Get arty in the forest, keep your eyes peeled for otters and explore mighty medieval castles on your family holidays this summer says Alex Williams…
With fabulous scenery and places to explore, the Forest of Dean is great for action-packed adventure holidays.
Activities: Get the family out on bikes at Pedalabikeaway. Choose the easy-going family cycle trail or – if you’ve got a pack of daredevils with you – go cross-country and take on the downhill routes. For something more sedate, discover Puzzlewood’s maze of mossy pathways and twisted roots, inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or dose up on some culture along the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail. You’ll come across all sorts of quirky creations including a deer created solely from steel rods and a giant elevated stained glass window.
Eat: Stop by Taurus Crafts Café for a delicious range of snacks and meals prepared with ingredients from the market garden. Let the kids loose in the children’s play area or raid the Chocolate Bar for tempting chocolates and cakes.
Sleep: Spend the night like kings at YHA St Briavels Castle, a budget-friendly hostel set in King John’s former hunting lodge. Discover the 800-year-old castle’s gruesome history and join in on their medieval-style banquets, with dressing-up, crafts and story-telling sessions.
Don’t miss: Climb aboard the Dean Forest Railway for a relaxing steam-powered journey from the past. Check the website for special events, including the chance to climb aboard Thomas the Tank Engine and cuddle with Peppa Pig.
Enjoy a very English family boating holiday in the East of England on the Broads. Get up close to wildlife and play at pirates on deck as you drift along the park’s languid lock-free waterways.
Activities: Come face to face with rare Asian animals at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens where you can see tigers, Amur leopards, reptiles and primates. For local wildlife, jump into a canoe or paddleboat at Martham Broad Nature Reserve, keeping your eyes peeled for playful otters and shy bitterns hiding amongst the reed beds. For something a bit different, head to Fritton Lake Outdoor Centre, with tree climbing, bush craft and open-air swimming.
Eat: Kick back with an alfresco lunch or afternoon tea at The Waterside, right on Rollesby Broad, with a pirate-themed playground, putting green and bird hide for spying on the resident herons.
Sleep: Norfolk Broads Direct in Wroxham offer a great range of comfortably equipped cruisers, as well as luxurious waterside cottages for any landlubbers.
Don’t miss: Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden’s weekly Wildlife Wednesday events, with the chance to get up close to butterflies, frogs and mini-beasts.
Home to Shakespeare’s birthplace, mighty medieval castles and unmissable museums, history isn’t horrible in Warwickshire – it’s just plain fun.
Activities: Experience medieval mayhem with Horrible Histories at Warwick Castle. Meet pestilence-ridden characters and watch history’s foulest and funniest bits brought to life during the live stage show. Mary Arden’s Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon offers plenty of opportunities to learn Tudor trades like archery, bread making and falconry. There’s also MAD Museum, whose hotchpotch of intriguing inventions and quirky contraptions amuses big and little kids alike.
Eat: McKechnies independent coffee bar in Stratford is perfect for whiling away an hour or two, with tasty all-day breakfasts, expertly crafted coffee and special events like story telling and pottery painting for the kids.
Sleep: Stratford Manor offers great value for money as up to two children aged 16 and under stay for free. Keep them busy with free family fun packs, an indoor games room and dedicated splash times in the pool.
Don’t miss: Warwick Castle’s The Great Joust puts on twice-daily shows in August. Feel your heart leap into your throat as the jousters’ bravery and skills are tested to the limit.
With three miles of fine sandy shore and shallow waters, plus heaps of seaside attractions typical of the South West, Weymouth is ideal for bucket and spade days out with the brood.
Activities: Little ones will love the donkey rides, trampolines and classic Punch and Judy show on the beach. Tear them away with promises to zip up Sea Life’s 53m-high tower, which rotates for 360-degree Jurassic Coast views. Head back down to ground level for Sea Life Adventure Park’s rides, Splash Zone and rock pool activities or get back to nature at Weymouth Wetlands with pond dipping and duck feeding.
Eat: There’s tasty fish ‘n’ chips at King Edward’s and retro ice cream and desserts at Rossi’s; both are situated on the Esplanade’s buzzing waterfront.
Sleep: Stay at The Windsor Hotel on the promenade. With direct access to the beach, you’ll be just a few feet away from all the action.
Don’t miss: Sand World’s Sand Sculpture Festival opens this year with a Best of British theme, featuring icons like the Beatles, Winston Churchill and One Direction. Get the kids to count the Wall-Es hidden amongst the displays and they’ll be rewarded with a sweet treat!
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