Emotional times in our household this week. Not the re-emergence of home schooling, but the dismantling of our beloved Christmas tree, Mr O'Leary. Yes, my children christened him (first name Phil) and we really miss him. Mr O'Leary was the shining beacon of hope in our household ever since he arrived - somewhat Advent-prematurely - at the end of November. Haphazardly decorated and twinkling merrily night and day, you simply couldn't feel depressed in his presence. So, it was with heavy hearts that we were forced into action this week, as he approached 8 weeks in our lounge and started to get a bit of a Miss Havisham look about him. With Mr O'Leary gone, we felt a void of excitement and hope and needed to find something to fill it urgently. So, I decided to start planning our family holidays for 2021 (UK and camping based for these Covid times) and it has worked! I've filled the void, the hope and excitement is back and we've all got our groove on again - even the dog, who wasn't hugely keen on Mr O'Leary in the first place. There are some seriously phenomenal places to go on a family holiday in the UK - local staycations so no need to fly, and the dog is invited. Get a look at these and I promise, you will never look at the UK in the same way again....
'National Geographic Traveller' in the USA rated the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales as one of the top two coastal destinations in the world, and if this isn't a reason to embrace this destination as your family holiday for 2021, I don't know what is. There is a vast amount to do here. Over 50 beaches make up the coastline in Pembrokeshire and wherever you go you won't be disappointed. Broad Haven; a large sheltered beach, which is very safe for swimming and popular with families, Tenby; a superb sandy beach and home to the pinnacle of Goskar rock, or Barafundle Bay; a delightfully pretty cove with crystal clear waters, sand dunes and pine trees. Watersports enthusiasts will love Freshwater West for surfing, Dale for sailing and Newgale for kitesurfing. For those intersted in history, there are lots of heritage sites to explore, such as Pentre Ifan, the Stone Age remains of a burial chamber, or Castell Henllys Iron Age Village; an open air museum where you experience life in the Iron Age. I'd also recommend a trip to Skomer Island, a beautiful nature reserve where you can see puffins nesting in their thousands from May to July, as well as owls, seals and dolphins. I've only just touched the surface of what this stunning county has to offer, so start planning your holiday now and give your family something to look forward to!
I have a favourite memory. In my last year at Primary School, my class went on a week long PGL holiday, which seemed to be some kind of rite of passage if you were 11 in the 1980's -which I was, batwing jumper and all. It was a week away from school, in the countryside, tackling activities which I'd never even heard of, let alone tried, and it was brilliant. I want to do it all again, but in my 40's can I admit this? Well the answer is: yes I flipping well can, and there is no better place to do this than the utterly breathtaking Lake District in Cumbria. There are quite literally hundreds of campsites to choose from, riverside or mountainside, wild camping or luxurious touring parks, up hill or down.....well you get the general picture; a campsite for every taste and budget. There are companies in the Lakes to make life super easy, so get in touch with one of them and book anything and everything that takes your fancy; Canadian canoeing, gorge walking, abseiling, rafting, mountain biking or sailing. You can make a two week holiday into the best, most memorable family staycation ever. Yes, ok, you aren't scoffing tapas and sipping sherry in Torremolinos, but when you're sitting around the campfire watching the sun go down in the Lake District after a day canoeing Lake Windemere then tell me: would you really want to be?
Norfolk is a wonderful county with beaches, seaside towns, incredible wildlife, history, stately homes, beautiful villages and pretty market towns. None so lovely though - in my option - as the tranquil and watery pathways of the Norfolk Broads, an absolutely showstopping place for a family holiday, whether you are looking for a fortnight or a long weekend. I say this, because it's different, it's action packed without having to physically move much (my idea of a good time) and I guarantee, it will be one the kids remember. Budget dependant of course, there's no need to be puffing up and down the waterways on a pedalo sized affair and bickering about who is going to sleep on the only permanent bed. These days you can hire some very snazzy modern cruisers to glide up and down the Norfolk Broads in style, with separate bedrooms, luxury ensuite bathrooms, glass ceilings and outdoor sunbathing decks that would make Simon Cowell want to book a mini-break. For a more traditional holiday, I love a good old-fashioned barge, which has plenty of room inside, lots more on the roof for sightseeing / waving for no reason at your sailing counterparts, and you have all that heart stopping hysteria when someone tries to moore up and nearly falls in due to lack of standing space at the front. Boat hire companies in the Norfolk broads are holiday genies in their own right, mapping out a good route for your family, telling you pubs and activites on route and places to dock up for the night. A holiday to remember for all the right reasons.
Not to state the obvious for recommending Cornwall as an amazing family holiday, but it is. Cornwall is crammed full of beautiful, crystal clear shorelines, sandy beaches, proper world-class surf waves and more camping accommodation than you can shake a stick at. It's awesome at any time of year because the beaches are always sandy, the sea is always swimmable (oh shush, shove on a wetsuit), there is bags to do, seafood aplenty and the welcome is always warm and friendly. Take your own tent or campervan and book into one of the many stunning beachfront or inland campsites. Hire a tipi, a wigwam, a treehouse, a bell tent or Mongolian yurt.....the choice is long and luxurious. Don't just rock up and play it by ear....book surf lessons and other activities early and get yourself a proper bespoke holiday. The amount to do in this wonderful county is endless: the Eden Project, surfing, horse riding, coastal bike rides, Poldark tour (he's not the guide for some ridiculous reason but it's still worthwhile), Tintagel Castle, Seal Sanctuary, hot air ballooning, treasure trails, farms, watersports - it's all here. Have a real action man adventure or just a relaxing beach holiday, but give your family something to look forward to in 2021.
The Orkney Islands are really rather an exotic holiday destination for families - offering stunning natural scenery, a fascinating history, wildlife in abundance and a landscape designed for old fashioned adventures and exploring. It's a bit of a journey to get there (depending on where you are in the UK), but that's half the fun of it; plus you get to take a ferry ride over from the mainland, which makes it feel positively international these days. There should be a sign when you arrive at the Orkney Islands: For a full Swallows and Amazons Experience - see here. It is a wonderfully wild place, with crystal clear seas, pristine sandy beaches, whales and dolphins in the waters and - because of the location perhaps - feels very untouched and remote. You won't find huge hoards of tourists swarming the beaches here. There are a large number of World Heritage Stone Age sites and new discoveries are being made all the time; it's an explorers paradise - whether on land or sea. Try something new and visit Orkney for your next family holiday. Just don't tell everyone.....
If you want to ease yourself slowly into the whole chilled out Yorkshire vibe, start your holiday with a couple of days exploring York city - so much to do and see including the Jorvik Viking Centre and The Shambles (Harry Potter fans alert) - before heading up into the beautiful North York Moors and hunkering down in one of the many excellent campsites the area has to offer. If you fancy a beach holiday then you are spoilt for choice with several lovely traditional seaside towns to stay near, including Whitby, Staithes, Scarborough and Robins Hood Bay. If you are more of a hiking and outward bound kinda crowd, then stride purposefully into the North York Moors National Park and hoist up your canvas in the middle of purple heather and rolling hills. Surrounded by wildlife, pretty villages, stately homes and forests, you won't be short of things to do wherever you stay in this beautiful corner of Northern England.
The Cotswolds has been attracting visitors from around the world for years, who flock to see the quintessentially English market towns, picture perfect villages and the gently rolling hills, spread over 800 miles of unspoilt countryside. And luckily enough, you don't need to flock too far for your next family holiday; the Cotswolds are right here in England. The area encompass six counties, including Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset, so a road trip style holiday would work very well here in order to take everything in. Your very own Route 66 adventure with the family; just switching root beer for cream teas and the Grand Canyon for the Cotswold Wildlife Park. Aside from the energetic stuff like walking or mountain biking along the many trails in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there are lots of excellent family attractions to see along the way. In Oxfordshire, visit the Pitt Rivers Museum, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock and the Crocodiles of the World Sanctuary. In Gloucestershire; Adam Henson's Cotswold Farm Park, The Corinium Museum (housing a huge collection of Roman artefacts), the Gloucester/Warwickshire Steam railway and The Bird and Deer Park. Older children will love the Flyup 417 Bike Park. These are just a few ideas, but you can tailor your holiday to fit your family; camping, a cottage stay, or even a week-long river cruise through Gloucestershire if you fancy it!
Oooooh, doesn't it sound thrilling: the Jurassic Coast. I'm quite expecting Jeff Goldblum to come sprinting down the A35 towards Lyme Regis shouting "ruuuun!" with a T-rex slavering behind him. Well, disappointing or not, I can confirm that will not be happening when you take your family on holiday to Dorset's stunning prehistoric coastline, but you will have a brilliant holiday and you will find a few fossils while you're there. It might interest you to know that this breathtaking region of Dorset ranks with the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon as one of the great wonders of the world, providing an incredible glimpse of life 185 million years ago; new fossils are constantly being uncovered here. If you take a walk along one of the many beaches, not only are you likely to find a few yourself, but the entire 95 mile stretch provides a huge range of extraordinary rock features; Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, The Fossil Forest, Chesil Beach, Lyme Regis, Charmouth, Golden Cap, the Beer Quarry Caves, the list goes on and on. Watersports enthusiasts can head to Portland for kitesurfing and sailing (they hosted the 2012 Olympics here) and while you're in that neck of the woods, nip over to Sandworld in Weymouth to view some gobsmacking sand sculptures. Countless coastal campsites provide great accommodation and you could fill two weeks holidaying down here easily and come back for more the following year! A phenomenal place.
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