Loving the new YHA winter offer! You can choose from over 100 hostels, book by 17 November 2013 and stay between 16 September and 13 February…
from just £9.50 per person per night!
Plus, families booking a family room get an extra 10% off – that means a family of 4 can stay in a private room from just £34 a night!
I just tried it out, thinking we could use an overnight stay when we head to Bath’s Christmas Market in November. The Hostel looks lovely, doesn’t it? And for a city centre break, the discount made it an amazing bargain:
So go on, getaway with YHA and make some happy memories. Simply quote
when you book online
YHA members can also use their £3 discount! Full details can be found here http://www.yha.org.uk/special-offer/more-memoriesRead More
When those lovely people at Accor heard we were making a very lo-o-o-ng (11.5hr drive) road trip through France, they incredibly kindly offered to provide a stopover half way.
Naturally I chose the spot in a very careful and scientific manner – I drew the map on Googlemaps, and plumped for wherever appeared to be halfway on the route…
Accor came back and said that the ibis Styles in Bourges would be perfect for us. No, I’d not really heard of the ibis Styles brand either, but I was just happy to have a bed for the night, so I naturally said lovely-please-thank-you, and crossed my fingers it would be convenient and nice.
Well, by the time we arrived, we were pretty much done in – 4hrs on the ferry plus 5 and half hours driving made for a very dull family. The hotel was right on the motorway – literally – very convenient, but being in what looked like a retail park and on such a busy road we did rather sink a little at what we might find.
Idiots, we were.
We wheeled the cases into reception, and I practiced my best French on the man at reception; “Un Reservation pour Hitchcock?”
He smiled, and replied in faultless English. Cheating in the language skills, I know, but honestly we were so tired it was a blessed relief.
A speedy check in, and we were on our way to our rooms – we couldn’t have interconnecting, but we had the older boys in a double just up the corridor, and we were in one of the family rooms.
The hotel itself was bright, spacious and really welcoming. The vibrant colours and prints everywhere made it feel fresh and modern, and once we were in, we had absolutely zero knowledge of the motorway right outside. And the family room? Probably the best we’ve EVER had…
After freshening up, we headed straight out to find something to eat. There is a Restaurant Grill Courtepaille within a minutes walk – and we’d totally recommend it. We ate there twice, and both times it was fabulous. the food’s great, the service excellent, and it was the perfect choice for weary travellers.
There are no tea & coffee facilities in the rooms, but there’s a great coffee machine in reception which you can visit at any time and take back to your room. The beds were unbelievably comfortable, the bed linen great quality and we all had the best night’s sleep we’d had for ages. The following morning we wandered down to breakfast (very loose timings from 7 to 11, and checkout is not til 12) and found a typical hotel buffet breakfast waiting for us.
Tables are laid with trays, and you simply collect a tray from your table, and go collect what you fancy from the fruit and pastries, cereals, yoghurts, ham and cheese and of course endless juice tea and coffee to drink.
We stayed at the ibis Styles Bourges on the way back too – in the very same rooms, and had an equally fabulous stay. The staff are unfailingly friendly (and their English puts my French to pitiful shame), the children were not just tolerated but positively welcomed (the Monsters University welcome packs were a BIG hit!) the rooms are spacious and comfortable and the whole place is spotlessly clean, fresh and inviting. We’d recommend the ibis Styles hotels to any family – and will definitely use them again ourselves.
A family room at the IBIS Styles in Bourges is currently £97 a night, sleeps up to 4 and includes unlimited WIFI and breakfast.
With children back at school up and down the land, HomeAway.co.uk, the UK’s leading rentals site, has some super September savers for those free to go away outside the restrictions of the academic year.
September holidays are the perfect way to catch some sun before autumn sets in and at prices lower than the premiums charged during the popular July and August getaway period. Whether it is a week in Lanzarote, a city break in Rome or an active beach holiday in Portugal, the site lists over half a million properties that are perfect for a post-summer break.
Erica Chang, Regional Director of HomeAway.co.uk, says, “There is no doubt that if you can be flexible on when you go away, there are many savings to be had once the school term starts in September. Bagging a bargain onHomeAway.co.uk means you get the same great destinations and outstanding properties available in July and August but at a lower price.
She added, “This is a great time for families with babies and toddlers to travel as the sun isn’t quite so strong, the perfect time for couples to enjoy the less crowded streets of Paris and Barcelona and for those with time on their hands, the world is their oyster”.
Current options from the site include:
This is an outstanding brand new, fully furnished apartment in the exclusive Tas-Sellum development in Mellieha. The property consists of a spacious open plan kitchen, dining and living area as well as four bedrooms and sea view balconies. The development is a tranquil base for a relaxing holiday but is also just is a 15 minute walk to Ghadira Bay, the best beach on the island as well as being close to shops, bars and restaurants.
Full details can be seen at www.homeaway.co.uk/p1025556 and a week in September costs £763, a massive saving of £835 on August prices (£1,616).
Spacious and recently renovated to a high standard, this luxury penthouse apartment has two private balconies with views of tropical gardens, mountains and the marina. Spacious and bright with marble throughout, this apartment is a great getaway bolt-hole. The gardens are relaxing and there are two stunning pools as well as beach access; perfect for some September sun.
Full details can be seen at www.homeaway.co.uk/p53681 and a week September is £763, a saving of £427 on August prices (£1,190).
This spacious villa with stunning marble floors throughout offers a good standard of modern accommodation in a fantastic quiet position within the popular Faro Park area. Villa Nefertiti is ideal for groups of family and friends travelling together, offering three bedrooms, three bathrooms, as well as a sofa bed to accommodate extra visitors.
In the grounds is a beautiful pool and patio area with mature palms and cactus, whilst covered terraces provide shaded areas for guests to relax. The resort of Playa Blanca with pretty harbour, array of shops and restaurants is a five minute drive away as are several beautiful sandy beaches.
Full details can be seen at http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p448547 and a week in September costs £500, a saving of £200 on August prices (£700).
Situated in the village of Mousata, Nostos is set within lush greenery and has a swimming pool overlooking the Ionian Sea. It offers spacious, tastefully decorated air-conditioned accommodation for up to five guests. There is a furnished balcony with sea views, free sun beds and umbrellas, poolside bar and the beach is just over a kilometre away.
Full details can be seen at www.homeaway.co.uk/p1060364 and a week in September costs £238, a saving of £287 on August prices (£525).
This charming southwest facing house with a heated pool is located in between the beautiful beaches of Brittany and the city centre of Erquy. Amenities include a home cinema, wi-fi, modern furniture and fittings, private garage and outdoor parking. Outside there is a large, private terrace overlooking a gated pool and the sandy beach of Guen beach located 1.5 km from the house, where you swim and fish.
Full details can be seen at www.homeaway.co.uk/p926815a and a week in September costs £426 a saving of £214 (£640).
If you want to try to catch the last of the English sun, how about this fourth floor apartment with two bedrooms, which sleeps four? Ocean Views is a new luxury seafront development on the Isle of Portland in Dorset. The apartment has high quality flooring, wooden decked balcony and polished granite worktops. The development has a state-of-the-art health and fitness suite complete with an indoor swimming pool and is set in landscaped grounds, which are perfect for sunny autumn afternoon strolls.
Full details can be seen at www.homeaway.co.uk/p1032472 a week September costs £699, a saving of (£1,209).Read More
Group Accommodation are perfect for family breaks with toddlers. Many offer lovely enclosed gardens with play equipment, others provide a box full of toys to keep little ones entertained, or a library of children’s DVDs. Many can provide babysitting services or offer handy kids’ equipment such as high chairs, plastic crockery, stair gates, or baby monitors. Others even boast their own on-site woodland nature trails, or even friendly resident farm animals.
Here are our top picks:
This town house offers comfort, elegance and plenty of space for friends and families looking to spend time together in e charming town of Brecon in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Full of lovely features the house is perfect for families with children who will levitate to the converted cellar den with Sky Plus and table tennis table. The first floor drawing room has floor to ceiling French patio doors, allowing you to make full use of the lovely sloping rear garden that rises up above the house to gives views of both Pen y Fan. The kitchen opens onto a sheltered courtyard beneath the garden where evenings can be spent socialising making use of the gas BBQ and out door tables an chairs – the secret to be found is historic ice-house, where there are further table and chairs if the weather is not kind! Sleeps 14 with 7 bedrooms.
The Shippon is a detached converted barn with magnificent views down to and over a completely unspoilt, building-free stretch of the navigable river Dart. You approach the property down about a half mile private tarmac drive and there is plenty of parking space once you reach the Shippon. This is a marvellous place to bring your children and their friends or your friends and their children! There is a spacious games room with table tennis and pool table on the first floor. There is also a small colour television. There are some good walks, excellent child-friendly pubs/restaurants, bird watching and badgers, foxes, deer and even an osprey has been seen. Sleeps up to 18 with 10 bedrooms.
Perfect for big families, upstairs is a roomy lounge with a Clearview wood burning stove and leather sofas where you can watch TV, listen to music, set up wist drives or relax together. All the facilities of the site are available including the indoor heated swimming pool and leisure facilities, the Big Play Barn and the outdoor play areas. There is a Big Play Barn with ride-on toys, play houses, soft play and adventure playground. They provide 2 travel cots, high chairs and bedguards. Sleeps up to 12 with 6 bedrooms.
Llys Tanwg is an absolutely top-class location for a quiet getaway or a large family gathering, with an endless amount of local activities for all ages and dispositions. There are large private and secluded gardens, including woodland areas with some great climbing trees, as well as a log cabin for table tennis, pool, darts and table football. The beach is wonderful, only a 10 minute walk away, with 4 miles of wide sandy beach and dunes in one direction, rock pools in the other, all safe for swimming. Sleeps up to 13 with 7 bedrooms.
This house will instantly grab your attention, the entrance hall leads into a large comfortable lounge affording fabulous views, with door leading out to sun terrace and gardens. The gardens offer a BBQ, seating areas, all-weather tennis court, croquet, badminton, a fish pond and an “adventure heaven” for children, ideal for hide and seek or treasure hunts. Not to mention it’s 2 minutes from the safe sandy beach and high chairs & travel cots available. Sleeps up to 24 with 12 bedrooms.
At the weekend my family and I had the pleasure of visiting Manchester for an overnight stay and two fun-packed days of museum visits, eating at great restaurants and shopping! I hadn’t been to Manchester for about 17 years so it was wonderful to go back and explore the city!
Manchester has grown and improved so much from what I can remember of it back when I was 18. Everywhere seemed to be clean and well looked after and there was a wonderful summer buzz in the air, every green space was filled with couples relaxing, families picnicking and kids playing in water fountains! It was busy but it never seemed too busy, we happily made our way round with a pushchair.
The transport system is also brilliant; we got on to trams and buses with our pushchair with ease. Both buses and trams were regular and on time wherever we went! I have a bit of a public transport phobia myself but everything seemed so relaxed and stress free!
Living in Nottingham I never even thought of going to Manchester for a weekend, I imagined the train journey would be long and tiresome! This was not so at all! We just had one change and the whole journey took under two hours!
From Nottingham to Sheffield we travelled first class on East Midlands Trains, this took around 50 minutes, there were plenty of seats, tea and coffee, free wifi and friendly staff!
From Sheffield to Manchester we travelled by standard class on First TransPennine Express, this part of the journey was much busier and we struggled to get a seat on both our outward and return journey! First TransPennine Express operates intercity rail services across the north of England and into Scotland. Fares for any journey across the country are available at www.tpexpress.co.uk and can be purchased with no booking fee.
Where to stay:
We spent the night at staycity these are serviced apartments within a ten minute walk to the city centre. Our apartment was on the 6th floor and had a wonderful view over the city! It was a lot bigger than I imagined it to be, very clean, light and airy! We had a two bedroom apartment which had a double room with ensuite, a twin room, family bathroom and then a large L shaped room with kitchen, dining area and living space. We would most definitely use these apartments again if we were to go visit Manchester again.
What is there to do?
We had a brief visit to the Imperial War Museum North, the exhibition brought both myself and my partner to tears, the kids were so impressed with the tank, other war time vehicles and bombs on display! The museum also had numerous activities and crafts on for children while we were there and we could have stayed a lot longer than we did! Also not to be missed is the Horrible Histories Rotten Rationing Big Picture Show, In the show you meet Rattus Rattus as he takes you on a journey back to the woeful Second World War, where you can discover foul food, dig for victory, and make do and mend. The show runs Daily from 18 May at 11am with extra showings at 2pm during weekends and school holidays. Running time is 7 minutes.
There is SO much to see at Manchester Museum, if you are visiting Manchester it really should not be missed! Manchester museum has 4 floors of displays and galleries! We did not have enough time to explore the entire museum but we will most definitely go back again! The kids especially loved Stan the T-Rex!
The LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is brilliant! The kids didn’t want to leave. The highlights for us were the 4D cinema and the kingdom quest ride, my 2 yr old loved using the laser gun to rescue the princess! We all did though to be totally honest – so much so we went back on it 4 times!
Right next door to Legoland Discovery centre is Manchester’s Sea Life Centre which has only been open since early June this year! My little boy goes on a mission to find Nemo in every single tank in a sea life centre and he obviously wasn’t disappointed ;) You can also find more than 5,000 other sea creatures along the way! One thing I would be very interested in going back and doing is Europe’s First Sea Bed Walk, at £60 this isn’t exactly cheap but it would be a wonderful experience to walk amongst the sharks, rays, giant turtle and all the other sea creatures!
Where to eat:
Papa G’s Grill & Bar is in the city’s Printworks entertainment complex, Papa G’s have embraced the old traditional Greek and Mediterranean cooking taught over generations. The food we were served was good wholesome food and plenty of it too! The kids have a fantastic menu to choose from, it’s not every day you come across a menu serving Calamari for kids! Both of mine opted for the chicken, salad and chunky chips. The chicken was skewered and gorgeous, the chunky chips divine! Maisie did eat 3 calamari rings from our sharing starter and she loved it… I haven’t told her what it was yet as she is very funny with food and I’m sure she’s never touch it again if she knew!
The restaurant is very relaxed and is very tastefully decorated! The kids really enjoyed the children’s library which is situated under the stairs! This has a fantastic selection of books and the kids loved sitting in there with the colour changing lights! Such a brilliant addition to a restaurant! Every eatery should have one!
Hard Rock Café like Papa G’s is at the Printworks entertainment complex! We had two very tired kids when we arrived here on Saturday evening but they were kept thoroughly entertained by everything that was going on around them! There is such a buzz in Hard Rock Café, so much to see, people singing Happy Birthday and generally just lots of friendliness! Even two very tired kids loved it, they didn’t really eat a great deal, I don’t think that was anything to do with the food but they devoured their thick milkshakes which you really must have if you ever go to a Hard Rock Café, they are divine! Our food was spot on, the cocktails gorgeous and the service was amazing! We even got to take our cocktail glasses home as souvenirs!
Giraffe is situated at the Intu Trafford centre. I think from the whole weekend we enjoyed eating here the most! It was cool, relaxed and friendly! The kids were given crayons and lovely activity sheets that they really enjoyed and they also got little plastic giraffe’s in their drinks which kept them amused for quite some time! The food was absolutely gorgeous; the kids ate everything on their plate… which is very unusual! We can highly recommend the burgers and the rocky road sundae is to die for ;)
Where to shop:
The Intu Trafford centre is a 25-30 minutes bus ride from the centre of Manchester, it is totally worth the trip! The décor is incredible if not a little extravagant! The Trafford Centre has 230 stored for you to browse around and The Orient food hall hosts 36 restaurants and fast food eateries. It is also home to the Odeon 20 screen cinema.
The Arndale Centre is right in the centre of the city, it is the UK’s largest city-centre shopping centre and with over 240 retailers and there isn’t a high street name that you won’t find there! So convenient if you are staying in the City centre!
HINT: If you are booking a trip to Manchester I would recommend staying for more than one night like we did, there is an enormous amount of things to see and do and we came back a little sad that we didn’t get to explore it as much as we would have liked!
Reviewed for us by Sonia from This Mummy Loves – aided and abetted by her homegrown Review Team :)
Hoseasons invited us to review one of their holiday parks this Summer, the Darwin Forest Country Park just outside Matlock, Derbyshire. We are always happy to hear the words ‘holiday’ and ‘review’ and nodded vigorously, cleared some time in our diary and set to planning our trip to the Derbyshire Peak District. Before the holiday I had a good browse of their website and was delighted to see a Certificate of Excellence 2013 Winner from TripAdvisor and a David Bellamy Gold Conversation Award – that’s got to be a good sign.
The holiday was a Friday to Friday and as we live only 1.30hrs away we figured we could set off quite casually around lunchtime – big mistake – Friday afternoon traffic is horrendous. It took us much longer because we ran away from the crawling M1 and took the scenic route – and so did many others – sigh. We relied on sat. nav. which was going great until, a few miles before we got to the park the sat. nav. told us we had arrived – errrrr! We kept going, up stepper and steeper slopes and rapidly narrowing lanes before spotting the entrance sign. Huzzah! (Note to self; update sat. nav. maps at earliest opportunity).
Our immediate impression was very, very good. An oasis of calm, very peaceful and very tidy. Check-in could not have been easier, less than 10 minutes, with all the information we needed to hand, so very straight forward so we pootled to our lodge.
The Darwin Forest Country Park is small but perfectly formed. It is not a massive holiday park with many hundreds of lodges necessitating every facility and venue to be oversized to accommodate, thankfully. It is a park with only 122 lodges and just the right amount of space for all. It has an on-site shop, a restaurant and bar, a cafe, mini golf, woodland trails, bikes for hire, tennis courts, plenty of space for kids to run around and most importantly for us; a swimming pool. We like it, we like it very much.
Our lodge, a three bedroom Peveril, was spot on with plenty of space and very well thought out storage. It was clean and all our basic holiday needs were met. Our lodge was one that allows dogs to stay but we are non-dog people (we’re partial to cats and chickens) and could detect a slight whiff of mutt about the place but it’s ok, we could live with it and after a few days it had disappeared, no bother.
The accommodation is good and, for me, it’s the little details that can make all the difference. The beds are comfortable with plenty of pillow choices. The bedrooms have dressing tables and stools with electrical sockets in just the right place for hairdryer/straighteners. There are wardrobes in each bedroom and hooks in the hallway for towels etc. The showers are great and there are decent mirrors and lighting in the bathrooms. Everything is very clean and new. They also give you a generous supply of small essentials for self-catering; dishwasher tablets, bin bags etc.
Once unpacked, we did a quick stop at the Woodlands park shop for breakfast essentials then had dinner at the Foresters restaurant. It was a lovely evening as we sat outside, cold glass of wine, kids happy with the playground and games room nearby. We all thoroughly enjoyed the food – freshly cooked dishes, just our sort of thing. Immediately our two boys made friends with Tom from Dubai and had a happy few hours larking about. The Derbyshire Peak District attracts visitors from far and wide so there is an international mix amongst the guests and we liked that.
After dinner, back at the lodge we sat on the deck with a cool breeze and a forest-quietness of rustling trees. I can see from the corner of my eye that my brood are winding down nicely indeed. So far, very good.
Early the next morning (and every morning, without fail) the boys headed off for a dip in the swimming pool and at that hour they pretty much had it all to themselves. Our youngest was particularly fascinated by the high tech showers and they found the changing areas and the pool itself to be immaculate.
We had a truly lovely week away and throughly enjoyed exploring the area. Our best day, hands down, was spent at Chatsworth House. We’ve been once before, a few years ago but it was a very cold, snowy Easter. However, this time, it was gloriously hot and sunny weather. We purchased an unlimited family ticket for about £50 and it included the farm, woodland playground, gardens and house. We didn’t actually make it into the house – we spent too long at the farm and playground and it was much too nice wandering the gardens and wadding in the Cascade. We were also rather engrossed in watching the BBC film scenes for their upcoming period drama, A Death Comes to Pemberbey by P. D. James. Fortunately, the unlimited family ticket allows us to return within 6 months at half price and we may just do that.
Other highlights of the week away include a day at The Heights of Abraham and another at the Alton Towers Waterpark which was perfect for the glorious heatwave we’ve had this July.
So, if you are looking for a UK family holiday, the Derbyshire Peak District has got to be one of the top places to go. You’ll also, no doubt, be wanting decent accommodation that is within easy reach of all the places you’ll want to visit and you can tick that box at the Darwin Country Park which truly benefits from being just the right size to have great on-site facilities but not too big that you’re fighting the crowds. We give it a very happy thumbs up.
Note: I have used some photos from the Hoseasons website, this is because I lost all my lovely photos when my iPhone, sadly, died. The few photos of ours that I have used were taken by our sons.Read More
The vast majority of us Brits are leaving it until the very last minute to book their summer holiday, according to the UK’s leading holiday rentals site HomeAway.co.uk. To cope with the last minute summer rush (and to provide extra convenience for travellers all year round), HomeAway.co.uk has introduced an instant online booking system for travellers.
The fast, safe and secure online bookings and payments system gives instant confirmation for last minute breaks. With over 2,700 properties in Europe still available to rent this summer, holidaymakers can book a last minute rental now at www.HomeAway.co.uk/lastminute
Listing a selection of apartments, cottages, houses and villas complete with pools and terraces, gardens and BBQs in countryside and waterfront locations,HomeAway.co.uk’s new “we found a place to” campaign highlights the site’s new features which help people find the perfect holiday they may have thought sold out months ago.
HomeAway.co.uk Regional Director Erica Chang, said, “Based on enquiries in 2013, people have been booking last minute breaks with 87% more enquiries being made one month prior to departure compared to six months prior. For those people who have left things late, we are here to help. Whether you are looking for a short cultural break in one of the world’s most exciting cities or simply want to kick back and relax in the sun for two weeks, HomeAway.co.uk has the perfect holiday for you.”
She added, “Travellers don’t need to worry about missing out on great deals because many of the properties on the site are taking advantage of the ‘Book Now’ facility so that their guests can make a secure booking online there and then with a credit card meaning no one else can pip them to the post. Within 24 hours they will receive a final confirmation direct from the owner assuring them the deal is done and all they need to worry about is where the passports are and which bikini to pack.”
Last minute bargains offering the online booking facility on HomeAway.co.uk include:
This large luxurious converted barn is set in a peaceful rural valley, and sleeps up to 16 people in six big bedrooms. With a fabulous AGA kitchen guests can prepare and enjoy a meal with friends and family with the doors open and looking out to the private garden.
The pretty meadow, with shallow stream, is ideal for picnics and den building and there is an eight-seat hot tub that’s perfect for midnight stargazing. Whether you grab a book and chill out on the sun-loungers or toast marshmallows on an open fire, this is a holiday haven that can be booked today.
Holidays can be booked now at www.homeaway.co.uk/p845310 and prices in the summer start from £3,200 per week.
This is a luxury apartment with brand new furniture, 46′ LED TV, full-equipped kitchen, large terrace, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The property is set in a complex and has the added benefits of four pools and a restaurant. The beautiful beaches of the Costa Del Sol is just two km away and with Mijas Golf Course as well as pretty villages and towns close by, this is a great place to sit back and relax at a price that is right.
Full details can be seen at http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p895073 and you can book now for just £431 a week in high season.
This two bedroomed luxury apartment is set in the centre of Budapest and is perfect for a city break for all the family. Recently renovated, it is clean and bright and has an uber-cool feel thanks to the designer furniture and great decor. It is situated in the heart of the ‘Golden Triangle’ area of Budapest’s fashionable 6th district and is close to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Budapest Opera House and the City Park is less than 10 minutes by public transport.
Holidays can be booked now at http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p1120598 and summer prices start at £595 a week.
This is a beautifully restored, five bedroomed house on three floors, on the edge of the mountain village of Benaojan, with gorgeous roof terrace and stunning mountain views. The Mediterranean style garden with whitewashed walls, concrete paths and stairs with olive and lemon trees and an ancient vine cleverly combines traditional and contemporary design and is a relaxing haven away from everyday life.
As well as being the perfect place to rest and recharge your batteries, it is also a great base for sightseeing and visiting the historic town of Ronda boasting the oldest bullring in Spain, Arab Baths, cathedral, as well as plenty of bars and restaurants serving tapas and great wines.
Summer prices start at £700 a week and you can book now at www.homeaway.co.uk/p1071241
The lovely luxury villa in Kato Paphos sleeps up to eight guests and benefits from a private garden and roof terrace. Furnished to a high standard, rooms have ceiling fans and air-conditioning and the master bedroom is en-suite with balcony. The roof terrace is the perfect place for topping up your tan or watching the spectacular sunsets over a glass of wine. Twin patio doors lead onto a private garden with a spacious patio and there is a large L-shaped shared pool surrounded by sun loungers and pretty pleasant gardens for relaxing and sun bathing.
Booking details can be seen at www.homeaway.co.ukp19724 and summer prices start at £670 per week.
As regular readers know, we spent a week in the Brecon Beacons recently. It’s a place we love to visit, and we’ve stayed there a lot over the years, getting to know the area really well. Whilst we do a lot of this kind of thing…
…we do understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (though if you’re keen to start a bit more hill walking and exploring there’s few places finer than the Brecon Beacons. They’re easily accessible, well kept paths, and plenty of variation whether you want a gentle saunter on a flat path around a reservoir, or to push yourself to scale the heights of the highest peaks).
So here’s our experienced-visitor round-up of the best activities for families in the Brecon Beacons:
We’ve not tried them yet, but have red-penned this site to do so on our very next visit. Brilliant range of experiences, letting you do the stuff you don’t normal get the chance to do (we want to do the foraging, and also would love the helping out at a hedgehog sanctuary). Best of all, for every experience booked a percentage of the profit is given back to a local charity or good cause.
Dan Yr Ogof Showcaves (for those who want to know, that’s pronounced Danneer Oh Goff).
A full day out packed with stuff to do – not just caves, there’s a Dinosaur park, a Shire Horse centre, a playbarn – perfect trip for a wet day out
Drover Cycles. Brilliant for exploring the area on foot or by bike – these are the people to call. They’ll help with guided and self-guided trips from 2 days to 2 weeks, and they also do not-so-plain old bike hire too. Hire your bikes for a day, and they’ll deliver them to you for free; either at your accommodation, or to the start of your chosen trail. Brilliant service.
These are the people to call if you’re looking for something a little more action-packed. An award-winning activity provider, you can do canyoning, climbing, caving, gorge walking, canoeing, white water rafting… Great for families, everything is organised for you (they cover accommodation, transport, meals as well as the activities), so it’s just a case of turning up and being ready to say yes.
Seriously a Must not Miss – Big Pit is a great day out (and another good one in wet weather!).There’s a multi-media tour of a modern coal mine, fascinating exhibitions AND the world-famous Underground Tour. Go 300 feet underground with a real miner and see what life was like for the thousands of men who worked at the coal face.
Best of all? It’s FREE! Just a £2 parking fee. Brilliant. (NB Children must be 1m tall to go underground)
Dolaucothi Gold Mines (pronounce it Doll-oh-Cothy ;) )
Another good one in wet weather (yes, Wales, we love you, but you ARE wet…) – did you know there was gold in Wales? No, neither did we. But we’ve visited Dolaucathi a number of times, and never fail to learn something from the brilliant guides. plus the above-ground activities are really good too. Guided tours take you back to experience the conditions of the Roman, Victorian and 1930s underground workings – these mines give a really fab potted history experience. The children are always fascinated (and LOVE panning for gold themselves…).
It’s a slight drive out of the National Park to the mines, but with a family ticket at only £13.60 it’s one of our top tips for sure.
You can’t NOT go to the castles when you visit Wales – if you’re an English Heritage member, then your membership counts over the border at CADW properties in Wales too (if you’re not, then look at getting an Explorer Pass). There’s nowhere better for a family with active children than a wild castle to explore and play in (our personal favourite is a noisy game of Block… other visitors seem to find it amusing to walk around a wall and find me desperately trying to hide myself and a large dog behind it…). Our top tips for castles to visit? Don’t miss Carreg Cennen, Tretower Court, and Blaenavon Ironworks
Brecon Mountain Railway. Brilliant vintage steam train through beautiful scenery into the Brecon Beacons National Park along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservoir to Dol-y-Gaer. You can get off and go for a meander along the reservoir, visit the workshop where old steam locomotives are repaired, make use of the picnic site…. for us, the highlight of our last trip was the sheer number of red Kites we spotted along the route.
Don’t miss out on Hay on Wye while you’re visiting the area – world famous for its second-hand and antiquarian bookshops (Currently there are approximately 30 major bookshops in the town), we lost hours meandering around. We allowed the children to choose one book each – oh, the anguish. The decision-making (and the choices… who knew?). But in the process we all fell in love with Hay on Wye, and can’t wait to go back again to do some more exploring. And Book buying. An absolute Must Not Miss it Richard Booth’s bookshop – easy to slip past it’s small antiquarian facade, once you step inside you’ll find yourself moving slower, breathing deeper, smiling wider. And staying for a ve-e-e-ry long time indeed.
Okay, so this one’s not actually an activity… but you simply can’t visit Brecon and not take a trip out to the Llanfaes Ice Cream Parlour on the outskirts fo the town. Please don’t drive past – stop, go in, buy one. With over 40 different flavours, you’ll be spoiled for choice and may need a second visit to try some more (I think we went three times in a week, and on the third time the boys all had triple scoops….). Our top favourites? Raspberry & Almond, Salted Caramel, Blueberry Cheesecake, Lemon Cheesecake, Marshmallow Ripple, Toffee & Fudge…
I booked us dinner out on the first night of our holidays (When LittleStuff Went To Wales – you can see where we stayed here) – traditionally for us, first night is chip-shop-ships night, but as it was the husband’s birthday I felt he deserved a little something more.
I’d been recommended to try the Star Inn, but when we pulled up outside I was a little cautious – it looked like a very ordinary village pub in a residential street, right on the road, and just the sort of place we’d probably sail past as a tourist looking for ‘somewhere nice’.
But I’d booked a table for 6.30, so in we went… and were greeted by a wall of noise and people. It’s been a long time since we went to pub that was actually thriving as a ‘pub’, and it was such a welcoming atmosphere. Barely making it to the bar, we were greeted with warm smiles by the bar staff, shown our table and handed our menus.
We had just settled in our seats when the lovely landlady arrived, said hello to all the children, and then immediately warned us that as they were very busy, there would be quite a wait for the food – were we okay with that? Whilst we’re not keen on long waits, obviously, it was refreshing to be warned before we ordered, therefore giving us the choice. We were early enough for us not to mind an hour’s wait, and being pre-warned saves all the narky irritation of waiting in ignorance. So we were quite content to settle in and relax with a drink.
We were also pointed to a large basket tucked into the wall, which contained all sorts of things to occupy the youngest members of the family. I always go equipped with pencil and paper in my bag, but this was the first time we’ve felt the children were so welcome in a pub that they had specifically been catered for – colouring books and pens, Jenga, puzzles etc – all good table activities that meant the wait really wasn’t an issue.
The menu itself was great too – the ethics of a gastropub (freshly made food using good local ingredients), but simple straightforward dishes that everyone understood immediately. The husband and two sons opted for the steak (£13), I went for the chicken from the specials board – stuffed with chorizo and cheese, wrapped in bacon. No.2 son opted for the burger – with reservations. He badly wanted it to be delicious, but had concerns about it’s size (caused by our recent jaunt to a ‘fancy restaurant with pretend food portions’), and the fact that it contained ‘stinky cheese’. He was reassured by our grinning host who absolutely guaranteed he’d have a humongous man-sized beast of a burger, and offered cheddar as an alternative, much to his delight. The 6yr old was the only one selecting from the brilliant children’s menu – spaghetti bolognese was her dish of choice. We were impressed by the fact that under 2′s get bubble & squeak with gravy for free – such a nice touch but one so few restaurants catch on to.
True to their warning, we did wait an hour for our food – but none of us minded. There were a couple of chats with the owners of the Star Inn (who are very lovely). There was a coke mishap – which Anna the landlady magically whisked a cloth out to mop up in approximately 3 nanoseconds. She wasn’t even at the table when it happened, but the cloth appeared before the coke puddle had started to spread. That’s some experienced parent skills. There were some tense and competitive rounds of Jenga (and the atmosphere was such that no one minded the clatter of the bricks falling), plus some serious wall designing with the bricks. The colouring book was put to the test, and bestie best of all, the children were all whisked away by Anna-the-lovely-landlady to see the new rabbits in the garden. SO exciting!
This is no tourist food stop though. The pub was full of locals, too – it’s always reassuring to see a pub being actually used as a pub, rather than having a few rebellious souls stuck in the corner away from the tables that fill the place. The Star Inn was packed with walkers, families, groups of beer mates, a couple of dogs… and the staff were brilliant, managing to combine efficient service with a warm and friendly chat.
When the food did arrive, it was great. Honestly – really really great, and exactly what we were looking for. The Steaks were cooked perfectly (though the adult meal was WAY too big for the 10-yr-old-who’d-already-drunk-a-can-of-coke… *sigh*), the chicken was utterly delicious (you know those meals where you start to eat slower and slower just to make sure you don’t finish too soon? Yes. That). The spaghetti bolognese was deemed “really very yummy”… and I’m happy confirm that it actually was a humongous man-sized beast of a burger.
Including two rounds of drinks, the whole meal for six came to less than £80. We left relaxed and chattering, having had just a Really Great Family Evening – in possibly one of the most child-friendly pubs we’ve ever eaten in. We will certainly be returning!
(one main had been kindly covered for the purposes of the review)
Beacons Farm sirloin steak cooked to order served with chips and full grill garnish £13.00
(ask at the bar for sauces available – add £1.50)
Welsh lamb shank served with spring onion mash, a rosemary and redcurrant jus and vegetables £14.95
Star burger served in a bun with Stilton, bacon, salad and Lydia Morgan’s Cowboy Pickles and chips £9.95
Beef lasagne served with choice of potatoes, garlic bread and salad or peas £9.50
Star steak and local ale pie served with a choice of potatoes and fresh vegetables or peas £10.50
Fresh fish and chips with our own beer batter, tartare sauce and peas £9.50
Cooked Welsh ham served with bubble and squeak and a local free range egg £8.50
Roasted vegetable lasagne served with choice of potatoes, garlic bread and salad or peas (V) £9.50
Butternut squash and mushroom pie with choice of potatoes and vegetables (V) £9.95
CHILDREN’S MEALS – Under 12s
Sausage and mash with gravy £4.95
Children’s spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread £4.95
Fish with our own batter, chips and peas or beans £4.95
Cottage pie with peas or vegetables £4.95
Bubble and squeak mash & gravy free
A couple of weeks ago we did a Very Bad thing. We whisked the children out of school for a week of sunshine and exploring in the Brecon Beacons.
As you can tell, we feel horribly guilty and repentant that they spent the week doing stuff like this…
We stayed as guests of Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages, and our home for the week was the Old Coach House, Cathedine (pronounced Cathoddin, in case you were wondering). Situated just a few miles outside Brecons, and right on top of Llangors Lake, it’s perfectly situated for exploring all that the National Park has to offer, both the Beacons and the Black Mountains.
It also happens to be possibly the best-equipped cottage for families we have ever stayed in (and we’ve stayed in a few…).
We were utterly blessed with the most perfect week of weather we could have asked for - glorious days of perfect early summer sunshine and blue skies, followed by long warm evenings just made for eating in the garden, playing games and watching the sun go down.