CDC Storytelling InfoGraphic

Britain in books

Britain is packed full of literary connections so to help you find the perfect day out, the book worms at holiday company Cottages.com have created a map of the best places to visit to immerse yourself in the worlds of your child’s favourite authors and stories.

If you’ve always wanted to explore the places that inspired your favourite authors or keep the family entertained by their favourite characters coming to life, why not use this handy guide to plan your next outing?

Mavellous Museum for Roald Dahl Fans

See the fantastical world of author Roald Dahl come alive at the museum created in his honour. Featuring three interactive galleries, find out about Roald Dahl’s school days, see his original Writing Hut and in The Story Centre put your imagination centre-stage with fantabulous activities to inspire your little writer.

Roald Dahl Museum, HP16 0AL

The Windmill

Wendover, nr. Aylesbury, Property Ref: PKKW

The Windmill cottages.com

Enjoy a unique holiday in this detached windmill, built around 1800, now converted to provide comfortable spacious accommodation over five floors with spectacular views over the Chiltern Hills from the second floor sitting room. Used as a working windmill until 1900 and then the home of an actress and a music publisher, The Windmill, now minus its sails, is located in the historic market town of Wendover. Set in a quiet location, it has an attractive enclosed rear garden.

Nestling in a gap in the Chiltern Hills, conveniently located to visit the Roald Dahl museum and Whipsnade Zoo. The area is blessed with a variety of walks through some of southern England’s most enjoyable countryside; the famous Ridgeway Path runs right down Wendover High Street.

Price: WAS £839, NOW £788 for three nights’ self-catering arriving on 21st March 2016. Sleeps 10 people and two pets.  0345 498 6900

Find Stick Man, Stick Lady and Family Three

The latest hit from favourite Julia Donaldson has been brought to life by The Forestry Commission which has created a series of Stick Man Trails throughout the UK. Not only is the trail a great way to explore nature, with a host of downloadable activities from their website, you can even have fun on rainy days!

Breathe in the stunning countryside which inspired Beatrix Potter

A visit to the Lake District is a great experience in itself, but with such a strong association to the stories of Beatrix Potter, it’s the perfect opportunity to find out more about this incredible author. Younger children can enjoy the Beatrix Potter Lake District Trail, following the clues to find her iconic characters amongst the countryside and for older children, a visit to her house is a brilliant insight into the writer’s life.

The Cottage

High Oxen Fell, nr. Coniston, Property Ref: 948

Beatrix Potter lake district

This cottage adjoins a 17th-century farmhouse on a traditional Lakeland working hill farm, once owned by Beatrix Potter, now owned by the National Trust. It enjoys a very quiet and secluded position, in a superb setting surrounded by rocky bracken-covered hills and high fells, in the heart of Lakeland. The views from all windows are across the magnificent Langdale Valley to the surrounding woods and mountains. Enjoy the tranquil splendour of this idyllic setting in a TV free cottage to enable you to relax in peace of a true away from it all holiday.

Price: £419 for seven nights’ self-catering arriving on 26th April 2016. Sleeps four people.   0345 498 6900

Wonderful Wizardry

For Harry Potter fans, there are so many places to visit across the UK, all with magical connections to the wizard world of Harry and Hogwarts. Whether it’s a trip to Alnwick Castle or Durham Cathedral to see the locations from the film or a day at Harry Potter World where you can sample Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans straight from Diagon Alley, there’s plenty to suit every J.K Rowling fan.

Harry Potter World, WD25 7LR

Alnwick Castle, NE66 1YU

Glenfinnan Viaduct, PH37 4LT

Durham Cathedral, DH1 3EH

A Bear who likes Marmalade

The classic stories of Paddington Bear, and the more recent film adaptation can be brought to life with a trip to Paddington Station. See where Michael Bond’s fictional bear was found and if you have time, why not take the Paddington Bear bus tour which takes in some of the famous locations from the film.

Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear at Paddington Station and bus tour

Spend a Day with Peppa and Friends

For fans of Peppa, a visit to Peppa Pig World is a perfect day out with the family. Have fun on the rides, meet some of your favourite characters and jump in some very muddy puddles!

Mark Baker, Phil Davies and Neville Astley, Peppa Pig World, SO51 6AL

Choo Choo!

For most Thomas fans, a trip to the local train station is a great way of spending an hour, but if you’re looking for a family day out, with 12 wonderful themed rides and a spectacular indoor play area why not visit Thomas Land at Drayton Manor?

Thomas the Tank Engine, Thomas Land, B78 3TW

Step back in time with the Railway Children

A trip to the picturesque Yorkshire town of Haworth offers the chance to see the train station featured in the film versions of E. Nesbit’s Railway Children. A real glimpse into the past, the traditional station is a great introduction to the classic book of adventure. Haworth also has a wealth of literary history with connections to the Bronte sisters for slightly older readers.

Oakworth Station, Haworth

Messing about on the River

Join Ratty, Mr Toad and Badger at the River and Rowing Museum, just off the Thames. See the characters of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows come alive and learn more about the river systems and environment in the process. You can also enjoy watching the boats and rowers take on the water outside.

River and Rowing Museum, RG9 1BF

The Wonderful World of Winnie the Pooh

A.A Milne was inspired to write his endearing collection of stories by Ashdown Forest, close to his home of Hartfield in East Sussex. There are a number of Pooh Walks to help guide you through the settings for some of his favourite tales and see Pooh, Christopher Robin, Piglet and Eeyore come to life.

A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh at Ashdown Forest

The Oast House

Nutley, Property Ref: PJJX

The Oast House - cottages.com

Lovingly restored, this is an unusual detached period barn with a wealth of exposed beams nestling in the owner’s 15 acres of grounds. It has its own small garden area and is situated on the edge of the Ashdown Forest, also known the world over as the home of A.A. Milne’s character Winnie the Pooh.

This area offers 6,500 acres of open heathland on the highest sandy ridge top of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Despite its name, woodland makes up less than 40% of the total area. Sheep, cows and goats graze freely side by side amidst the walkers and motorists.

Price: WAS £971, NOW £918 for seven nights’ self-catering arriving on 19th March 2016. Sleeps eight people. 0345 498 6900

I’m Late, I’m Late, for a Very Important Date!

Why not treat Alice in Wonderland fans to their very own Mad Hatter’s tea party? At the St James Court Hotel in London, the eclectic menu of cakes and pastries include ‘Queen of Hearts’ Mango Tarts, ‘Drink Me’ strawberry potion, ‘Caterpillar’s Mushroom’ Raspberry Marshmallows and Pocket Watch macaroons. Book at least 24 hours in advance to secure your place!

St James Court Hotel London, SW1E 6AF

Famous Five and Secret Seven Come Alive

Enid Blyton is synonymous with Dorset, which with an array of beaches and countryside is a great holiday destination in itself. The town of Purbeck is a great place to start, as the area which inspired the Famous Five stories. There are a number of local activities available including a location tour and museum to learn more about the author. Make sure you stop for some fantastic ice cream and ginger beer!

See the Tartan Bear

Author Mary Tourtel wrote and illustrated the Rupert Bear stories and at the Canterbury museum, fans can see original artworks, as well as memorabilia and images of the latest animated Rupert Bear.

Roses beach

Our second day on the Costa Brava was spent in Roses up at the other end of the bay where L’Estartit sits at the bottom. It took a good hour on a minibus to get there but it was well worth the drive.

Roses sandcastle

We arrived at around 10 am and the lovely lady from Burricleta was waiting for us. The plan was to sightsee on a bicycle. An electric bike which I had never tried before.

Burricleta Roses Costa Brava

We were told that children had to be over 8 to ride alone and this caused a few tears from our mini cyclists to begin with BUT I am so pleased we managed to convince them to sit with us as they would have never made the long hour and a half round trip on their own.

Burricleta Roses national park

 

I must say once you get used to how to use the electric bike it is the most amazing experience and one we will most definitely repeat if we see it elsewhere. It is very simple to use and because it is electric you don’t exhaust yourself but are able to take in the surroundings and Roses is truly beautiful to see.

Our lovely guide took us along Roses seafront which you can see in the top photo, she cut through the town and then took us for a wonderful journey through the natural park that lays outside the town.

Bessie Costa brava Roses

 

It was beautiful. Quiet, calm with wonderful fresh air to fill your lungs with.

Roses - me and Bessie

Once we had completed the park tour we then rode through the elite part of Roses. An absolutely amazing area with huge colourful villas lining the canals that stretch in from the sea, each villa with it’s own swimming pool (obvs) plus landing stage for their boat at the bottom of the garden. We saw a yacht go by as we stood on a bridge to take the view in. Take a look at our view from the bridge

Upstream – I am in love with those villas.

Roses Costa Brava

and downstream with a yacht coming our way. I’m so sad the weather had turned on us and the photos look a bit dull as I promise you it is a stunning view.

Roses waterways

We rode our way back to the beach and followed a path all the way back to where we had started.

Thank you Roses Burricleta for your time and such an amazing trip. I wish I had a Go Pro to show the readers just how beautiful our trip was, in fact I must invest in one soon.

Roses beach

Back at the beachfront, the weather was turning and everyone was hungry, Visit Roses had booked us a meal at one of the town’s many restaurants L’Entrecot and as we turned up we saw the paella finishing off on the terrace – what a welcome!

L'Entrecot Roses, Costa Brava

 

The starter was a buffet of amazing tapas to choose from, there was something for everyone and I couldn’t resist but take a spoonful of my favourites to try and the main of course had to be the fresh paella it was worth it.

Roses Costa Brava

After lunch we had to make our way back to Barcelona for our flight home but I left my heart on the Costa Brava and husband, ever since he’s been back, has been dreaming of moving there once he retires … he’s even been on the property websites. I daren’t remind him how many years he has yet to go. But a villa with a staircase like this? Yes please!

Roses staircase

 

 

Alice and Bessie in roses Costa Brava

Disclosure: We were guests of the Catalan Tourist Board for this trip and we would like to thank Burricleta Roses for taking the time to show us around and Visit Roses for such a delicious lunch.

villa pia exterior

I visited Tuscany for the first time when I was young and madly in love, I was more interested in looking into my lover’s eyes for reassurance of his undying love for me than taking in properly the magnificent site of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and as we crossed the bridge over the river Arno in central Florence where there are shops and shops of the most exquisite jewellery you will ever lay eyes on, I preferred to giggle at the site of Pierangelo’s naked statue of David rather than take in the breathtaking art surrounding me. Don’t worry I’m raising my own eyebrows at myself now.

But then I grew up.

Fortunately for me I was able to return to Tuscany many a time, we spent memorable family holidays at Castiglione della Pescaia, we visited Siena for a spectacular wedding. We walked the streets of Grosseto, me secretly hoping to bump into David Bowie – no we didn’t. And the towers of San Gimignano are still one of the prettiest memories I have of Tuscany.

villa pia eating al fresco

Everyone, and I mean everyone, on the planet should visit Tuscany at least once in their lifetime. As you drive through the open spaces you are greeted with fields and fields of sunflowers all tracing the path of the sun with their huge heads. 

You will get to taste some of the Best Food in Italy – fact. You will be beside yourself with joy as you read the wine list full of delicious reds and whites to have with your meal. Eating in a restaurant will be one of the highlights of your holiday, a bombardment to the senses.

italian digestivi

One of my favourite memories is staying in a family run villa, pretty much like Villa Pia. An old farmhouse in the middle of the beautiful countryside where a lot of care and attention has been taken to make sure all of your comforts have been met but without compromising the life and traditions of Tuscany.

villa pia swimming pool

Villa Pia has the most spectacular swimming pool (there’s a second pool for the kids and both are heated!) and a huge courtyard where children can run freely, don’t forget Italy is one of the most child friendly countries on Earth, you will be amazed at how patient the Italians are with children.

Rooms are personalised but in keeping with the period and style of the house, I think if you take a look you’ll want to go and if you ask me I would certainly say yes go, you will love it.

Tuscan Rooftops

 

 

A guest post by Cosmos

Sharm el Sheikh on Egypt’s Red Sea coast is an excellent choice for a family holiday, as there’s plenty to keep parents and children alike happy. In fact, I think some of the attractions and activities I’m going to suggest for the kids are likely to appeal just as much to fun-loving grownups!

So, if you’re planning to head to Sharm el Sheikh for your family holiday this year, check out a few of my suggestions on how to spend your time.

Discover the Red Sea’s reefs… without getting wet

This might sound like a bit of a contradiction; after all, you’d usually view the colourful coral reefs and their inhabitants by going snorkelling or scuba diving, but there are a couple of other options that are especially great for families with young children who might not be confident swimmers.

Red_Sea coral_reefs

First up is the glass-bottomed boat, with a tour in one of these vessels typically lasting around 90 minutes and taking you to some of the shallower dive sites close to the shore. While this is great for getting an overview, if you really want to see the Red Sea at its most spectacular, I’d opt for a semi-submarine tour.

These vessels have a viewing deck below the waterline, so you’ll actually be submerged as the boat travels around. As they also tend to be larger than their glass-bottomed counterparts, they’ll take you to an area of deeper water around Ras Um Sid where you can marvel at the stunning coral walls and observe a wide array of fish (and the odd diver!).

Spend a day at a water park

Sharm might have plenty of natural watery attractions in the form of its reefs, but there are a couple of manmade options families should definitely take a look at too. There are two main water parks – Cleo Park (which has a distinctly Egyptian theme) and Aqua Park.

Both of these cater brilliantly to kids of all ages, with special pools and small slides for younger children, as well as some terrifying drops that teenagers and adults will love. For instance, at Aqua Park you’ve got the Freefall speed slide that gives you nearly 12 m of freefall (I found this one really scary), as well as the incredibly fun Space Hole that sees you whizz around a large bowl several times before falling through a hole in the bottom.

Go for a ride on a camel

If there’s one animal that’s synonymous with Egypt, it’s the camel and I don’t think there’s any excuse not to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures during your trip. Plus, kids will love the chance to actually ride on a camel (I mean, who wouldn’t?).

camel ride

Aside from the fun of mounting and riding a camel (a quick tip here is to wear long shorts/trousers otherwise your legs can rub on the saddle), the other reason to go on one of these excursions is to learn more about the local Bedouins.

The Bedouins were once nomadic tribes who travelled through the desert and mountains and, although many of them have settled, they still hold on to their traditions – one of which is drinking small cups of incredibly sweet tea. You’ll get a chance to try it when you stop off at a local camp.

Those are my top tips for family-friendly fun in Sharm el Sheikh, but if you’ve got any other suggestions, please let me know!

Disclosure: A guest post written by Cosmos sharing their top tips for family holidays in Sharm el Sheik, I’ve been there and I loved it too

the forest of deanA guest post by CSMA Club Retreats

I absolutely love mountain biking, and I think it’s the perfect activity for a staycation. After all, provided you head to the right destination there will be trails for people of all abilities, gorgeous scenery and endless opportunities to have a laugh with family and friends. In my opinion, the Forest of Dean is one of the ultimate places to go.

You see, this ancient woodland – which is in Gloucestershire – has everything you need to have a brilliant biking holiday. So, you can come here without essentials like bikes, safety gear and a knowledge of local trails and still get pedalling with ease. Personally, I always think it’s nice to book a log cabin in the Forest of Dean so you can be really close to the cycle centres and tracks. Of course, this kind of accommodation is also great for getting away from it all and offers a bit more of a sociable atmosphere than a hotel, since it’s easy to mingle with any family/friends you’re travelling with.

But before I distract myself with more talk of the Forest of Dean in general, let’s take a look at the top trails to tackle. I’ll start with the easiest and go from there! And, just in case you’re new to mountain biking, here’s how the tracks are classified:

  • Green – easy
  • Blue – moderate
  • Red – difficult
  • Black – severe
  • Orange – extreme

Forest of Dean Family Trail (Green)

This route is definitely one of my favourites, largely because it’s simply a lot of fun to ride. From its name and the fact that it’s a green trail you’ll probably have gathered that it’s an easy path that’s suitable for the whole family.

Spanning around 11 miles, it is actually the longest trail on my list, but its flat and gravelled surfaces mean it’s a breeze to tackle. It broadly follows the old Severn and Wye railway line, passing old coal mines along the way (you can see these at Foxes Bridge and Lightmoor, for example).

One of the great things about this trail – aside from the fact it’s both fun and pretty! – is that it’s very clearly marked, making it a doddle to follow. Just keep your eyes peeled for the tall posts with the yellow arrows.

log cabin

Verderer’s Trail (Blue)

Next on my list is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting trails in the forest. The Verderer’s Trail is a 7-mile circuit that’s often described as one of the best in Britain, and is a must for any intermediate or experienced cyclists who fancy testing their skills and having a serious amount of fun.

With fast corners, humps, berms and rollovers, the trail definitely has some challenging elements that make this blue route all the more thrilling. It starts out with an uphill climb before flattening out and ending in a high-speed red descent.

The Freeminer Trail (Red)

If you’ve got plenty of mountain biking experience, try hitting the Freeminer Trail. At just over 2.5 miles long, it is the shortest route on my list, but also the hardest. This single-track trail is really varied and challenging, incorporating hairpin bends and switchback climbs that are only suitable for experienced riders.

If you’ve done a fair bit of biking in the past but never tackled any official mountain biking trails, I recommend bearing in mind that the red trails really are tricky. A few years back I – somewhat unwisely – decided to dive straight into a red route and had to stop pretty sharpish after nearly catapulting myself into some trees! So, if this is your first time trying out official tracks, it’s worth starting with a little bit of caution; after all, you can always try harder trails if you find green and blue routes too easy.

Disclosure: A guest post hosted by Mari’s World as I think the tips for mountain bikes in the Forest of Dean are very useful, who knows you may get me cycling yet?