North Devon coast

I love Devon. The word itself conjures up memories of cream teas, crabbing in Ilfracombe under the Statue of Verity and watching the kids on their belly boards at Woolacombe.

It’s been a few years since we last managed to get down to the west country but I am sure sooner or later, that we’ll be packing the car up and revisiting our favourite places again.

verity ilfracombe

The fact that Paul’s dad was sent to Hele during the war meant that, as a child, every summer, his parents would pack up the car and go for a two-week break with their four boys. We cannot go down without spending a day in Combe Martin, a visit to Ilfracombe and a long list of plenty of other wonderful places to choose from.

From the quirky choices like Berrynarbour and spotting the flowerpot men around the village, to the fascinating gardens dotted throughout the rolling hills.

 

berrynarbor

One thing we do when we’re in Devon, is to eat pasties. There are some fabulous pastie shops with all kinds of wonderful recipes to try. In fact, they are so good we always buy a huge box to bring home and freeze so we can extend our holiday memories that little bit longer. There’s nothing quite so sad as pulling out the last pasties from the freezer!

We have stayed in plenty of different places in Devon but one idea that really captures my curiosity and one that gives the real experience of living in the area would be to book a cottage, that way we could really make the most of our time and for a moment live the west country like the locals.

Christmas by the Sea

woolacombe beach

There, I’ve said it. I have said out loud what would be a dream Christmas for me – Christmas by the sea in Devon. I’m imagining long coastal walks wrapped up in gloves, hats and scarves, I’m picturing pub lunches in villages that are celebrating the locals rather than crammed with tourists. Drinking local ales and eating freshly caught fish or locally reared lamb.

How about a family night in your seaside cottage playing board games whilst the Cornish pasties are being reheated? Candles flickering on the fireplace and a log fire burning in the hearth?

I know Paul would want to go in the sea with his wetsuit and belly board, I would place money on the girls following him in too…imagine doing that on Christmas Day? There would be nothing to say you can’t do it, just push back the roast turkey to later in the day! In fact, there are some wonderful places that can sleep large families too and are dog-friendly too; Baxter would be in his element down there.

The more I think about it, the more this idea is taking hold in my mind and, fingers crossed, one day I will celebrate Christmas in Devon overlooking the sea and feasting on pasties and cream teas.

Where would you like to spend an alternative Christmas? Norfolk also offers a wealth of things to do and see.

Disclosure: A collaborative post

autumn in norfolk

If you haven’t considered taking a family break in autumn or winter before, then now is the time to start considering the idea. As the days get shorter and colder, the desire to wrap up and snuggle down becomes greater but this doesn’t mean we can’t be as cosy and comfortable away from home.

With cottages all over the UK available for rent for long weekends or longer breaks, it seems silly not to take advantage. It’s the perfect excuse to take the family away to discover some more of our beautiful country. From Yorkshire to Cornwall, there is something for everyone and this time we are shining the spotlight on Norfolk

Autumn breaks in Norfolk

Norfolk is a relatively flat countryside so it’s perfect for walking and getting outside without getting too strenuous. Autumn is renowned for colour and you can choose from the coastal path or a number of ‘Ways’ that take you on some spectacular journeys through the county. (Angles Way, Peddars Way, Boudicca Way and plenty more to choose from). If walking isn’t your thing then maybe cycling the routes could be a better way to get out and explore.

Beaches of Norfolk

The beaches are just as beautiful out of season – if not more and I know Baxter would love to run up and down a few of Norfolk’s favourites like Winterton, Brancaster and Wells next the Sea which is lined with the prettiest beach huts to photograph.

I didn’t know that Norfolk was a great place to watch birds. This is the time of year when birds are migrating from the Arctic and you can see the familiar v-shaped formations of geese as they travel down from Iceland and Greenland. I hear that Welney is the perfect Sunset spot to capture the wild swan feeds; the area fills with swans and ducks as they make their home for the winter.

Norfolk food and beer

Harvest time of year always brings lots of food festivals and special occasions to take part in. There are funghi forays, nature trails plus Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse has a wonderful Apple Day to visit. Maybe you could buy some and make a crumble or a Toffee Apple cake.

The city of Norwich always has plenty going on if you’re looking for a buzz, if not, enjoy the cobbled lanes and quaint town centre, maybe pop into a pub for some local beer from one of the many local breweries.

Heritage railway

The beautiful heritage railways of Norfolk travel all over the county and this is the time of year that you can take the children on a Santa Special. Sit back and take in the glorious scenery, I am told that the North Norfolk Railway from Sheringham to Holt is breathtaking.

Norfolk has a wealth of stately homes and museums to discover, parks full of wild deer and other wildlife and what’s more, it apparently has the best climate in the UK too.

You can find out plenty of more things to do on the Visit Norfolk website

Cottages to rent in Norfolk

Now all you have to do is find the right cottage for you to stay in. Norfolk Cottages has plenty to choose from for example, The Old Coach House in Pentney sleeps up to 8 people and allows dogs… just look at the swimming pool!

autumn in norfolk

Or The Granary? A luxury property in Aslacton. Take a look at the photos – I don’t think I’d ever leave it’s so beautiful.

autumn in norfolk

Have I convinced you to take a look at Norfolk? Do let me know if you go there and where you visit.

Disclosure: A collaborative post

The View from The Shard

This morning we were up at the crack of dawn and off to The Old Smoke for a special treat – a trip up The View from The Shard in the company of Ferdinand, the friendliest bull in town who is due out on DVD in a matter of days.

The View from The Shard

The View from The Shard have had an un-bull-ievable idea for a family activity this Easter break, they’ve teamed up with Ferdinand and created a family day out where you get to experience The View – which is gobsmackingly awesome and lots of other activities too …  like a virtual reality game called Vertigo which I had a go at this morning. Think of The Shard when it was being constructed and walking across the steel beams with nothing beneath you – scary but a lot of fun. The girls were most disappointed that they weren’t allowed to have a go (over 12) but were happy to video me doing it.

We were given activity sheets and had to go on a treasure hunt looking for Ferdinand’s flowers, we located them all and popped our sheets into a box with our fingers crossed at winning the prize of a return visit.

The View From The Shard

Families who decide to try this amazing experience out are given goody bags with their entrance tickets including all of the following items

  • Ferdinand activity sheet
  • Bouncy ball
  • Pencil case
  • Official Guidebook
  • Keyring
  • Colouring set
  • Selfie stick

and you simply must go up to the Sky Deck where there is this beautiful floral display waiting for the best photo opportunity ever.

The View from The Shard

There is another virtual reality experience called The Slide which I didn’t have a go at – although I wish I had now. You lay on a wooden curved surface which moves up and down and tips slightly forward and to the sides, as you swoop and slide around The Shard and through the city skyline. A kind of Shard helter-skelter.

For every family that visits The View from The Shard for the Ferdinand experience, there is the chance to enter a competition to win a two-night break to Barcelona. The prize is for 2 adults and 2 children under 15 and consists of return flights from London to Barcelona, return airport transfers in Barcelona, 2 nights in a four-star hotel and travel insurance.

The View From the Shard

If you need even more to convince you, how about drinking a glass of Moët & Chandon from London’s highest champagne bar? 800ft above the capital sipping bubbles whilst enjoying views of up to 40 miles, that’s got to seal the deal surely?

The View from The Shard

Find all the information or book tickets online at www.theviewfromtheshard.com/en/whats-on/events/2018/ferdinand-the-bull/

Before you leave, make sure you visit the toilets at the top for a loo with a view…

The View From The Shard loo

Disclosure: We were given tickets by The View from The Shard for the purpose of this post.

Yorkshire moors

Visiting Yorkshire has always been high on my bucket list for many reasons ranging from, longing to see the beautiful seaside town of Whitby and eat ‘proper’ fish and chips, to visiting the moors and dales which I pictured so vividly whilst reading Wuthering Heights.

I’ve been looking into where to go and what to do in Yorkshire more closely as I’m hoping to get up there very soon. In fact, my research tells me that now would be the perfect time to take in the glory that is Farndale! Imagine walking in a sea of daffodils that stretch as far as the eye can see. Apparently, the golden blooms were planted by the monks of Rievaulx Abbey, (another place to visit on my bucket list) the golden banks of the River Dove shine along the three and a half mile walk from Low Mill to Church Houses and back.

Bronte Country is said to be wild and dramatic, I’d love to climb the rugged moorlands and capture them on camera and pop into the Bronte Parsonage Museum where the family lived in Haworth.

I want to visit Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This beautiful Victorian model village with its cobbled streets and terraced cottages was built for the workers of the Salt Mills. It’s also close to David Hockney’s place of birth and as one of his longtime admirers, I’d like to see his work displayed in the Salt Mills. Whilst we’re on the subject of art, there is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield that looks really intriguing, I do love a good sculpture park!

Whitby

Whitby

I couldn’t possibly go all the way to Yorkshire and not see Whitby. I’ve heard so much about it and every time a photo come up on my Instagram feed of the town I find myself wishing to go and see it for myself.

Noted as one of the greatest sights in Britain, the Whitby Abbey is said to powerfully domineer the fishing harbour. There are 199 stone steps to climb to get the best view and luckily there are a few renowned pubs and eateries close by for refreshment. Fortune’s Kippers dates back to 1872!

The Yorkshire coastline is dotted with sandy bays, coves and centuries of maritime history to explore.

Scarborough is one that I’d like to explore in more detail. This original Victorian spa centre has a castle, an open-air theatre and is a well-known shopping centre too.

Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales

I’d like to think that my meanderings through the county would take me across the Dales. I’d love to walk Baxter and find some of the beautiful waterfalls that the area boasts. I didn’t know that each dale has its own name and its own character. I hadn’t realised that one of my favourite cheeses – Wensleydale is actually a dale in Yorkshire (I know!) In fact, Wensleydale is home to three most spectacular falls; Aysgarth Falls where the River Are washes down the broad limestone steps, the Hardraw Force – England’s highest single drop waterfall and the West Burton Falls.

The Forbidden Corner

The name alone makes me want to go there! If like me, you like the odd and quirky then this could be the attraction for you. Tucked away near Leyburn is a park of pathways to nowhere that lead into the most obscurer mazes where you bump into curious carved statues and even a pyramid! Apparently it is entrance on a first come first served basis so might be worth a telephone call beforehand. Also close by is the Jervaulx Abbey ruins said to be a great visit too.

Where to stay in Yorkshire

To make the most of my Yorkshire visit I’d like to stay in a cottage, a place to call my own during my stay where I can put the kettle on and sit back on a comfy sofa after a day out sightseeing. Plus, of course, there would be some spectacular views to take in. Ingrid Flute’s Yorkshire Holiday Cottages https://www.yorkshireholidaycottages.co.uk/ offer exactly what I am looking for and there are plenty of options to choose from to suit all budgets and tastes.

visiting Yorkshire

If you know Yorkshire better than me, please let me know of some places to add to my list.

keswick

Image credit: Stuart Hodgson from www.hikingphotographer.uk

The Lake District is in the north-west of England in the county of Cumbria and I have yet to go and visit, shocking I know. In fact, I am making it one of my 2018 goals to spend some time there next year as I have heard so many good things. If people have been returning here for centuries, there must be a very good reason, right?

The whole area is a National Park that is teeming with lakes, woodlands, wildlife and pretty towns and villages to explore. Of course, it’s a hikers paradise and many people come here quite simply to get out in the open and walk the fabulous landscape taking in some of the greatest views in the world. Many different outdoor lovers are drawn to the Lake District; cyclists, kayakers (is that a word?), canoeists even treetop trekkers – yes there is such a thing.

But, not all of us want to spend all of our time being active, luckily the Lake District has a host of other things to do that will keep you more than amused during your stay.

Things to do in the Lake District

Firstly, we can divide the things to do in the Lake District into areas, the north, the east, central, south-east and western areas. Each part has many things to do and I have cherry-picked a few that I would love to see with my family.

MILL RACE COTTAGE

Mill Race Cottage

Castlerigg Stone Circle – Northern Lake District

I am fascinated with stone circles. From our first visit to Stonehenge, the curiosity of these ancient monuments keeps drawing me in. The 38 large stones that stand 3 metres high of Castlerigg Stone Circle have the most dramatic mountain landscape as a backdrop. As one of Britain’s earliest stone circles, about 5000 years old, they are very popular with tourists and are now managed by the National Trust and the English heritage. If you are visiting the are in midwinter you’ll probably get one of the best views as the entrance seems to line up with the sunsets around that time of year.

Haweswater Dam – Eastern Lake District

Haweswater Dam was Britain’s first concrete buttress dam built back in the 1930’s by hundreds of unemployed workers from the Manchester area. The workers were homed in prefabricated houses that had state of the art community facilities in Burnbanks. The dam is the highest in our country and offers spectacular views of the surrounding area.

Shap Abbey – Eastern Lake District

Shap Abbey was built around 1200 and was the centre of a thriving monastic community. As you wander the ruins you can make out the church, chapter house and living areas that surround the square cloister. There are also traces of the guest rooms, stables and workshops. Henry VIII closed the Abbey in 1540 and some of its stone was used to build Shap Market Hall.

Copt Howe Rock Carvings – Central Lake District

Another fascinating find from 6000 years ago is the circles, lines and ‘cup’ marks found etched into the rocks at Copt Howe. Archaeologists believe they may have been a way of showing links between people and important places.

Meadow Bank

Meadow Bank

Brantwood Barkpeeler’s Hut – South Eastern Lake District

Once upon a time, you could have worked as a bark peeler. Your job would have been to remove the bark from oak trees before the trees were coppiced and sent to the local tanneries. Barkpeelers lived in huts in the woods with their families, the huts were made of a circular stone wall and a conical roof covered with earth and grass. There is a wonderful reconstructed example at Brantwood House.

Townend Statesman’s House – South Eastern Lake District

On the other end of the scale is the home of a well -off farming family. Townend Statesman’s House is a beautifully preserved 17th century farmhouse built in 1623 for George Browne and his family who lived there for over 300 years.

Muncaster Castle – Western Lake District

I do love to visit a castle and Muncaster has been in the Pennington family since 1208. What started out as a medieval fortified tower-house was added to through the years until the fine castle that can be visited today. An interesting fact that caught my eye was, Henry VI sought refuge here during the Wars of the Roses and left a glass drinking-bowl behind, saying if it remained unbroken the Penningtons would thrive. It’s still intact and is known as the ‘Luck of Muncaster’.

Ravenglass Roman Bathhouse – Western Lake District

Ravenglass is one of the best preserved Roman military bathhouses in Britain where a 1000 strong garrison would come to scrub up. Its walls are almost 4 metres high and two rooms with doorways and windows can still be seen today. As you explore you can find plumbing for hot and cold water a fort close by and many more interesting facts.

Brathay Loft

Brathay Loft

Where to stay in the Lake District

If you want to have the comfort of your own home whilst you explore the Lake District then I advise you to take a look at the Good Life Lake District Cottages as they cover all of the above-mentioned areas and have all types of accommodation available, even pet friendly homes where you can take your family pet along too. The images above are some examples of what you can find.