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Recent Family Holiday Information and Recommendations

  • Bank holiday bangers: great late August festivals and fun

    The long weekend will see brilliant music, arts and food festivals, along with great-value breaks. Our pick takes in giant feasts, outdoor adventures and cool places to stayIt’s not too late to book a last-minute bank holiday getaway. Carmarthenshire in Wales is quieter than many of the UK’s hotspots and Brechfa Farm on the River Pid in the Cothi Valley makes a great base. The 22-acre smallholding has geese, chicken and alpacas (which guests can take for a walk) and Brechfa village with pub and play park is close by. The four yurts (each sleeps four) have proper beds and woodburners and the whole site can be hired. There’s currently a 25% discount; three nights from 23 August cost £356 sleeping up to four). Continue reading...

  • Take the kids to … RSPB The Lodge nature reserve, Sandy, Bedfordshire

    Its wildlife trails and play areas make this free attraction a fun and affordable day out in the countryside – with the odd woodpecker for company, tooThe RSPB’s headquarters is in a nature reserve that’s free to visit year-round and has great outdoors activities for children. It covers more than 200 hectares (494 acres) of heathland, grassland and woodland. Three trails run through the scenery, each a manageable 11/2 miles, and kids can pick up a wildlife-challenge checklist from the information point at the start, then exchange it for a certificate at the end. The woodpecker and nuthatch trails loop past a hide where it’s possible to watch birds feeding and the buzzard trail passes through an area that was once an iron-age hill fort. We walked this route, and the change in the landscape was incredible: from flat, open heathland cloaked in purple heather, to deep, thick woodland so gloriously overgrown that my children thought we were on a jungle expedition. Continue reading...

  • The Suffolk coast: 50 years on from my childhood holidays

    Hugh Thomson returns in search of the old-fashioned seaside idyll of his memories … and discovers it’s even more fun second time roundAs a boy, I used to be taken to Suffolk for holidays in a caravan in the middle of a forest. I would wake to the sound of woodpigeons and walk down to the beach barefoot, or over to the local farm to get bantams’ eggs for breakfast. The Suffolk coast I remember was a quiet place of green lanes and wide estuaries. Continue reading...

  • Who needs snow? Family fun and fromage in the French Alps

    With a wide choice of ways to throw yourself down a mountainside, the ski resort of La Clusaz makes a perfect summer playgroundSqueezed into a rental hatchback, our family of four are climbing up and up into the mountains. We pass fields and farms and small towns. The rock face comes closer and the switchbacks get faster until at last we pull up outside Les Grandes Alpes apartments, and my green-faced son flings open the car door to be copiously sick. I bet this wasn’t how Roger Moore announced his arrival in the Alps. Still, we’re here, after a 17-hour journey by train and car, and it feels good to stand breathing fresh mountain air and craning our necks at the snow-capped peaks of the Aravis massif. Continue reading...

  • Take the kids to … The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

    Treasures abound at this grand museum that, amid the ancient pots and classic paintings, has plenty to keep kids entertainedBased around the collection of Anglo-Irish aristo and Francophile Richard, 7th Viscount FitzWilliam of Merrion, this university-affiliated art-and-history treasure trove is the grandest of Cambridge’s museums. It feels like an amalgam of London’s British Museum, National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery, all squeezed under one (domed and sky-lit) roof. In its 30-plus exhibition rooms, Egyptian sarcophagi and Chinese pottery share space with Renaissance masterpieces and French impressionist paintings. There is an extensive programme for kids, from a baby play-mat for under-twos to themed gallery trails for pre-teens. And the museum’s calendar is dotted with fun-packed, one-off events for children. Continue reading...

  • 10 great UK open-air theatres you can visit on public transport

    Our pick of non-London venues present outdoor summer shows in locations from Cornwall’s coastal Minack to Glasgow’s wooded Greenbank GardenThe nation’s most dramatic open-air theatre – the creation of the remarkable Rowena Cade and her gardener Billy Rawlings – is quite the experience even before the show starts. The steeply shelving auditorium tumbles down the cliffs to a stage whose backdrop is the Atlantic.Getting there/away For afternoon performances, take the A1 bus between Penzance and Porthcurno. For evening shows (Tuesday to Thursday), there’s a special bookable bus (call 01736 810181) between St Ives and the Minack via Penzance.• Adult £14, child £7. Shows: until 9 August I, Don Quixote; 19-23 August Blue Stockings; 26-30 August The Government Inspector; 2-6 September The Mill On The Floss, minack.com Continue reading...

  • Honey, we forgot the kids: a child-free holiday in Umbria

    No kids for a week means a group of parents get the chance to be themselves again amid Umbria’s green hills As usual we’re running late. Our three children help rush us down to the bus stop. They’re 24, 22 and 17, but it’s hard to remember that they’re not-kids-any-more. They bundle us on to the bus along with our suitcases and then wave and smile as if sending us off on some epic journey (we’re only flying to Rome). We wave back and then sit down next to a young French mother who has been watching the scene unfold. She laughs enviously and then says: “It is unimaginable!”It’s unimaginable for us, too. For the first time in 24 years we are going on holiday without our children. We’ve spent the past decades building sandcastles, eating ice-cream and going on slo-mo treks on dozy ponies. They’ve been among the happiest and best holidays you could imagine, but it’s time for us to learn to be grown-ups again. And a ground-breaking trip like this shouldn’t be undertaken alone, so we round up our oldest friends, the ones we used to go on holiday with. Would they like to come on a child-free break? YES! Would they like some time to think about that? NO! Continue reading...

  • Take the kids to … Adventure Parc Snowdonia, north Wales

    Adrenaline Indoors is a new adventure experience at the inland surf lagoon, so prepare for parkour trails, climbing walls and a zipwireRebranded this year as Adventure Parc Snowdonia, this converted aluminium factory in the Conwy valley started in 2015 as Surf Snowdonia, with an inland artificial surf lagoon. It has expanded, in time for the summer holidays, with the opening of the Adrenaline Indoors adventure experience. A new building opposite the surf lagoon houses activities including an artificial caving course, a parkour trail and freefall jumps, plus a soft-play area for younger kids. Many activities are suitable for ages five-plus (some from age seven). There are also camping pods (from £65 a night). Continue reading...

  • Secret Europe escapes: where locals go on holiday

    We get the lowdown – in Portugal, Spain, Italy and more – from families who reveal their under-the-radar summer escapes, and offer tips on what to see and doSilvia Bastos, 46, from Lisbon Continue reading...

  • Show stoppin': a car-free art tour along the East Sussex coast

    The Coastal Culture Trail links three modern art galleries along 18 miles of this stretch of seaside. On a family trip, our writer explores by train, bus and on footEastbourne seafront on a sunny day – palm trees, blue water and a whitewashed, gold-domed pier. The sea breeze brings a honey breath of broom flowers, yellow as highlighter pens, and the plangent sound of seagulls. The kids are cheering up after delayed trains and overcrowded London tubes. I’m hoping for a weekend of art and sea views.My last trip to Sussex was in February, when I watched a murmuration of starlings swirling over Eastbourne pier at sunset. The area in front of the Congress Theatre’s new glass-fronted reception was then a building site. Now there are pristine paths and plazas with neat, purple banks of Russian sage and lavender, like an architect’s drawing come to life. It’s all part of the revamped Devonshire Quarter, a £54m upgrade to attract conferences. Continue reading...

  • 20 of the best campsites in UK and Europe by public transport: readers’ travel tips

    Go carefree and car-free to these superb beachside, clifftop and mountain campsites from Norway to Norfolk Continue reading...

  • One goes mad in Dorset: camping on Scout island

    The colourful history of Brownsea Island in Poole harbour takes in Henry VIII, Lord Baden-Powell and the Famous Five. Now the public can camp among its flora and faunaThe first time I hear a peacock scream it scares the bejesus out of me. I’m sussing out my tree tent – cleverly strung between four sweet chestnuts a few feet off the ground – and the sound stops me in my tracks. The bird struts past, glorious tail ablaze, in pursuit of the less colourful (and seemingly unimpressed) peahen before embarking on an elaborate twerking ritual.Close encounters with nature are part of any experience on Brownsea Island, the largest isle in Dorset’s Poole harbour and the second biggest natural harbour in the world after Sydney. As I sit back and soak up the view across to the Purbeck Hills, I spy white bunny tails disappear into bushes; oystercatchers flap above the sea and I lock eyes with a sika deer grazing nearby before she darts gracefully away. Continue reading...

  • 20 of the best campsites in the UK and Europe accessible by public transport

    Many sites are off-limits to those without a vehicle, but there are plenty of small scenic sites in the UK and Europe that can be reached by bus and trainIs there a more thunderously wonderful view from an English campsite than the one enjoyed from Park Farm? This tiny sloping triangle of grass on the edge of the North York Moors lords it over a sumptuous expanse of English countryside. It’s roughly 50 miles west to Tan Hill and the Dales and, on a clear day, you can see absolutely everything in between: a joyous swoop of fields, trees and yet more hills. The Cleveland Way passes across the 700-acre farm, making the campsite an ideal base from which to follow the long-distance footpath up to the Matterhorn-like Roseberry Topping and Captain Cook’s Monument on Easby Moor. Cooking-apple trees provide some shelter and shade (and pectin if the visit is timed right). And for those who prefer their tents made of sterner stuff than rip-stop nylon, there’s a fine stone camping barn with its own wood-burning stove, and a former byre with real beds. But that means missing the view…Getting there Take the train to Kildale, on the line from Middlesbrough to Whitby. The campsite’s a bucolic mile’s walk from the station. • Camping £8pp, barn £10pp, byre £12pp, kildalebarn.co.uk Continue reading...

  • Beckenham Place Park: London’s newest green space

    A former golf course in Lewisham has been transformed into south-east London’s biggest park. Our writer, a local, explores the new gardens, swimming lake and wildflower meadows ahead of its opening this weekendAncient oaks and luxuriant lawns stretch away from a spectacular Palladian mansion. A crescent-shaped lake glints amid trees in a shallow valley. People linger over picnics and wander off to woodland glades, kids kick balls around, soul music washes over us and people emerge from the mansion holding glasses of wine.This isn’t a summer function at a stately home but a “new” municipal park in south-east London, nine miles from Trafalgar Square, on the cusp of its official opening on 20 July. The opening coincides with a week-long festival marking London becoming a National Park City (20-28 July), a Mayor of London initiative designed to make the capital greener and healthier. Continue reading...

  • French leave: fun places to stay on four routes to the south of France

    With the annual summer dash under starter’s orders, we suggest how to turn a schlep into a road trip, staying in treehouses, chateaux and cool hotels en routeFrom the north-west ferry ports (St Malo, Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre) down the west of France, via Nantes and Bordeaux, to the south-west Continue reading...

  • Great Brittany: exploring the Emerald Coast

    With its belle époque resorts, long empty beaches and medieval castles, the Emerald Coast is big on laid-back charm – and perfect for a family adventure10 of Brittany’s best B&Bs and hotelsWe’re sitting on an empty beach, a wide sweep of white sand overlooking the emerald sea, and we can’t quite believe we have it all to ourselves. Had we flown to far-flung shores and taken a boat to a remote island, it would be understandable, but all we’ve done is disembark from the ferry at Saint-Malo and driven west for an hour.“Where is everybody?” wonders my husband, digging his toes into fine sand. Continue reading...

  • Take the kids to … The Miniature Pony Centre, Devon

    A family trip to this Dartmoor attraction means time with the horses, plus gymkhana displays and activities including zipwires and climbing wallsThis former cattle farm in Dartmoor national park is home to 69 equines and a host of farm animals, birds and creepy-crawlies. You don’t have to be horsey to enjoy it as there’s stacks of stuff to do, much of it – the mini ride-on tractors, soft-play centre, and playhouse – geared to primary-aged children and younger. This went down well with my kids (five and eight). Every half hour or so, a wellie-wearing staffer rings a bell to invite visitors to activities, such as pony-grooming, a gymkhana display or petting time with guinea pigs, mice and rabbits. This gave our day structure and momentum, and the kids – who’d not studied the chalkboard schedule as I had – pricked their ears for the “surprise” activity each time they heard the bell. Continue reading...

  • The UK’s best seaside events and attractions for summer 2019

    Arts, watersports, concerts, outdoor cinema, food festivals and bucketloads of family fun … Here’s our pick of events on or near the UK’s beaches this summerBoardmasters (from £69 day ticket/£179 five-day camping ticket, 7-11 August) is a surfing and music festival in Newquay, Cornwall. Headliners at Watergate Bay are Wu-Tang Clan, Florence and the Machine and Foals, while pro-surfing, skating and BMX competitions take place on Fistral Beach. As well as surfing, festivalgoers can go paddleboarding, coasteering or kayaking, join daily beach yoga sessions or chill out in wood-fired hot tubs. Related: Top 10 new outdoor artworks and exhibitions in the UK Related: 10 of the UK’s most scenic beer festivals Related: Boutique beat: 20 of the best UK music festivals for 2019 Continue reading...

  • Coast through summer: 10 itineraries for the UK seaside

    Get beach ready with our week-long planners to 10 glorious seaside spots, covering everything from secluded coves to surf lessons, boat rides and places to stay Continue reading...

  • 10 of the best lake and river holidays in Europe

    From exploring Finland’s lake district to canoeing the Danube delta, we pick the continent’s most beautiful regions for fresh-water activity holidaysFew places have more romantic appeal than the Italian Lakes, from celebrity-favourite Como, to the vast, stylish Garda. Among the quietest but most picturesque is Lake Iseo, surrounded by mountains, with the Camonica valley to the north and Franciacorta wine country to the south. There are three small towns on its shores: Lovere, Iseo and cobble-streeted Sarnico, less polished and touristy than other resorts and good bases for exploring. Ferries crisscross the lake, linking towns and villages, and there are plenty of easy-to-access hiking and biking trails around the shore and into the surrounding hills. Continue reading...

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