The Horniman Museum is a genuine secret gem in south east London. It takes an effort to find but it is SO worth it.
It's a free museum, packed with all kinds of interesting collections: from anthropology to musical history to all kinds of natural treasures.
There's even an aquarium, and a lovely park to have picnics in, weather permitting.
Take a trip to the depths of non-tube-land south east London and discover a fascinating world.
100 London Rd, Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ
Open daily 10.30-17.30pm (except 24-26 Dec)
Entrance to the museum & gardens is free, but there is a charge for the aquarium
Getting there: buses 176, 185, 197, 356, P4 stop outside the museum on London Road
Forest Hill London Overground station is a five-minute walk away.
Google map: bit.ly/Z7bh4d
* Lucy is our Been there local for London. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/london-local-lucy-mallows.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/LucyRM.jsp
Dust off those GCSE French skills to make the most of the Gîtes de France website. There is an English version but it does not include the Offres Spéciales section, which has some great deals on specific properties and seasonal or themed offers from time to time. Plus there are 4,000 more gîtes to choose from on the French site.
On the edge of the French Pyrenees stand four well equipped tipis sleeping four to six people in peaceful surroundings with breathtaking views of the Cirque de Garvarnie. There are many reasons why this might be your best holiday ever; spectacular walks at your fingertips, singsongs round the campfire while pet goats freely roam around you and you really don't have to dig too deep in your pockets for it all.
In April I travelled to Belize with my four year-old son. We drove north and on the outskirts of Sarteneja is Shipstern Nature Reserve where we spent two nights staying in the guesthouse that the reserve built in 2012. The guesthouse is clean and comfortable, the food is great and most importantly it is right next to the forest. Morning bird walks can be conducted straight from the guesthouse front door and the observation tower, that gives views from above the tree canopy, is 50 metres away. Tourism revenue helps finance the reserve and also the co-management of other protected areas in Belize that Shipstern are work in. The relative isolation of Sarteneja limits the numbers of tourists to Shipstern Nature Reserve, a shame for the reserve and also for tourists missing out on a great wildlife experience. The wonderful team of rangers and guides led by Heron Moreno, offer an array of interesting walks and tours and some exciting trips such as the night tour of the lagoon, spotting Morelet’s crocodiles by lamplight from a canoe and climbing into bat caves as the winged mammals zipped past our heads. Both father and son were enthralled.
One of the projects that the team at Shipstern are focussing on is the planting of tree species that are affected by illegal logging. The reserve has a nursery for mahogany and they plant within the reserve and at schools to raise awareness of the issue. My son had the opportunity to plant one of the saplings and a plaque now announces his contribution to the reforestation.
This is a great campsite for families, couples and friends on a budget. On the confluence of the Dordogne and the Vézère, it's wonderful for swimming, relaxing and you might even catch a fish if you're really lucky! As far as I remember, you're allowed to BBQ, but there is also a great restrant on site. If you're willing to walk a VERY short ou can always distance across the bridges then you'll find a wide variety of excellent traditional French restaurants and a few bars. My parents made sure it was always one stop on our road trips through France and I hope I can do the same with my children.
F-24480 Alles/Dordogne, France
+33 (0)553 632 976
Google map: bit.ly/15k1BWL
Marari beach lies between the Alleppey backwaters and the cultural hub of Cochin in Kerala. It is just 1 ½ hours drive from Cochin Airport and within a few hours’ drive of all major tourist destinations in central Kerala. BUT it is totally deserted and incredibly remarkable with the string of tranquil fishing villages dotted along the coast each having a unique character. Only the local fishermen, their traditional colourful wooden boats and the abundant wildlife share the beach, so you are virtually alone to enjoy the endless white sand, the vibrant green coconut palms, the cool sea breeze and the azure ocean.
There are only a few accommodation options and my husband, 1.5 year old daughter and myself stayed in the Palm Villa - one of the villas at Marari Villas resort. The villa is right on the beach which is very rare, it is beautifully decorated with traditional Indian furniture and the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. We were surrounded with 24-hour care and immediate response to all our "needs and wants". Privately cooked and serviced food on the open terrace was delicious and it was so relaxing to soak up the sun on the loungers in the sandy garden and cool off with a swim in the warm sea.
Marari beach and Marari Villas became my personal stunning discovery. Next time I come to India I will only go to this place.
Take a train or drive the hour or so west of Florence to the beautiful compact city of Lucca. It is virtually car free so perfect for wandering! Climb the Torre Guinigi which has oak trees growing at the top. Hire bikes from piazza Santa Maria del Borgo and join the popular afternoon Lucchesi 'passegiata' around the city's wide ramparts, enjoying views of the botanic gardens and plenty of private gardens too as you cycle around. Enjoy a rich hot chocolate in the Piazza dell' Anfiteatro. The cool narrow streets surrounding the central piazzas of Lucca have a wealth of individual shops selling fashion, food and ice cream, many of them seemingly unchanged over the centuries.
If the fancy takes you make a detour on the way back to the 'Parco di Pinocchio' in Collodi which is an eccentric but somehow endearing homage to the wooden puppet and its author, with garden sculptures of the key characters in the story.
In Castle Hedingham, Essex not only can you explore this magnificent Castle, you can walk around the beautiful grounds filled with daffodils and bluebells in spring time. There are lots of events that take place here, from jousting tournaments to wedding fairs. A short walk away brings you to the village pub 'The Bell.' This family pub serves hearty, excellent value meals and stocks local ale and ciders. If the pub isn't your thing there is a lovely tea rooms opposite serving up light lunches and home-made cakes.
Stroll or cycle the traffic free paths of this gently rolling 22km coastal stretch between Pembrey Country Park and the National Wetland Centre, Wales. Transformed from its industrial past, Llanelli’s steel works are now a wildfowl packed lake surrounded by sculpture dotted parkland. Carmarthenshire Woods and a giant earth sculpture replace a coal fired power station. Salt marshes and dunes provide a wildlife haven.
Bikes can be hired from The Discovery Centre at Llanelli (Merlin Cycle Tours), from where you can head in either direction, refuel in the café or grab an ice cream.
Discovery Centre/North Dock, Llanelli SA15 2LF
Google map: bit.ly/10TmB11
From the main car park there are a variety of routes that take in paths through woodland, moorland along with the banks of reservoirs and streams. The simplest is a circuit of Jumbles Reservoir (just under two miles). But this can be extended to a route which leads up to the B6391 and then passes Turton Tower (a listed building dating back to the 1400s – open to the public). The track continues round moorland moorland and drops down to Turton and Entwistle Reservoir, which you can walk round, or just cross the dam and walk up to the railway hamlet of Entwistle. From here it’s a short walk through woodland to Wayoh Reservoir. The path then leads to Edgworth from where it’s a stroll along the road through Turton Bottoms and then a woodland track back to Jumbles Reservoir.
Refreshments are available from a kiosk by the car park, from Turton Tower (during opening days) and from pubs at Entwsitle and Edgworth.
Farndale, in the heart of the North York Moors National Park, is famed for its wonderful daffodils, believed to have been first planted there by medieval monks from Rievaulx. The carpet of spring flowers attracts some 40,000 visitors annually, but this year they are late to bloom, and won’t be at their peak until the middle of April. The Daffodil Walk runs alongside the River Dove for around 2 1/2 kms, and refreshments can be found the Daffy Caffy, or at the Feversham Arms at Church Houses, which does a marvellous Sunday lunch.
The Forbidden Corner is a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises created in a four acre garden in the heart of Tupgill Park and the Yorkshire Dales. The temple of the underworld, the eye of the needle, a huge pyramid made of translucent glass, paths and passages that lead nowhere, extraordinary statues – at every turn there are decisions to make and tricks to avoid. This is a day out with a difference which will challenge and delight adults and children of all ages.
Richmond Park, the biggest Royal Park in London, is loved and visited by many. Keen walkers can attempt the eight mile round trip while families can follow the less challenging walking trails leading to Pen Ponds.
Isabella Plantation is my favourite place for a stroll particularly in the spring when its azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons are in full bloom. Viewing St Paul’s Cathedral through a telescope located at the top of King Henry’s Mound near Pembroke Lodge is also a must.
We love visiting Low Sizergh Barn a dairy farm just south of Kendal in the rolling hills of South Lakeland. Time it right and you can watch the cows being milked while you sip leaf tea at your table - there’s a glass panel in the tea shop and it overlooks the milking parlour. The food they serve is straightforward but delicious, with an emphasis on quality – the scones are fresh, the butter is good and there’s no spray cream here! The cakes and scones are made on the premises and you can buy more to take away from the shop downstairs. The ethical ethos permeates the whole visit - there is a social enterprise nearby called Growing Well (www.growingwell.co.uk/), where volunteers grow vegetables and support is offered to help them return to employment. You can buy their veg in the farm shop, which sells a wide range of other yummy local food, including cheese made from the farm’s dairy herd. Foodie heaven. You can also buy crafts and some lovely quirky gifts from the shop. Or there’s a two mile farm trail to work up an appetite and admire the free range hens whose eggs you have just bought. A lovely afternoon, or morning. And for southerners visiting the Lake District, it’s perfectly situated on the A591 between Kendal and the M6 for a stop off to stock up on Cumbrian delicacies for your way home.
Alliumphobic? Take a trip to the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight and face your fear.Taste scapes, giant baked elephant garlic, breads, dips and chutneys. Garlic sculptures, topiary and murals satisfy the art lover. Ride on the farm tractor to tour the growing fields. Plait it, buy it, eat it, smell it. Learn curious snippets and historic facts at the heritage centre.
From the café watch the red squirrels scurrying past while sampling the menu of food cooked with …
If you’re feeling really adventurous, try some garlic ice-cream or a garlic Bloody Mary. And for the positively dedicated garlic lover, join in the festival frolics with 25,000 like minded enthusiasts in August.
Low Sizergh Barn tea room not only serves really great food, much of it from the farm or local area, but it comes with a great view.
Every afternoon around 3.30pm you can head for the tables by the windows overlooking the farm's parlour for a bird's eye view of milking time, or you can watch the action relayed live on large screens.
Should you miss milking time, you can enjoy Cow Cam throughout the day. It provides entertaining viewing of the herd's ladies indulging in a satisfying scratch on the oversized brush suspended from the cowshed rafters.
And it's just a small part of what's on offer just off the A591 near Kendal, there's also a well stocked farm shop, working farm, farm nature trail, and craft, clothing and gift galleries.
Over the past six years we have been to some fantastic farms at Easter in different parts of Yorkshire. Farmstay.co.uk is run for farmers and you can choose self catering cottages on working farms. Our children have seen lambs being born, bottle fed the orphans, helped train sheep dogs, had quad bike rides, even taken the elastic bands in for show and tell!
Each farm has been slightly different but the enthusiasm of the farmers and love of what they do has been fantastic and has proved an experience to remember. This year we are going to Teesdale - Toby Hill farm and have high hopes for yet another great adventure. Support local farmers and have a fantastic holiday to boot!
Famous for it's surfing credentials, but also a great family beach, with brilliant walks via the South West Coast Path. Smallish and pebbly on high tide, but huge and two miles wide on low tide. Blue bar is great for food and drink deep into the night, or take a stroll up the sand (keep an eye on the tides) for a clotted cream infused snack at the National Trust caff on Chapel Porth. there's a great little guide here
I found it possible to organise my own walking holiday. Our first family trip began at Ortisei with the first ascent via cable car, giving everyone a boost. Another glorious walk finished at the Lago di Braies Hotel on that beautiful lake. Get the books, write yourself a booking script in Italian (or German) and you will be rewarded by stunning scenery and a variety of welcoming refugi. Our (big) boys love it!
A secret hideaway! Found this place through a recommendation and went with the family. A few holiday apartments on a beautiful estate surrounded by vineyards, with a pool. We found the owners, who live there too, went out of their way to make us welcome and to give great tips on where to go to eat and how to avoid the tourist hoards! Local vineyard "Isole & Olena" visit was amazing! Also very close to Castellina in Chianti (great local market on a Saturday) and with views to San Gimingnano. We went last summer and are going back in August. The kids loved it as there were other kids there when we went and they made great friends. We easily visited Florence (hot!), Volterra (very winding roads) and Siena where Simon told us where to park and when to watch the horses training for the Palio (free and amazing!) Also they gave us directions to a free beach 'The White Sands' where we had a day trip which was brilliant. Ask Verity for some of her fresh eggs and Simon for some great wine! Roll on Summer! PS Hubby wants me to add - sunsets like I have never seen before - sat on terrace with wine and/or beer every night before going for dinner!
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