Wednesday, 14 April 2021

A Visit to Portland Bill, Dorset

 Now that we are allowed to venture a bit further, we have enjoyed exploring parts of Dorset that we've not been to for a while. One such place is Portland, the southernmost part of Dorset and we took a visit here over Easter weekend. 

The Isle of Portland is connected to the mainland by Chesil Beach. Famous for it's stone, Portland Stone has been quarried for many years and can even be found in St Paul's Cathedral. Although the island is only 4 miles long and 1.7 miles wide, it has lots to offer and makes the perfect day out for a family. 

We started our Portland visit by stopping at the viewpoint at the top which faces out towards Chesil Beach. On a clear day the views are amazing and you can see all along the Jurassic Coast. 


Situated at the very tip of the island is Portland Bill and this was our next stop. In normal times, you can go in the visitors centre and even have tours up the lighthouse but due to Covid these have been put on hold. They are hopeful the Visitors Centre can open from 17th May but please check the PB website for more updates. 

We decided to follow a circular walk (this is the route we followed) which began in the carpark - at 3.5miles long it was perfect for the children and very scenic along the way. We headed up towards the cliff with the lighthouse behind us and could see as far as Charmouth and Lyme Regis. 


The walk then headed inland where we crossed straight across the Island and back down towards the South West Coast Path. As you can see we made some friends along the way!


The final section of the walk led us along the craggy coastline, past the quarries of long ago and again with stunning scenery of the Jurassic Coastline. 



Along the path you can see the remains of the cranes - these would have been used to load Portland Stone onto the barges where it was then shipped to London. 


Soon we were back at Portland Bill Lighthouse and it was time for a bite to eat. At our time of visiting, the Lobster Pot were serving takeaway food and drink. I did think the prices at the Lobster pot were quite high (£3.95 for a portion of chips) but this didn't deter visitors and there was a steady stream of people in the queue. 


If you're heading to Portland, other places that are worth a visit are Fancy's Farm and the Sculpture Park at Tout Quarry. The South West Coast Path runs all the way around the Island and there are lots of walking trails available. 

Have you ever visited Portland Bill? 



Thursday, 4 March 2021

Feeling Spooky at Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway, Hampshire

 Our October Half Term was a bit of a weird one last year. Obviously we had  lockdown to contend with but with the rules relaxed somewhat, we wanted to have a few covid safe days out to make things as normal as possible! 

We love a spooky day out and my kids love nothing more than donning fancy dress so it was with great excitement that we booked a day out at Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway in Hampshire for their special Halloween festivities. 

Managed by the Rothschild Family, Exbury Gardens has over 200 acres of beautiful walks and gardens, suitable for all ages. With the Steam Railway on site, it's the perfect family day out if you're visiting the New Forest area. 

We raised a few eyebrows as we pulled up with the Grim Reaper sat in the back of the car! We had pre-booked our tickets online and it was nice and straightforward getting in. We loved the spooky decorations in the foyer, one of those witches looked awfully familiar...

Once inside, we made our way over to the Rock Garden where the Halloween trail was. This was a big hit with the kids and we spent lots of time looking for the clues and letters. The decorations were brilliant and really spooky, but without taking away how pretty the gardens were. 



It was soon time to board the ghost train and we were all excited/a little nervous about this! The train station was decked out in fantastic Halloween decorations and I loved all the little details like the spooky posters. 


The steam train began it's journey and we were entertained by the ghoulish characters on board who told jokes and sang for us. Along the way we caught glimpses of more spooky characters who popped up alongside the carriage! 



The route around the gardens takes in Summer Lane Garden, Rock Garden, Dragonfly Pond and even through a creepy, dark tunnel. The little ones weren't too keen on the tunnel, especially when the witch appeared and chased after the train! 



Look carefully at the far side of the lake! 

There are a couple of options for food and drink at Exbury - obviously these depend on Covid regulations and seasonal openings. When we visited, Mr Eddy's Restaurant was offering take-away only but there were lots of  options for families and reasonably priced. We picked up some chicken goujons and fries (plus a giant burger for Elliot!) and were able to find a bench outside to eat on. I also spotted a vegan pop up kiosk near the entrance that seemed to be busy! 




We spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the rest of the gardens and taking in all the gorgeous Autumnal colours. It really is a photographer's dream here in October with so many vibrant colours. 




We had a fantastic spooky day out at Exbury Gardens and will certainly return to explore the bits we didn't get to see. We loved the Halloween event, and we won't forget the ghost train in a hurry! 


At the time of writing, Exbury Gardens are currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions but are due to reopen on March 29th 2021. The Steam Railway is scheduled to open on Monday 12th April. If you're planning a visit, please check the website before you go to ensure they are open. 











Saturday, 17 October 2020

Visiting Stonehenge with Kids

Stonehenge is one of the most recognisable locations in the world and features on many people's bucket lists. Thought to be around 5000 years old, Stonehenge is a Unesco World Heritage Site. 

Despite living in the neighbouring county to Wiltshire, we've never visited! This Summer we travelled to Wales on a roadtrip so it was the perfect excuse to make a little detour and finally see the stones. 


We pre-booked our tickets on the English Heritage Website - EH members get in for free, but also National Trust members too which was fab for us!  If you're not NT or EH members, you can expect to pay around £55 for a family ticket. 

Tickets need to be booked in half hour time slots and visitor numbers have been limited to keep everyone safe. The tickets are emailed to your phone so no need to take any print outs but don't forget to take your membership cards!

Our timed slot was 9:30am and we had no trouble finding somewhere to park. Parking is free with pre-booked tickets and there plenty of room for lots of visitors, even ones in motorhomes like us. 


Once we had shown our ticket confirmations at the Visitor Centre entrance , we decided to look at the museum first. (You can also find a cafe, toilets and large gift shop here) Due to Covid, they are restricting numbers in here but we only queued for around 15 minutes. One of us stayed in the queue whilst the other took the children to see the Neolithic Houses. Really interesting to see what life was like back then.  You can also get up close to a replica Sarsens stone and see just how huge they were. 




As you enter the museum you will find yourself in the middle of the stones, in a fantastic audio visual 360 degree view where you can watch the seasons pass, the kids loved it when the snow fell! 


I found the museum really interesting and I loved reading about the stones and how they were bought across from Wales. It's hard to get your head around how long this would have taken given the size of the stones. I find it fascinating that Stonehenge is still such a mystery after all these years. 


Stonehenge has various special exhibitions throughout the year and we were lucky enough to see the latest one, a collection of photos sent in entirely from visitors. It was brilliant seeing the different fashions over time and how photography has evolved into the selfies of today! 

Viewing the Stones

There are two ways to reach the stones, there is a shuttle bus that runs frequently from the visitors centre although currently they are prioritising for those who need it most. You will also need a face covering. 

We decided to walk to the stones, it's an off road path which is around 1.5miles long - it was quite bumpy so you might struggle if you were thinking of taking a stroller. It's a lovely walk across to the stones and the scenery is really pretty - although it really surprised me how far it is from the visitors centre. Having not visited before, I fully expected to see them right away! You'll see ancient burial mounds along the route and if you have the audio guide (this can be downloaded directly onto your smartphone), this will give you lots of information alongside the information boards. 




Once you reach the stones, it is roped off but you can walk the entire way round with plenty of vantage spots for photos. We visited on a weekday so it was definitely quieter, and the restricted visitor numbers are definitely a bonus. 


It was really impressive to see the stones up close and in real life, I can imagine how amazing it would be to be able to watch the sun rise there on Summer Solstice. 



It's worth remembering that there aren't any toilet facilities or places to eat/drink once you are down at the stones but there are plenty of spots for picnics. 

We hopped on the shuttle for the trip back and we didn't have to wait longer than 5 minutes for a bus. It was certainly a lot quicker and there were no complaints of tired legs! 

Overall we spent around 3.5 hours at Stonehenge and I think it's well worth a trip, everyone should visit at least once. I was a little apprehensive if the kids would find it enjoyable but here's what Elliot had to say "I liked seeing the skeleton in the museum and it was fun to get so close to the stones!"

For more information and tickets, visit the English Heritage website


Thursday, 3 September 2020

Wales Roadtrip in a Motorhome - With Kids!


Back at Easter we were due to fly to Florida to embark on an epic 3 week roadtrip in a motorhome. Sadly due to Covid, our plans were scuppered and our trip got cancelled. Weeks/months passed, lockdown restrictions started to ease and we decided to get away for a UK holiday. We didn't fancy flying anywhere so a UK roadtrip was the obvious choice!

We found a local company who rent motorhomes and we were really lucky to secure a last minute 10 night rental. With only a couple of weeks to wait until our holiday it was full steam ahead to plan plan plan! Being peak season, and especially busy with more people holidaying in the UK it was really important for us to get campsites booked asap.

We decided to head to Wales - there are so many lovely places to visit there and it was a tricky job narrowing down our trips to squeeze them into our 10 days!

The Motorhome

The company we hired from are located less than 6 miles from our house so we were able to collect the motorhome and drive it back home to pack. This definitely worked in our favour because it meant we didn't have to pack the car up/unpack/repack the motorhome etc. It also meant I could do a food shop in the morning and load this straight into the fridge. (Although next time I won't buy so much food, I forget that the fridge/cupboards would be smaller than home so it was a bit of a mission finding homes for everything!) . After loading on what felt like half our house, it was time to leave and head to our first destination....Stonehenge!

We weren't able to collect the motorhome until late afternoon so rather than making the long drive down to Wales and get in late, we decided to stop off in Wiltshire and visit the famous stones. We also had our first experience of "wild camping" - rather than park in a campsite, we parked up in a pub not far from Stonehenge. We found details of this on https://www.searchforsites.co.uk/ - it's important to know that you can't just pull over anywhere for the night but surprisingly, there are lots of places that let you stay in their carparks. I was a bit apprehensive but it felt very safe, and we had a fantastic meal in the pub too. The kids were excited spend the first night in the van and went off to sleep surprisingly quickly!


The next morning we made the short drive to Stonehenge and spent a brilliant few hours exploring the visitors centre and then walking down to the stones. We've never visited before and it was quite cool to see them up close and think about how they came to be there.


We were able to book tickets using our National Trust membership so it made a nice cheap start to the holiday.

From Wiltshire we headed into Wales and parked up at our first campsite of the holiday which was located around 20 miles from Cardiff. It was good to park up and get hooked up to electric for the first time and see how everything in the motorhome worked.



 The next morning we spent a few rainy hours fossil hunting at Llantwit Major Beach before driving to the Gower. South Wales is one of my favourite places and it always brings back fab memories seeing Swansea Bay and the Mumbles in the distance. We didn't stop in Mumbles this time as it was really busy and we struggled to find somewhere to park the motorhome - one of the downsides of having a large vehicle!

Instead we headed straight to our home for the next two nights, Three Cliffs Bay. This lovely campsite is perched high on a cliff looking down at one of the most beautiful beaches in Wales and is very very popular. We were extremely lucky to get a pitch right on the edge of the campsite with perfect views to the beach below and the cliffs in the distance that gives Three Cliffs Bay it's name.


This was a great campsite with a well stocked shop and the cleanest, poshest shower blocks I've ever seen. It's no wonder it's so popular! You can even hire fire pits which came in handy for marshmallow toasting...


We were able to explore the beach the next day and it was just as beautiful down on the sand. The walk down however was quite a steep one and definitely not buggy friendly! The sea is quite dangerous to swim in here with unpredictable riptides but the kids had lots of fun paddling in all the little lagoons that were left as the tide went out.


Our next campsite was located in Cardigan Bay so it was a couple hours of driving. We did plan on exploring the Gower a little more but when we left the campsite the weather was pretty rainy and we decided to just press on to our next stop.

The rain cleared a little on the way so we stretched our legs at Cenarth Falls. It was a bit soggy for any walking but we had some lunch in the cafe and admired the falls. It's a nice little stop but the carpark was £2.50 which is a little expensive if you just wanted to pull over and take some photos!


Our next campsite was located at Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park - another family friendly site with stunning views. The camping field was located right next to the farm park and we had a lovely afternoon exploring. There were lots of animals for the children to see, plus we walked right up the headland overlooking Cardigan Island and spotted seals!


A massive plus point for this campsite was the play area in the park, probably one of the best ones we have found. The kids didn't want to leave! Even the lure of a slice of cake and a hot chocolate wasn't quite enough for them to stop playing.


The next stop on our Welsh roadtrip was Barmouth - a lovely seaside town in the southern part of Snowdonia. The drive up the coast was stunning with mountains and streams all around us, then the beautiful view of the Barmouth Bridge running over the estuary as we drove towards the town.

We stayed at Hendre Mynach Campsite and we picked this as it was walking distance to the town. As lovely as it is to have a stunning campsite high up on a cliff in the middle of no-where, sometimes it's nice to be able to walk to a pub!


Things have probably changed over the last few weeks but we did notice that it was really quiet around the town and things seemed to close quite early. We had some fish and chips near the beach and there were more seagulls than humans!

I really liked Barmouth though, the beach and harbour were so pretty and there seemed to be a good mix of quirky shops in town. I shall putting this one of the list of places I'd like to return to.


The next morning we left Barmouth and carried on up the coast to Harlech Beach. Overlooked by the impressive Harlech Castle, Harlech Beach is a 4 mile stretch of flat, golden sand that seems to go on forever. It's also one of the cleanest beaches I've ever seen.


The weather wasn't too sunny but this didn't deter the kids, they were straight in the sea despite the temperature! We had a fantastic time playing on the beach and building sandcastles, the kids also loved the surrounding sand dunes. These made good slides!!


One of the great things about traveling in a motorhome is having everything with us - when we got back to the carpark, we just showered all the sand off the kids and it was 100 time easier than getting them clean on the beach.

Venturing deeper into Snowdonia, we headed onto our next campsite Coed-Y-Llwyn where we stayed for two nights. It was a great base to explore the area and there was a brilliant pub just 5 minutes walk away!


We spent a bit of time in Porthmadog and it's a nice little harbour town to stroll around. You can also find the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway hubs here too. When we visited, the Covid rules were just starting to change and not all attractions were fully open yet so unfortunately we weren't able to experience any of the trains or castles - maybe next time.  Luckily the scenery more than made up for the closed attractions!



Betws-y-Coed is another nice place to visit if you are exploring the area. Known as the gateway to Snowdonia, it's a bustling little village with plenty of outdoor shops to kit you out for your expeditions! We loved walking over the historical Pont-y-Pair bridge and going for a paddle in the river below. Be careful though, the stones are very slippery and the water is icy cold. Very refreshing on a hot day though.


After leaving Snowdonia, it was time to start heading South again as our holiday was almost over. On our way to Brecon we stopped at the Elan Valley Reservoirs which made for some impressive scenery. The reservoirs are a chain of man-made lakes that provide drinking water for Birmingham.


If you are visiting, the Visitors Centre is a good place to start and here you can find bike hire, plenty of walks, a cafe, shop, picnic areas and a fab children's play area. The staff are all very friendly and knowledgeable too, the gentleman we spoke to gave us lots of info about driving around the area to see all the dams and reservoirs, and put our mind at ease with regards to driving down narrow roads!



From Elan Valley, we made the short drive to the town of Brecon where we were booked into a campsite for the next two nights. It was a really clean site, with great showers and within walking distance of the town centre which was handy. We were also able to order a takeaway to be delivered directly to our campsite which are one of the bonuses of being close to town!


The walk into town took us along the canal and it was a really pretty route, the kids enjoyed waving at the barge boats! Brecon is a nice little market town with lots of shops and pubs. It's also a great base for exploring the Brecon Beacons National Park.


On our last full day in Wales we decided to treat to the kids to a day out at Cantref Adventure Farm , not far from our Brecon campsite. With spectacular views over the Brecon Beacons, Cantref was a great day out to end our holiday. The kids had lots of fun in the play areas, seeing and feeding all the animals, whizzing down a giant hill on sledges, going on a tractor ride, we even met a dinosaur!


Of course Elliot was in his element with all the goats to feed too :)



Those views though! 
We had a brief stopover in the Forest of Dean and then it was time to head back to Dorset via our favourite farm shop, White Row Farm in Frome. We always seem to stop here if we are passing through - it's a great place to have some lunch (the fish and chips are lovely) and the kids love the playarea. The farm shop is brilliant too, the yummy home made cakes and pastries are just too tempting!

White Row Farm play area
Spending 10 days in a motorhome with two young children probably isn't for everyone and it was definitely a steep learning curve getting used to the small space! The best thing was to be as organised as possible and keep things tidy, although that was a challenge in itself with the kids and all the bits they had with them. Next time I think we could definitely pack less and I'd make more use of the laundry facilities at campsites rather than packing outfits for everyday.

We really enjoyed covering lots of miles and seeing lots of different places and this is a definite plus point of having the motorhome. However it is a bit restrictive if you want to drive anywhere once you have hooked up a campsite. I can see why a lot of larger motorhomes tow a car on the back now.

Wales has so much to offer and it's a fantastic place to holiday with children. It's a shame we were a bit restricted with days out due to Covid (no castles open and boat trips hard to find) but we made the best of the situation and I think the kids enjoyed themselves!
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