Category: UK Holidays

Things to Pack for a Caravan Holiday

We have been on a few camping holidays now and there are some things I have learnt along the way, especially things to pack for a family caravan holiday.

I am writing this post from our beautiful caravan in Cornwall so I can look around to remind myself of all the important things that you need.

Staying in a caravan in the UK means preparing for a range of weather possibilities, but you can pack a lot of things into your car.

I am a list writer and always write down things I plan to take and then tick them off as I pack. This time, I decided to skip the list and managed to forget a load of clothing items for the kids, so I won’t be doing that again – lesson learnt.

Comfort and Warmth

I always pack bed socks, slippers and dressing gowns for comfort and warmth. Caravans usually have hard floors, which can feel a bit cold and we’re used to the comfort of carpet at home. Extra blankets and pillows can also be handy for a bit of extra comfort or for a cosy afternoon in front of the television.

Weather Protection

It is a good idea to pack jackets and waterproofs whatever time of year you are going away. Wellies for the kids and walking boots for the adults are also useful if you’re planning to walk or go to the beach in cooler weather.

Basics

Most caravans will have basic items, but I think it’s better to be safe than sorry so there are a few items I always pack for a caravan holiday. Key things are scissors, tin opener, corkscrew/bottle opener, tea towel, hand towel and washing up sponge, hand wash and matches.

Extra Items

I always bring a torch, bin bags, food bags, toilet rolls, kitchen roll, cleaning wipes, picnic bag, drink bottles, cutlery, plastic plates and cups for the kids.

I brought a potty and step for my youngest this time, which has been really useful as she can go to the toilet with minimal help.

Online Shopping Delivery

I would certainly recommend getting an online delivery to your caravan if possible. We saved a lot of space and managed to get a range of frozen and chilled items delivered to our caravan as well as things that would have got squashed if we’d brought them all the way from home. Key items included butter, milk, bread, fruit, cereals, pizza, ice cream and beer.

This is a checklist of things to pack when going on a family caravan holiday based on our own experience. It is best to check what is included with your caravan as you may or may not have a dishwasher, washing machine, microwave, freezer and this will determine what you need to pack. Hopefully this list of tips will be useful for other people planning a caravan holiday and wondering what to bring.

We had a long drive to our holiday in Cornwall, but it was not as stressful as I feared. We played games and had a few stops along the way. You can check out my other blog posts about surviving long car journeys if you click on Long Car Journey With Kids and Games to Top 10 Car Games to Play .

Long Car Journey With Kids

Lego man family car journeyI have just booked two family breaks away in the UK, which will involve some serious driving to get there and back. We have been on many family holidays abroad with young kids and UK breaks within a couple of hours of home, but we don’t have much experience of long car journeys with kids.

My daughters are 6 and 2 so I am hoping to bring lots of things to keep them entertained during the journey and we will play lots of games on the way down. I will also create a playlist of songs for the car so that everyone has some music that they like (99% of the music will be chosen by the kids, obviously).

Breaks

I guess we will need to stop for a break every 2 – 3 hours. We will probably eat somewhere on the way as that feels like a treat and a proper break for everyone. We’ll need to break up the long journey for the kids. Ideally we can stop somewhere with a play area – I’d best get Googling that one.

Toys and Stuff

I am planning to bring a load of kids stuff for the journey, such as colouring books, sticker books, iPads, blankets and pillows, Barbie dolls, Peppa Pig figures. I may also make some I-Spy packs for the girls which I have done for holidays before with things to look out for and tick off.

Food and Drinks

I will also bring drinks and snacks, including breadsticks, carrot sticks, some sweets and dried apricots. We’ll probably buy some lunch when we stop, but I may pack some jam sandwiches for snacks whilst in the car.

Avoid

I will avoid chocolate and anything sticky for in the car, as well as PlayDoh or messy toys and anything that the girls are likely to argue over.

I have put together a list of car games that we regularly play in the car, so we will probably do lots of these too.

Do you have any tips for a long journey with kids? Please add a comment if you do.

Alnwick Castle

We visited Alnwick Castle during our stay in Northumberland last year and we had a great fun-filled day. I thought this would be an hour or two of entertainment, but we spent the whole day there and there was lots to do. Our eldest daughter who is six loved it here and she reminded me today what a great time she’d had.

We bought a family ticket which can be validated for 12 months allowing us to return at some point if we visit the area again.

There were several activities and attractions throughout the day including tours of the castle, wizard demonstrations and crafts for the kids. It is best to plan what you want to see so you can book yourself on if necessary. I believe different things are on offer at different times of the year, so our day may or may not be typical for the activities available.

As you enter there is a board on the wall showing the activities and times so you can easily plan your day. We wanted to do Broomstick Training, Dragon’s Quest and a tour showing how the castle has been used as a location for many films and television programmes. Alnwick Castle is particularly famous for being the location for filming of Harry Potter. There are many references to the castle being Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The Broomstick training was very popular so you need to be early to guarantee your place. We arrived at opening time and had to queue to book onto the Broomstick lesson.

Dragon’s Quest

Alnwick castle

This was a 10 minute walkthrough attraction, which my girls both loved (aged 2 and 6).

It involves dragons and swords and fire, so perfect for little adventurers. However I have heard other people say it was too scary for their kids, so you may wish to consider this before going through. There is a short film at the start and you can probably gauge whether your kids will like it from that.

BROOMSTICK TRAININGBroomstick Training

This was a great activity run by two funny ladies. They teach you how to summon the broomstick and then you learn to mount it and ride it. Then you have a little time to master your technique and take photos. We just about avoided the rain as this would have spoilt it a bit. Others were less lucky on the day we were there.

Our two year old was a little restless, at times, but she did get involved. Our six year old loved it and it was fun for the adults too. I would definitely recommend this.

As mentioned earlier, you do need to get there early to book onto the Broomstick training and avoid disappointment. You may well see and hear the Broomstick training throughout the day so it would be a shame to miss it if your kids would enjoy it.

Crafts

Our girls loved making things with clay. I  was pleased to see this was included within the entry price as I thought we may have to pay extra. The lady running the clay session was lovely and patient with all the kids.

You can collect your piece as you leave and we managed to keep ours intact and take it home.

Alnwick Castle is not open all year round so it is best to check the website before you go. Normally it closes the last weekend in October and opens again at the end of March. You can save 10% on admission if you book in advance.

Alnwick Castle Website

We stayed in a holiday cottage in Embleton when we visited Alnwick Castle. It was a short drive, about 20 minutes to get to Alnwick. Please click on the link if you’d like to read my post about our cottage in Embleton.

Bank Top Cottage, Embleton, Northumberland

We had a fabulous week at Bank Top Cottage in Embleton. From the moment we arrived, we felt relaxed and away from it all. 

The cottage was a lovely combination of modern yet cosy. The open plan living area included a kitchen area, dining room table and two couches facing the fire and television. The views form the cottage were absolutely stunning. We could look out to the sea and Dunstanburgh Castle. We had our own hot tub in front of the cottage. I wasn’t sure we would be bothered about this in November, however once we’d tried it we loved it, especially looking across to Dunstanburgh Castle and up at the stars.   

Embleton Beach, Northumberland

This is us on holiday on the beach in Embleton in Northumberland.

The beach was amazingly peaceful and surprisingly sheltered. We were there in November and we managed to play around for hours before feeling the cold. There were some rock pools, which we managed to explore, but only managed to spot a couple of crabs. We did build lots of sandcastles and a moat and we decorated the sandcastles with shells from the beach. We also dug out a couple of boats for the kids to sit in.

After a play around on the beach, we went to the Ship Inn pub, which was just off the beach at Embleton Bay. I had read about their crab sandwiches, which we sampled along with other food and drinks. All were delicious and we liked the friendly atmosphere in there. It gets really busy and you can struggle to get a table so you need to get there for opening time to guarantee a seat.

 

 

Where to Eat Fish and Chips in Seahouses

When we stayed in Northumberland last year (click to read post about Embleton, Northumberland) my Mum suggested we get fish and chips in Seahouses. She said she there was a lovely chippy and we should check it out. We all love fish and chips and one miserable, grey day we decided to head out for our lunch. So I Googled “fish and chips seahouses” and was surprised to see that there are at least three fish and chips restaurants in Seahouses. It is quite a small town so you wouldn’t expect to stumble across three of them there, but it is right by the sea and a fishing harbour.

I do like to research before making a decision about food or fun so I decided to check out the Trip Advisor reviews to see which one was rated best with the general public.

According to the Trip Advisor reviews all three were generally pretty good, with mainly positive reviews from customers. However there were some slightly negative comments (as you would expect) on each of them. What amused me was the responses to the comments from one of the restaurants. A quick check on Trip Advisor turned into a long session of me laughing out loud at the comments made on behalf of the restaurant. The restaurant is Pinnacles in Seahouses and I had spotted that the Hairy Bikers had endorsed this one, which made me think it must be pretty good.

Click on the link below to read reviews of restaurants in Seahouses:

Trip Advisor – Seahouses Restaurants

After much reading of reviews – and responses, I decided we had to go and see Pinnacles for ourselves.

Unfortunately Pinnacles was closed that day. So we went to the Neptune restaurant opposite. It is a cafe style fish and chips restaurant. We all enjoyed our fish and chips. We sat inside and the staff were really friendly and it was a really good meal. I can certainly recommend Neptune Fish restaurant for a good hearty fish and chips meal for the family.

We went on a boat tour that left from Seahouses and you can read about that by clicking on the link to Farne Islands Boat Tour.

Farne Islands Boat Trip from Seahouses, Northumberland

During our stay in Northumberland we went on a lovely boat trip over to the Farne Islands. We sailed from Seahouses with Billy Shiel’s Boat Tours and we travelled out to the Farne Islands. There were a few trips to choose from and we felt that a couple of hours would be about right with two young kids. If you have a child that struggles to sit still, then this might not be the best trip for you, but ours were pretty good.

We saw lots of seabirds, including Guillemots and Razorbills and we saw hundreds of Grey Seals. The guide was friendly and enthusiastic. He pointed out many different types of birds and he told some interesting stories along the way. Some of the seal pups had been born within the last day or two. Despite the poor photograph (apologies), we were incredibly close to hundreds of Grey Seals during the boat trip, however with a rocky boat and trying to keep hold of a couple of young kids, it was really tricky to get a decent photo. If you look closely, you will see some black animals in the water and these are the Grey Seals. Our two year old could see them clearly. She insisted they were doggies, but they are definitely Grey Seals.

The boat trips run all year round, but it is best to check the website before going to be sure. We were there in Autumn, which is the best time to see the seals, but if you would like to see the huge numbers of puffins then May, June and July is the best time to see them.

Our kids were 6 and 2. Our six year old daughter enjoyed the trip and loved seeing the wildlife, particularly the seal pups. We would like to return to see the puffins if we are there in Summer.

Our 2 year old was a little restless at times, but we could sit inside with her and we had plenty of snacks to keep her occupied. The boat did sway about a bit, at times, so we had to keep hold of the little one. There was a small toilet on board at the back of the boat, which was fine for our 6 year old.

Billy Shiel’s Boat Tours Website

Center Parcs, Whinfell

We love Center Parcs and we thought a sunny long  weekend at Whinfell Forest would be the perfect start to the summer holidays.

We invited my parents along too so there were 6 of us staying in a woodland lodge with 3 bedrooms.

We opted for a long weekend and stayed from Friday to Monday as David was limited for holidays. We have previously done a four night break from Monday to Friday. We find that the time flies either way, which I guess means we always enjoy yourselves while we’re there and we try to make the most of our stay.

Anyone that has been to Center Parcs will immediately recognise the chalk board in the picture. I love this little touch and we usually find a nice welcome message when we arrive. We always draw and write on ours throughout the stay with happy messages.

Arrival

You can access your lodge from 3:30pm (or 2pm if you pay extra).

I love the driveway into Center Parcs. Once you enter the narrow winding road, there are wooden animal sculptures to spot and if you go during the Christmas period, there are lovely Christmas lights and decorations.

Once you have parked the car there is a walkway up to the village, which takes about ten minutes with small legs. There is a bike hire centre alongside the car park and you can pre-book these or collect them on arrival. We chose to bring our own bikes for the girls, but if they were a bit older, we’d probably all hire bikes for our stay.

We arrived around lunch time and headed to Starbucks for lunch then we went to the swimming pool complex.

We swam and played and had a drink before making our way to our lodge. Daddy walked to the car park and fetched the car while we made our way to the lodge on foot. It was not too busy and he actually made it there before us.

We brought some bolognese with us from home so we had an easy meal in on the first night with a bottle of wine. There is a takeaway and a well stocked supermarket on site as well as several restaurants so you have plenty of options.

Swimming Pool

The Subtropical Swimming Paradise is great fun for the kids. The changing rooms are cleverly designed for families so you can have a good sized changing room and there is plenty of room for everyone to get ready.

Our kids loved the pools, in particular the waves and the slides. I think the waves come on every half hour and the Tarzan alert gives you plenty of time to get a good spot or get out of the way if you want to avoid them. There is an outdoor pool and a plunge pool for the brave.

There is a splash area for younger ones which includes two slides. Our two year old loved both of these and we positioned ourselves one at the top and one at the bottom to make sure she was ok. It was handy to have extra hands (grandparents) in the pool to play with both our children.

Lodge/Chalet

The kids loved exploring our surroundings and it was not long before they were running about in the forest going on an adventure.

They had a great time playing around outside the chalet. They were running about playing hide and seek, searching for bears and a gruffalo.

It was fun to join in and also nice to sit outside with a glass of wine while watching them play. Our eldest was using the binoculars to spot birds.

Abigail also enjoyed riding her bike and she managed to get around well most of the time. There are few cars about on site and there are sensible speed limits that people obey so we can relax in a way we couldn’t do at home.

Aqua Sana Spa

Bringing the grandparents along meant that we could have a session in the Aqua Sana spa. It was brilliant – lovely and clean, very relaxing and we really enjoyed our three hours of chill out time.

There were various different heat experiences including warm relaxing rooms and hot steam and saunas. There were different themes for each room and an explanation outside each.

We ate out at Bella Pasta, which was really nice. The staff said it had been busy early on and you’d need to book for an early sitting, but we went after our spa session, just the two of us, so it was nice and quiet. The staff were friendly and the food was delicious. It was a nice warm evening and it was lovely to walk around the site back to our chalet, holding hands, which is a luxury for us as we’re normally running after a child each or pushing the buggy.

Pedalo on the Lake

We hired a pedalo one day,  which was a fun session with the girls. We ended up doing most of the pedalling while the girls told us where we needed to go.

The lake is central to the site next to the swimming complex and there are some small waterfalls around the edge so it is a pretty site.

There is a Lakeside restaurant which serves nice roast dinners and hearty food for good appetites.

Roller Skating

We booked roller skating one afternoon, which was great fun for our six year old. She needed a lot of help, but she did improve through the session and just about managed to skate independently by the end. I had booked skates for her and me, but realistically, I should have just booked them for her as it was easier to help her when not on skates.

My two year old also had a go and enjoyed skating while holding onto her Daddy and Grandad’s hands.

It was a fabulous weekend and I would definitely recommend Center Parcs to anyone that fancies a relaxing break with the kids. I love the fact that you can park up and leave the car for the entire stay and the freedom for the kids is perfect.

Bank Top Cottage, Longnor, Peak District

We had a fabulous week at Bank Top Cottage in the Peak District.

We travelled down straight from school and arrived in glorious sunshine at the immaculate cottage on this working farm. The kids were immediately drawn to the play area, which was a fabulous unexpected bonus. We were able to enjoy a glass of wine while watching them play, which was perfect.

COTTAGE
​​The cottage looked brand new and was filled with modern, high quality furnishings throughout. The bedrooms and living room had lovely deep luxurious carpets and the bathrooms were modern and spotless. There was lots of storage space with a great big wardrobe in our bedroom and additional drawers around the room. We had a cot in our bedroom and this didn’t take away from the large space that we had.

We loved the homely feel of the cottage and we were happy to eat in most evenings although we did go to a lovely pub down the road, just a few minutes away.

We watched films and played games and just enjoyed spending time somewhere new.

The owners were really welcoming and we were delighted to have tour of the farm during our stay. We were all fascinated and enjoyed getting so close to the milking cows.

ALTON TOWERS
We discovered the cottage when looking for accommodation near to Alton Towers and we went to the theme park on our first day. It was about 40 minutes away in the car and it was strange to go from the pretty cottage in the middle of nowhere to the crowded attraction that is Alton Towers. The kids had a great time and there was plenty to keep them both entertained throughout the day.

LOCAL AREA
​The farm is pretty remote but the small village of Longnor is just a few minutes down the road in the car. We were just a few miles from Buxton and there was lots to see and do close by.

There is a fantastic fish and chip shop in Longnor and it is popular so be prepared to queue. We ended up going twice during the week as it was really handy to call in on the way home after a day out.  ​