Since having the children, we’ve calmed down our travelling somewhat. Much as we love exploring the world, we’re firmly of the opinion that the children will benefit more from travelling when they are old enough to remember it. So we are busy discovering the incredible British Isles. Here are 12 UK holiday ideas for 2016 – one for every month.
- Bluestone National Park Resort, Pembrokeshire:
Last January, we headed to Bluestone as a family and with some extended family and friends in tow. Lia was only eight months old at the time and had only recently started sleeping through the night so if I’m honest, I thought it was going to be hard work. I was wrong.
There was so much to do there that we didn’t leave the resort except to go running. The girls adored the adventure centre and swimming pool. There were regular activity classes both indoors and out. There were parks, cafés, restaurants and plenty of other places to explore.
I am a huge fan of getting outside whatever the weather. This is positively encouraged at Bluestone. The setting within the National Park is stunning, and nearby there are some of the best beaches in the UK.
For me, the highlight of the trip was a morning in the spa. It was the first real time I’d had to myself since having Lia. I spent two hours relaxing in the saunas, steam rooms, jacuzzi and ice room, after which I had a brilliant back massage and came out of there feeling totally relaxed.
- Forest Holidays, Nationwide.
Forest holidays offer gorgeous log cabins in some of the most beautiful locations in the country. I have to admit to being a little biased towards their Forest of Dean location because it is relatively local to me and we head to that area at least once a year to relax, unwind and unplug.
The rural locations of the cabins encourage you to get outside and connect with nature. And yet it’s a far cry from sleeping under canvas. In fact, the log cabins are so luxurious that some of them even have their own outdoor hot tub. I really can’t think of anything better.
- Sykes Cottages, Nationwide
By March, the weather is starting to pick up a bit and for us, a big part of a UK holiday at this time of the year is walking. We couldn’t possibly go on a walking holiday without the dogs, they’d never forgive us. This is why I love the Sykes Cottages website.
You can choose your destination, number of people staying, whether you want to be by the coast, how long you want to stay for and most importantly, whether the cottage needs to be pet friendly. There are several other websites that also offer pet friendly accommodation, but I find this one the easiest to navigate and the variety of accommodation and locations available is really good.
- Laugharne Weekend, Carmarthenshire
Okay, so I’m throwing you a curve ball here, this one is a little unusual. The Laugharne Weekend is a relatively little known festival of literature and culture that takes over the quaint little town of Laugharne once a year.
Because both town and festival are so small, you find yourself mingling with the performers. And the line up, as a general rule, is pretty awesome. A few years ago we were lucky enough to hear Ray Davies reading from his book in the tiny Laugharne town hall. After that, he was handed a guitar and he did a few acoustic songs. It was pretty memorable.
The full line-up for this year hasn’t been announced yet, but Alexie Sayle, Keith Allen and Ian Rankin will all be there. Other confirmed acts are on the website and more will be added over the coming months.
You need to book early for accommodation but we have been brave and camped before now. I can confirm that it was cold – in fact we woke up one morning to find ice on the outside of our tent. I felt like a pretty hardcore camper at that point.
- The Isle of Mull, Scotland
I must confess that I haven’t spent as much time in Scotland as I would like. This is something I intend to rectify this year. But we did spend an incredible few days on the Isle of Mull a few years back. May is the perfect time to go because it’s warm enough to camp but the midges haven’t totally taken over by this time of year.
We camped at a fabulous campsite that was just a short walk from the Oban ferry and had an idyllic local pub just over the way. I think it was this Shieling Holidays campsite but we took our own tent. Which was an odd decision with hindsight since we were on a motorbike…
Anyway, the Isle of Mull is one of the most scenic places I’ve ever been to. We were lucky enough to see both golden eagles and sea eagles during our trip, as well as being incredibly close up to wild deer. If you are lucky you can spot sea otters too and on a clear night with the right conditions, you can even sit outside your tent and watch the Aurora Borealis. I am hoping that we’ll be lucky enough to see that when we go again next year.
- Parker’s Farm Holidays, Devon
If you’re looking for a relaxing holiday without children, this isn’t it. However, for a family like us with children and dogs to entertain, it’s ideal. The campsite is set on a working farm. Dotted around the campsite are outdoor play parks complete with trampolines as well as the usual park equipment like swings and slides.
There are also farm animals on the site, which you can go and visit any time. The children are even allowed to get involved in the feed run, pick up eggs from the chickens and hold the small animals like ducks and rabbits.
There is a bar and restaurant that has evening entertainment and serves reasonably priced meals. I loved the fact that one room is dog friendly so we weren’t forced to eat outside in the rain just because we didn’t want to leave the dogs.
The Isle of Wight is excellent at catering for dogs as well as families. I was so impressed that I wrote about the Isle of Wight with Dogs after our visit in the summer. Lots of places such as Blackgang Chine and Robin Hill Park are happy to accept dogs on a lead. I found this quite unusual since they are aimed predominantly at families with children.
This made the Isle of Wight the ideal place for a family and we will probably head back there this summer. There are also beautiful beaches, coastal paths, campsites, holiday parks and every possible kind of accommodation. This coupled with a small travelling distance to any of the Island’s attractions made the whole experience notably more relaxing.
- Swimtrek swim holidays, Nationwide
This is another unusual holiday choice that many people might not have considered. I have done numerous open water swims including the Solent and the River Dart. However, a Swimtrek holiday is firmly on my bucket list.
Swimtrek operate both in the UK and abroad. They sort out all of your accommodation and safety requirements, all you have to do is swim. This August, they are running two treks to swim from island to island in the Outer Hebrides. Participants will transverse all 15 islands in 7 days.
You do have to be quite a strong swimmer to attempt anything like this but for anyone who enjoys truly getting in touch with nature and going offline, this just sounds perfect.
- Coombe Mill, Cornwall
Coombe Mill has a selection of luxurious cottages and Scandinavian lodges on a working farm. Everything is geared up for children to experience farm life and enjoy the great outdoors. Children can go on the tractor to feed the animals with farmer Nick, ride the miniature railway and play in the indoor and outdoor play areas. There are also private gardens, woodlands and meadows to explore.
As you might expect from the perfect family holiday destination, Coombe Mill book up months in advance for the school holidays. However, if you have younger children and are not tied to school holidays, Cornwall often has great weather in September so it’s an ideal time to visit.
- Longleat, Wiltshire
Longleat Safari park is renowned for being a great day out. Combine this with the fact that October is pretty much all about Halloween and Longleat is widely accepted to have one of the best Halloween experiences in the UK and it’s easy to see why I’ve picked this one for October.
Through the Longleat website, you can find the Longleat group of hotels. As you can imagine, many are quite luxurious. The park also has a link to Cheddar Gorge which is another great day out that is well worth a visit while you’re in the area. Not to mention all the attractions in and around nearby Bath Spa.
November is the perfect time for a city break. If you wait until the end of the month, there are Christmas markets on in most cities. Christmas gifts are in the shops but the mad December rush hasn’t started.
Probably my favourite city break that I’ve been on was to York. The city just oozes character, being steeped in history and tradition. And yet it is also modern, offering a vibrant nightlife and excellent Christmas shopping.
- Drayton Manor Hotel, Tamworth
Christmas is a great time to be in the West Midlands because the West Midlands Christmas days out are second to none. Drayton Manor’s four star hotel serves as the perfect base to explore the Christmas grotto at the theme park as well as several other attractions that are nearby.
We went to Drayton’s Magical Christmas this year and it was a brilliant day out. Just around the corner from Drayton Manor is another, very different Christmas attraction at the Tamworth Snowdome, where you can go sledging and have snowball fights indoors.
If that’s not enough, a short train journey from Tamworth, you can visit the Birmingham Christmas market and the National Sea Life Centre Birmingham, which always features a lovely Santa’s grotto near to their penguin attraction in the winter.