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Recent Family Holiday Information and Recommendations

  • Top 10 UK guided walks and tours for families

    Avoid moans of ‘walking’s boring’ by trying a children-focused tour, where guides channel Robin Hood and Mary Poppins, or lead ghost trails and fossil huntsIf you’re looking for “gently spooky” rather than “give the kids nightmares for weeks”, then this is the ghost tour for you. Follow “Victorian undertaker” Bill Spectre as he leads you through the back streets and courtyards of Oxford. This twilight tour is peppered with ghost stories, which are illustrated with props, pyrotechnics and illusions. Plenty of jokes and audience participation ensure it never goes to the dark side and is suitable for kids of all ages. • Friday and Saturday evening at 6.30pm from the gift shop of Oxford Castle Unlocked, 1¾ hours, no need to book. Adults £9, children £5-£7. ghosttrail.org Continue reading...

  • City breaks with kids: Nantes

    This cycle-friendly city on the river Loire has family attractions galore, super street art and tasty food options for children• In this series: Paris | Barcelona | Amsterdam | Berlin | London | RomeNot any more … Nantes is a wonderland for kids and parents. The city, on the river Loire, has seen a cultural reinvention in the past 10 years and there’s easily enough to do to fill a week – or a few days en route south, as my family and I tend to do. The best place to start is the Île de Nantes, the creative hub of the city on an island in the river. Here, the masterminds at Les Machines de L’ile Nantes have created a steampunk playground where a robotic elephant carries passengers on its back (rides €8.50 adults, €6.90 children) and sprays water on bystanders. Nearby, a carousel inspired by Nantes native Jules Verne and his novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea whirls visitors around on mechanical masterpieces such as smoke-breathing dragons, flying fish and fearsome anglerfish (ride prices as above). It’s possible to tour the workshop and see future creations taking shape.For souvenirs … Petit Beurre biscuits, salted butter caramels and Rigolette sweets are the things to seek out Continue reading...

  • Family fun: an action-packed week in France – for under £450pp

    On an all-inclusive group family holiday at a Normandy chateau, a sceptical dad is pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the entertainment and activities are Call it an exercise in contrasts. At the summit of Mont Saint-Michel, the bronze statue of the archangel is glinting in the midday sun, sword raised and wings outspread. At the foot of Mont Saint-Michel, a small jam-smeared boy is wriggling through a tiny window in the fortress wall and idly breaking into the courtyard of a gendarmerie. The archangel is the protector of the mount. The boy is my son.Four of us – me, my wife, our four-year-old daughter Bethan and seven-year-old apprentice cat burglar, Joe – have come to western Normandy to join 15 other British families on an all-ages adventure break. This group day trip is a mere bit-player in the week’s itinerary. The holiday is primarily based 45 minutes inland, at an old countryside chateau near Les Chambres on the Manche coast, near Brittany. It’s a wholesome setting in which rabbits hop, peacocks preen and mobs of croissant-fuelled children tear around, brandishing makeshift lightsabers. Continue reading...

  • Take the kids to … Penshurst Place and Gardens, Kent

    History lesson and fun family day out combine at this sumptuous medieval house and its gardens near Tonbridge. The cycle ride to it is a joy as wellA vast medieval house at one end of sumptuous gardens, surrounded by bucolic Kent weald countryside. Does it sound a bit cup-of-tea, lemon-drizzle dull? Well, no, because there is an excellent adventure playground, a bewildering wheat field maze, a nature walk and a just-taxing-enough cycle from nearby Tonbridge. The gardens are organised into yew-lined sections, with dramatic changes of colour and mood – as they were back in the day. Continue reading...

  • Pitch perfect: the UK’s best tiny campsites

    Love camping but not campers? In an extract from his book, Tiny Campsites, Dixe Wills picks Britain’s best miniature sites, where nature’s the star, nights are silent and even the loos have great viewsUntil 2016, the first thing visitors learned when staying at Dennis Farm was that it was not the campsite called Dennis Cove. The two were once one but then split, with the much larger Dennis Cove on one side of the headland, and the diminutive Dennis Farm site – an isolated strip of coastal loveliness, free from crowds, madding or otherwise – on the other. Now, to help avoid confusion, Dennis Farm has added “The Foreshore” to its name, which has the bonus of giving a clue as to where it is. However, since the campsites are run by members of the same family, they’ve decided to book in all campers at the same neat reception hut … Continue reading...

  • Take the kids to … West Midland Safari Park

    Featuring A-listers of the animal kingdom, this safari park gets a thumbs up from the children – and the attached fun fair makes it a complete, if pricey, day outA safari park with more than 140 species of animal, including all the big hitters from Africa. There is also a theme park that has further animal attractions. It is actually in Bewdley, Worcestershire, not the West Midlands. Continue reading...

  • 10 of the best country campsites in France

    The authors of the latest Cool Camping: France book pick the best family-friendly sites from Normandy to the PyreneesSince its commission – by none other than William the Conqueror – Château de Monfréville, 10km from the Normandy coast, has housed everyone from Walt Disney’s whole family to invading German soldiers. Today it is limited to just 25 tent pitches, with ample room for little ones to roam and Bert the donkey to graze. There’s a natural swimming pond, an honesty shop (stocked with organic veggies from the garden) and fresh pastries delivered each morning. It’s a 30-minute drive to the medieval town of Bayeux, home of the world’s most celebrated tapestry. • Tent and 2 people from €26.50 (tents only) Continue reading...

  • Wild days out for Easter: UK walks, attractions and activities – without the crowds

    Big-name attractions are heaving over the spring break but the UK has a wealth of spectacular, less-well-known days out. Our experts reveal their favouritesThe sea is not warm over Easter (just 9-10C), but sunshine and warm air make a difference, tempting swimmers to strip for a quick dash and splash. I love Wales for a spring break. Trefalen Farm campsite at Bosherston in Pembrokeshire is basic but perfectly situated – who needs a shower block when you can scramble down to the sea for a wake-up dip? From the site, you can walk across Broadhaven, Barafundle (accessible only by foot) and on to Stackpole Quay, where a National Trust cafe does wonderful hot soups and drinks. Afterwards, you could explore the paths around Bosherton Ponds, where otters are frequently seen.• Kate Rew, founder of the Outdoor Swimming Society and crowd-sourced swim map wildswim.com Continue reading...

  • Holiday prices in and out of school term-time – how big is the difference?

    The UK supreme court this week ruled against a father who took his daughter out of school to go on holiday. A look at how much prices change when schools break up shows why parents are tempted to do the sameThe travel companies behind all those adverts full of smiley, suntanned parents and children playing happily on beaches want you to believe that family holidays are priceless. But, as most families with school-age children are already all too aware, sun, sea and sand cost more in the summer. Parents who wished to take advantage of cheaper, off-peak holiday rates used to be able to bend the rules a little, as headteachers at state schools in England were allowed to grant up to two weeks’ term-time holiday for pupils with good attendance. But in 2013 new regulations banning term-time absences were brought in. Continue reading...

  • The best family attractions in the UK: readers’ travel tips

    This spring, unleash the children’s pent-up energy at these less-well-known day-trip destinations, from Cornwall to North Yorkshire, chosen by readers• Want to add a destination to the list? Share your tip in the commentsHawkstone Park Follies is a historic woodland fantasy with cliffs, crags, caves, deep woods and a series of extraordinary monuments built more than 200 years ago. After a period of neglect, the magical landscape has been lovingly restored. It is full of nooks and crannies, and it is recommended that you bring torches to explore the dark caves and tunnels, which adds a real sense of excitement. There’s a Swiss bridge to cross, a thrilling gorge walk and a labyrinth of tunnels. Children love finding the hobbit house. Intricate pathways, ravines, arches and bridges, the towering cliffs and follies, the hermit in his hermitage and King Arthur addressing his troops in the awesome caves combine to create a magical visit.• Family of four £26, hawkstoneparkfollies.co.ukID4190696 Continue reading...

  • Where do you stand on taking kids out of school for a holiday?

    As the supreme court upholds a ban on term-time holidays, we ask parents across the UK to share their thoughts on this contentious issueIt’s a debate that has rumbled on for years, but the issue over whether parents should be able to take their children on holiday during term time has finally reached a conclusion.On Thursday, the supreme court ruled in a case about the legality of term-time holidays, after the Isle of Wight council appealed against a high court ruling last year in favour of Jon Platt, who refused to pay a £120 fine after taking his daughter out of school to go on holiday.We have a reasonable family income and yet ​are struggling to find somewhere affordable to go during the school holidaysI ​​disagree with the notion that the state knows how to raise my son better than I doOur school helpfully puts inset days before and after half-terms so you can often ​​save hundreds of poundsRather than being sanctioned, I think it’s better if schools turn a blind eye to less than a week’s holiday once a year Continue reading...

  • 10 of the best British farm attractions

    Easter’s not complete without lambs and chicks, and the UK’s family-friendly farm attractions are geared up for the school holidays, with events from rides and races to bottle feedingThis organic dairy and arable farm prides itself on a “hands-on” approach: visitors are encouraged to feed and groom the animals and watch planting and milking parlour demonstrations. Budding farmers can get a taste of agricultural life by signing up for its Young Farmer Academy: two-hour sessions aimed at 7-to-12-year-olds, with the chance to take part in behind-the-scenes activities, while learning about animal husbandry or arable farming (next session 13 April, £15pp). Over the Easter holidays (1-17 April), there’ll be extra activities such as Easter egg hunts, sheep races and bird of prey displays.• Adult £9.20, 2–16s £8.20, under-twos £1.75, family £33, 10% online discount, stockleyfarm.co.uk Continue reading...

  • Take the kids to … Hampton Court, Greater London

    Some fairly horrible history has taken place at this riverside palace, but it makes for a lovely family day out, especially if the weather is kindWhat started as a simple riverside manor house in the 15th century became one of Britain’s most lavish palaces, first in the hands of Cardinal Wolsey, then under a succession of kings, beginning with Henry VIII, who spent the equivalent of £18m developing vast kitchens, a chapel, tennis court, bowling alleys, formal gardens and a communal loo with room for 28 noblemen. The famous maze was commissioned by King William III. It’s not hard to imagine courtiers conspiring in darkened corners, servants hurrying along corridors and a pervading sense of ill ease as plots were hatched, lovers betrayed and backs stabbed. Don’t forget to look up: some of the most extravagant detailing is above, in the ornate chimneys, the chapel’s sumptuous ceiling and the frescoes of William III’s apartments. Continue reading...

  • Eastern Europe on a budget: bargains from Poland to Montenegro

    With its quieter beaches, pristine castle-dotted countryside and idyllic islands, eastern Europe is becoming popular for more than just city breaksWhile Kraków remains Poland’s top destination, with Wrocław increasingly drawing attention as a hip alternative, the country’s vast countryside is a dream setting for a summer holiday. Continue reading...

  • Getting to Europe on a budget: flight, ferry and car hire deals

    From cheap ferries heading for France and the Netherlands to mid-summer return flights to Mallorca from £78, here are some of the best offers currently out thereJet2 has extended, until 11 April, a special online offer giving 10% off flights on selected dates between now and April 30 2018. Although the offer doesn’t apply to the school summer holidays, it still applies to most of June and early July, depending on the airport. The airline is based at Leeds/Bradford airport, and launched 50 new routes from two new bases this week – 27 from Stansted and 23 from Birmingham. It also flies from six other UK airports. Thanks to its expansion there are plenty of low fares available, even in peak weeks, such as Stansted to Alicante from £107 return or Birmingham to Palma from £86 return.• jet2.com Continue reading...

  • Tarka at 90: hot on the otter trail in Devon

    Kari Herbert follows in the footsteps of Henry Williamson, 90 years after he published Tarka the Otter. No otters put in an appearance, but the pristine woods and riverbanks are reward enoughThe narrow river gorge smells of leaf-mould and damp earth. Dense, ancient woods line the steep valley sides. The river coils and tumbles beside us, fresh from the moor, rushing over smooth stones and gurgling among tree roots and ferns. It is the perfect place, surely, to see an otter.“Do you think Tarka would like a bit of my jammie dodger?” my daughter Nelly asks as we peer hopefully into the dark water.Our explorations start at Braunton Burrows, the UK's largest dune system and home to nearly 500 species of wildflowerCompared with some beauty spots, this remains a relatively unfrequented corner of Britain Continue reading...

  • Take the kids to... Telegraph Museum, Porthcurno, Cornwall

    Children of the internet age will be gobsmacked to discover this small remote telegraph office was at the forefront of a communications revolution, but the museum tells that story in a fun, fascinating and hands-on wayIn 1870, the tiny seaside village of Porthcurno in Cornwall was the most connected place on the planet. It all started with a single cable that was laid under the beach and out to sea. Suddenly it became possible to send messages from Porthcurno to Mumbai within a minute. This place was the hub of global communication, linking Britain with the rest of the world.Fun gifts are the hand-knitted 1940s style accessories (from £2), but you can send an actual telegram from here too! Continue reading...

  • Take the kids to … High Sports climbing centre, Brighton

    With indoor climbing set to be part of the next Olympics, interest in the sport is on the ascent. This place offers a fun but professional introduction for kidsAn indoor climbing centre offering top roping (wearing a harness attached to a rope controlled by an instructor or partner below you), lead climbing (for more experienced climbers, where you attach the rope to metal hooks, called quick draws, as you climb) and bouldering (no ropes or harness, shorter routes, a mat below), with three bays of walls up to 13 metres high. Indoor climbing was on the rise even before it was confirmed as an Olympic sport for the 2020 Games. Recognition is likely to send interest sky high. While there’s masses to entertain kids in Brighton itself, this is a great rainy-day option for all ages. Continue reading...

  • Rolling Estonia: a wilderness adventure in fairytale forests

    John Gimlette and family lose themselves in the haunting wintry wilderness of lacy-white swamps and forests, before seeking refuge in restored pastel palaces. Plus five more European wilderness holidaysSometimes it helps to get a bit lost. In Estonia, that’s easily done. It’s more than twice the size of Wales, with a population (1.3 million) that would barely fill a few London boroughs, and almost two-thirds of the country is covered with forest. We got lost the very first time we stepped into the trees, and never found the thing we were looking for (the sea). But deep in the larch, we found Hansel-and-Gretel farmhouses, a frozen millpond, a colony of beavers, and a loo built over a stream. It felt as if we’d blundered into an earlier age.Curious about this county’s great wild hinterlands, we’d come for a week in January. The national parks would be at their wintry best (a sparkling -8C), and we planned to tour two of them (Lahemaa and Soomaa), staying in artfully restored mansions. Continue reading...

  • An 'Arctic' safari in the Scottish Highlands

    Winter in the Cairngorms national park can turn positively Arctic – perfect for Kari Herbert to give her young daughter a taste of the polar conditions, and creatures, she enjoyed as a child in GreenlandThe temperature is below zero and a bitter wind is tugging at our clothes. In the distance, the Grampian hills are catching the early sunlight but it’s dark in the shadows of the wood. Curious eyes are trained on us from beneath the trees – a pack of grey wolves are just metres away. It’s rare to see these beautiful creatures at such close quarters: wolves are naturally wary. The privilege of the moment is lost on six-year-old Nelly. Her toes are aching with cold.We’ve come to Scotland to seek out some of her favourite polar animals, creatures she’s so far enjoyed only in books and wildlife shows on TV – but wolves are not on her list.Ahead of us are two male polar bears, watching as a group gathers by their large enclosure. It’s feeding timeScotland was once home to brown bear, wild boar, lynx and wolves. Giant elk roamed here too Continue reading...

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