awesome about travelling along in a floating home but I recommend mooring up as often as possible to explore the towpath and surroundings.

A family travels on a canal boat

We love stopping where we want, discovering walks through the countryside with just cows for company. This slow pace of travel needs to be embraced.

We also make planned stops at Chirk near to the famous castle, Ellesmere with its mere, playground, sculpture trail and quaint town centre, the small village of St Martin’s and also the base at Trevor, from where you can cross the famous aqueduct, a world heritage site, on foot.

As your confidence dealing with the boat increases, so does your speed carrying out its regular checks, filling with water and tying the ropes.

And the quality of our craft Askrigg really helps make the holiday (read our detailed review of the boat). It is one of Anglo Welsh’s Bond class boats and sleeps up to six (read our full review of it here).

A girl sits in the lounge of the bond boat Askrigg from Anglo Welsh

Inside our boat Askrigg

There is lots of space inside, two bedrooms, two bathrooms with showers, a well-equipped kitchen, lounge/dining area, television, radio, central heating and WiFi. It is also extremely clean and Covid compliant.

By the end of our mini-break it has become a home from home so as we head back over the aqueduct four days later, the view was just as stunning but any novice nerves about taking a canal boat holiday have disappeared.

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

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

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

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

Drifters’ 2020 Fact Box

Drifters Waterway Holidays offers 550 canal boats for hire from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.

There are over 3,000 miles of waterways for you to discover, all at your own pace and you don’t need to be an expert. Tuition is included as part of Drifters’ holiday packages.

Drifters’ 2020 hire prices for a boat for up to four people start at £530 for a short break (three or four nights), rising to £855 in the peak summer holidays.

A boat for up to four for a week starts at £915, rising to £1220 in the peak of the summer holidays.

Narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate from two up to 12 people.

For more information visit the website or call 0344 984 0322.

More information about visiting the canal network is available from the Canal River Trust.

*We received a complimentary break for the purposes of this review. All views are our own.

Holiday fun with our children on a family holiday to Lake Garda and Verona

Holiday fun with our children on a family holiday to Lake Garda and Verona

We try out family-friendly activities around the lake and take a trip to Verona

We are holidaying in the beautiful Lakes – but for once it’s not our beloved English Lake District.

The waters are a clearer turquoise, there isn’t a walking boot in sight and ice creams are in greater supply.

We are in the fashionable Italian Lakes for a slightly chilly October half-term break and I am feeling cosy but a little out of place in my ‘school run coat’.

We are staying on the southern end of Italy’s largest lake, Lake Garda, loved by families and affluent travellers.

Peschiera

Peschiera

And home for the trip is also a family favourite with a great lakefront location.

Bella Italia – a five-star campsite – is a 15-minute lakeside walk from the town of Peschiera Del Garda.

It has four pools (sadly closed at this time of year), the same number of restaurants with well-priced tasty food, playgrounds, a children’s club, ice cream parlour, bouncy castles, fairground rides and more.

For our full review of our accommodation read Bella Italia holiday park and watch our video below.

Our three-bedroom mobile home, a Girasole Suite, is smaller than similar holiday homes we have stayed in but is an ideal base to explore the area.

Girasole Suite at Campeggio Bella Italia at Lake Garda

Girasole Suite

And we start out on the pebbly beach in front of the holiday park before getting on to the water itself – the quickest way to get around the lake’s beautiful towns and villages is by ferry.

The ferry around Lake Garda

You can hop on and off, visiting several spots in a day. Among our favourites were the enchanting village of Lazise with its castle and playground and tourist magnet Sirmione – the most picturesque yet busiest spot on the lake.

Boats at the town of Garda in Lake Garda, Italy

Garda

Another busy spot is Italy’s biggest theme park, Gardaland, just 15 minutes away.

There are plenty of rollercoasters for older children but younger children are well-catered for too – there’s even a small Peppa Pig Land.

And a Sea Life aquarium next door is a good rainy day option – you can buy one ticket covering a visit to both on the same or consecutive days.

Just a short drive away lies a more relaxing day out. Parco Natura Viva is a zoo and safari park with hippos, giraffes, rhinos and bears among a lovely site.

Riding a golf buggy at Parco Sigurta

Parco Giardino Sigurta

Another attraction worth a visit is Parco Giardino Sigurta. This 600-acre garden has a maze, small animal farm and plenty of space to run around in beautiful gardens. We explore on foot then hire a golf cart for 18 euros to get around the whole site.

Read our full guide here: What to do in Lake Garda with children – our top tips and watch our video below.

Further afield, but still only half an hour away, is Verona.

Our children love the huge Roman amphitheatre, the 2,000-year-old Arena.

Two children outside the Arena amphitheatre in Verona, Italy

The Arena

Others head to this city of Romeo and Juliet to leave love notes at Juliet’s balcony, linked to the fictional star-crossed lovers.

Romeo and Juliet's balcony in Verona, Italy

Juliet’s balcony

But it isn’t the most child friendly spot with a cramped courtyard full of selfie hunters taking photos at Juliet’s statue and balcony.

You are better off exploring Verona’s pedestrianised centre, the square around the Arena and its riverside walks. It is a compact city and in a day you can see historic churches, castles, museums or stop by one of countless gelato outlets.

To keep younger ones really happy, the city’s new Children’s Museum is a fantastic hands-on place where they can learn about light, water, power and science through play. It is well worth a couple of hours of your time.

Children's Museum, Verona

Children’s Museum, Verona

We throw ourselves into the Verona experience with an authentic Veronese feast prepared for us at Locanda Ristori – one of the city’s traditional eateries.

Afterwards we plan to walk it off up the Torre Dei Lamberti – the city’s 368 step tower.

However, the lure of the lift taking us most of the way up is too strong. And from there stretches street upon street of terracotta roofs, spectacular even in the rain.

For all our Verona ideas read: What to do with children in Verona and watch our video below.

As we stroll away from the city, one last ice cream in hand, it isn’t hard to see why this area has been one loved by visitors for centuries.

Our time in the city made famous by Shakespeare and Lake Garda has definitely been a triumph, not tragedy.

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary accommodation, entrance to attractions and a Verona Card for this visit. All opinions are our own.

A family break in St Albans with our children proves a great mixture of old and new

A family break in St Albans with our children proves a great mixture of old and new

We explore the family-friendly attractions in the city of St Albans and eat at the oldest pub in Britain

As we climb up and up, twist after twist, turn after turn, the staircase gets narrower and narrower.

The top of the Clock Tower is a particularly tight squeeze, its 600-year-old roof can only take a few visitors at a time – but the view at the summit of the 93 steps is well worth it.

Stretching in front of us is St Albans – a city where the ancient and the modern sit side-by-side.

For example, the Clock Tower was built in 1405, but on the street below, people queue up outside Darlish, the UK’s first Persian ice cream parlour, whose speciality is a deliciously sweet baklava ice cream sandwich.

The city’s park contains both a modern splash pool and Roman remains. And pubs which played host to Oliver Cromwell now serve the latest culinary trends.

And that theme of ancient and modern is clear at our first stop, St Albans Museum and Gallery.

St Albans Museum and Gallery

St Albans Museum and Gallery

St Albans Museum and Gallery

Refurbished in 2018, the city’s main museum contains 2,000 years of history over three floors. Children are given an activity pack and trail to follow around.

You can visit the underground cells which used to be the city’s prison and then climb up into the former courtroom.

While your little ones pretend to be a judge or a villain in the dock, pensioners merrily sip away at cups of tea and tuck into slices of cake.

Our little magistrate sentences her big brother to life imprisonment

Upstairs there are more displays of the city’s history and on site is a tasty cafe. You can eat in the old courtroom or on the market square as we did, tucking into large sandwiches, varied salads and a wide range of excellent cakes.

Information: St Albans Museum and Gallery, Town Hall, St Peter’s St, St Albans AL1 3DH, open daily 10am to 5pm, 11am to 5pm on Sundays. Entry free.

St Albans Market

It is worth visiting on market day – Wednesdays and Saturdays between 8.30am and 4.30pm – if you can. There has apparently been a market in the city since the 9th century. 1,100 years on and the stalls are packed, stretching along the high street. You can buy everything from toys, to handbags, to Pakistani or Indonesian street food. It is a vibrant, colourful sight with more than 160 stalls.

Market day in St Albans, our view from the Clock Tower

Market day in St Albans, our view from the Clock Tower

Clock Tower

At the bottom end of the market and high street is the Clock Tower. The stairs to the top do get very narrow but it is fun to climb and you are rewarded with views across Hertfordshire and even London on a clear day. The friendly volunteers at the bottom of the tower let children help ring the city’s 600-year-old bell, which has been clanging away since the Wars of the Roses.

St Albans Clock Tower

The Clock Tower

Information: Clock Tower, High St, St Albans AL3 4EL. opening times vary. Entry £1 adults, children free. This is the only surviving medieval town belfry in England.

St Albans Cathedral

Even older than the clock tower is the building which dominates this city. St Albans Cathedral, known locally as The Abbey, is named after Alban, Britain’s first saint.

St Alban's Cathedral

St Albans Cathedral

It is a huge building and entry is free. Children can get an activity pack from the new welcome centre, which has a shop, cafe and toilets. The pack contains 12 questions taking you around the cathedral, encouraging youngsters to explore the whole site.

The quiz also explains to them some of the history of this building and the story of how Alban became St Alban and met a grizzly end at the hands of the Romans.

There are also tree trails to explore the cathedral’s gardens, which takes around 45 minutes to complete.

On certain heritage open days there are also graffiti trails where children can hunt for clues on the various etchings visitors have drawn into the stone around the cathedral.

All the trails cost £2 per child and include a badge when successfully completed.

Some churches can feel a little stuffy and unwelcoming to children but this felt like a site where little ones were actively welcomed.

Information: St Albans Cathedral, St Albans AL1 1B, open daily, entry free.

Verulamium Park

Verulamium Park in St Albans

Verulamium Park

A short walk down the hill from the cathedral brings you to Verulamium Park, a former Roman site.

It is named after the Roman city of Verulamium on which it stands. And there are Roman remains dotted around its 100 acres. It was full of families when we visited, there is lots of space to run around, you can stroll by the lake, feed the ducks and climb trees. There is also a playground, fairly new splash park open during the summer, football goals, cafe and indoor swimming pool.

Verulamium Museum next to the park grounds has artefacts, which explore everyday life in Roman Britain.

Information: Verulamium Park, St Peter’s Street, St Albans, UK.

Eating Out

St Albans has a wealth of options for eating out with almost every conceivable chain restaurant having an outlet around the city centre. We took a chance on something slightly different. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is officially Britain’s oldest pub, the octagonal building dates back to the 11th century.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is officially Britain’s oldest pub

Britain’s oldest pub

It is well situated near the entrance to Verulamium Park and has a beer garden. Inside, the low ceilings and timber beams make the pub feel medieval. Fortunately, the food is most definitely modern. There are four children’s options (£8 each) including pasta, burgers and sausages. The quality was high, as were the adult meals.

The pub becomes less family-friendly the later into the evening it gets so I would suggest trying it for lunch or an early dinner.

Information: Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, 16 Abbey Mill Ln, St Albans, AL3 4HE.

As we stroll back from the pub where Oliver Cromwell once stayed the night, the beautiful cathedral is lit up and it’s easy to see why this is a city is a great place to introduce children to our country’s history.

Where we stayed – St Michael’s Manor

St Michael's Manor hotel in St Albans

St Michael’s Manor

Our hotel, St Michael’s Manor, is next to the park and has a lovely garden of its own – five acres to explore and its own lake.

The hotel’s original building dates from 1500, which practically makes it a modern development in St Albans.

This luxury hotel has excellent family rooms – our suite had two televisions and a huge bathroom.

Our hotel room at St Michael's Mount

Our hotel room, Sycamore

Breakfast is in a beautiful orangery-style restaurant.

It’s well-situated with lots of parking spaces, so we could walk to and from the city centre, read our full hotel review with pictures and video here: Review: St Michael’s Manor Hotel in St Albans

This was also the perfect base from which to visit Harry Potter Studios the next day – read our review of that here: The full guide to Harry Potter Studio Tour London with must-read tips and family review

Information: St Michael’s Manor Hotel, Fishpool Street, St Albans, AL3 4RY.

Breakfast at Lakeside Restaurant

Breakfast St Michael’s Manor

Disclaimer – Our hotel, food and attractions were provided to us in exchange for this review. All views are our own.

Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

We stay at a holiday park in the middle of the Netherlands with our children

Sand stretches before us. A vast expanse of gold, nothing on the horizon save for a makeshift den of withered tree branches.

Where is this extraordinary landscape? The Sahara? Outer Mongolia?

Try central Holland, the Dunes of Loon.

This natural phenomenon was created by sand drifts 10,000 years ago and its 30km of desert are fun to explore.

the Dunes of Loon in Drunen National Park

Dunes of Loon

You experience it by walking just five minutes from our family campsite at Duinhoeve (read our full Duinhoeve Holiday Park review and tips here).

And we certainly feel like explorers as we unzip the door to our glamping lodge at the park.

Our glamping lodge at Duinhoeve holiday park in Holland/The Netherlands

Our glamping lodge at Duinhoeve

From the outside it is a huge tent, but through the zipped entrance you find a fabulous, modern interior.

There are three bedrooms, a den/storage area for children, spacious shower and bathroom, TV, well-equipped kitchen and large dining table. See our video below.

The park is ideal for younger children with three playgrounds aimed at under-7s and two swimming pools – one large and heated by solar power, the other for toddlers complete with pirate ship.

There’s a restaurant/cafe selling hot and cold meals every evening.

There’s also bike and go-kart hire. Very useful as Duinhoeve is well located to explore what the natural world has to offer with cycle paths and walks through the dunes and woodland.

If you want to experience further afield then the small medieval city of Den Bosch is less than 30 minutes away.

The cathedral city of Den Bosch

Den Bosch

If you are browsing its ancients streets, squares and markets don’t forget to try the local delicacy Bosch Bollen – a type of giant profiterole sold in every bakery.

Bosche Bollen, yum

The city was home to the medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch, famous for his fantastical imagination.

And if it is a wild imagination you want to witness, then just 10 minutes from Duinhoeve is the fairytale themed theme park of Efteling (full review and top tips for visiting Efteling here).

Children at Efteling Theme Park

Efteling Theme Park

Think Disneyland minus the schmaltz, the sky high food prices and super-long queues.

Not that Efteling is quiet, it is still Holland’s largest theme park and draws visitors from around Europe.

The best place to get a feel for Efteling is the Fairytale Forest with recreations of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, Pinocchio’s workshop and the witch’s gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel, which even smells authentic.

The park is broadly divided into two halves, to the left of the entrance is mostly aimed at younger children. Head right if you have roller-coaster loving tweens and teens who are seeking plenty of thrills. See our exclusive video below.

With our younger ones, some of the best rides are Symphonica – a theatrical indoor adventure and the Pirana River Rapids Ride.

If you need a break, there are plenty of places to sit and rest. You can hop on a steam train around the park, take a leisurely boat ride on a lake, or head up the pagoda viewing tower to see Efteling from above.

When you are hungry you can pick from plenty of food options with more than just the usual expensive fast-food.

A day at Efteling ends with a 15-minute fire and water show called Aquanura, set to classical music.

Efteling is a reminder that this area – capable of extraordinary landscapes is also pretty good at man-made mythical lands as well.

Aquanura water show at Efteling

Aquanura water show

There’s more water and drama back at our glamping lodge that night.

After days of humidity, a terrific thunder storm breaks out. As we look out across the park, enjoying the sight and the sound of the rain hammering on the canvas roof, we are very glad to be in safe and secure in our very, very posh tent.

*This was the second of a two-part holiday to Holland, starting in Amsterdam, read the first part here: Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

*We travelled via mini-cruise with DFDS – read about our journey here: We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

RELATED CONTENT: Our full guide to getting around Amsterdam with children

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s park and ride service – all you need to know

RELATED CONTENT: We review Efteling – the biggest theme park in the Netherlands – and give our top tips for visiting

RELATED CONTENT: We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

(We received complimentary accommodation, tickets to Efteling and ferry crossing, all views are our own).

Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

We take our children via mini-cruise to Amsterdam in Holland

Amsterdam may be a stag and hen do favourite – but there is much more to the city than its infamous seedier side.

We head to the beautiful Dutch capital with our children, in search of a family-friendly break.

It’s just a short, 45-minute plane journey from the UK. So we decide to travel by ship. Obviously.

Billed as a mini-cruise, our overnight ferry crossing is with DFDS from Newcastle.

Our cabin on the Princess Seaways

Our cabin

The children love it and it doesn’t feel like part of the journey – more a highlight of the holiday.

It sets sail at 5.30pm, so enough time to explore the ship, eat and enjoy the entertainment.

Then most of the journey is spent asleep in our cabin, before waking up for breakfast and disembarkment. Read our review and tips for taking this ferry crossing here and watch our video below.

Our visit to the Netherlands is in two parts so it’s a bonus to have our car and lots of luggage.

Part 1 Amsterdam

There are bicycles EVERYWHERE we look. I’m expecting this but am still staggered at the sheer volume of cyclists, their confidence and the natural way they rule the road.

Bicycles parked in Amsterdam

All ages are on two wheels, children too young to pedal themselves ride on a seat or in a trailer with an adult.

And NOBODY wears a helmet.

It’s a stressful city for car drivers to negotiate – it’s also difficult and expensive to park.

So we use a cheap park and ride car park on the outskirts (read our Amsterdam park and ride guide here) and take a couple of trams to our hotel.

NH Amsterdam Center is a good base to explore from plus it was great value when we booked. (See our full hotel review and pictures here).

A suite at NH Amsterdam Centre hotel

Our hotel room

It’s a well-positioned hotel next to Leidseplein square in Amsterdam, across the road from canal cruises, within five minutes’ walk of Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. Plus, our room is huge.

Then, armed with an I amsterdam city card, which gives free access to attractions, public transport including ferries and a free canal cruise, we start our exploring.

We tick off Nemo Science Museum, a great hands-on attraction, where our children even get to be scientists in a lab.

Nemo Science Museum exterior

Nemo Science Museum

We take a pancake cruise – a 75-minute cruise – with all you can eat pancakes and toppings. None of us get near to the record of 15. Then, part of the boat’s floor opens up to reveal a ball bit below deck.

The Pancake Boat

The Pancake Boat

We pop to see the outside of the real-life Hunter Street house from the Nickelodeon programme of the same name.

And we get close to nature at Artis Zoo – a beautiful attraction, with some species you don’t get to see in English zoos.

Less child-oriented but a must-see for art lovers, is the Van Gogh Museum which houses the biggest collection of the Dutch painter’s work in the world. Even his famous work Sunflowers is there when we visit.

We use our cruise tickets (free with the I amsterdam card), with the Blue Boat Company. The cruise really caters for children – they have their own Pirates commentary on headphones and goody bags.

The Blue Boat Company in Amsterdam

The Blue Boat Company

Read our complete reviews and guides to Amsterdam’s children’s attractions here and watch our video below.

We get around by trams and on foot (read Our full guide to getting around Amsterdam with children).

Walking is a great way to see the city and the canals but it’s a challenge to negotiate the roads and crossings with children, remembering to check the cycle lanes and look out for trams as well as other traffic.

Amsterdam is fascinating, brilliant and intensive and when it’s time for part two of our trip, all four of us are ready to head south.

Go to Part 2: Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

RELATED CONTENT: Our full guide to getting around Amsterdam with children

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s park and ride service – all you need to know

RELATED CONTENT: We review Efteling – the biggest theme park in the Netherlands – and give our top tips for visiting

RELATED CONTENT: We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

(We received complimentary ferry crossing and two i amsterdam cards, all views are our own).

A family holiday in the Cotswolds – read about our stay at a fabulous farm cottage and the attractions we visited with our children

A family holiday in the Cotswolds – read about our stay at a fabulous farm cottage and the attractions we visited with our children

We stay in an idyllic spot near Chipping Norton and visit Cotswolds Wildlife Park, Blenheim Palace and a crocodile zoo.

Violet is an enthusiastic tour guide. Energetically sprinting down woodland paths, she throws herself on to a trampoline and encourages our children to do the same. Violet is five. One of three generations who live and host visitors to Heath Farm Holiday Cottages.

A girl jumps on a trampoline at Heath Farm Cottages

Our daughter tries out the trampoline

Our children are wowed as she carefully points out the farm’s facilities, views over golden fields and the honey-coloured cottage which will be our home from home.

Heath Farm has five cottages on a 70-acre site on the eastern edge of the Cotswolds, near Chipping Norton. The views and atmosphere make you feel like you could be in the Tuscan countryside rather than the heart of England.

The Barbour family converted the site 25 years ago and still play a hands-on role welcoming visitors – owners Nena and David are there to answer questions and give tips on exploring the area.

Our children love doing their own exploring of the farm’s trails, trying croquet on the lawn and enjoying the pool and table tennis tables in the games room.

Cobnut cottage at Heath Farm Holiday Cottages in the Cotswolds

Cobnut cottage

Our cottage, Cobnut, is traditional yet modern – wood furnishings mixed with modern appliances. There are two good-sized bedrooms with en suites, a dining room with spectacular views overlooking the farm’s pond and an outside table looking on to a colourful floral courtyard. We feel happy and comfortable there straight away. Read our full review of the accommodation plus see pictures and a video here.

We are hungry and we’ve brought our own supplies but you only need to travel a mile to find a good pub. The Boxing Hare is a modern restaurant with large garden for outside dining. There’s a good selection of freshly cooked children’s meals and the friendly staff make our two feel welcome with colouring books and pens. Plus the food is delicious.

 

The Boxing Hair in Swerford

The next day it is time to head out further into the surrounding area. First stop, Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens.

The sun is shining as we wander the beautiful grounds, spotting rhinos, lions and wolves. It is a large site, which takes the best part of a day to get around. Highlights for us include the adventure playground, the train which tours the park giving weary legs a rest and the clever fencing design which makes you feel close to the animals as you walk around. Read our full review and tips here.

A giraffe at Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens

Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens

Later in the day, at Crocodiles of the World, we get close to a three-metre slithering saltwater reptile. The UK’s only crocodile zoo has 160 different types of crocs, alligators and caimans to see. The enthusiastic staff talks are worth catching as they explain all you need to know about these rarely seen creatures. See here for our full review and tips.

A crocodile at Crocodiles of the World in the Cotswolds

Crocodiles of the World

Unfortunately, the Tuscan-style weather doesn’t last for our visit to Blenheim Palace the next day. One of the country’s finest stately homes, even on a rainy day there was more than just ancient artefacts to entertain our children.

Blenheim Palace exterior

Blenheim Palace

This was the birthplace and home of Winston Churchill and for the first time, we tried our two with audio guides. They are aimed at adults and the commentary is detailed. But they loved wearing the headphones and operating the guides, which kept them interested in the stories of paintings, pictures and life of the Churchill family as we walked around.

Once you have explored the palace and magnificent grounds you can hop on a small train (50p per person each way) to the family pleasure gardens. This area has a butterfly house, maze, playground and small model village. Read our full review and tips on Blenheim Palace here.

Then we couldn’t wait to get back to Heath Farm. Our children urgently seeking out their on-site guide.

As they and Violet took turns on the swings hanging from trees, we couldn’t help but wish that every holiday home came with a fantastic five-year-old expert.

RELATED CONTENT: Heath Farm Holiday Cottages set in 70 acres in the beautiful Cotswolds – our review and tips

RELATED CONTENT: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens – our review, tips and all the information you will need to visit

RELATED CONTENT: Blenheim Palace in the Cotswolds – our family day out review and top tips

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Review: A family holiday to beautiful Corsica at May half-term with Eurocamp

Review: A family holiday to beautiful Corsica at May half-term with Eurocamp

Magnificent mountains and beautiful beaches – we take our children to Corsica and stay at Eurocamp’s two sites on this Mediterranean island

We have just arrived on a gorgeous, sunny beach, framed at each corner by pink and orange rocks.

I lay out a towel, get out the bucket and spades and our children squeal with delight as they take to the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean.

Minutes later we are scurrying to our car as a thick, black cloud descends down from the improbably steep mountains towards us and the heavens open.

This is Corsica: a land of extremes. Bright sunshine then brutal showers. Shallow bays and steep mountain passes. French-owned with an Italian influence.

An abstract concept which, for a family, boils down to croissants for breakfast and pizza for dinner.

And our week is a tale of two very different Eurocamp holiday parks (read our full comparison here).

Marina D’Erba Rossa holiday park, Ghisonaccia (full review here)

Marina D’Erba Rossa is our first stop. On the east coast, near the town of Ghisonaccia, an hour’s drive from Bastia Airport.

Swimming pool at Marina d'Erba Rossa holiday park in Corsica

Marina D’Erba Rossa swimming pool

“Mummy, an ostrich woke me up and now I’ve spotted a llama”.

We are next to the small animal park on this large site. Bulls, kangaroos and chickens alongside the holidaymakers who have arrived here from across Europe.

The holiday park is a little tired in places and our mobile home isn’t the newest but we can overlook that as there is so much for children to do.

The exterior of our Eurocamp mobile home at The swimming pool at Marina d'Erba Rossa in Corsica

Our Eurocamp mobile home

For a start, it’s on a big beach with inviting waves. There’s a great pool, next to the beach.

Then there’s a new playground/play area, mini golf, trampoline and zip wire enclosure, gym, ice cream parlour, tennis courts, crazy golf, pool tables – the list goes on.

Play area with slides at Marina d'Erba Rossa holiday park in Corsica

A small shop on the site sells essentials including fresh croissants and baguettes in the morning and at night you can tuck into very tasty pizza at the on-site restaurant.

Ghisonaccia is a fairly non-descript Corsican town but has all the facilities you need. Nearby Aleria has some of the island’s history on display at its museum.

The fact that Marina D’Erba Rossa is on a lovely beach was the biggest draw for us. But this island, birthplace of Napoleon, is much more than just a beach holiday.

You have to head inland. Onwards and upwards into the mountains.

Sampolo Lake and mountains in Corsica

Sampolo Lake

The routes immediately become steep and twisty, rocks hang over the edge of the road, ears pop, civilisation becomes more sporadic.

And it’s at the start of one of these roads we find our second campsite, Sole di Sari. Keep reading for all the details.

Sole di Sara campsite, Solenzara (full review here)

Outside the town of Solenzara, the small site Sole di Sara campsite is fresh and modern.

Eurocamp Sole di Diri mobile home exterior

Our mobile home at Sole di Sari

The mobile home is nearly new, nestled into the hillside overlooking a stunning backdrop of mountain peaks and a gentle river.

A girl sits beside the river at Sole di Sari

The river at Sole di Sari

And the river isn’t just for looking at, it’s for swimming in too. The water is even colder than the site’s clean but small pool but is well worth exploring.

Sole di Sari swimming pool complex

Sole di Sari swimming pool

There’s also a play area with swings and slides, a modern bar and restaurant, boules, table tennis and a basketball court.

Sole di Sari play area

Sole di Sari play area

From Sole di Sari, you can get to the nearest beach by car in five minutes or head up the mountain road that the park sits on.

Just watch out for the wild bulls! One comes charging down the road and then chases us on our way up the snaking route to the Col de Bavella.

A 20-minute slow drive rewards with astonishing views across the mountainous valley. We stop about two-thirds of the way up after losing the bull, where there is a short but spectacular walk.

The vew at Col de Bavella mountains in Corsica

Col de Bavella

Adventurous families with older children can go canyoning and hiking to hidden waterfalls.

There is also a zip wire and treetop rope courses including one for youngsters (but check for opening times, they are closed when we go).

Children will also enjoy the rocky streams and turquoise coves lower down the mountain road.

Back at sea level we sample an abundance of colourful beaches on this stretch of coastline. Highlights near Solenzara are Scaffa Rossa, Fautea and Canella.

Palombaggia Beach in Corsica

Palombaggia Beach

Further afield we combine a visit to the wealthy walled town of Porto Vecchio and its yacht-filled marina, with a trip to Corsica’s most famous beach Palombaggia.

Shallow waters, soft sand and a wonderful view along the coast draws thousands to this beach, which means sharing the sand with plenty of other people, something we haven’t had to do elsewhere.

Peaceful, picturesque places aren’t hard to find whether you choose the mountains or the beaches on this island of contrasts.

Corsica facts

Where is Corsica?

Corsica is a French island in the Mediterranean, north of Sardinia. It is west of Italy and southeast of France.

Is it family-friendly?

Yes. And families in Corsca can combine a beach holiday with adventure in the mountains and rivers further inland.

English isn’t widely spoken everywhere so you do need to be a bit more adventurous than, say, heading to Spain but that’s all part of the fun.

Is it easy to get to Corsica?

It’s short two-hour flight from the UK to Bastia in the north and Figari in the south.

When is the best time to travel?

Between April and October. We went at May half-term which was nice and quiet.

Have you been to Corsica? Where did you stay?

Eurocamp

Eurocamp has a choice of camping holidays in more than 175 parks across France, Spain, Italy and elsewhere in Europe.



We visit Bournemouth – home to ‘Britain’s best beach’ – for a family stay with our children

We visit Bournemouth – home to ‘Britain’s best beach’ – for a family stay with our children

Bournemouth Beach has been voted Britain’s best for two years running by TripAdvisor so we take our children on a trip to Dorset to see it for ourselves

Children start digging their first sandcastles, surfers ride the morning waves and a little land train sounds its horn as it heads along the promenade.

Bournemouth Beach is gearing up for another day doing what this resort does better than most.

And despite its large green spaces, genteel buildings and bustling town centre, it is the beach which remains the big draw here, a beach officially recognised by TripAdvisor, as Britain’s best, in both 2018 and 2019.

You can see why – soft sand, gentle waves and family-friendly activities stretch along the seafront.

The best way to get a feel for the area is to head for its pier. There you can ride the Observation Wheel to get your bearings, enjoy some traditional amusement arcades and set foot on the sand.

The pier itself is home to zip wires, climbing walls and other action-packed activities, which is another example of how this resort is modernising its appeal to families.

The popular land train pootles up and down the promenade, a Red Arrows simulator is available for those who like to move a little quicker and deck chairs to hire are luring those who prefer a leisurely pace.

The seafront runs for miles from surf haven Boscombe at one end to the millionaires’ mansions of Sandbanks at the other.

But what if it is raining? As it was for part of our visit.

We took cover at Bournemouth Oceanarium, next to the pier.

Exterior GV of Oceanarium the Aquarium in Bournemouth

It’s a busy aquarium complete with shark tunnel, penguin enclosure and a small children’s play area. There is enough to pass a pleasant hour or two especially if you visit when one of the fish-feeding sessions and talks are on. See our full review of Bournemouth Oceanarium here.

When it does dry up, we head for the beach. It is perfect for young children because the sand is soft, there are no hills or dunes, the tide doesn’t go out too far and the sea suits a paddle. Wild and rugged it isn’t but safe and secure it most certainly is.

Bournemouth Pier and beach

Bournemouth Pier

It is well worth heading to Boscombe’s seafront too. A couple of miles along from the centre of Bournemouth, they have just as good a stretch of beach here as well as a pier with mini-golf and a musical trail.

Boscombe also has surf schools and volleyball courts on the sand. And it is home to the superb family-friendly restaurant Urban Reef.

Urban Reef restaurant

Urban Reef restaurant

We ate here during our stay and it has a perfect blend of an informal seaside feel matched with fine food for the adults. Plus, a fabulous sea view.

Urban Reef exterior by the beach and sea

Urban Reef’s beach setting

There’s a restaurant upstairs and café downstairs and there’s plenty for children – the kids’ menu is designed by eight-year-old chefs, there are books to read, quizzes to do and menus to colour in.

Head to the other end of Bournemouth’s 10 miles of beach and you come to somewhere with a different feel entirely – Sandbanks.

This peninsula has its own pleasant beach but people and property watching is almost as much fun. You can take one of the ferries to Poole Harbour or Brownsea Island to get a glimpse of some of the mansions with their own jetties.

Homes in Sandbanks, view from Poole Harbour

Homes in Sandbanks, view from our ferry

Alternatively, just take a stroll around the streets of Sandbanks, home to the likes of footballer manager and I’m a Celebrity winner Harry Redknapp.

Hotel

We had our own taste of luxury with an overnight stay at Bournemouth’s Orchid Hotel.

The Orchid Hotel in Bournemouth

The Orchid Hotel in Bournemouth

This stylish venue has 31 rooms and is set just a few streets back from the beach between Bournemouth and Boscombe.

We had the choice of family rooms or two interconnecting rooms. We enjoyed the latter along with its comfortable beds, quality furnishings and a tasty breakfast with lots of good options for small children. (Read our full review of the hotel here).

And filled up with a hearty breakfast it was time to explore again.

Our Famous Five adventure

As this area has three resorts – Bournemouth, Boscombe and Sandbanks – on the same stretch of beach – it was hard to leave.

But we were off on a fabulous Famous Five adventure elsewhere in Dorset – read all about it here.

*Bournemouth was hailed TripAdvisor’s best beach for 2019, is your favourite among the top 10?

  1. Bournemouth Beach, Bournemouth, Dorset
  2. Luskentyre, Isle of Harris, Scotland
  3. St. Brelade’s Bay Beach, St Brelade, Jersey
  4. Woolacombe Beach, Woolacombe, Devon
  5. Barafundle Beach, Stackpole, Wales
  6. Filey Beach, Yorkshire
  7. Rhossili Bay, Rhossili, Wales
  8. Gorleston Beach, Norfolk
  9. Perranporth Beach, Perranporth, Cornwall
  10. Newborough Beach, Dwyran, Anglesey, Wales

(Our hotel, restaurant meal and aquarium access were supplied by Bournemouth Tourism and Tourism South East for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own).