After the obligatory visit to Disneyland Paris, the kids, four and six years old, were even more excited to visit Sleeping Beauty's real castle. This beautiful castle inspired the story of Sleeping Beauty, and you can imagine how the dark forest behind it might suddenly engulf it. There are a series of rooms displaying various scenes from the story, using mannequins dressed in beautiful historical costumes. A gruesome collection of arms also adds to the experience.
Wonderful family place with plenty of safe beaches, few hotels and no big apartment blocks but great restaurants. Beautiful villas to rent.
Perfect picturesque place.
Between Alicante and Valencia, each about one hour away.
A European style cafe/bar, Tragos is a great place for a rainy day with children. It has a plentiful supply of board games, a community book swap, a children's menu, and child sized 'babycinos' (warm milk with marshmallows and dusted with chocolate) which our children love. Added to that, for parents there are newspapers, good coffee and tea (or alcohol) and very reasonably priced food which is excellent. It is full of character, so feels independent, but is actually part of a chain, mostly located in the Southwest of the UK. Check their website to see if there is one near you. I recommend their brunches, served all day, especially the "lounge eggs" - absolutely delicious.
An Aladdin’s Cave of 20th Century memorabilia, housed in the atmospheric old market building. Starting with the Victorian and Edwardians, visitors progress through the war years, to the 1970's, via a total of 32 displays. Every aspect of life is represented: toys, clothes, food, furnishings, music, cosmetics, cigarettes, haberdashery, transport and more. For adults it’s a nostalgiafest; for children a fascinating immersion in the stuff of the past. My 11-year-old daughter was engrossed by the Wartime exhibits; her eight-year-old friend preferred the sweets and chocolates of yesteryear. Be prepared to answer questions though: “Did you really wear clothes like that in the Sixties dad?” Er, yes I did.
On a weekend head to the Winking Prawn cafe on North Sands, Salcombe. It's right on the beach with great views rain or shine and a fantastic big breakfast buffet - served from 8.45 am for the early birds. We usually scrape in at 10.30 so it can be more like brunch ... There's even the chance to read the paper as the kids can busy themselves with the wonderful wacky selection in the dressing up box. Nicely full then head onto the sands for a game of footie, rockpooling, chasing waves, digging in the sand or whatever takes your fancy till you're too cold too cope. Next head to Overbecks National Trust property just up the hill. It's a remarkable and intriguing little Edwardian gem with enough for the kids to love too. Unfortunately the house is not open in the winter but the warm and yummy tea room is and after warming up there it's well worth exploring the exotic garden (it looks so tropical its almost enough to convince yourself it's not winter), with its hidden paths and many levels, stunning views across the estuary and even giant Jenga to play on the lawn.
Wrap up warm and hop on the Keswick Launch that chugs around Derwentwater, in the heart of the western Lake District. It sets off from a pretty bay near Keswick’s theatre by the lake. There are plenty of jetties to run along and ducks to feed should you be early.
People can hop on and off the boat as they please. Cat Bells (home to Mrs Tiggy Winkle) is the fell on your right as you head towards the first stop, Ashness Gate, from where you can walk up to the much-photographed Ashness Bridge. But children may be less excited about an old stone bridge so best to stay onboard until Lodore, from where you can climb up through the woods to the impressive Lodore Falls.
Our favourite route involves staying put until High Brandelhow. From here we walk a few miles along the lakeside path which takes us through old woodland, across fields, over stiles and bridges to Nichol End. Kids can race ahead, hide in hollowed-out trees, explore the woods, hang off jetties, splash in the lake and check out the huge wooden hand. Dogs (which are welcome on the boat) will have a ball too.
At Nichol End Marina there is a fantastic little café on the lake shore. Great home-made soup and saucer-sized scones await you. After lunch the kids can play on the shore (more jetties and ducks) while parents enjoy a coffee.
The boat stops here before heading back to Keswick. For those with a bit more left in their legs, there is a pleasant walk through the village of Portinscale before joining a footpath which delivers you back to Keswick.
We have recently returned from spending a week at Bjørn Klauer's Husky farm, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Bjørn and his wife Regina were incredibly generous and welcoming, the farm's facilities are fantastic and the adventures on offer were brilliant. The farm is set in true Norwegian wilderness, and with husky sledding, cross-country skiing and mountain walking, it offers a true Norwegian experience. For the adventurous, there are husky sled tours, or alternatively you can stay in the onsite lodge (complete with log fire and sauna.) There is also plenty to do for children on a family holiday.The husky dogs are unforgettable characters and a real treat to be around and work with, while the hosts Regina and Bjørn were so welcoming. We were transferred to and from the airport, they made sure we had everything we needed and really helped us to enjoy the wilderness. This truly is a hidden gem and offers an unforgettable experience.
Challenge yourself and your kids by taking a thrilling walk over a 30-metre deep chasm on the 20 metre Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge . Erected by salmon fishermen, it is now run by the National Trust. £13.70 in the winter months buys a family of all ages a thrilling experience, a sense of achievement and some breath-taking and spectacular views.
Reward yourselves afterward with tea at nearby Coast restaurant, Portrush. A brilliant family eatery, with long refectory tables and a menu to suit both fussy eaters and gourmet diners at fantastic prices.
119a Whitepark Road, Ballintoy, County Antrim BT54 6LS
+44(0)28 2076 983
Google map: bit.ly/gyKaT7
Harbour Road, Portrush BT56 8DF, Northern Ireland
+44 (0) 28 7082 3311
Google map: bit.ly/eXOBgZ
Excellent 'living museum' with streets as they were in the height of the industrial Victorian era. A must see for canal boat fans - has many historic narrowboats moored in the basin here - including an old 'steamer' - 'President'
A great family day out - don't miss the trip into the limestone caverns by electric boat at the rear - unique experience - including chance for the kids to 'leg' the boat through a tunnel.
An array of thermal pools set among lawned gardens. Some of the pools are in natural rock form and range in temperature from warm to extremely hot and sulphuric. The effect is instant relaxation. Also in the complex are several large free form swimming pools catering for all ages from fun themed with flumes for children to graduated depths for stronger swimmers. All pools are heated via natural springs and are useable even in snow. There is a glass fronted cafe serving wonderfully healthy food all reasonably priced. There is a backdrop of mountains and a wild west feel to the small town where you will find a range of cheap (such as hostel) to luxury accommodation. This was my favourite place in New Zealand and an ideal way to recouperate after many days on the road.
From ‘farm to fork’ may be expecting a bit much for a city farm but with responsibly sourced, lovingly cooked food and a farmhouse setting - breakfast at Hackney City Farm is not just about the grub. We love coming with friends, to enjoy a top quality full English, though it's great for families too. The animals (and the farmyard smell) make you feel one step closer to the countryside which beats any greasy spoon I know! On a Saturday follow breakfast with a visit to Broadway Market or on Sunday, Columbia Road Flower Market is always colourful.
Set beside the River Alde, Snape Maltings is so picturesque and lots of shops and things to do for the whole family. This weekend they have the Christmas Farmers market with lots of Suffolk producers and they often hand out free mulled-cider. My most favourite thing is when Father Christmas arrives on the barge that sails up the river with carol singers, bell ringers and real reindeer standing by the quay. Can't wait to take my little one this weekend to enjoy it and see his face light up.
It is a beautiful Christmas market full of great gifts. It also has an outdoor ice rink and food stalls so you really feel like you have entered into the Christmas spirit right next to the beautiful Winchester Cathedral.
1 The Close, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9LS
Google map: bit.ly/dI0e8I
Some wild reindeer make herds of up to 20,000 animals. Pop along to the Natural History Museum at Tring between 27-31 December to paint a reindeer or two to add to their Arctic mural. Will they manage to create a huge herd? It's a free activity for all ages, and you can get there by train easily - or there's a free car park. You can walk from the museum up to one of the highest points in the Chilterns - Ivinghoe Beacon - for spectacular panoramic views. Perfect to burn off the Christmas pud!
A Christmas themed market with stalls selling all sorts of Christmas goods. There is also a wide range of food and drink available, from all the countries of the globe. Also, the Dairy Milk hot chocolate stall is not to be missed. Complete the festive experience by going ice skating - it's cheap and the most festive fun i've had in ages.
Every year on the days leading up to Christmas, Northern Sinfonia play the soundtrack to Raymond Briggs' The Snowman while the movie plays on the big screen. They usually have a local child sing the walking in the air solo and at this point there isn't a dry eye in the house among the adults! They also do an introduction to the orchestra and the different types of instruments before the movie starts. Our children love it and we go every year. It is a magical start to Christmas!
Outdoor ice skating rink at the Tower of London. The setting is fabulous and atmospheric with the Tower looming above. Go on Christmas Eve when the rink is flood lit for a particularly exhilarating experience.
Dickensian Evening marks the beginning of Tavistock's festive season. The tantalising smell of mulled wine and mince pies lingers around the town centre. Christmas lights are switched on, children sing carols, and dance groups and jugglers perform in the streets. Late night shopping is done in an historical atmosphere as stalls line the streets and shopkeepers dress up in Victorian costumes. Dickensian Evening is bound to cure any Scrooge from his "Bah, humbug!" attitude!
For a truly authentic and atmospheric Christmas experience I am taking my family again to Butser Iron-Age farm nestling in the South Downs.
There they celebrate the generosity of an ancient winter festival with one of England's best known story-tellers in the Great Roundhouse and we make something beautiful from the hedgerows and animals on the farm to take home.
Munching pies and sipping mulled wine gazing into the fire in this stunning building takes me back to a distant and sustainable past that still holds magic for a hopeful future. The tales told are ageless and the children truly awed.
Great value for money and a relief from all the plastic and tinsel in the grottier grottoes!
The Rushby family went Viking Biking in Denmark, but didn’t meet the Vikings.
But just 35 km south of Esbjerg (DFDS ferry from Harwich) you find a Viking Museum as well as a Viking Centre in Ribe, Denmark’s oldest town. At the Viking Museum your daughter Maddy can crawl into a Viking ship and visit the children exhibition: "Kristine and Rolf" - two medieval children” to play medieval games, put on medieval cloth and armour, etc. At the Viking Centre Maddy can wander round the reconstructed life-size Viking estate, work and talk with the Vikings. She can grind her own flour and bake her own Viking bread, watch the falconer fly his prey birds – and if she is not afraid she can train to be a Viking warrior or try her hand at archery.
Where to stay.
To make your green holiday even greener you can stay at the family friendly Eco Awarded Danhostel Ribe in the centre of Ribe and with an extraordinary view of Medieval Ribe and the Wadden Sea National Park. The hostel is also awarded a cycle friendly accommodation and has received the official Danish Cycle-label “Cycling Denmark” . If you don’t want to bring your own bikes you can rent bikes at the hostel both for adults and children – also the kind of bike Maddy used the last time you were in Denmark. All the hostel's rooms have private facilities.
By the way Legoland is only 60 km from Ribe.
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