A wonderful literary and arts festival from July 21-23 in the blissful grounds of Port Eliot House, a stately home just over the Devon/Cornwall border. Starting next weekend, it's got two areas dedicated to children with storytelling and activities for younger children and a special area for teenagers with slam poetry and VJ workshops (whatever they may be).
I went last year with my kids and they loved it, and I loved it because it felt wonderfully safe and they could have a good run around in between laughing their socks off and being vaguely educated!
We camped in the grounds, lots of space and lots of other kids around. Personally I'm looking forward to seeing Hanif Kureishi and Martin Parr, but that all depends if I can extract the kids from the kids area for long enough!
Great organic breakfasts and lots of Cornish treats. If I could I would've tried out the massage teepee, but well, that never happens does it?
St Germans, Saltash, Cornwall
Nearest station: Liskeard or St Germans (change at Plymouth)
Get the bus out along Geary Blvd to The Cliff House - which is reputably fantastic if you are not on a budget ;-) we ate at the diner just up the hill for a tenth of the price. But the views from the Cliff House over Ocean Beach on the Pacific are pretty special. Then head down to the old Sutro Baths to check out where the San Franners used to come for their r n' r.
A classic Greek portal opened to a massive glass enclosure containing seven swimming pools of various temperatures. There were slides, trapezes, springboards and a high dive. Together the pools held 1.7 million gallons of water and could be filled in one hour by high tides. There were 20,000 bathing suits and 40,000 towels for rent.
Balmy temperatures and abundant plants enhanced "California’s Tropical Winter Garden." The Baths could accommodate 10,000 people at one time. Now all that remains are the ruins.
From here you can head through the little tunnel down by the baths and up the hill to the trail which leads along the coast all the way around to Chinia Beach via an increasingly impressive panorama of the GG.
Surfers take on the Pacific swells just below you at the base of the cliffs. You re-enter civilisation at China Beach and could probably walk up to the Palace of the Legion of Honor about half way around if you had time.
Walk through China Beach past the millionaires row of ab fab homes and if you still feel spritely, you can continue along the coast path to the GG or if not, grab a bus on Lincoln Blvd into the city - a lovely untouristy gem of a walk that is pretty easy to reach via public transport and not too strenuous (I did it with a 1yr old on my back!)
This new attraction located within the D-Wing of the former prison, is a fantastic introduction to the history of Oxford - (the city not the University) - and the stories of some of the Prison's former inmates.
As you walk through the tiny cells and atmospheric prison corridors, you hear all about the real people and events from the site’s turbulent past: the first Oxford teachings, the owners, visionaries, activists and inmates.
People like Marshall William Smith, the King’s prison keeper, who in the 1600s made Oxford Prison as feared and as notorious as Colditz; Mary Blandy a convicted murderess, who became an 18th-century celebrity; Jack Ketch, the public executioner and the man on which the Punch & Judy hangman character was modelled; and Anne Green, who survived her own hanging and narrowly escaped being anatomised by an Oxford medical student in 1650!
After your tour of the Prison there is the chance to climb the 101 narrow steps of the Saxon St George's Tower and enjoy the spectacular 360 degree panoramic views of the Oxford skyline.
Oxford Castle, (off New Road), Oxford, OX1 1AY
T: 01865 260666
The morning after our arrival we received instruction in harnessing, driving and caring for our horse. Our instructor accompanied us, first in their own grounds, and later on the open road, before letting us off on our own to explore the quiet roads of Mayo. But, the company was always within easy reach if we needed them! Traffic generally takes great care and slows down to a crawl as much out of curiosity as courtesy.
The caravan had sleeping accommodation for 4 persons, and a breakfast cooker, electric kettle, sink, kitchen equipment and seating to allow holiday meals to be prepared and served in the caravan.
We travelled about 10miles (3 hours) each day and stopped overnight at selected farm sites where we were welcomed and made to feel at home. Overnight stops cost around 16 euro, electricity hook up about 2 euro. At a minimum, they provide parking for the caravan, grass for the horse, waste disposal, electric hook-ups, toilets and hot showers. However they sometimes provide much more, including packed-lunches, cooked meals, picnic tables, barbeques, farm produce and sometimes transport to local visitor attractions.
Golden Gate Park – you could literally spend days there. A good idea is walking from the Eastern to the Western end, stopping off on the way to check out a few highlights, like the flower conservatory, Japanese Tea Garden (as featured in Memoirs of a Geisha) and the De Young museum. Your reward at the end: the waves of the Pacific and the Beach Chalet, a restaurant/brewery where, if you time it right, you can have dinner with lovely sunset views over the ocean.
Cable cars are handy but also a lot of fun, so jump on even if you’re not going anywhere in particular. Although the queues at Powell St turnaround can be off-putting, they move quite quickly - if you try to get on at the next stop often the cars come already full.
The Ferry Building farmers market must be the best way to spend a Saturday morning in San Francisco. The produce looks and tastes amazing and there are plenty of try-before-you-buy opportunities – and you will buy! Sit at the outdoor tables to consume your purchases while you listen to live music and admire the Bay Bridge.
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111;
tel: (415) 693-0996;
Although most of Pier 39 is pretty horrendous and full of tourists guzzling chowder that looks like chunder out of 'bowls' made from hollowed out giant bread rolls, the sea lions are definately worth a look if you're passing. You actually get really close and can easily pass a pleasant half hour watching them lazing out in the sun on their floating platforms and generally having a good time.
From the moment you set eyes on the giant smuggler standing boldly astride the entrance you know you are in for a jolly good time. Situated on the crumbly south coast of the Isle of Wight, Blackgang Chine has been amusing families for generations with its eccentric mix of fibreglass models, themed areas and good clean family fun.
Get a taste of the Wild West in Frontierland, sit astride a stegosaurus or get lost in the maze on your way to Nursery Rhyme Land. Hilarious photo opportunities ensue, but if that sounds a bit too tame for the youth of today, there is also a rollercoaster and watersplash ride to provide a bit of adrenalin.
Blackgang Chine, Nr Ventnor, Isle of Wight
Open Monday 27th March to Sunday 29th October - Daily from 10 a.m.
Amazing labyrinth of connected follies and underground passages dreamed up by a retired diplomat who owns the local moorland estate. It's just frightening enough for older pre-teens and the little ones will be OK if you hold their hand tightly. Teenagers will be thrilled with the weird break from wholesome walking, checking out ruined abbeys etc. The surrounding countryside is stunning.
Yorskshire dales, not too far from Ripon.
Brilliant for kids and it'll be even better in two weeks' time when the new 'Experience TV' opens. Old favourites like the chance to read the news in a simulated studio or travel on a flying carpet while watching yourself on TV are back - but the carpet's a hoverboard and the sets include Walking With Dinosuars.
Round the day off with a curry.
Toddlers love the farm animals, older kids run themselves ragged on the adventure playgrounds - either way, this place is a sanctuary when they're bored with the beach or when it's bucketing it down outside. And then there's the tunnel itself - a 1/2 mile-long trek in the pitch black along a disused railway tunnel that's genuinely unnerving ...
Kingsbridge, Devon (17 miles from Torquay);
tel: 01548 854078;
Four tunnels carved through the cliffs lead to a secluded beach and tidal pool. Very safe for children and bliss for adults over the crowded summer. Snacks available from the cafe so you can make a whole day of it.
Open all year. July and August, 9am-7pm; the rest of year, 10am-5pm or 6pm;
Entrance fee: £1.75 for adults and £1.25 for children.
Brilliant fun, which I never thought I'd say about a museum visit. Sleeping with mummies - of the Egyptian variety - is a much easier way to sell the kids on a trip to the museum, too, and when the lights go off and the torches come out everyone turned into a mini Indiana Jones. Dressing up — tabards in our case as it was medieval theme — and lots of activities made it a really memorable outing. But remember to take a good roll-out mattress.
tel: 0207 323 8195; www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk;
The next sleepover is a Bengal theme on Sept 16-17, 2006;
Cost: £27.50, but you have to be a Young Friend of the Museum (membership £20) or a full member to book.
Just reopened after a great job of renovation. There is plenty to see for children of any age and the layout allows a space where younger children can run around while browsing. The park is large and on the other side of Argyle Steet there are a couple of pubs that serve reasonable food at midday. My kids - aged 6 and 9 - loved it. Taking the Glasgow underground (if you never have) is an event in itself. Across the road is the Transport Museum which is also a good free visit, and the ice cream van outside is a must.
Kelvingrover Art Gallery and Museum: Argyll Street, Glasgow;
tel: 0141 276 9515;
Museum of Transport: 1 Bunhouse St, Glasgow;
tel: 0141 287 2720;
Directions: Get off at Kelvingrove underground after Partick train station or direct from Buchanan St underground
Extremely friendly, affordable and unpretentious — but smart — family hotel in the Cotswolds. Selection of toys and essentials laid on for for the kids, excellent locally-sourced food for the grown-ups - and baby monitors so that parents can enjoy it without feeling guilty.
The Priory Inn, Tetbury, Gloucestershire (10 miles from Cirencester);
tel: 01666 502 251;
Not the prettiest part of Dorset's Jurassic coastline, but you're not here for the photo album; you want dinosaurs. You'll find tips on fossil collecting at the Heritage Coast Centre next to the beach: there's a short film on what to look for, or ask one of the wardens what to do. Alternatively, there are regular guided walks. Best check for tides before you go and rest assured: you WILL find fossils.
tel: 01297 560772; www.charmouth.org
Corfe Castle is a story-book medieval ruin, set on a hillock above a village on Dorset's Isle of Purbeck - not, in fact, an island, but a peninsular. You could easily spend a couple of hours in the castle and its surroundings, but if the children have enough energy afterwards, you could combine it with a walk over Ballard Down to Swanage (about 5 miles, so take snacks to keep them going). While you wouldn't describe this seaside town as sleepy - chip shops on every corner - there's still something wonderfully old-fashioned about the place, epitomised by the steam railway, which runs up and down the coast, and will get you back to Corfe Castle in about 15 minutes.
I took my then 2 year old daughter to Fruitstock (the Innocent Smoothie festival) last year and it's one of the best things we did last summer. We just took a picnic and met up with a bunch of friends (none of them had children with them) and there was plenty to do for adults and children alike. There was a wonderful play area for toddlers and lots of other activities. I expect it'll be even better this year now that she is three.
This year is is on 5&6 August in Regents Park, London.
I'm just a previous attendee, with nothing to gain from publicising this other than sharing the fun!
Step back in time to 1645 - this manor house dating from Tudor times is staffed by the 'servants' of Colonel Prichard. They dress, speak and behave in period and in character and manage to convey a wealth of information in an engaging and entertaining way. Their enthusiasm and professionalism are quite remarkable. Questions are encouraged and it never feels remotely 'educational'. No two visits are the same, and there are special events and displays through the summer.
Head North from Cardiff on the A470 for about 15 miles, then follow the brown signs from the roundabout. Also near the Welsh National Rock Climbing Centre
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