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All the best places to visit around Porthmadog

All the best places to visit around Porthmadog

Our guide to where to go in and around Porthmadog in North Wales

Porthmadog is a small coastal town on the Glaslyn Estuary in North Wales.

It was once a busy port for the international slate trade and its name means Madog’s Port.

There’s lots to do in and around this pretty town.

Black Rock Sands (Morfa Bychan)

Black Rock Sands is the closest major beach to Porthmadog, it’s a 10-minute drive.

It’s very accessible as you can park your car on the beach itself.

Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands, near Porthmadog, Wales

Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands

This is fantastic if you have loads of beach stuff to carry like chairs, blankets, boards, a picnic, buckets and spades etc.

But beware of being so distracted by having fun that you don’t realise the tide is creeping in.

On our last visit, we witnessed several owners running to rescue their cars and one even had to be pulled to safety by beach patrol.

A long, wide stretch of sand with warm, shallow waters at low tide, Black Rock Sands has good rock pools and caves at the far end towards Criccieth with view across to Criccieth Castle.

Car parking on the beach costs £5.

Steam Railway

Porthmadog Railway Station on the high street is very popular as it is a hub for three lines.

*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.

*And the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway offers a short train ride in historic narrow-gauge railway carriages to Pen-y-mount station and back.

The Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales – our review and top tips

Opposite the hotel is the railway and the estuary.

Porthmadog railway station

Harlech Beach

Harlech Beach is about a 20-minute drive from Porthmadog.

It has lovely soft sand and fun, high sand dunes to explore.

The wide bay is inviting for paddlers and swimmers.

Harlech Beach in Wales

Harlech Beach

It is a fairly long walk from the pay and display car park (about 10 minutes), which also houses the nearest toilets, along a footpath which cuts through the golf course (watch out for flying golf balls).

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle is set on a steep hill in this small village and proves very popular with visitors.

A girl in front of Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

The fortress, built by Edward I nearly 800 years ago, is in superb condition.

You can scale the castle walls and see stunning views across North Wales.

There are good explainer boards around the castle showing what each area was used for in the 13th century.

Entrance costs £27.50 for a family of four unless you are members of Cadw (a Welsh version of English Heritage). There is also a small shop, bustling cafe and a short video you can watch before walking across the bridge to the castle.

There aren’t many parking spaces at the castle and it’s a steep walk to other options, so it’s best to drop off children and passengers who may struggle before finding somewhere to park.

Harlech

While you are at the castle, it’s worth walking a few metres up the road to see what claims to be a Guinness World Record-breaking road.

Ffordd Pen Lech is apparently the World’s Steepest Street with a 40 per cent gradient.

Well worth a quick walk to say you’ve scaled a spot in the record books.

There are also cafes, ice cream parlours and shops on the high street in Harlech.

Porthmadog walks

Walking is a great way to explore this pretty town.

We stayed at the Premier Inn, which is in a great location, opposite the railway station – Hotel review: New Premier Inn in Porthmadog, North Wales.

(Our video of the hotel above, includes many of the attractions in this article).

You don’t have to go far from the hotel for a stunning stroll, you can head around the back of the building to a footpath which takes you around a lake. A 20-minute walk brings you back to the hotel.

If you want to head further you can walk along the harbourside and down Lombard Street to the small cove of Borth-y-Gest which has a nice, small beach.

Walks towards Snowdon

We did two brilliant walks in the hills above Porthmadog heading towards Snowdon.

Beddgelert

We walked along the Aberglasyn Gorge from the National Trust car park at Aberglasyn to the village of Beddgelert.

The walk is challenging, particularly the first mile from the car park along the side of the river. There are some steep drops and no barriers in places.

Our children aged 12 and 8 loved the adventure but younger ones will need to be watched throughout. After the first mile,the path changes to a more straightforward flat, paved walk all the way to Beddgelert.

Beddgelert in Wales

Beddgelert

There are places to stop and have a paddle in the river along the way so bring a towel and some swimming gear if it is a warm day.

The walk ends at Beddgelert – the pretty village made famous by the story of the faithful dog Gelert slain by Prince Llewellyn after he mistakenly thought the dog had attacked his baby son.

You can visit Gelert’s grave under a tree and read about the tale. Beddgelert has several cafes, a busy ice cream parlour and a village shop if you need supplies for the walk back.

Gelert's grave at Beddgelert in Wales

Gelert’s grave at Beddgelert

Llyn Dinas

Further towards Snowdon into the mountains is another great walk we tried. This one starts from the National Trust site at Craflwyn. You can park there and cross the busy A498 onto a riverside footpath, which runs for just over a mile to Llyn Dinas.

The footpath goes past the Sygun Copper Mine, where you can take a self-guided tour down the mine.

If you carry on along the footpath towards Nantmor, you emerge at the stunning lake Llyn Dinas.

This is a wonderful spot for a swim on a hot day, there were lots of people out on the water on paddleboards and canoes. You can also walk around the lake on a solid, flat path. There are a few picnic tables near the small boathouse next to the main road but apart from that, no other facilities.

Llyn Dinas lake

Llyn Dinas lake

For anyone who doesn’t fancy the walk from Craflwyn, there is roadside parking alongside the lake but it gets busy quickly on a sunny day.

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

Warwick Castle – review, guide and top tips 2022

Warwick Castle – review, guide and top tips 2022

All you need to know about popular Warwick Castle – the perfect family attraction

Name

Warwick Castle.

What is it?

Warwick Castle is a medieval castle, originally built by William the Conqueror as a wooden fort in 1068, and rebuilt in stone in the 12th century.

This historical tourist experience is hugely popular and attracts visitors from all over the world – we heard plenty of American accents on our visit.

Suits of armour inside Warwick Castle

Inside the castle

There is lots of to see and do plus there are live shows and experiences during the year including large arena jousting performances and the UK’s biggest birds of prey show, to help bring the castle alive for visitors.

Where is it?

It is unsurprisingly in the town of Warwick in Warwickshire on the River Avon, less than two miles from junction 15 of the M40.

Highlights

*A fantastic show, the Falconer’s Quest – an outdoor bird show, made into a story.

There are a few rows of benches, but hundreds of other people sat around on the grass and on picnic blankets nearby to watch and had just as good an experience.

*The Horrible Histories Maze, where children can get a little book stamped at various stages.

*Archery and jousting lessons with enthusiastic staff dressed in medieval outfits.

Archery lessons at Warwick Castle

Archery lessons at Warwick Castle

*Interactive storytime in the Princess Castle.

*For younger children, there are attractions based around the Julia Donaldson character Zog, including a great outdoor play area.

Zog play area at Warwick Castle

Zog play area

Warwick Castle Top Tips

*The Castle Dungeon is a 50-minute walk with live actors and special effects but is scary and so for over-tens only. You have to pay extra for this attraction, it isn’t included in the entry price.

*Get there early – we arrived about 9.30am for a 10am opening which meant we were at the front of the car park – although it was still a bit of a trek – and one of the first through the doors.

*Pay for your car park at the start  – about 50 yards before the entrance on the right  – there can be queues if you leave it to the end and it’s a set price (£6) anyway.

*If you want to extend your stay, you can sleep over at Warwick Castle in the Knight’s Village. There are 24 standard Woodland Lodges which sleep up to five and four Knight’s Lodges which are bigger and sleep up to seven people.

*There are tours running every half an hour covering different areas of the castle and its history. We joined a 30-minute tour which explained the 1,000 year story of the castle with an enthusiastic guide. It was well explained to suit children and gives you a good grounding for your day at the castle.

*You can scale the towers and ramparts but be aware this is a one-way trip and there are a lot of spiral stairs to climb that will tire out little legs (and big ones). But there’s a great view from the top.

*We used a Shakespeare’s England Explorer Pass which gives you entry to 10 top attractions across Warwickshire including Warwick Castle, Avon Boating and Stratford Butterfly Farm.

View from the top at Warwick Castle

View from the top

Food

There are plenty of food and drink options but it isn’t cheap. There was a pizza van making fresh pizzas (£11.90 for a basic Margherita), along with a fish and chip stall, ice cream vans and drinks outlets.

Lots of people brought their own picnics and there are plenty of lovely places to eat on the lawns and loads of benches to sit at.

Our video tour

Where did we stay?

We stayed at the gorgeous Mallory Court Country Hotel and Spa, which was about 15 minutes away.

More information

Address: Warwick Castle, Warwick, CV34 6AH.

Parking: The castle’s car parks are a fair walk from the castle as its grounds are protected.

Accessibility: There is a drop-off point where people with mobility restrictions can be dropped off.

Some areas of the castle are not wheelchair accessible – see here for a full guide.

The castle supports the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme for those with hidden disabilities.

Opening times: Open every day except Christmas Day. Hours vary.

Prices: From £24. Under threes go free.

Website: Warwick Castle

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The best places to visit around Pafos/Paphos in Cyprus on a family holiday

The best places to visit around Pafos/Paphos in Cyprus on a family holiday

Ten places to take your children around Pafos/Paphos in Cyprus

It may be slightly further on a plane than other European hotspots, but Cyprus is worth the four-and-a-half-hour flight from the UK for the year-round sunshine.

Other pluses make it easy to travel there with children – it is set up for families, English is widely spoken, the food is great and if you are nervous of driving abroad – well they drive on the left.

Once you’ve found a good base – we stayed at the sumptuous Columbia Bay Resort in Pissouri – it’s time to decide where else you want to explore.

There are waterparks, beaches, historical sites and more, including:

Tombs of the Kings

Our children loved exploring this World Heritage Site next to the sea.

Children explore Tombs of the Kings, Paphos/Pafos, Cyprus

Tombs of the Kings

There are seven excavated tombs, carved out of rock and spread out over a big site.

Despite the name, the chambers were not actually occupied by royalty but high-ranking officials and aristocracy of the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Top tip: Our children loved climbing here but there are some hidden drops so be very careful with little ones.

Tombs of the Kings, Paphos/Pafos, Cyprus

Tombs of the Kings

Where is it: North of Pafos/Paphos harbour

Address: Tombs of the Kings Ave 63, Chloraka, Cyprus

Aphrodite’s Rock (Petra Tou Romiou)

This site on the south coast of Cyprus is, according to Greek mythology, the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

Aphrodites Rock in Cyprus

Aphrodite’s Rock

We stopped off here, where she is said to have emerged from the sea, at sunset on our way back to the airport.

It’s a pebbly beach with big rock formations coming out of the water – one of them known as Aphrodite’s Rock.

Local legend says that anyone who swims around the rock will be blessed with eternal beauty.

Top tip: If you park in the car park opposite, you don’t need to cross the road, there is a passage under the road on to the beach. There is also a shop and cafe with toilets on the car park.

Where is it: On the main coastal road between Pafos/Paphos and Limassol

Children look out to sea at Aphrodite's Rock in Cyprus

Pafos Zoo

This is the biggest zoo in Cyprus with over 500 mammals from all over the world, ranging in size from guinea pigs to giraffes.

An elephant at Pafos Zoo

Pafos Zoo

There are also a thousand birds including birds of prey, penguins and parrots along with reptiles like crocodiles, snakes and giant tortoises.

And there’s a playground, a shop and places to eat.

Top tip: Our favourite part was the parrot and owl show.

Where is it: About 20 minutes north of Pafos/Paphos past the resort of Coral Bay.

Pafos/Paphos Harbour and Port

It’s nice to have a walk around the harbour area to soak up the atmosphere, even if you are just passing through on your way to somewhere else.

There are restaurants and cafes, shops and boats to watch, a promenade to walk along and a small castle at one end.

Some boat trips leave from here too.

Water parks

The nearest water park is Paphos Aphrodite Waterpark.

Paphos Aphrodite Waterpark in Cyprus

Paphos Aphrodite Waterpark

We ran out of time to try it much to our daughter’s disappointment, but it sounds amazing and includes high speed water rides, a lazy river and a wave pool.

Where is it: In Kato Paphos on the coastal road.

Boat trip

A boat trip is a great way to see the island and there are various options available.

Paphos Sea Cruises is one of the companies who offer excursions.

They have a pirate-themed one which children might enjoy called Pirates Adventure – Jolly Roger II, which includes a pirate show, lunch, face painting and more.

Kourion Archaeological Site

We enjoyed looking around the archaeological remains of the city of Kourion, which was destroyed in an earthquake in 365 AD.

The mosaic floors at Kourion Archaeological Site in Cyprus

The mosaic floors at Kourion Archaeological Site

It includes mosaic floors and a Roman theatre which has been restored and is used over the summer for performances.

Where is it: West of Lemesos/Limassol on the road to Pafos/Paphos.

Beaches

Of course, a family holiday in Cyprus would not be complete without trying out the beaches.

And this, the third-largest Mediterranean island, has loads of Blue Flag beaches.

There are pebbly and sandy ones – one of the best being Coral Bay.

Coral Bay beach in Cyprus

Coral Bay beach

This lovely, long, white-sand beach is surrounded by cliffs so the waves don’t get too big.

There are umbrellas and sun loungers over the summer months but not when we went and we could have done with somewhere to shade from the sun.

It was also fairly busy, unlike the pebbly beach, our hotel was on.

The beach at Columbia Beach Resort

The beach at Columbia Beach Resort

Avakas Gorge

This dramatic gorge (a deep valley between hills or mountains) was created by a stream flowing over limestone for thousands of years.

Stepping stones at Avakas Gorge in Cyprus

Stepping stones at Avakas Gorge

It is quite a challenging walk better suited to older, fitter children.

We tried it on a hot day which made it harder so try to go when it’s cooler.

The mountain roads to get to it are not great – several people arrived in hired jeeps – we parked quite far away but this made for a longer walk.

Top tip: There are slippery rocks, so make sure you wear good footwear – not sandals or flip-flops – and look out for some steep drops.

Where is it: West of Pafos/Paphs

Kolossi Castle

We made a flying visit to this 700-year-old castle, birthplace of the world’s oldest wine, Commandaria , said to have been drunk by Richard the Lionheart at his wedding.

Kolossi Castle in Cyprus

Kolossi Castle

The castle was first built in the 13th century and rebuilt in the 15th century.

It only takes around half an hour to look around but the entrance fee is low and it’s worth a stop-off on your way to somewhere else.

The rooms are empty but when you climb the steps, there is a great view from the top.

Where is it: Kolossi, 14km west of Lemesos on the road towards Pafos (Paphos).

Have we missed your favourite family attraction?

We would love to know of anywhere you recommend, please comment below.

RELATED CONTENT: We stay at Columbia Beach Resort – a beautiful five-star hotel in Cyprus

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gallos bronze statue at Tintagel Castle

Gallos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A walk near our cottage

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

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

Cottage at The Valley, Truro, Cornwall

Our cottage at The Valley

Read our full review of the accommodation for more details.

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

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

Children visit Lappa Valley in Cornwall

Lappa Valley

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

A dog on Holywell Bay beach

Charlie on Holywell Bay beach

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

Holywell Bay beach is where some of Poldark was filmed

Holywell Bay beach is where some of Poldark was filmed

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

Carne Beach in Cornwall

Carne Beach

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

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

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

King Harry ferry to St Mawes

King Harry ferry

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

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

St Mawes Castle

St Mawes Castle

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

More Cornwall content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Tintagel Castle?

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

Where is Tintagel Castle?

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

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

What did we think?

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

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

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

Picnic at Tintagel Castle

Best picnic spot

Our children’s verdict: amazing.

Highlights

The history

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

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

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

Tintagel Castle Bridge

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

A family cross the Tintagel Castle bridge

We cross the bridge

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

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

Tintagel Castle bridge

Tintagel Castle bridge

Gallos

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

Gallos bronze statue at Tintagel Castle

Gallos

The beach and Merlin’s Cave

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

Tintagel Castle beach

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

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

Tintagel Castle top tips

Mobility and fear of height

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

Steep drops and the bridge at Tintagel Castle

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

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

Steep road at Tintagel Castle

Beach

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

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

Weather

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

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

Dogs

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

Tintagel Castle information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telephone: 01870 770328.

Website: Tintagel Castle

How to book tickets

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

More Cornwall content

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

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

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

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

All you need to know before visiting Stirling Castle – our family review and top tips

All you need to know before visiting Stirling Castle – our family review and top tips

We review Stirling Castle in central Scotland to discover if it is a good day out for children

What is it?

Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s biggest and most famous castles. It was once home to Mary Queen of Scots and generations of royals.

Where is it?

In the centre of Stirling in central Scotland – midway between Glasgow and Edinburgh – it sits high on a hilltop, a steep walk from the city centre.

What did we think? 

This is a huge site with lots of nooks and crannies for children to explore.

Our children loved the castle walls, the various cannon battlements and exploring down staircases into random dungeons.

It is good for exploring but there are several formal sections which are great for children too.

Our highlights

*The Castle Exhibition – a good interactive section telling the history of Scottish kings and showing how skeletons discovered in the grounds were identified.

*The Palace Vaults – a series of rooms with animated games and hands-on fun. You can try on medieval clothes, learn about jester’s jokes and play ancient musical instruments. This section is very child-friendly.

*The Queen Anne Garden – a lovely formal garden with space to run around and sit, which has great views of the area.

*The Great Kitchens – discover the life of a cook and servant in the castle’s old kitchens. This is an entertaining area with a video and a recreation of the food on offer in the 16th century.

*The other areas are more adult-focussed but with huge historical value such as the Great Hall completed for King James IV in 1503.

Stirling Castle

In conclusion

This is a large, sprawling castle where children can really explore and embrace their imagination. 

Top tips

*There is an explorer quiz available for children to take round, which can keep them occupied even in the more adult-orientated areas

*There is a children’s tour every Saturday at 2pm for youngsters aged five to 12.

The view from Stirling Castle

The view from Stirling Castle

*Watch little ones closely around the castle walls, they are well signposted and fun to explore but there are some steep drops.

Stirling Castle information

Food: The Unicorn Cafe has a range of snacks and hot food with children’s portions. Children’s pick and mix boxes are also available. There is a lovely garden next door to eat outside.

Opening hours: 9.30am to 5pm in winter, 9.30am to 6pm in summer.

Cost: Adult £15, child (five to 15) £9, Under-fives free. Historic Scotland and English Heritage members free.

Best for: Ages four to 10

Time needed: Two to three hours

Access and restrictions: Free admission for carers, mobility vehicles available on site. Some areas not suitable for wheelchairs. The Access Gallery near the entrance allows those with mobility problems to discover the inaccessible parts of the castle.

Address: Castle Esplanade, Stirling FK8 1EJ

Have fun if you are visiting and let us know what you thought!

Four holiday in Dorset: Following in the footsteps of the Famous Five

Four holiday in Dorset: Following in the footsteps of the Famous Five

We spend a day exploring the spiritual home of the Famous Five in Enid Blyton’s beloved Dorset

“Dick,” shout my children, calling to their dad as we climb the hill to ‘Kirrin Castle’.

“DIIIIICK, come here!”

I fare best when our children ask us to pretend we are the Famous Five for I get to be feisty cousin George (Georgina).

My son is Julian, my daughter, Anne and Timmy is our imaginary dog.

Today’s game feels far more real, as we are playing at the very locations in Dorset which inspired the Famous Five stories.

I devoured Enid Blyton as a child. Night after night I’d stay awake until all hours reading book after book, series after series.

So, it’s been magical to revisit childhood favourites with my own children from The Magic Faraway Tree through to the Adventures series.

The Famous Five stories may be old fashioned with some outdated ideas (I take the opportunity to explain this as I read). But with more than 100 million copies sold they remain as popular today.

The daring children have remarkably grown-up free adventures, finding treasure and smugglers and, it strikes me these days, never needing the toilet!

All amidst a rural backdrop of blue skies, sea and countryside, bicycle rides and lots of deliciously described picnics.

Today we are exploring the Dorset Enid Blyton loved and visited with her family for over 40 years, on the Isle of Purbeck, (which is more a peninsula than an isle).

The first three Famous Five Books

Kirrin Castle

The first Famous Five book, Five on a Treasure Island, was published over 75 years ago, in 1942.

In it, we are introduced to Kirrin Castle, on Kirrin Island, which belongs to George, near her home in Kirrin Bay.

“It had been built of big white stones. Broken archways, tumbledown towers, ruined walls – that was all that was left of a once beautiful castle, proud and strong.”

The inspiration for Kirrin Castle is said to have been Corfe Castle in Purbeck, so this becomes our first stop.

It is not on an island but our children are thrilled as we near the fabulous ruins which loom over the surrounding area.

Corfe Castle, the inspiration for Kirrin Castle

Corfe Castle, the inspiration for Kirrin Castle

They race up the grassy slope to explore the 1,000-year-old castle, which survived the English Civil War when it was partly demolished by Cromwell’s troops and now belongs to the National Trust.

We explore all the hidden nooks and crannies and remember the adventures the Five had here, such as finding lost gold.

Even without the Blyton connection, we would have had a great time.

(Tip: If it is a school holiday get there early as parking in the small village of Corfe can be difficult. The small car park opposite the castle fills up quickly and the other option through the narrow village is a five to 10 minute walk away and was almost full when we visited).

Steam train

Enid Blyton first saw Corfe Castle when she arrived by steam train.

The steam train at Corfe Castle

The steam train at Corfe

And this is something you can still do today – Swanage Railway runs steam trains between Swanage and Norden. There is a picturesque stop at Corfe Castle so you could arrive or depart from here on your Famous Five adventure.

Of course, the Famous Five often travelled by steam train – particularly to return from their boarding schools ready for the holidays and more adventures.

Bathing – Swanage Pier

Next stop is the pretty seaside town of Swanage where Enid Blyton enjoyed swimming around the pier with her husband.

It was too cold for a swim when we went but we enjoyed a picnic, sadly no hard-boiled eggs, lashings of ginger beer or lemonade for us though.

Swanage

Swanage

On quiet days – if you are in the car – you can park on the seafront, alternatively there are large car parks a short walk from the beach.

Island adventure

Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbour, is said to have been the inspiration for Whispering Island, described by Enid Blyton as Keep Away Island in Five Have a Mystery to Solve.

In Enid Blyton’s day, visitors were not allowed – but now it’s owned by the National Trust.

The ferry to Brownsea island

The ferry to Brownsea island

We caught a ferry over from Sandbanks to explore. Brownsea Island Ferries run regular services from Sandbanks and from Poole Quay to the island. Greenslade Pleasure Boats also run a ferry service from Poole. Departures are about every 30 minutes with the last boat leaving at 5pm.

Once you have landed on the island there is lots to explore, the wildlife there includes rare red squirrels and we were lucky enough to spot three.

A red squirrel we spotted on Brownsea Island

A red squirrel we spotted on Brownsea Island

There are also clifftop walks, which lead down to rocky beaches. If you explore the far end of the island you can see where the first Scout camp was held by Baden-Powell in 1907.

Exploring Brownsea Island

Exploring Brownsea Island

A trip to an island, always led to an adventure for the Famous Five and we wished we had longer here. But our only adventure was nearly missing the last boat back!

In conclusion

This is a fabulous way for Enid Blyton fans to spend their ‘hols’ with lashings of fun.

You can base yourself in the Isle of Purbeck but it is only a 25-minute drive to family-friendly Bournemouth which has more accommodation and activities for children if you want to make your Famous Five day into a mini-break in Dorset.

We review Chateau Rhianfa castle accommodation in Anglesey, Wales

We review Chateau Rhianfa castle accommodation in Anglesey, Wales

It’s not often you get to stay in a castle – let alone one that has featured in ITV’s Cold Feet

Name

Chateau Rhianfa.

Where is it?

It is in the Menai Bridge area just into Anglesey rising above the waters of the Menai Straits in its own large grounds.

What is it?

A castle built like a French chateau with 30 rooms and three self-catering lodges on site.

Is it family friendly?

Fairly, it is an historic house with some quiet areas for couples plus dinner is a very formal affair. But having said that the hotel does welcome families, giving them the option of self-catering lodges or hotel rooms. The staff are friendly and the outside space is great to run around and explore.

The rooms

You have two options and we sampled both:

Our hotel bedroom had a large double bed and sofa-bed. The furnishings were top notch and the bathroom had luxury toiletries and a powerful shower. It was fun negotiating the winding staircase up to our room and the old fashioned lift as well.

Inside a hotel room at Chateau Rhianfa

A hotel room

If you prefer self catering, there are several options of varying sizes. We stayed in the Gate Lodge, which used to be home to the attendants who worked for the Chateau owners.

The two-storey cottage had great views across the Menai Straits, plenty of space and a well-equipped kitchen. You get full use of the facilities but no food is included.

Gate Lodge self-catering cottage at Chateau Rhianfa in Anglesey

Gate Lodge

Food and drink

Breakfast was tasty and filling in a large, wood-panelled dining room. The evening meal was spectacular, with lobster pasta a hit with our four-year-old.

I enjoyed the best cooked steak I have ever had. It is a formal, romantic setting so I would definitely eat as early as possible with a family to avoid feeling uncomfortable – but don’t miss out because of that as the food is great.

Nearby

The location provides easy driving to Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey Sea Zoo and the popular beaches in every direction. It is a long walk to the nearest shops and restaurants off site.

Our highlights

*Real history. How often can you say you’ve stayed at a castle? Chateau Rhianfa was built in the French renaissance style in the mid-1800s. Just going through the huge main door to reception feels like an adventure.

The lounge area at Chateau Rhianfa

Inside Chateau Rhianfa

*The gardens. The beautifully kept gardens are great for exploring, there are steep bits so keep an eye on small children.

*Its own beach. Okay, that may be slightly exaggerating as there isn’t a lot of sand but when the tide is out on the Menai Strait, the hotel has its own stretch of mainly rocky beach to use. Think more rock pooling than lying on a lounger but it will keep children occupied for an hour or so.

*The wine bar. The best part about stopping here is exploring all the nooks and crannies inside and outside. There are lots of turret windows to grab a table and a view at, we found a wonderful secret bar called the Wine Cave complete with peep hole for a quick family drink. The children loved the historic feel of the bar.

Claim to fame

Fans of ITV’s Cold Feet will recognise this venue as it featured in an episode for the wedding of Spanish nanny Ramona in 2019.

Address

Chateau Rhianfa, Beaumaris Rd, Menai Bridge LL59 5NS

For more information and rates visit the Chateau Rhianfa website.

RELATED CONTENT: We take our children on a fairy tale family holiday staying at a castle in Anglesey, Wales

Gate Lodge has amazing views

Gate Lodge has amazing views

(We stayed as guests of Chateau Rhianfa for this review, all views are our own).

We take our children on a fairy tale family holiday staying at a castle in Anglesey, Wales

We take our children on a fairy tale family holiday staying at a castle in Anglesey, Wales

We review Chateau Rhianfa in Anglesey and explore the surrounding area, beaches and attractions with our young children

It is not every day you wake up in a castle.

And the spectacular sight from our ridiculously comfortable bed through a large picture window means getting up is not appealing.

We are in Anglesey and our view takes in the waters of the Menai Strait, framed by majestic Snowdonia.

Other families we know holiday in Anglesey yet we had never been so we had decided to visit the beautiful island off north Wales for a half-term break.

Chateau Rhianfa

Chateau Rhianfa is more decadent than your average venue with its grand decor and tiered gardens sweeping down to the water (click here for our full review of Chateau Rhianfa).

Fans of ITV’s Cold Feet will recognise it as it recently featured in an episode for the wedding of Spanish nanny Ramona.

It was built in the mid-1800s in the style of a French Renaissance chateau as an aristocratic country retreat.

This fairy tale venue is impressive from the outside and fascinating on the inside.

The lounge area at Chateau Rhianfa

Inside Chateau Rhianfa

Our children loved exploring the grand drawing and music rooms and were excited to discover cosy cubby holes in turrets.

And we were all happy to find an atmospheric wine cave among the rabbit warren of spaces.

The hotel rooms and suites are lavishly finished.

Inside a hotel room at Chateau Rhianfa

A hotel room

The Gate Lodge

Or you can stay in equally beautiful self-catering accommodation in the grounds.

We were in the Gate Lodge, a two-storey cottage with arched entrance and miniature turrets, where attendants of visitors to the chateau would once have stayed.

It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/diner and lounge area.

The exterior of the Gate Lodge self-catering accommodation

The Gate Lodge self-catering accommodation

With the space and the large grounds to enjoy, I could have stayed there all day. But there was an island to explore and two children eager to get going.

Surrounding area

We were spoilt for choice for beaches and our favourite was Newborough, a wide sweeping bay backed by sand dunes and woodland walks.

We also liked Lligwys Beach near Moelfre – quiet and good for rockpooling – and the more rugged and windy Rhosneigr which was home to kitesurfers and kayakers.

Our daughter never tired of throwing stones into the water and our son loved hunting for crabs among the rock pools and paddling in the sea.

And we discovered exactly how crashing waves worked through clever replications at Anglesey Sea Zoo.

Everything in this aquarium is found around the British coast, and we found out plenty thanks to the friendly staff as they fed the fish and lobsters.

You can enjoy a feed too at the well-priced cafe and outside there’s a playground, bouncy slide, crazy golf and more.

Food

Back at our castle, trying the food is a must as it has previously won Hotel Restaurant of the Year (Welsh Food Awards).

We had a delicious breakfast on our last morning and also risked our young children in the quiet and refined dining room for an evening meal.

Thankfully they behaved. Or at least, nobody was looking when they didn’t.

It was a small, thoughtfully put together menu. There were no separate options for children. But the chefs were happy to adapt one of the dishes to suit them. And my steak was the best I have ever tasted.

The food lived up to expectations, as did the venue, as did Anglesey itself.

We are one more family won over by its charms.

Chateau Rhianfa on the Menai Strait

Chateau Rhianfa on the Menai Strait

Have you been to Anglesey? Where do you recommend for children?

RELATED CONTENT: We review Chateau Rhianfa castle accommodation in Anglesey, Wales

(We stayed as guests of Chateau Rhianfa. All views are our own).