Why not visit Inverness and Loch Ness for your next family holiday?

I have only ever visited Inverness and Loch Ness once before and it wasn’t a family holiday but a work trip but still the memories I have from this stunning part of the country are locked firmly in my head. It was spring, the day was fresh and bright and Loch Ness looked stunning. It’s no wonder that the city of Inverness and Loch Ness are two of the most popular destinations in the UK, however families in the south of the UK tend to head for the southern coast line maybe. If you are reading this and living in the south, this little overview will help change your mind and tempt you in taking a family holiday in the Scottish Highlands.

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I doubt there are many people of most ages who have not heard about the myth surrounding Loch Ness. Kids will love the adventure and mystery of searching for Nessie, a boat trip on the Loch is a must!

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There are lots of forts and castles in the area to explore. Urquhart Castle is located on the sore of Loch Ness and offers more than 1000 years of history! The Castle is open throughout the year; visit the Urquhart Castle website for details.

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The beautiful scenery and countryside is there for adventure, fun and exploration but if you are looking for something a little more structured, why not visit one of the many child-friendly attractions around Inverness and the Loch Ness area.

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Landmark Park is a Forest Adventure Park for all ages and is open all year (check the Landmark Park website for opening times). Climb aboard the Runaway Timber Train for a rollercoaster thrill ride or explore The Lost Labyrinth with its bubbling mud pools, dangerous creatures and magic waterfall. The Wee Monkey Trail offers a fab challenge for 2-5 year olds whereby The Tarzan Trail and Ropwrox will appeal to the older children and adults alike.

Getting back to nature for a while take the Funicular Railway, the UK’s highest, and grab a bite to eat at the top, or try your hand at one of the many snow sports on offer.

For sea lovers head to the coast and one of the local sand dune-backed beaches or join The Dolphin Cruises in Inverness to see the majestic dolphins in their natural habitat from land or sea.

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This is merely scratching the surface on what Inverness and Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands have to offer for a fun-filled family holiday. I know we will be planning a visit very soon!

Visiting with babies and toddlers couldn’t be easier either, staying at one of these fabulous cottages featured on the Holiday Tots website.

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This collection of child-friendly holiday cottages offers the perfect base for exploring the area of Loch Ness, Inverness and beyond. The owners are fully committed to the principles of The Children Welcome Scheme and have been approved by Visit Scotland to cater for the needs of children. They provide stairgates, cots, baby bath supports, sterilisers, the list of baby and toddler equipment really is extensive.

Within the grounds there is an enclosed play area with sunken trampoline, swing and sandpit plus an ice cream bar and café for an end of day treat after a day of sightseeing. If you do not want to cook, the owners provide a home-cooked meal service and also have a stock of frozen meals available. More details on the Holiday Tots website.

We think that this area of Scotland, Loch Ness and Inverness, is an overlooked little gem of a location for a family holiday. Full of adventure, magical mysteries, history and stunning scenery, it promises to be an amazing holiday destination for all ages.

Spring to West Sussex for a short family break

West Sussex is perfect for a short spring break with the family as it is located less than two hours’ drive from London and an easy train ride , just. 1 hr 10 from Victoria  to Shoreham-in-Sea.

Boasting beautiful countryside and coastal scenery, West Sussex is also officially the sunniest country in the United Kingdom according to the Met Office records.

There are plenty of child-friendly beaches here, perfect for a brisk walk in wellies wrapped up with scarf and hat on a fresh spring morning. As the weather warms the layers of clothing can disappear and the kids can rummage in the rock pools looking for interesting sea creatures and build sand castles too!

 

West Wittering beach

West Wittering beach has been a family favourite of ours for years. Boasting Blue Flag status, West Wittering offers high quality water, shallow lagoons when the tide is out, and plenty of sand for castle building, all making it perfect for toddlers and young children as well as older members of the family. There is ample parking, especially during the spring, and a dog-friendly section too. During the winter the beach café is generally open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays ( do check before you head off if this important to you).

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Littlehampton beaches in West Sussex offer an alternative family vibe to West Wittering. Littlehampton itself is a bustling seaside town with award-winning architecture, stage by the sea, award-winning beaches and a seasonal miniature railway. If you are looking for family-friendly events they seem to kick off in April. The Littlehampton beach is a mixture of sand and shingle and there are plenty of amusements for all ages.

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West Sussex is also home to some beautiful and historical market towns, villages and stately homes. Steyning village stands out as possibly one of the prettiest towns in West Sussex with lots of charm and full of independent retailers. The children will love browsing through the interesting shops looking for a gift for a friend or family member back home.

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Arundel Castle is a popular  family-friendly day out, the castle and gardens open on 1st April

Late summer evening shadows on the Downs near Goodwood

The South Downs National Park is perfect for a family adventure. It offers 1,600km2 of amazing views, rolling hills, ancient woodland, market towns and villages, lowland heaths, country pubs, rivers and attractions for everyone.

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Springtime in the South Downs National Park is such a beautiful time to visit with plenty of bluebells to be found!

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Why not get the kids involved in the John Muir awards. Children and adults of all ages are encouraged to explore and create their very own National Park. There are lots of missions your family can take part in. For details visit the John Muir Mission Explorer page of the South Downs National Park website.

Child-friendly holiday cottages in West Sussex

If you are looking for a child-friendly holiday cottage for a short spring family break to West Sussex look no further. These two child-friendly cottages are located within walking distance to this area of the South Downs National park and the River Adur with its woodland trails and miles of beautiful countryside and only 10 minutes’ drive from Shoreham-on-Sea.

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There are two cottages both of which are ideal for families of up to four. They can also be rented together to offer accommodation for up to eight as the interlocking door can be unlocked to create a four bedroom holiday cottage. Within the gardens there are toys, swing, animals to feed and there is also a tea barn and artisan bake house open at various times throughout the year (and swimming pool open May to September)

https://www.holidaytots.co.uk/view-property/211-cottage-shared-facilities-in-nr-steyning/

Steyning is located just 5 minutes from here and the owners also have a lovely cottage in the heart of Steyning itself. It has two bedrooms and is ideal for a family of six guests who are welcome to use the facilities at the main house.

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The owners can offer babysitting and beauty treatments in any of their cottages. All the cottages are baby and toddler friendly with stairgates, cots, highchairs, baby bath, monitors, toys etc.

Child-friendly holiday cottage in Steyning, West Sussex

More family days out in West Sussex…

Here are some more ideas for a fab family day out during Spring (or any time of year) in West Sussex, all are close to the holiday cottages above:

 

Lambing at Coombes farm

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Stans Bike shack is fun for a pit stop before a lovely walk or cycle along the downs link.

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The wetlands centre in Arundel is a great day out, with family friendly events throughout the year including Puddle Jumping Championships – spring half term 2017!

Petworth Park has wild deer and the house is national trust and always runs great fun events in school holidays and also nearby Knepp Castle has wildlife safaris which are great fun, they do dawn/dusk/bees and other animals. The owners of the cottages went on a deer rut safari there in Oct and say it was great fun!

West Sussex is beautiful any time of year. Springtime here is just as stunning as other seasons, you can just feel everything waking after its long winter sleep, buds on the trees, bluebells in the woods and spring lambs popping up in the fields and maybe some puddles to splash in too!

What are you waiting for!

 

 

Our visit to ‘Christmas at Kew’ 2016

kew3I have been wanting to go to ‘Christmas at Kew’ for a few years but every year remember too late and by the time I try to book they are sold out! This year we booked in time and got tickets!

We booked a 6.30pm slot which gave us time to drive from school, grab dinner and park in the Kew car park – which by the way, I would highly recommend if you have young children. By the end of the trail they were ready to drop and slept all the way home.

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We were really lucky with the weather, clear skies and a little chilly so perfect for getting in the Christmas spirit. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, so often when you have high expectations of something you are eager to see and it disappoints but Christmas at Kew certainly didn’t.

 

 

Beautiful light displays are spread over a mile of gardens, winding pathways take you on a journey of a fairy tale Christmas delight and the kids enjoyed the freedom to explore.

kew2One of our first stops was at a floor display which we thought looked like a magic carpet and the kids promptly jumped on board!

 

 

 

 

 

I had been eager to visit The Hive this year and was delighted that it was part of the display, the kids enjoyed listening to bee sounds through their teeth!

 

Every so often there are activities to titivate a different sense. Toasted marshmallows were especially welcome!

Father Christmas and his elves also made an appearance!

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One of the most amazing light displays takes place on Palm House, a fabulous light display set to music across the lake. The whole adventure ends with some festive food, shops and fairground rides (please note that the rides are not included in the price).

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Freddie thought Christmas at Kew was ‘amazing’ and was surprised by ‘how many lights’ there were, I have to say I agree.

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If you have tickets to go to Kew this Christmas you are in for a real treat, if you haven’t then make sure you get it in the diary to buy some next year! We will certainly go back.

There are a few main gate tickets left (ones with car parking have sold out).

Off peak still available family ticket £48 (2nd January only date available now)

All other times £52 for a family ticket (£18 adult and £10 child)

http://christmasatkew.seetickets.com/tour/christmas-at-kew/calendar/2

Standon Calling Festival: boutique, family fun in Hertfordshire

IMG_0796Standon Calling Festival is held in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside. It’s small, but not too small that you feel you are milling around in a field.  There is enough to keep all ages entertained from babies through to grandparents, offering family fun by day and a young party vibe by night. The music acts are varied from pop and rock to hard hitting electronic and everything in between. My husband had never been to a festival before and so he joined us under duress, at the end of the three days we had to drag him away!

If you are a virgin festival goer but like camping the main difference you will find is that the camping fields (we stayed in the family field) are quite tight, you get to know your neighbours! If you have a group going like we did just pitch up at the same time and this will give you a little area for a gathering, although you will find that you spend most of your time in the festival ground.

IMG_0945Freddie is 7. When I asked him what he enjoyed the most he simply said ‘everything,’ then when I asked him ‘do you enjoy camping or festival camping the best?’ He replied festival camping of course ooh arghhh!’

Standon is a great introduction to festival life, the themed costumes are amazing, this year being Legends of the Sea- I’m looking forward to seeing what next year’stheme will be.

There are the usual children’s activities and a baby and toddler area but the added bonus is the swimming pool, if the weather is favourable it’s a great area for a family splash around. There is also an annual dog show that seems to be very popular, our dog Millie won first prize in the waggiest tail class!IMG_0908

The main stage has a great space in front of it, room enough to laze through the afternoon listening to lesser known bands and didn’t feel too cramped when the main acts were on either. In fact the children’s area was situated to the left of the stage which lent itself to the left hand side of the stage becoming a family area.

People here were nice, we felt safe and there really was a happy go lucky festival vibe, it was great to mill around stopping at a stage or act that caught our fancy when we felt like it. The kids loved being able to get close to the main acts too and the cashless wrist bands were a god send, they loved having control of their own money and we had no fear of them losing it.

All in all Standon Calling Festival rocked! Here are is our journey in pictures…

We were given tickets for Standon Calling Festival this year and this is our honest review. When we get given tickets to anything for review I always ask myself ‘would we go if we had to pay?’ We will be going back in 2017 even if we are not invited to review, so there is your answer, and we can’t wait!

Family Festival Series part 3 – Henley Festival Family Sunday plus your chance to win tickets…

In the third of our family festival series we look at this year’s Family Sunday at Henley Festival. ‘Not just for grownups’, Family Sunday promises fun for all ages. We also have a family set of five tickets in our competition on the Holiday Tots website.

There are children’s entertainers, musicians, comedians, magicians and street entertainers. Mad scientists will be electrocuting members of the audience and there will be superheroes too!

So if dipping your toe into a festival for a day, rather than camping overnight, appeals to you then Henley Family Sunday just might tick the box, oh and dressing up for day is obligatory!

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Confirmed acts for all the family include:

Superhero battle where three of planet Earth’s greatest go head to head for the title of ‘Most Supreme Superhero… Ever!’

The Henley Music School

Jay Foreman and his disgusting songs

Science Mania

Solomo’s Beatbox Adventure for Kids

lighthouseThe Lighthouse Workshop where the lighthouse keeper will be sharing stories of the sea and showing animations of his adventures

Awe inspiring acrobatic feats from Upswing and more

Henley Festival Family Sunday takes place on Sunday 10th July 2016 from 11.30am to 3pm

Visit their website for more details: http://www.henley-festival.co.uk/2016-programme/family-day

Sadly we are camping at Blackberry Wood otherwise we definitely would be visiting this one!

Competition – Your chance to win a family ticket for up to five people

The organisers have kindly offered a family ticket for five for the Family Sunday as a competition prize. Visit the Holiday Tots competition page where you will find all the details. Good Luck! The competition will close on Friday 26th May.

https://www.holidaytots.co.uk/competition/24/

Family Friendly Festival Series – Camp Bestival in Dorset

 

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28th – 31st July 2016

Lulworth Castle, Dorset

 

 

Our second post in our family-friendly festival series looks at Camp Bestival in Dorset. If you are looking for a kids festival this year? this one just might tick the box. There are so many children’s activities to choose from you won’t know what to do! This year’s Outer Space theme is sure to inspire a few fab costumes.

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A large section of the festival site is totally devoted to small people with the Upper Kids Garden for younger kids offering bouncy castles, bikes,  go karts, circus training and more. Here there is a separate toddlers area and Bestival’s own Breastival Mother and Baby Chill Out.

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The Lower Kids Garden is full of entertainment for older children with fairground rides, face painting, Kids Catwalk and also here, for the under 5’s, is a soft play tent and sand pit.

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Children’s entertainment is not restricted to the Kids Gardens, there are plenty of fun and games throughout the site and performances by well-known household names from Dick and Dom to Lazy Town and Mr Tumble. Art Town is the place to be if your children love to get a little creative, offering a huge range of drop in activities all weekend from sculpting to sticking, colouring, recycled fashion and more.

For a thrill the Wall of Death return to Camp Bestival, watch the Fox family defy gravity!

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s on offer for family festival fun at Camp Bestival. For more details checkout their kids page.

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So the kids are entertained but what about the adults? Don’t worry there is plenty to keep you happy too! The live line-up includes, Fatboy Slim, Jess Glynne and a treat for us, err slightly older folk, on Sunday night Tears For Fears take to the stage.

 

Sasha_6_barchan_sasha_fabric-room-1_21458666817Other acts include, Katy B, Reggie N Bollie, DJ Yoda, Dawn Penn and more. Bestival also offers lots of fun from theatre shows, DJ sets, poets, authors, talks, various attractions and activities such as the Travelling Barn and vintage fun, music and 78’s spinning DJs in Caravanserai.

 

Camp Bestival is on the same weekend as Standon Calling which we are already going to, I think if it wasn’t we could be tempted here!

All campsites open on Thursday to give you an extra day to settle in: for more details on prices and accommodation options visit the Camp Bestival camping page in their website.

Website

http://www.campbestival.net/

Family-friendly Festival Series – Standon Calling in Hertfordshire

In our family-friendly festival series we will be writing about the best family festivals in the UK for 2016- here at Holiday Tots, we love festivals as much as holidays.

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Our first festival is one close to our heart as it is only a few miles from where we live: Standon Calling is held in leafy Hertfordshire and is in its eleventh year. It promises lots of fun for all the family.

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This year’s theme is Legend of the Lost Seas. For families looking to get into the true festival spirit there are lots of ideas that spring to mind for costumes for parents and children alike. Most children at tot level and beyond love a bit of “ooh arrgghiing” so expect to see lots of pirates, pearls and mermaids running about. Maybe even a few Octonauts hitting the craft tents! Older children might be able to relate to a little bit of Sponge Bob or Pirates of the Caribbean. Whether you get into the spirit of dressing up or just want to enjoy what promises to be an amazing theme throughout the festival you are sure to have lots of fun!

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It is also set to be one of the best years yet for family fun as the Standon Calling organisers are teaming up with Elissa Gold Events for this year’s festival. They are known for providing an amazing mix of creative and education activities for children of all ages at festivals in the UK including Wilderness and Secret Garden Party.

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The family camp site is thankfully hidden away from the night time activities but family areas during the day are dotted all around the festival so you can get really involved in the atmosphere. As well as the arts, crafts, games, workshops, kids-only trapeze classes and much more there is even a swimming pool to dip into if the weather is hot.

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The festival also includes the annual dog show which can be loads of fun if you are bringing your four-legged friend with you!

And then there is the line-up of music artists …

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The first wave of acts have been announced and included: Suede, Jess Glynne, Kelis, The Hives, Everything Everything, Ghostpoet, Anna Calvi, Blossoms, The Thurston Moore Band plus many many more.

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Jess Glynne is one of the head-line acts

What started as a small birthday party eleven years ago has really come on in bounds!

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Fancy just chilling? Indie fans will not be disappointed either with artists offering a cool mix of jazz, funk reggae, futuristic soul and more.

Standon Calling is described as a ‘boutique festival with an ear for talent’ by The Guardian and so you can be sure to find something new to tantalise your ears.

We are so excited that this year we are actually getting to go- previous years have fallen when we have been away but we planned our holidays carefully this year! We are already planning our costumes and tent coverings with eager excitement.

For more details visit the Standon Calling website or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

The first tier tickets sold out quickly and they are now on the second tier so don’t delay in getting yours. Maybe we will see you there!

Standon Calling – 29th to 31st July 2016

book nowTickets to choose from: day, weekend, family camping, camping and you can also book bell tents etc – all subject to availability. They also offer a payment scheme whereby you pay just £60 to reserve your ticket and the balance is paid before 4th July.

Images ©  Standon Calling Festival