Foraging is a just a fancy word to describe searching for wild food. But if you don’t know what you are doing, going on a foraging course is the ideal way to learn about the wild foods that are safe to eat in the UK, and where to find them.
Geocaching for kids – a free and easy way to stir up some adventure on your doorstep. In fact, you can have a go at geocaching anywhere in the world, but I like the fact that it’s a good activity to try when you’re feeling a bit bored or uninspired by your local environment and want a quick, mini adventure with your children.
I’m a massive fan of London. London without kids is fun. London with kids is even better. Anything you fancy doing, London will have it, and a lot of the best activities for kids in London are free too. Because there is such a lot to do, I’ve split this blog post up into themes – so whether you have a dinosaur fan, book worm or outdoor explorer you’ll find the best of London for the family.
The art of adventuring successfully with children old and young is being able to balance what you want to get out of the trip with what is going to satisfy the younger members of the party. These worldwide hiking routes manage to do that. Outstanding views, some challenging sections, and a little off the beaten track for the adults, but safe, well-marked trails that can be tackled in small sections, with features that kids will appreciate too like huge trees, ancient volcanoes and warm hostel stays.
Cycling is a great way to explore further distances with kids, so travelling by a safe cycle route is good option if you want to cover a lot of ground. There’s also multiple options cycle wise – toddlers riding their own bikes, tandem bikes, child bike seats or the covered bike trailers. Also, if you have kids of different ages, its a cool way to carry on adventuring as everyone can join in. Other ways of getting around tend to only work when kids are really young and can be carried, or older and can carry themselves further, or are able to do more technical stuff themselves.
Pre-kids I ran a lot, and this is still my first love. But I’m becoming more excited by the possibilities of cycling adventures with kids because of the greater options available. Cycling in the UK is so rewarding as we have such a diverse landscape to explore. It’s cheap once you’ve got the gear, and the mode of travelling by wheel on gorgeous off-road cycle routes gives you the reward of feeling in close contact with nature, yet being able to go further than on foot. Plus you can carry more, so bike/camp possibilities are opened too without breaking your back.
If you want to sort out your own cycle route, the National Cycle Network is the first place to start, founded by the charity Sustrans, it links hundreds of miles of traffic-free and quiet cycling paths across the UK. And there are now tons of fab family-and-bike-friendly beds, campsites and yurts to sleep in along the way too.
Otherwise, here are our favourite family-friendly cycle routes in the UK. Disclaimer: Researching this post kinda made me want to pack up and go now. Some seriously beautiful places out there.
Isle of Wight is also known as ‘bicycle island’ because of its appeal and ease for cyclists. The red squirrel trail takes in 23 miles of smooth, mainly traffic free trail across the isle’s best – from wetlands to its beautiful coastline. A great one to break up with an overnight stay.
Play spot the troll as you cross the many bridges found along the way on the curiously-named Troll Trail. You’ll probably see more wildlife than trolls here however, including buzzards, woodpeckers, wagtails, dragonflies and butterflies. The Troll Trail between Merstone and Shide is a flat and safe traffic-free route perfect for young children just starting to ride.
The Phoenix Trail runs for seven miles between Princes Risborough and Thame. It’s flat and smooth, with seating every 500 yards, which make it one of the most family-friendly cycle routes in the country . A fantastic place to teach your child how to cycle and enjoy the Chiltern Hill views while you are doing it.
Follow the route of the river Stour along the water banks in the iconic landscape that inspired Constable to paint his oil masterpieces. A chocolate box rural idyll awaits. Think wisteria, rolling meadows, trickling streams and birdsong.
This 25 mile cycle route is also traffic free. It runs alongside the River Avon to Chippenham and onto Calne via a disused railway line. You will pass Lacock Abbey (which featured in Harry Potter), the Cherhill White Horse and Avebury stone circle.
30 miles of unbroken traffic-free cycle paths – the longest in the UK. While cycling you can enjoy views across the mouth of the Taw Estuary plus look out for the multitude of wildlife found in the area. There’s also an art trail devised by Sustrans with shelters along the way, in case of rain.
This cycle route runs for 8.5 miles from Chee Dale to Bakewell, through some of the Peak’s best limestone dales. It’s a former railway route, so tunnels, viaducts and cuttings add interest and variety.
This one is on our bucket list for a real adventurous feel. Combine your bike ride with a boat crossing across lake Windermere. Once off the boat, there’s plenty of off-road trails and quiet roads to explore en-route to neo-gothic Wray Castle.
A 10 mile long flat trail which follows an old railway line from Dolgellau to the gorgeous Barmouth rail bridge. The cycle route may be flat but the views are truly magical – with mountains, river and sea for the eyes to feast on. One side of the trail lies Rhinog hill and the Cadair Idris Massif on the other. Plus the Mawddach estuary is also home to two RSPB reserves at Coed Garth Gell and Arthog Bo to enjoy too.
For epic coastline, traditional Welsh villages and Anglesey’s stunning scenery, head to the North Wales coastal route for 105 miles of mostly traffic-free paths and trails.
A stunning 24 mile cycle route in an area designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – saltmarsh, farmland, wetlands and beaches.
The Speyside Way towards the Boat of Garten is a fabulous flat ride that passes through heather moor and birch woodland. You may be lucky enough to also spy a red squirrel here.
Festival season is a-coming and there is plenty of choice for all ages. If you don’t fancy camping, many festivals offer day tickets, or try a midway option and go luxe in a yurt. Many large name festivals now cater for families, such as Camp Bestival and Latitude, and some smaller indie festivals have been set up solely to cater for families, such as the lovely Elderflower Fields. Here is our list of the best family-friendly festivals.
Dubai’s the winter destination of choice for families desperate for a glimpse of sunlight to warm their weary bodies and minds. It’s safe, warm and convenient but does this actually translate into boring, artificial and sterile? We took our very young children there in early November to see what we thought.
‘It’s not the first place on my bucket list’, admitted my husband. ‘But then watching Mr Tumble never used to be my TV programme of choice either.’ Life changes when you become parents, and somewhat lacking in sleep and gaining in dark circles under the eyes, we just wanted a holiday break that was straightforward and gave us a bit of sunshine. Our expectations were low. We thought Dubai would be, whisper it, a little classless and brash, but we needed some respite, and fast. So, like nearly 15 million other tourists, we chose Dubai.
Dubai’s fortunes have grown quickly, and exponentially. In 1966 oil was discovered, which set the path for rapid commercial growth. 12 lane roads sit adjacent to sky-high mega buildings. Billboard adverts litter the sidewalks. Impossibly glamorous Arabian and ex pat women exchange credit cards for glossy carrier bags filled with expensive goods. Everywhere shouts materialism. Dubai is obsessed with style and product and is not ashamed to shout about it from the rooftop. Building construction has been somewhat uncontrollable. Dubai does not do small. It has the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and the world’s largest shopping mall, naturally.
We took a taxi (cheap compared to how much other things cost in Dubai) from the Palm, where we were based, to downtown Dubai to visit the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. Every day from 6pm until 11pm a fountain display (world’s largest of course) can be seen in front of the Khalifa. Our children were enthralled by this five minute display. They also loved just absorbing the sights in the Mall. Like the U.K, but bigger, and better. Shinier. Cleaner. Friendlier. Noses pressed flat on the glass wall entrance of the Aquarium watching the sand tiger sharks and stingrays (also, one of the largest in the world and housed in the Mall). For older children, there’s plenty more to keep them entertained. An Olympic-size ice rink, a 22-screen cinema. Theme parks, waterparks, Legoland, Kidzania.
Yet, Dubai is not all fashion and themeparks. If you are feeling active Kite Beach is a great spot for both children and adults. Skating, trampolines, playgrounds and unsurprisingly kite surfing are on offer here. There’s also the option to escape the glitz and glamour and head out into the desert to rough it under the stars in the Hajar mountains, ride camels and sandboard down orange-gold dunes.
Satisfied we had seen the main tourist attraction, we retreated to our resort for the rest of our holiday, and made the most of the weather, the surroundings and the outstanding service. Dubai knows how to do resorts. Our resort was Asian in style and architecture, with a sublime spa and a choice of accommodation from cosy whitewashed poolside cabins to 2-bedroom suites with spectacular views of the Dubai skyline.
We had a range of quality restaurants with different world cuisines from Mediterranean to Chinese to choose from, though we stuck to the all-you-can eat buffet. The kids could choose what they wanted, they could get up and down numerous times without impatient sighs coming from other tables, and best of all, there was a kid’s club on site. It meant my husband and I could relax and look forward to eating great food without rushing or worrying that our children were causing havoc. That alone was worth paying for. Service was brilliant, with waiters refreshing our drinks regularly, and clearing up endless piles of mess made by children.
Young children are easily amused, and so lazy days were spent by the huge lagoon-shaped poolside (shallow with sand brought in and palm trees to create shade) or in the kid’s club. My children adored the staff and activities here. The staff were amazing with children and genuinely seemed enthusiastic about their jobs. Under 4s have to be accompanied by an adult but once they reach four you can leave them with staff for a few hours, which I would definitely be happy to do, given the quality of care given. Come sunset, we would all meander a few metres to the beach, order a cocktail and watch the red liquid sun set under the calm waters of the Arabian gulf.
Dubai is one massive theme park/shopping mall with a sprinkling of beach. It’s materialistic, upfront and artificial and there is no escaping this. Yet, this is also what makes it a rather fascinating place to visit as there is nowhere else like it. We were surprisingly charmed by Dubai’s unabashed need to do everything on a large scale and we had a fantastic time because of the level of care we received and the genuine friendliness we felt from people we met. In fact the biggest thing really about Dubai is its heart. If you embrace the country for what it is you can expect a warm welcome from your Dubai hosts.
When to go
November to March is considered the best time to go as the weather is warm but not uncomfortably so.
Where to stay
Take your pick from budget to luxury. We stayed on The Palm at the child-friendly Anantara Resort, from £225pn.
Flight time from London airports takes between 7-8 hours, which just about manageable for young children, particularly if they have the treat of on flight entertainment.
Dubai is 4 hours ahead of GMT, which means some jet lag is inevitable but not excessive.
Currency is the Dirham. Rates are 4.82AED to 1GBP (November 2017). A pint of beer typically costs 40AED.