I shared a knowing smile with a fellow Mum as she heaved the sleeping toddler over her shoulder and lent on the buggy in front of her. It was nearing 6:30am, and along with hundreds of other early-risers, we shuffled our way through the security checks queue, sighing with every inched gained. Hardened staff merely put down anyone who dared to question the delay: “This is Luton Airport. You need to be here three hours early”.
It took us an hour to get through the queue, my two boys under 5 remarkably keeping it together better than their parents. When we finally arrived at the conveyor belt laden with coats and the boys’ bags, I almost lost it when a jar of jam was confiscated from my son’s Trunki Boostapak. Jam is a liquid don’t you know?
As I contemplated the scientific state of jam, I was just extremely grateful that we had stayed at an airport hotel the night before. The alternative was to leave our home in the Peak District at the ungodly hour of 3am to then negotiate the road works of the M1, before our Luton Airport ‘experience’.
We knew the reputation of Luton and perhaps we should have flown from Manchester, our nearest airport, except the Easy Jet flight from Luton to our half-term holiday in Iceland was a fraction of the price.
The airport hotel
Plus, Holiday Extras kindly invited us to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Luton North in return for this review. This is a Luton airport hotel with free parking (for up to 8 days) and free transfer to and from the airport, and certainly ensured that we were refreshed and ready to take on the hassle of Luton Airport. Plus, it also meant our holiday started that little bit earlier!
Whilst the Hilton name is synonymous with luxury and a high price-tag, the Garden Inn brand offers the expected mod cons of a fancy gym and swanky bar, yet remains conscious of the budget-traveller.
A picnic dinner to save money
We checked in just after 3pm and brought a picnic for dinner. There is an empty fridge in the room to keep your own drinks and food cool, and there are even communal microwaves to heat up food. Didn’t bring any food with you? Well you could order room service, dine in the restaurant, nip to Tesco Express just up the road, or grab something from the 24 hour shop next to reception.
The family rooms have blackout curtains (great if trying to get the kids down early in preparation for that early flight) and a sofa bed for two children to share. There is even a smart TV if you want to get some tunes up on You Tube whilst you soak in the bath, and dim-able side lights which were handy for when the boys were asleep before us. If you have a larger family, you can opt for connecting rooms.
Getting to Luton airport
Don’t worry about printing out your boarding pass at home, the accommodating staff will sort that all out for you, whilst they arrange some extra pillows for a blissful night’s sleep.
The reception staff will also arrange a wake up call and book your transfer to the airport (the journey took us 15 minutes); the hotel even pays for your taxi both ways! Just book your departure taxi the night before and receive a voucher to present to the driver. You will be given another voucher to keep safe for the return journey (this is booked from the taxi rank outside Luton airport on arrival and, for us, there was no waiting time whatsoever).
As for your car, there is ample space in the hotel’s car park and you can leave it until you return from your holiday. This is free for up to 8 days. It is safe, well lit and security cameras are visible.
How to book
If you’re tempted by that cheaper flight from Luton aiport, help your sanity by checking in to an airport hotel with free parking and transfers the night before.
The Hilton Garden Inn Luton airport hotel with free parking can all be booked through Holiday Extras. Or you may like to stay at one of the other nine Luton airport hotels offered through the site, where prices start from just £36 per night.
So would I fly from Luton again?
Yes, if the flights were significantly cheaper and we booked into an airport hotel the night before.
The whole process booked through Holiday Extraswas streamlined and super easy; from parking up, checking in to our room, eating, sleeping, wake up call, then taxi to the airport.
The only thing I think we’d change for next time is to pay the £3 per person (under 2s are free) for priority lane passes through Luton airport security.
And I would have left the jam at home.
Disclaimer: TraveLynn Family were offered a complimentary stay from Holiday Extras in return for an honest review. However, as always, these are all more own words and opinions. Furthermore, this post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, this is at no additional cost to you, but I get a small commission which goes towards the running of this blog.
We absolutely love living in the Peak District with all the outdoor adventures and stunning family walks on our doorstep. I hope that we never take this for granted. But for those families who live in towns and cities who want to cram as much outdoor adventure into a weekend as possible, Alpkit’s Big Shakeout Festival is a must. TraveLynn Family were offered a family day pass to this adventure-loving festival in return for an honest review.
What is the Big Shakeout Festival?
This is a small, family-friendly festival, set in the grounds of Thornbridge Hall in the heart of the Peak District National Park. Days are filled with active outdoor pursuits (climbing, bushcraft, kayaking, biking) whilst evenings are spent dancing to live music or huddled around a campfire watching adventure films or listening to inspiring speakers. This is a not-for-profit event with all profits going to the Alpkit Foundation. Amazingly, the Foundation has given over £100,000 to 300+ projects worldwide, helping people to overcome barriers to getting outdoors and doing something adventurous.
Can we pop along for the day?
Tickets are only sold for a full weekend (Friday to Sunday), which is a shame as I know many families (particularly those living locally) who would like to just pop along for the day. The festival is held right at the end of September and this year the nights were bitterly cold (we woke to frost on the grass!), and we decided that it was too cold to sleep in our tent with the little ones (especially as our home is just around the corner). As an exception, we were offered a day pass to review.
However, this festival sells out every year and, as they are at capacity, this is unlikely change. So grab your alpine camping gear and embrace the adventure! Although if you would like a bit more comfort, book in to a pre-erected teepee or the lodge bunkhouse (these sell out very quickly).
How much does a weekend ticket cost?
For 2018, a weekend pass cost £65 per adult, children aged 12-16 were £25, and children under 11 were free.
Outdoor pursuit activities are booked through the School Of Adventure and are mostly at an additional cost.
You have to pay for all the activities?
Not at all. The site sits next to the Monsal Trail, perfect for a bike ride, and there are a handful of activities on offer at the stalls, including a craft tent and a self-guided woodland bug-hunt. All the evening entertainment is also free (music, lectures and films) and you should also take advantage of the fantastic hill walking around the site.
What adventure activities are there for kids?
My boys love their outdoor adventures, but unfortunately due to insurance purposes there was only one activity they could participate in (booked at an additional price through the School of Adventure). This was the BSO Mini Adventurer (suitable for ages 4-8) and my boys were aged 3 and 4 at the time.
Despite being too little to reach some of the ropes, my boys were in their element with this ropes and balance course and absolutely loved it. Their instructor, Ian, was very enthusiastic and I loved how he encouraged the ten boys in the group to work together as a team. The highlight was entering the subterranean world of The Molehole; a purpose built, underground, tunnel network to navigate with a head torch and new friends.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alpkit
For older children aged 6 and above, there are lots more activities, and even more for those aged 8 and above, including axe throwing, binerflon (shooting with nerf guns), a bat safari, adrenaline rush (swinging through trees) and bushcraft skills, to mention a few.
Is is worth visiting with young kids?
If you come just for the activities, there isn’t really enough on offer for children under 5 for a full weekend. Yes, there are craft activities, biking on the Monsal trail, bug hunts in the woods, and campfires in the evening, but these activities aren’t unique to this festival and can be done any weekend camping in the Peaks. However, as kids under 11 are free, you can embrace it as a fun camping weekend with a little added extra. It’s also a great opportunity for parents to try some outdoor pursuits if mum and dad are happy to play tag.
Chatting to other parents, it seems that 8 is the magic age and there are families that have returned year in year out and their kids get so much out of it. We will definitely be back when our boys are older!
Do we need to bring food?
As with almost all festivals across the UK, food is overpriced and we suggest bringing your own. We only had lunch in the ‘Alpkitchen’; boiled pasta with no sauce (was supposed to be a pasta bake), lettuce, tomato and coleslaw (a little disappointing for £6 per person). However, I’m reliably informed that there was pizza on offer at a food stall which was very tasty. We perhaps picked unwisely.
At registration, ensure you pick up your free Big Shakeout Mug to make the most of free tea and coffee all weekend. In the evening, head to the Foundation Bar, conveniently adjacent to the main stage, to sample local beers.
Have you been to Alpkit’s Big Shakeout Festival with kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Disclaimer: We were offered a complimentary day pass from Alpkit in exchange for this honest review. As always, these are all my own words and opinions.
Step into a magical world where woodland creatures roam free to learn circus tricks, share stories around the campfire, and congregate for an afternoon pillow fight. This is a land where the weird, wonderful and wacky are embraced with a creative quirk and quintessential English charm, igniting imaginations of young and old. This is Just So; a totally kid-centric festival which focuses on imaginative outdoor play, in the heart of the Cheshire countryside.
Things to do
Like many summer festivals around the UK, you’ll find lots of great music and amazing food stalls. But there are so many activities, installations and performances to keep the kids entertained (which in turn makes the parents’ job easier!)
The grassy fields around Rode Hall are segmented and transformed into themed areas (including Spellbound Forest, Roll Up Roll Up, Village Green) with planned activities commencing from the Friday afternoon, right through to Sunday evening. There are even activities late at night including movies, bonfire bands and a midnight feast on the Saturday. Although these were way too late for our boys aged 3 and 4, who did well to stay up until 9pm (fuelled by campfire marshmallows).
However, there are activities to cater all ages – baby yoga, capentry, custard walks, a playground of illusions, circus training, ballet lessons, campfire songs, maypole dancing, tai chi… the list is seemingly endless and this is only a very small subset of all that is offered.
This was our first ever festival with the boys and a huge success. We really had no idea what to expect and didn’t do any planning whatsoever. We love to just wander and see what takes our fancy. However, we really would have benefited from a little bit of planning as we did miss out some really fun activities and often turned up to acts just as they were finishing. Plus, some of the popular activities get extremely busy (such as the lantern making) and it would have been very worthwhile arriving early.
However, don’t chase the programme. Have a few activities/acts for each day that you would like to be involved in and then allow yourselves time to go with the flow. There are so many roving acts, quirky displays and people to meet to distract your intended path. And well, the kids always have other ideas anyways!
Picking your tribe
What really makes this festival special is how everyone picks a tribe (team) and dresses up accordingly (foxes, frogs, owls, fish, lions, stags, bees). Well almost everyone. We shamefully didn’t get round to organising costumes, which I was so gutted about as I love dressing up (lame excuse, but we had just moved house after returning back to the UK). Kids can then win golden nuggets around the festival to go towards their team’s final score. Next time…
As our regular readers know… WE LOVE CAMPING! We camped for two nights in the designated camping field in our Vango Air Tent, which was gifted to us just before the festival. There’s lots of space for camping, and the grass is nice and soft for those tent pegs. But don’t expect too much space around your tent, this is a festival after all!
Vango Endoras 500XL Air tent
We pitched up next to our blogging friends (Mini Travellers, Otis & Us, The Twinkle Diaries and Rainbeaubelle) in the caravan area as a couple had campers. This was handy for us as we could drive the car to our pitch and unload. If we were in the tent area, we would have to park our car first and then lug all our stuff to our pitch. It was then just a 5 minute walk to the festival entrance.
There are portaloos dotted around the site (we never had to queue longer than a minute) which are cleaned regularly over the weekend. Plus, there are sparkling white showers with hot water available! This festival is certainly a bit more upmarket than your student festival days 😉
Now we know what to expect, I’m going to plan for a few special activities and performances I don’t want to miss out on. It was so good meeting up with friends and making new ones (bumped into Zena’s Suitcase and globetotting.com too!), and the boys had an absolute blast! They were asking to go back as soon as we got home on the Sunday!
And I’m already planning the family costumes for Team Lion next year! Raaaaaarrr!
Disclaimer: TraveLynn Family was offered complimentary tickets to Just So in return for an honest review. As always, these are all my own words and opinions.
Is Nozstock family friendly? Guest writer, Lauren Clarke, shares her recent experience of attending this boutique UK festival deep in the Herefordshire countryside.
This was my first ever festival with kids, we got the tickets quite last minute so were only able to stay for the Saturday day and night.
Finding a camping spot…
Arriving in the heat of Saturday morning to find out there was no space left in the family area was the only real low point of the whole event. But we stayed positive and our lovely friend Sara helped us find a small spot. She also then helped me put up the tent (which was no mean feat having never put it up in my own before) and some very friendly security guards helped us establish that I had missed an essential bit of pole…and after that things got better!
With tent finally up, we pumped up our camping air mattress, and dumped stuff in the tent, it was time to cover ourselves in glitter and hit the festival.
Flossing, Aladdin’s Cave and archery for an afternoon….
The first thing we hit was ‘sunken yard’ which seemed to be a clubbing sort of stage where they connected and responded with the audience. At the point that we arrived it was mostly us and about 30 other kids. The boys all started flossing to the music and so a flossing competition was born. Elliot’s friend Finn was superb at flossing at high speed and was crowned floss champion, we were all very proud.
Next up was ‘The cabinet of lost secrets’, where we got to sing along to some sea shanties in a little cave and then wander through an Aladdin’s Cave of mirrors and secret passageways.
The boys loved playing being taught how to fire a proper bow and arrow, the man that was teaching them was so patient and I have never seen a group of 7-9 year old boys concentrate so much!
We then ventured into the elephants graveyard, a beautifully decorated pit, humming with people dancing to music. My eldest described the sound as a clash of helicopters flying too close overhead. The overriding sense here was that we didn’t like it and had to leave; the bass was a bit much!
Photo credit: Charlie Rimmer
After heading back to base camp for some chill out time, water and Haribo, we headed back out for the evening. We hit the main stage via the human beat box (a small stage where you can perform to your own personal audience), chicken shit bingo (literally some chickens pacing around on some numbers and the number the chicken shits on gets a prize!), some hula hooping, feeding our faces with hot dogs and pizza while watching a beautiful sun set.
Photo credit: Charlie Rimmer
The headline act on the Saturday night was Grandmaster Flash, the boys really enjoyed dancing and getting to stay up late. The act that was on just before Grandmaster Flash swore quite a lot which took my eldest aback a bit (I hadn’t even noticed!) It did make me question the family friendliness of some of the later acts and if a festival is aiming for being a totally family friendly thing, the performers might need to be advised about the sweariness of their acts!
Photo credit: Charlie Rimmer
My highlights of the Nozstock experience
Spending time with old friends, covering myself in glitter and gold tattooes, watching the boys joyous expressions while listening and dancing to Grand master flash, hula hooping, a beautiful sunset with a drink in hand and brilliant live music, getting a lie in till 8am!
Highlights for the kids
Ewan (aged 9): Grandmaster Flash, seeing old friends, floss dance off competition, fire dancers, churros, staying up really late
Elliot (aged 7): Sweetshop, Archie and Finn, fire dancers, music, ice cream
If you’ve been following us for a while, you will know that we like to push the boundaries of family travel and dispel the myth that adventure needs to wait until the kids are older! Over the past 18 months, with our boys (now aged 3 and 4), we have traversed India on sleeper trains, hiked to Poon Hill (3120m) in the Nepalese Himalayas and driven across Sub-Saharan Africa in a Land Rover to name a few. Now that we have returned to the UK, we are looking for adventures closer to home. So I reached out to some of my favourite travel bloggers for inspiration. From skiing in Scotland, to open water swimming, to hunting for dinosaur fossils, if you’re living in the UK or plan to visit sometime soon, I’m sure you’ll too find inspiration here for family adventure in the UK.
Does anyone know a child who isn’t fascinated by dinosaurs? If your child loves dinosaurs as much as mine, then take them to the Jurassic Coast to really spark their imagination. The Jurassic Coast is a dramatic stretch of coastline which runs from Studland Bay in Dorset to Exmouth in Devon, along the southern shores of the UK.
Hundreds of fossils are found in the cliffs and along the beaches here, and in some places they’re fairly easy to find. The best and safest place to find fossils is at Charmouth beach. You can look for fossils yourself which is free, but takes practise to find a good one. Although any fossil you find is bound to become a treasured possession!
If you want more chance of finding a fossil then you might want to join a guided fossil hunt. They go from Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre and cost £8 per adult and £4 per child. There’s no minimum age limit, and you’ll need to book online. There are some safety considerations: don’t go near the cliffs or the sea and keep an eye on small children scrambling over the rocks.
Before having children, my husband and I had a double sea kayak. Living in the Midlands, it didn’t often see the sea, but it got a lot of use in the River Severn. After the dog got a bit over excited watching a swan and fell in the river, we bought her a boat of her own and we’d tow her behind us. It was like the elephant in the room. Nobody we passed on the river ever mentioned the fact that there was a dog in a boat behind us.
The success of Soxa’s inflatable vessel gave us an idea when the children were ready for kayaking. We bought two inflatable kayaks and now, we take a kayak each and a child each and paddle down the river or around a lake. It’s the perfect little adventure for children, and now that we’ve got the boats it’s a free day out. We pack a picnic and head off in search of an idyllic spot to put down the picnic basket. We see the occasional otter and Kingfisher. There are no iPads or televisions and it’s a great way to get in touch with nature – and each other.
Crabbing off a pier in England is a quintessentially English seaside thing to do for all the family. All you really need for this is a weight, a piece of string and some bait, although most seaside towns and villages will have a shop that will sell you a bucket and everything you need for your crabbing adventure. Bait such as chicken or bacon (but just the leftovers) will work. Let your line drop to the bottom and wait until the crabs start pulling on it. If you bring the line back up slowly and hook the crab into the children’s fishing nets on a pole you’ll land more than you lose. Pop the crabs in the bucket of water while you continue crabbing and then release them all at the end of your session.
This is a free activity, unless you buy the crabbing kits, but they aren’t that expensive either. There are no age restrictions, although you will want to keep tiny fingers away from the crab’s pincers! You can do this in any seaside town, although its one of our favourite things to do in Brightlingsea – a great seaside town in North Essex.
Hiking is an essential part of all our trips. It enables you to reach places you couldn’t reach otherwise, often taking you to some of the most beautiful spots in the country. Hiking is one of the cheapest adventures there is – all you need is a pair of hiking boots and some determination and you’re away. We have done so many amazing hikes in the UK, there’s something for everybody, whether it’s a short walk with young kids or a much longer day hike with older kids. It’s a chance to chat and be together, with no other distractions, except the wonderful scenery!
Our family loves hikes with a bit of adventure – rocks, water, scrambling, climbing, stunning views – anything to keep up the interest! Recently we’ve hiked up Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales and explored much of the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Snowdonia and Skye are like giant outdoor playgrounds. Two beautiful parts of the UK, and well worth visiting.
We have always been believers that life doesn’t have to change when you have children, and myself and Mr Otis and Us have always LOVED our music, and spending time outdoors. Our Summer isn’t complete without attending a family friendly festival with the kids, and we try to attend a festival every year. There are so many amazing festivals to choose from around the UK. I find there is something special about throwing on a pair of wellies, spending time outdoors whatever the weather and throwing out the routine for a weekend. There is often great programmes on for the kids, whatever their ages and they are always so spoilt for choice. I am always amazed at how much there is for the kids to do… from tribal tournaments, craft tents, circus skills, woodland fairy trails, pillow fights and lantern parades, not to mention the music and shows…..I am really not sure who loves the festivals more – the adults or the kids. We are heading to Timber Festival and the Just so Festival this year and I am so excited for another year of making memories, I just need to remember to pack the face glitter and glow sticks…
My husband and I have always been keen swimmers and once got a boat to the Isle of Wight so we could swim back to the mainland. So, it made sense to get the children into it too. We love the Wild Swim UK map, and look for safe water spots where the children can get in and paddle.
I swim in the river once a week, but wouldn’t take the girls in anywhere with a current. So, we aim for a calm pool where the focus is on wading in rather than swimming. On the day my eldest learnt to walk, we took her to a local paddling spot where she could have a dip in the water, a picnic and a play on the rope swing that somebody had put in. It’s an idyllic way to spend an afternoon. (Natalie, Plutomium Sox)
Skiing in Scotland
(Jenny, Monkey and Mouse)
After watching the Winter Olympics my 4 year old decided that he wanted to take up snowboarding. Unfortunately for him he’s a bit little to snowboard yet, so we decided to settle on trying skiing instead. I was seriously considering a local dry ski slope, but when a friend told me it was only an hour and a half to Glenshee from Stirling I was convinced on actual snow!
I booked both boys in for a private lesson with an instructor, but it soon became clear that my 6 year old was making great progress, whilst my 4 year old was struggling with stamina. To give his brother more of a chance I took charge of helping littlest practice balancing on his skis on a shallow slope until his brother had finished the lesson. It was a little stressful on my own, so on our second attempt at a lesson I booked in my 6 year old alone and just hired skis for the 4 year old and myself to play on the nursery slope. I also chose to invite my mum to take littlest to the cafe when he was tired, giving me a chance to play and take the 6 year old down a couple of runs after his 2nd lesson.
It was a brilliant experience for both boys, with the 4 year old becoming more confident and probably much more capable next year when he’s taller and stronger. But my 6 year old really shined! After just a couple of lessons he had mastered all the tows and chairlift and had made it down his first few runs without falling once on them. Comparing his private lesson to those in group lessons, I was glad we had chosen that route. Those in group lessons were often held back by the less capable and were unlikely to progress so quickly. If you are short of time (or just based in Scotland with a short snow season) and want to get the kids up the slopes quickly book them in for private lessons, although it’s a lot better for over 5’s. Also, keep an eye on the Scottish weather, it’s not normally good snow until February, although this varies from year to year.
We’ve always loved sailing as a family and wanted to get the kids out on the water – knowing that sailing lessons start when they are 8 with the local sailing school we decided to go for a trial instead. With the kids and us on board a little cat, we had an instructor with us sailing out from the sailing school and onto the river Deben estuary at Felixstowe.
The kids 6 and 7 LOVED it, they even got to pull the sail in and helped to bring the boat up on the dock. Although we are waiting for them to join the sail school when they are both 8 we have off of that experience booked a family sailing holiday this summer and look forward to spending a fortnight sailing for the first time as a family.
If you want to give it a go check out your nearest sailing school, the age your children can start or you can start to learn as a family can vary but you can normally get some experience on a trial out on the river or sea around the UK.
Exploring castles with young children might not be everyone’s idea of family adventure, but with a little imagination it can be fun for everyone. And there is nowhere better to have some family adventure fun exploring castles than South Wales. From the air raid tunnels in Cardiff Castle, to daring to meet the dragons at Caerphilly Castle, South Wales has many different castles to explore.
During our time living in South Wales we explored no less than eight castles with our young son, turning our visits into dragon hunting adventures to make it more interesting for him. Making a game out of your visit means exploring old or ruined castles becomes more fun for little ones and lets the adults enjoy the historic site at the same time.
Entry costs less than £10 per person or is free if you are a member of Cadw (the Welsh heritage membership), and many have free parking and cafés to ensure a great family day out.
I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones and since Winterfell is in Northern Ireland, I wanted to visit it. It wouldn’t be fun for the kids, BUT we found out they offer an archery experience on the set, so that’s what we decided to do! There are 2 different packages. The cheapest one is for a group of people, and it only accepts children over 8. We took Ned’s Package, which is a private class and takes kids from 6 years and up. My youngest was 5, but they accepted her anyway. It was a great day, all the kids loved trying archery with a longbow and real arrows, but they also had fun walking around in cloaks and carrying (foam) swords through the filming locations.
The instructor was great with the kids, and it was one of our best UK day-outs, for sure!
The SS Great Britain makes for a great day out with kids in Bristol. At first you may think it is just a museum on a very old boat, however there is an adventure to be had! When you get to the weather deck you are invited to climb the rigging! “Go Aloft” is completely free for kids, however for safety reasons you have to be 10 years old and meet the height restriction to take part. (Adults can climb the rigging too but there is a £10 fee).
The friendly “Go Aloft” team equip you with all the gear you need and walk you through how to climb safely. Once you get to the top of the rigging you also have the option to walk across the mast. Our 10 year old loved it and said it was really exciting. She said the view from the top of the rigging was amazing, unfortunately I wasn’t brave enough to find out for myself!
Our son has always been a huge fan of animals, and has always loved visiting farms to see them up close, and sometimes pet some of the animals. He spent his first two years in the UK, where we took him to several farm parks, especially in his native Wales. Most of them revolve around the main activities of meeting, feeding and petting the animals, with other things to do besides.
The first one we visited was the farm at the National History Museum of Wales in St Fagans, near Cardiff. We took him there as a baby and toddler, and he loved seeing the piglets cuddled together sleeping and seeing the ducks waddle around the farmyard, as he toddled around after them.
He also loved going to the Amelia Trust Farm, a charity farm ten miles out in the countryside in the Vale of Glamorgan. In this farm we took him along to the feeding sessions, and he especially loved seeing the lambs being bottle fed. This farm also had a couple of great woodland walks which he loved to explore.
We also took him to the Foel Farm Park on Anglesey in North Wales, where he loved seeing all the animals, and had a great time riding on the big tractor out in the fields, with a great view across to Caernarfon Castle a few miles across the Menai Strait.
We introduced our girls to cycling adventures and bikes from a young age and they love it. Our first day out on bikes was in Surrey at the beautiful Alice Holt Forest where there is an easy access cycle trail with lots of kids activities along the way. We were also able to hire a tag-along for the girls. In the south west of England one of our favourite places to cycle is the Tamar Trails where you can get a history lesson in Devon copper mining as you explore 25km of trails around old quarries. If you’re looking for cycle paths attached to other family-friendly activities then Lanhydrock National Trust estate on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall is a great day out. Our girls loved the pump track and the adventure playground next to the National Trust cafe where we refuelled on coffee, cake and ice cream. The go to place for finding cycle routes for all abilities is the charity Sustrans which maps the National Cycle Network. Happy cycling
If your kids have a taste for adventure, a stay in a haunted castle might just be the perfect trip away. St Briavels Castle (Gloucestershire) was built in the 12th century and is one of Britain’s ‘most haunted’ buildings. In its long history it’s been a Royal castle, an armaments store outpost of the Tower of London and a debtors’ prison. Graffiti written by the prisoners awaiting execution at the Castle can still be seen in the dorms and it is said to them that haunts its stones. St Briavels is owned by English Heritage and operated by the YHA as a youth hostel. If being haunted isn’t exciting enough, there are medieval banquets on some nights with mysteries to solve and also archery. Family rooms start at £69 for a room for 4 people and 6 bed private rooms start at £89. Accommodation is in simple bunk and single beds in historic rooms, some of which have ghoulish secrets to reveal. For unique accommodation at a bargain price, St Briavels is a great adventure into medieval history. Just don’t blame me if you see a ghost!
For adventurous kids aged 5 and up, head to Surf Snowdonia for an over-water obstacle course to test agility, balance and is a crazy amount of fun. Whilst waiting to go on, my friend and I silently decided that none of our kids would be able to manage it, whilst confirming outwardly to them that they would be able to easily. As the first two started I was amazed they were going to be able to do it – yes they fell in but that’s the point, yes they were a little scared at points but they were only aged between 5 and 8, and yes they felt a huge sense of achievement when they got to the other end. Cost: from £15 off peak for 1hr including wet suit hire.
I guess this one might be stretching the bounds of what constitutes an adventure, but the popular activity of mudlarking on the banks of the Thames River, London, is most definitely fun filled and fascinating! I’d argue it’s an adventure of sorts!
Mudlarking is the process of searching for historic items in the ‘mud’ of the Thames’ banks at low tide. With water of questionable cleanliness it can be mucky business, so be sure to pack the wet wipes, but it is also remarkable what you can find.
Nestled on the shoreline are all manner of amazing objects to be discovered. From clay pipes, smoked hundreds of years ago, to pieces of coloured glass and pottery from even further back, mudlarking opens a door directly to bygone London times.
To pick up the pieces of history is downright exciting. It’s a tangible connection to the past and to the people that walked the streets centuries, and sometimes even millennia before you. The kids will love it and I wholly recommend everyone gives it a go the next time they find themselves in London!
Have you a fantastic family adventure in the UK with kids that isn’t included here? I’d love to hear about it!
It had been an uncomfortable night flight from Joburg where us parents hardly slept a wink. As we sat waiting for our connecting flight to London on one of the few available chairs available at bustling Addis Ababa airport, I couldn’t help but feel a little teary as I watched the throngs of travellers scurry by. We had come to the end of our epic 3.5 month travels around Africa with our two boys (aged 3 and 4) and my mind was only just beginning to process it all.
The end of a big adventure always brings a flurry of mixed emotions. But to help ease us with the transition back to normality, we had been invited to stay a night at the Park Inn by Radisson on arrival to Heathrow. This proved to be the perfect pit stop to take a breather before embarking on our next chapter. This is our Park Inn by Radisson review.
Arriving to Park Inn by Radisson
Getting to the Radisson Blue Park Inn could not have been easier. We hopped into a taxi sat outside Terminal 2 and took the short 1.6km drive to the hotel entrance. You could take the Heathrow Hoppa transfer bus, which is a flat fare of £4.50 per adult (when booked online, £5 otherwise), children under 12 are free. However, the taxi only cost us £10.30 door to door (including airport surcharge).
Unfortunately check-in was not as straight forward. We were all shattered from the long flight and had been on the go for almost 24 hours. All we wanted to do was to get into our room and relax, but the queue for check in was long and barely moving with only one member of staff on hand. Thankfully, a member of staff recognised the signs of two frazzled parents and took us to the side to swiftly check us in, and provided the boys with an activity pack to keep them entertained.
We were provided with a spacious suite on the ground floor. A hallway leads to a lounge, with sofa, TV and where the children’s bed had been made. A double door then leads though to the separate master bedroom, with large flat screen TV, writing desk, and hot-drink facilities.
Off from the master bedroom is another hallway leading to a large bathroom on one side (with separate bath and shower), and on the other a walk in wardrobe with dressing table.
Rooms are extremely spotless and have a contemporary-business style to them. The soft towels, power shower and fluffy bathrobe provide a taste of luxury. WiFi is free and fast.
We also appreciated the heavy, black-out curtains, as our visit coincided with the late summer evenings of June and we wanted our boys to have an early night. The extremely comfortable beds assured an excellent night’s sleep.
Room service is available serving standard pub dishes. However, we didn’t eat dinner as we were rather full from the food served on our flight. In the morning we enjoyed a sumptuous buffet breakfast in the dining room (breads, fresh fruit, yogurts, cereal, English breakfast and juices).
The boys went out like a light that night. After enjoying a warm bath, hubby and I snuggled under the feather-soft duvet and switched on the TV to watch David Attenborough narrate a Southern Africa documentary (rather surreal when you consider we were there 24 hours ago). Then, for the first time probably since the boys were born, I enjoyed 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Perfection.
Disclaimer: TraveLynn Family were offered a complimentary stay in return for an honest review. However, as always, these are all more own words and opinions. Some photos in this post were provided by Park Inn Radisson.
Are you looking for short walks for young kids in the Peak District? Sandwiched between Manchester and Sheffield in the north of England, the Peaks is a place that I have been visiting regularly since I was a little girl. With those green rolling hills dotted with old farm houses and country pubs, it’s my happy place.
There’s nothing better than a long walk across the Dales, over drystone walls, towards a good old English pub for lunch. Pre-kids we used to grab an Ordnance Survey map and hike for a good few hours before drying off and warming up in front of a cosy log fire with a pint. When the boys came along it was fine doing these walks with them in the back carrier, but since the age of two we have wanted to encourage them to do a walk all on their own. Plus, we found our boys to be a bit too heavy for the carriers!
So here is a selection of our favourite short walks for young kids in the Peak District. Make sure you pack LOTS of snacks and an OS Map, dress them in layers with a puddle suit and wellies (unless it’s a fine summer’s day) and start your walk early when they’re at their most energetic.
The Cork Walk (aka Nine Ladies Circle)
This circular walk on Stanton Moor has it all – unusual stones to explore, rocks to climb, woodland, open views and muddy puddles! At the start of the walk is a large rock that looks like a corkscrew – it’s begging to be climbed by the grownups if you’re up for the challenge. The walk continues round to the left, however, we often like to take a detour down the old quarry to play amongst all the boulders. A snack at the Nine Ladies Circle is standard; a Bronze Age circle used by the Druids. Enjoy the views over to Bakewell as you loop back round to the beginning.
Park down Bradford Road just a bit further on from Youlgreave Church. This circular walk takes you either side of the River Bradford. The kids will love playing with sticks and paddling in the shallow section at the end of Holywell Lane. There’s even a designated swimming area further down the river for the warmer summer months.
Post-walk enjoy a good lunch in the family-friendly George Hotel (then have a kids’ menu). If the kids still have energy to burn, there’s a good playground just past the church along Alport Lane.
Just up from the Robin Hood Inn Pub, follow the footpath sign along the base of Birchen Edge for about 1km. You may see some climbers making their way up the rock-face. However, you don’t need to rig up the ropes yourselves as the footpath follows around to the top after about 1km and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views. It can get crazy windy up here though, so shelter behind some rocks to enjoy your mid-walk snack. Post-walk, stop in the pub for a bite to eat. Well, would be rude not to!
We try to visit Blaze farm every time we’re in the Peaks. Entry is FREE and there are lots of farm animals to meet (cows, peacocks, donkeys, geese, ducks, sheep). If you’re visiting during the lambing season you may even be lucky enough to see a lamb being born in the lambing shed (arrive early). There is a short and long nature walk. We take the short walk that crosses the meadows, through the woodland (where you’ll come across carved animals in the wood and a den) and back up to the farm. Just follow the signs.
On return to the farm, head to the cosy tea room and treat yourselves to some ice-cream made on the farm from A2 milk. Behind the tearoom you’ll find a slide and a tractor to play on.
Blaze Farm is open 10am to 5:30pm Tuesday-Sunday all year round and Bank Holiday Mondays. Visit their website for further details.
This is a classic Peak District walk which can get rather busy at weekends and public holidays. Ensure you arrive early beat the crowds, unless you’re visiting during the week when it’s likely you’ll have the valley to yourselves. A flat gravel path follows alongside the river and is suitable for prams, until you reach a series of stepping stones that take you to the other side. Walk along as far as you wish, but just remember you have to turn around and follow the same route back. We generally go just a little bit further than the stepping stones (about 1km each way).
Click here for start point Distance: As long as you wish as the walk follows the same path out and back.
This circular walk can get very muddy, so make sure everyone is wearing wellies. Park up by Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and walk down through Gould Farm to say ‘hello’ to the cows (you’ll smell them before you see them!) Head down to the river and enjoy those open views across the dales as you walk between drystone stiles. Then treat yourself to a hearty lunch at the pub on your return.
Our favourite place to stay as a family is on a little farm, 2 miles north of Parwich. With a large double bedroom and smaller twin bedroom, the beautiful barn conversion named Bluebird Cottage comfortably sleeps a family of four. This is a home from home, so you have a lounge with TV and a fully equipped kitchen (including dining table, dishwasher and microwave). There’s a large grassy garden behind the cottage and our boys love feeding the donkeys. There are also goats and horses on the farm, and if you visit in Spring you’ll see lambs being born and perhaps get to hold one!
It’s a great location with beautiful walks on your doorstep, a short drive to attractions such as The Heights of Abraham, The Tramway Museum in Crich and Blaze Farm, and the local village down the road has a fab playground opposite the pub.
There is also Dover Barn next door to Bluebird Cottage, which also sleeps four. The owners of this family-run farm are such lovely people and very down-to-earth. We can’t recommend a stay with them enough. If you would like to get in touch to book, please visit their website.
Do you have any favourite short walks for young kids in the Peak District to add?
A big thank you to Ordnance Survey for supplying the mapping for this post as part of the #GetOutside program.
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Don’t leave home without your Peak District OS Map! You can also download OS mapping to you phone of tablet using the OS Maps app (subscription fee applies).
Have you considered a road trip with your baby? Due to the flexibility and large luggage allowance, it’s perhaps one of the easiest forms of travel for that first family holiday. Just load up your car, grab a map and drive!
When Arthur was just 5 months old we spent some time road-tripping around Scotland. We drove whilst he napped, discovered the most beautiful beaches, hiked through stunning mountain scenery, spent our evenings planning the days ahead and, would you believe it, Arthur actually slept better at night!
Road-tripping with babies and toddlers requires a fair bit of planning and organising. But it allows you the flexibility to travel on a schedule that suits your family and spontaneity to visit a destination when and where you want. It’s a fantastic form of travel for very young families, and here’s why:
Babies and toddlers nap
Nap time is your driving time between destinations. Most babies and toddlers fall asleep easily in the car. Something about the vibrations and sound. They love it! And it means no nap time battles for the parents. Just ensure they’ve had some grub before you set off. Up to the age of 15months, many babies and toddlers nap twice per day which means you can do a 1.5 hour drive in the morning, stop for lunch, wander and play, then do another 1.5 hours in the afternoon to your destination that night. Of course all babies are different. But the important message is that you fit to their routine and plan your route in advance. Don’t try and do longer than their standard nap times. This only results in a grouchy bub and stressed parents
Honest! We actually found that as Arthur was napping better during the day due to being in the car, he slept better at night! Meaning us parents felt much more refreshed than usual. As those sleep experts tell us, good sleep breeds good sleep.
Watch the scenery drift past, let your mind wander in peace, listen to your favourite music and catch up with your partner, all whilst your baby naps in the car. Plus, if they’re in a deep sleep, you can stop the car (but leave the radio and engine running), step out and admire the view.
Explore places you wouldn’t normally see
You’re led your baby’s routine. It may be the case that it’s too far to get to your desired destination in one day. So you look on the map and see a little village just a little closer and decide to stay there. It’s often these lesser-known locations that become the highlight of your trip.
You have the car to store all their stuff
For little people, babies come with a crazy amount of stuff; buggy, travel cot, sleep aids, sleeping bag, three (or more!) changes of clothes per day, black out blind, snacks if weaning, nappies, wipes, toys… the list seems endless. The thought of being able to throw everything the baby may need in a car is comforting for new parents. We suggest storing baby’s things in plastic shelves (see photo below), so it’s easier to search for items and handy for unpacking and packing the car at each destination. Good packing of the car is key to making life easier. Last thing you want to do is rummage under mounds of clothes and nappies, just to find their night light.
Space in the car for a cool box
Stock up on milk, drinks and food at the supermarket to store in your cool box. You can then enjoy a nibble whenever you fancy. Stumble across a stunning view point? Well there’s your lunch stop. Plus, it helps you save those pennies to spend on fuel and accommodation.
Because you’re moving from place to place, it is likely that you will want to wander around and explore on foot each destination. This is free! If you stay longer in one place, you often resort to paid activities to fill the time. Very young children don’t require too much entertainment, and certainly don’t need paid entertainment. They’re more than happy crawling through some grass, feeling the sensation of sand between their toes on a beach, or watching and waving at passers-by.
No flight costs, no enforced flight schedules, no squeezing as much as humanly possible into your carry on and no stresses of keeping bub peaceful at 30,000ft. No parent enjoys flying and a road trip means you don’t experience these hassles.
So get a map, and work out how many hours of driving you are prepared to do per day (considering naps) and how many days driving you wish to do. Work out a route from your front door, allowing a couple of days for contingency, pack the car with military organisation and drive. Remember to stay flexible to baby’s needs (those naps aren’t always predictable) and don’t push the distances too much. This is a road trip you will talk about for years to come.
I'm Jenny - a travel addicted mum to my two boys (aged 3 and 5). As a family we try to push the boundaries of family travel and dispel the myth that adventure needs to wait until the kids are older!
After a year living in India and 4 months traversing Africa in a Land Rover, we have recently moved to the Peak District in England and now plotting affordable adventures across Europe and around school terms.