Family Holiday Reviews
New Forest: Hollands Wood Campsite Review
We recently took the plunge and went camping with our 2yr old - and survived!
Not only that, we had a wonderful time. As our first trial test we opted for the Hollands Wood Campsite in the New Forest, knowing that we’d be surrounded by the expansive and sheltered forest area but also near to the lovely village of Brockenhurst, with its great range of shops, cafes and pubs.
Enjoy a 'Staycation' with Holiday Inn & Yorkshire Wildlife Park
If you fancy spending a family holiday a little closer to home this year, then why not consider a weekend break in South Yorkshire? The Holiday Inn Doncaster has a new leisure package which means you can take the family away for a break that is both exciting and educational. This great value for money package includes overnight accommodation, plus four tickets to Yorkshire Wildlife Park, all from £109 per night.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park features a whole world of animals including lions and meerkats and some of the most cutting edge habitats in Europe. It’s great fun no matter how big the kids may be! The park is located just a short drive away from the Holiday Inn Doncaster, which is just a stone’s throw away from the A1(M), in the heart of the quiet village of Warmsworth. With well appointed bedrooms and its own restaurant, serving a range of tasty meals that will suit all tastes, Holiday Inn Doncaster is a relaxing home from home. The hotel also features its own health club with an indoor heated pool, ideal for having a fun splash about at the end of the day! For more information, or to book, visit www.qmh-hotels.com or call 01302 799988.
Brian's Review: The Holiday Inn is ideally located next to the A1 (M) but you could be a world away... We checked in at the peaceful hotel and soon found our spacious family room (with 'pick & mix' pillows!). Shortly after check-in we headed to the health club for a family swim - it's only a small pool but - for the most part - we had the place to ourselves and it was a lovely relaxing way to start our weekend. I must say that the hotel staff were extremely obliging during our stay, we needed something additional in the room and it was promptly sorted out. Breakfast the next morning was also extensive and a suitable table for the five of us was prepared very quickly. We really didn't know what to choose first! We were also the last residents to leave the restaurant but we never felt hurried at all.
The drive to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park took less than 30 minutes and, as we arrived during a rainstorm, we were soon checking out the HUGE indoor slides! There is plenty to fill a whole day at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park and you can time your stroll around the park to coincide with feeding times and animal talks. Our children particularly loved the baboons and the meerkats - all very entertaining. Definately worth a return visit as now they have a new Polar Bear enclosure that need to be checked out!
Lantern & Larks, Sweffling Hall, Suffolk: A Magical Glamping Experience
Picture this if you will….you’re standing on a veranda, glass of wine in your hand, golden fields, light blue skies and poplar trees are your view, you can hear children playing in the distance, but you know they’re safe, their laughter accompanied by two woodpeckers chattering as they swoop from tree to tree.
This was our very first evening at Lantern & Larks, Sweffling Hall, Suffolk. As we were greeted on arrival by the friendly face of Laura, our host, we were shown to our Safari tent which was to be our home for the next couple of nights. There were four tents, very well-spaced on the large field, although the retreats were completely booked we were unaware of our neighbours.
Now, think Harry Potter and the way the tents are described by J K Rowling: “Most looked almost ordinary; their owners had clearly tried to make them as Muggle-like as possible, but had slipped up by adding chimneys, or bellpulls, or weather vanes….. A little farther on they passed a tent that had three floors and several turrets; and a short way beyond that was a tent that had a front garden attached, complete with birdbath, sundial, and fountain. “Always the same,” said Mr. Weasley, smiling. “We can’t resist showing off” The tents at Lantern & Larks are ‘showing off’ tents indeed, complete with double and bunk beds, comfy sofa, kitchen, warm shower, flushing toilet, you get the picture. They also seem incredibly larger inside than out.
What can you do?
We’d brought our barbeque food with us, after purchasing a bag of charcoal and essential marshmallows from the honesty shop we were set for tea. After which we took our dogs for an evening stroll across the fields, catching the flash of a small deer every now and then. We had seen that the nearby pub, just a short stroll along the lane, was highly recommended, but by this time we’d mesmerised the children with the fire pit and were too lazily relaxed to wander any distance from our tent.
Although the beds were extremely comfy, with fluffy duvets, cosy blankets and bedside lanterns, some of us rose early to catch the sunrise, which is a must when sleeping outdoors. Having ordered a breakfast pack, we busied ourselves with cooking bacon, eggs and sausages supplied on our log burning stove.
After establishing that there was little in the way of Wi-Fi connection and no TV the children sourced some board games from amongst the books and toys to swap in the honesty shop, so we spent the best part of the day playing. Something I think they were pleasantly surprised to enjoy. We laughed as the younger children from the other tents engaged in wheelbarrow races across the field. A ten minute car journey to nearby Framlingham supermarket meant that we could stock up on more bbq goodies for tea. Another late night around the fire pit was enjoyed by all.
Yes, you can buy yourself a tent and supplies, and book a pitch for a minimal cost at any of the hundreds of campsites in the UK. And honestly, Lantern & Larks does cost the same amount as renting a holiday cottage. But why, when most of us live in houses would we want to experience the same day to day routine on holiday? When you book a stay in these palatial canvas retreats you’re booking an experience, you’ll gain memories that will last a life time and you can rest assured that you’ll be warm, dry and you won’t have to share the conveniences with anybody else.
If you'd like to book your magical stay at Lantern & Larks please visit their glamping website here or call 01638 563 478
The Emerald, Cornwall – Zero Carbon Luxury
Set between Falmouth and Truro, nestled in a quiet leafy lane, marked out by vibrant purple rhododendron, you’ll find The Emerald Estate, a truly luxurious resort comprising of 5 holiday properties. The grounds that hold this little known gem are in themselves a breath of fresh air, 5 acres of beautifully maintained landscaped gardens encapsulating tennis courts, indoor swimming pool, croquet, children’s play area and picturesque ornate pond.
Comprising of luxury eco homes suitable for a romantic break for a couple in Cedar or Fern or family get together in the larger Coast and Drift, as well as the more tradition Gatehouse, suitable for a family of four. The properties are well spaced, despite being fully booked the other guests were rarely heard or seen.
We were greeted by the owner, whose mannerisms were true to form of the Cornish relaxed stereotype, despite hailing from Kent Tim exuded an aura of calm, we knew we’d be looked after and could take things easy for our stay. Having pre ordered our groceries for our visit, they had been delivered and packed away in preparation for our arrival, bliss!
The holiday home
Our bolthole for the break was to be the Gatehouse, a traditional country farmhouse overlooking the small orchard. Tim had kindly provided us with a bottle of wine and local cake to enjoy. Beginning to relax even more now, we flipped off our shoes and took a look around. The kitchen was well equipped with coffee maker and capsules, state of the art oven, everything you could possibly need. With Wi-Fi and Netflix our teens were kept entertained and wanted for nothing. The family bathroom had a luxuriously deep roll top bath, the master bedroom with ensuite had a fantastically large shower, fluffy towels and Egyptian linen were provided throughout. Even on a rather cloudy morning the temptation to throw open the French doors to the master bedroom and be serenaded by the birds was irresistible.
What can you do?
As dog lovers one of the first things we did was to take our four legged friends for a bit of a leg stretch, we wandered down quiet country lanes, passed by the occasional car but more often horse riders, enjoying the view over rambling hills as we went. Catching sight of a fox and admiring the hard working bumblebee navigating the fox glove flowers. That evening we decided to take the plunge and make for the swimming pool. Open 24/7 we were able to enjoy the lighting, making the twilight swim something really rather special.
Being exceptionally lazy we were able to order a local take away, details of which are kept in a convenient folder within The Gatehouse, and it was delivered to our door in good time. Our further visits included a twenty minute trip to Falmouth, where you can enjoy a meal provided by Rick Steins Fish and Chip restaurant or opt for one of the other many eateries on the harbour. We also ventured to the North Coast of Cornwall, a thirty minute car journey took us to the heart of vibrant Newquay with its many year round dog friendly beaches. That afternoon was rounded up with a family game of tennis, balls and rackets provided, of course.
I couldn’t think of anything negative to say, a tick from me as the dog friendly retreats were very much that, a tick from my 16 year old daughter who enjoyed evening films and swims, a tick from my 13 year old son who played tennis with whoever was available until he could play no more, a tick from my husband who relaxed completely with a glass of wine in a comfy chair. Most of all a tick from the entire family as we were able to enjoy our time spent together completely, something that’s not often achieved, although we’ve taken a little bit of The Emerald ethos home with us and are determined to relax and simply enjoy time a little more.
To see if there's any availability in the retreats at The Emerald for you and your family please take a look at their website www.emeraldcornwall.co.uk
Our Reviewers went to stay at Budock Vean Hotel in Cornwall
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly children can fall asleep in the car. Within moments of setting off on our journey to Cornwall, William and Catherine were out like lights – it does make it easier without the ‘are we there yet?’ questions every 10 minutes.
We stayed at the Budock Vean Hotel near Falmouth from 9th May to 11th May. Our biggest concern was arriving in time for our evening meal, having picked the children up directly from school for the journey and worrying about the rush hour Friday traffic.
Check in was smooth but I felt that we could have used a little more info about our accommodation and where to find our way around the hotel. A porter took our bag to the room (I did feel sorry for him carrying the bag up the stairs) and advised that if we needed anything just to ring downstairs. There seems to be a large amount of steps within the hotel – but on further investigation we did find a lift!
The family room was well furnished with a separate room and bunks for the kids. We were very pleased to see that both rooms had a TV. For a family of 4 there were only 3 chairs though, it would have been great to have a sofa. The bathrooms have all Elemis soap, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner should you forget to pack them.
You can chose to dine at the restaurant or family dining room. Dinner is a formal occasion at the Budock Vean restaurant, males are requested to wear a shirt and jacket, or a shirt and tie, females are requested to be in smart dress, jeans, t-shirts, shorts and trainers are not permitted in the restaurant but are fine in the family dinning area. The restaurant is elegantly furnished and there is a good choice of food on the menu. Dietary needs can be met, but you do need to advise the hotel prior to arrival. We were a little worried that the children would not enjoy the dressing up and the choice on the menu, but both nights the children tucked in with gusto. We were disappointed that the live music provided ended at 9.15pm on the dot both nights, as the menu is 4 courses and we were left in silence to finish our meals when the dining area was still rather full.
Breakfast is served from 8am -10am and there is a good choice of hot and cold food, although the children were disappointed that there was a lack of flavoured yoghurts and child friendly cereals.
Within the hotel there is a pool, sauna and hot tub, you can also book beauty treatments in the spa or enjoy a round of golf. Access to the river is a short 10 min walk away with a covered summer house, you can either walk through the beautiful gardens or along a path – the hotel can request a golf buggy to take you down if needed. If you do decide to walk through the gardens it can be muddy after a torrential rain storm, as Katie found out when she slipped over almost taking me with her.
There is a vast amount of activities to participate in outside of the hotel and plenty of places to take the children to keep them busy. Pendennis Castle was a worthwhile visit with lots of nooks and crannies to explore and stunning scenery.
A must if you are staying at the Budock Vean is to participate in a fantastic Koru Kayaking tour. The weather had been extremely windy so we were not able to do a usual tour to Frenchmans Creek but Tom let us know that we would be able to tour the Port Navas Creek. Wet suits are available to hire. Whilst the weather was extremely windy and the river choppy in places Tom assured us that should anything happen (ie capsizing) he would be there in a beat to rescue us.
Suitable for 6 years up, children must be supervised with an adult and a safety and technique speech is given whilst still on dry land giving you plenty of opportunity to ask any questions. Tom’s exuberance for kayaking is infectious and his laid back nature makes you instantly feel at ease – there was even time for water fights. At all times your guide will ensure that you are all ok, that you are not struggling in any way and that you are all happy to proceed.
If you'd like to stay at Budock Vean you can book your visit now online or call: +44 (0)1326 252 100. If you'd like to find our more information about the Kayaking experience take a look the website, call 0779 4321 827 or email
Glamping at Camp Katur in North Yorkshire
We LOVE camping and of course we always pack 'everything but the kitchen sink', so it was a great luxury to visit Camp Katur where our gigantic Safari Tent was already erected and waiting! Not only that, it had sofas, rugs, beds, ensuite 'shower shed' and a log burner. We were amazed!
Camp Katur is part of the Camp Hill Estate close to Bedale and Ripon and offers a brilliant choice of activities for all. After settling into our tent, we parked the car back at Reception (great idea - no need to worry about cars driving by the tent while the children are out playing) and went off to find the Adventure Playground hidden in the woods. A BBQ followed and a cosy evening in the tent with the log burner going ended a great day (rain was unfortunately lashing outside, but we were happy...!)
The next day, we were very excited to try out the Quad Bikes! We all had a go around the track, testing out our skills on the tight corners and bumps! Well recommended - or "Awesome" as Sam (11) and Sophia (7) put it....
Camp Katur is a great mix for a family break, the 'Glamping Village' is extremely peaceful and relaxing, yet only a short walk away, you can get active and enjoy a great range of outdoor adventure activities; climb aboard a Segway for a breath taking tour of the grounds, let yourself in for the latest craze – Water Zorbing or visit the award-winning home of Aerial Extreme and swing into action on the Adventure Ropes Course!
We've already heard this many times: "When can we go again Mum..?!"
Camp Katur, the Camp Hill Estate, Kirklington, Bedale, North Yorkshire, DL8 2LS
Tel: 0843 886 0607
Wild Rose Holiday Park
As you will see from our Junior Editor's Blog, we recently had a weekend break at the Wild Rose Holiday Park in Cumbria. It was a bit of a damp weekend (weather-wise) but we were extremely comfortable and cosy in the Platinum Mobile Home reserved for us. It had fantastic heating, a huge shower and lots of hot water so we were able to warm up after a few breezy walks. There was ample space for the five of us and we had a wonderful 'treat night' on Saturday; lounging on the sofas and watching Eurovision with a stock of chocolates from the on-site shop!
The park feels very safe and is set in beautiful countryside, we loved strolling around nearby Appleby-in-Westmorland and had a delicious tea on Saturday in a nearby (extremely friendly) country pub. The staff on the park couldn't do enough for us; we had a lovely warm welcome, joined in with the 'Cock A Hoop' Bar's 1st birthday celebrations and when the planned Pool Opening Party had to be postponed, the staff offered to pay for us all to go to the fun session at the local swimming pool. Brilliant customer service!
Harrison Holidays have been providing holidays and weekend breaks throughout the North West of England for over forty years. With parks located close to coastal sands or overlooking the picturesque Pennines, all parks are located in tranquil settings while retaining a fun holiday atmosphere. Harrison Holidays offer a variety of accommodation including wigwams and holiday homes, or there is also the option to travel with a tourer or set up a tent on site. Prices for a wigwam start at £44 per couple per night, while prices for a holiday home start at £140 for eight people to stay three nights or £264 for a week. For more information visit http://www.harrisonholidays.com/.