Alpamare waterpark Scarborough

Alpamare Scarborough is one of those places you can enjoy whatever the weather. On a hot day it’s gorgeous being in the outside pools in the sun, but it’s equally as amazing when it’s freezing and you’re outside in a pool heated to 35 degrees!

You can even swim into the main outdoor pool from the inside, so you don’t have to make a mad run for it in your costume the freezing cold!

William’s Den

Prices are based on a four-hour slot, but look out for special offers in quieter months where you can pay for four hours and stay all day.

What’s it like at Alpamare Scarborough?

Firstly, you’ll be given a wristband to wear on arrival. It’s also used to open and lock your locker and make cash-less payments in the restaurant, therefore you don’t need to worry about locker money. You then settle your bill before leaving.

The slides

For many, the main attractions at Alpamare Scarborough are the slides and there’s four to choose from. The rides reflect the alpine theme, with each water ride recreating the thrills of winter sports.

Each ride is rated according to skiing equivalents, from family-friendly blue runs to daring black runs Although they all go outside, you get on them from the inside and they all finish on the inside.

Olympic Run (The green one)

This one is my favourite. You take a double inflatable up to the top and ride it together. It’s one of the UK’s longest runs at 116.2m so you do get a long ride. It’s fast but there are no sudden drops or steep parts.

The Olympic Run is rated the ski slope equivalent of a blue run and children need to be aged six or over to have a go.

Cresta Run (The pink one)

This ride is based on the world-famous death-defying Cresta run in St Moritz.

It is a mat racer ride where you have to ride it on your front, on your own, holding onto the handles which are inbuilt into the mat. I really enjoyed this one as it was fairly gentle but fast, but I prefer the ones where you go on with others.

The Cresta Run has a ski slope equivalent of a black run, and shares an 11m drop with the Black Run. Children need to be aged six and over to have a go on this one, but I decided it was too fast for my six year old.

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Snow storm (The blue one)

Here you grab a four man boat and take it up the stairs – but be warned, it’s very heavy to carry.

It’s a gravity-defying ride created by a sudden, heart-bursting drop of 14.2m – the height of over three double-decker buses. I admit, I wasn’t expecting that and did scream at this point. It’s really good fun on this ride with three other people for company.

Black Run (The purple one)

I wasn’t sure if I could do this one because, as the name suggests, it’s dark so you don’t really know what you’re letting yourself in for when you set off.

However, my 11 year-old nephew dared me to go on, so I did! It’s the steepest and fastest ride with an 11 meter plunge.

I was pleasantly surprised though, because although you can’t see a lot, there are no harsh sudden drops and it’s over within a few seconds!

Indoors

Inside, as well as the access to the slides, there’s a giant wave pool and a splash and play area, plus sunbeds to relax on, and the restuarant.

Wave pool

The 480sqm wave pool sees the waves come on intermittently. My children, along with their cousins, aged 4 to 11 all loved riding the huge waves. This pool is good for children and adults of all ages.

Splash and play area

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The splash area

This is a large area where there’s toddler slides, and water play. It’s designed for the younger children who are too small for the slides, but even my 11 year old nephew had fun in this area squirting water at his cousins and waiting for the huge barrel of water at the top to fill up before standing underneath it to get drenched.

The restaurant

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Inside the restuarant

There’s a good choice of fresh and healthy choices including pasta, pizza and salad. For the kids there’s hot dogs, chicken nuggets and lunch boxes. The pizzas are delicious. You can eat here in your costumes but you can’t take your own food.

Alpamare is licenced and the beer is on tap for you to pour yourself. There’s also ice creams and puddings.

Outside

The Garden pool

This is the one you can swim to from the inside. It’s heated to 35 degrees and has bubbles and whirlpool recliners.

It’s a pool for all ages where you can swim, splash, jump and have fun. The kids loved this pool because you’re allowed to drink your drinks in it.

I’ve been asked if we were cold! The answer is no! It’s like a giant hot tub and really quite amazing to swim outdoors when it’s freezing cold in the air.

The Infinity pool

Alpamare-waterpark

This is outside next to the garden pool, and also heated to 35 degrees. You have to go outside to get into it, but you can jump out of the garden pool and be in the infinity pool in seconds.

It’s filled with a magic green coloured healing iodine water, which has special therapeutic properties, apparently giving noticeable results after 15 minutes.

Thorpe Park caravan park, Cleethorpes 

It is the perfect place to take in the views of the bay. Children are allowed in this pool, but it does have a more ‘adult’ feel to it and has always been calmer than the main pool when we’ve visited.

There’s sun loungers outside for warmer days and landscaped gardens to walk through too.

Are my children old enough?

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The splash area at Alpamare Scarborough

Children aged five and under get in for free and this is probably because children have to be six years old to ride the slides.

However they can enjoy the main indoor wave pool, the two pools outside and the splash and play area – so there’s still plenty for them to do.

Children aged six and over can go on the Cresta Run and the Olympic run slides and they need to be eight or over to go on the Black Run and Snowstorm.

Rooftop spa at Rudding Park

How much does it cost?

It costs £20 for adults, £16 for children (aged six to 15) and children under five years old go free. A family of four costs £64. You can get in for free on your birthday if you go with three paying guests. It’s valid for seven days before and seven days after your actual birthday.

Overall rating?

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Beer tap at Alpamare Scarborough

I love this place. It’s very clean for a swimming centre, it’s never cold inside. OK so it’s not cheap, but show me a day out that is.

We had a lot of fun, there’s nothing else like it locally and if you’ve got an under five it’s amazing value.

My only grumble is that you have to pay £4.50 for parking.

Also, if you could send the four man craft up an elevator so you didn’t have to carry it up endless flights of stairs, that would be a big help!!

Need to know

Alpamare Scarborough, Burniston Rd, Scarborough YO12 6PH is about a 90 minute drive from Hull. It is open . There’s a pay and display car park.

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Why the Royal London Lancaster Hotel needs to be on your list for 2018

There can’t be many hotels in London which guarantee a “far-reaching” view across the capital from every bedroom, but at The Royal London Lancaster that comes as standard.

Due to the fact there aren’t any guest rooms or suites lower than the first floor, and with its perfect central location overlooking Hyde Park, the bedroom views are spectacular.

The 18-storey hotel, which opened as one of the most chic hotels in London in 1967, reopened 50 years later, last November, following a massive £80m renovation to once again be one of the most stylish hotels in the capital.

Rooms with a view

2. Park Suite View - Royal Lancaster London

All 411 charming rooms and suites have been renovated and there are different types to suit all needs, from the classic double room at £219 per night to suites with their own living and dining areas.

Every room has bath robes, slippers, The White Company toiletries, waterfall showers and underfloor heating in the bathrooms.

We got the chance to look around the hotel and I was amazed by the views, and how quite it is once in your room, looking out over a busy, noisy capital city.

Stylish and finest Hyde Park hotel

Royal Lancaster London - Exterior

As soon as you step into the opulent lobby you know you’ve entered somewhere a little bit special. The showpiece is a palatial sweeping staircase, made of white Carrara marble, which wraps around to the first floor.

The hotel was built in the swinging Sixties so, externally – apart from its new stunning entrance façade – the hotel remains a Sixties tower block.

But that retro feel has somehow been captured inside in style with luxury golds and sumptuous browns.

Every part of the renovation has been thoroughly thought out. Even the carpets with their subtle Sixties design.

Our room, on the fifth floor had extensive views out over the city in all its glory. At night we didn’t want to close our blinds because it was such an amazing sight.

I was really impressed to find a “handy phone” in our room, which guests can take out into London with them and enjoy free calls.

Spoilt for choice with food

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There are three options for dining, including The Park Restaurant, Island Grill or Nipa Thai. Knowing the hotel’s owner is Thai, it felt an obvious choice to try authentic cuisine.

The restaurant has an all-female kitchen team to keep in tune with Thai dining tradition and provides a sophisticated Thai ambience. The welcome was warm and the menu is extensive.

The staff were kind and attentive and open to making little changes to take your meal from delicious, to perfection.

The place to be seen

Hyde Lobby Bar at Royal Lancaster London 1

One of my favourite areas of the hotel is the elegant Hyde Lobby Bar, which serves cocktails, coffee and light cuisine throughout the day.

The cocktail menu has been meticulously created and includes signature cocktails to reflect the hotel. The Italian Job cocktail is made with Beefeater 24 gin, Martini Rosso, Campari and Aperol and is a salute to the original 1968 Italian Job film, which included scenes filmed in front of the hotel.

For a touch of extra indulgence, the hotel has created its own aromatic Royal Lancaster gin, which is served in the bar’s speciality gin martini.

As we relaxed with our delicious nibbles and tasty gins we felt a world away from the buzzing reception area we overlooked. It definitely feels like a prime spot to “see and be seen” in London and is worth a visit even if you aren’t staying at the hotel.

Breakfast in bed

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The next morning our breakfast was wheeled into our room on a lovely round table, allowing us to eat casually in our robes, overlooking Hyde Park. It really doesn’t get much better.

If you’re looking for somewhere special, this hotel should be on your list of places to visit in 2018.

The Royal London Lancaster Hotel is located right next to the Lancaster Gate tube station.

Visit the website here for more information and to book.

Rudding Park rooftop spa garden is possibly the UK’s best new place to relax

You can even have your very own bath butler serving you prosecco and strawberries during your treatment

This could just possibly be the best spa I’ve ever been to – and I’ve visited more than my fair share over the years.

There is so much to tell you about this lavish spa which has been in the making for ten years and cost a mind-blowing £9.5m to create.

If the price tag doesn’t give you an idea of how palatial the spa at the highly regarded privately-owned Rudding Park Hotel is, let me try and set the scene….

As my best friend and I lazed in the sun on the rooftop spa garden beside the spa bath, while being served prosecco direct to our light-up loungers, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

We were in Harrogate, north Yorkshire, but felt a world away in sheer luxury in the newly opened, world-class spa.

Spread across three floors you will get lost (several times) as you wander around the different areas of this spa, yet you can’t escape the luxury.

Why Strictly fans will love this day out 

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The rooftop spa garden at the Rudding Park Hotel

The rooftop spa garden

Allow me to start with the unique area which truly sets this spa apart from any other I’ve been to. The rooftop spa garden is an absolute haven of peace and tranquility.

It’s a UK first and features an stunning indoor-outdoor infinity pool (which means you can swim into it from the inside), several steam rooms and saunas, panoramic experience showers and a relaxing foot spa to enhance the spa journey.

Scattered with sun loungers and chic white sofas, the garden is a gorgeous place to relax, especially when the sun is shining.

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Joanna Lovell in the spa bath on the rooftop spa garden at Rudding Park Hotel

The area was designed by horticulturist Matthew Wilson, who won the People’s Choice award for his 2016 Chelsea Flower Show offering.

Outside the herbal spa bath and cabin sauna complete the experience and drinks will be served even if you’re in the water.

Its owners really have created a world-class experience which is a destination in its own right which has an edge over anywhere else I’ve been to.

Why a Haven holiday is the easiest family break you will take 

I loved the atmospheric “experience” showers, where at the push of a button you can choose between “Caribbean rain” or a North Sea squall, with appropriate birdsong, lighting, and water temperature to match.

Step outside of these wonderful showers and you can sit and gaze outside as you enjoy a relaxing foot spa, alternating between hot and cold water to improve circulation.

The spa

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A relaxation area at Rudding Park Hotel

From the exterior, it’s obvious that the spa is a much newer building compared to the rest of the hotel. It’s floor to ceiling glass windows make it look like a creation from Grand Designs.

The theme of the spa is to reflect the beauty of Rudding Park’s natural surroundings, bringing the outdoors inside. This is why the spa is so light, airy and incredibly spacious.

As you might expect there’s a beautiful indoor pool where you can take a dip or simply laze the day away besides. It opens onto a courtyard with outdoor loungers too.

The Juniper Log Sauna also provides calming views through a glass-fronted wall, while the the herbal bath steam room uses freshly-picked rosemary to add to scents of lavender and menthol.

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The Rudding Park Hotel

There’s a circular luxury steam room with a mosaic dome and comfy seats. There are also four mind and sense zones which are relaxation areas with a twist. You can nod off in the dark sleep zone under a starlit sky, or try the audio room with personal headsets to listen to music or meditation.

For the mind, a ‘literary wall’ offers books on art, well-being and even mandala colouring-in therapy. The visual zone projects images of lapping waves, wildflower meadows and majestic mountains on the ‘video mood wall’.

You also must try the Rasul room. Here you rub thick mud all over your body before washing it off and applying a salt scrub, leaving you feeling baby-soft.

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The indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy pool at the Rudding Park Hotel

Treatments

There’s 11 treatment rooms, including a couple’s room where partners can enjoy a glass of champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries in a bubble-jet copper bath, waited on by their own personal bath butler.

If that doesn’t get the tastebuds going, nothing will!

As you would expect there are a number and variety of treatments to choose from including signature treatments, facials, massages, pregnancy treatments, treatments for two, sports rehabilitation and beauty treatments.

I opted for the Flow Wellbeing massage which is designed to release any resistance or stress in the body. I was massaged from head to toe and the experience was completed with a facial.

My therapist was incredibly professional and made me feel very at ease. It was a truly amazing 50 minutes I never wanted to end.

The hotel bedrooms

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Rudding Park Hotel is one of the most highly regarded hotels in the UK, which offers luxury accommodation in a Grade-I listed regency house.

Despite the hotel being a traditional country house, the hotel interior is contemporary with high-spec furnishings.

All rooms have a 40 inch flat screen tv, a media hub, free wifi and Molton Brown toiletries. There are also eight luxury self catering lodges in the grounds.

Our ground-floor room, with its own private terrace, was complete with whirlpool bath big enough for two, or three, and a walk-in rain shower.

Next to our beds I found a pillow menu and a little card informing me of the weather forecast for the next day.

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The bath in our room at the Rudding Pak Hotel

The restaurants

Horto

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We also had the pleasure of dining in the new Horto restuarant which opened in May at around the same time as the spa.

The three AA Rosettes eatery uses seasonal ingredients from the hotel’s kitchen garden, offering à la carte dining, plus seven and eight-course tasting menus with a twist – diners are encouraged to eat each dish without seeing the menu first.

I’m not a fussy eater so I went with the “don’t look” concept and realised eating blind is something I’ve never done before, but an experience I’d recommend and like to try again.

Will my kids like the new £3m adventure park William’s Den?

The menu is ever changing, but on our visit it included Whitby crab, Yorkshire Grouse, North Sea Hallibut, Shetland Scallops, a garden carrot salad a onion tart with halzenut.

I opted for the accompanying wine flight and each glass was perfectly explained to me before it was poured.

Whilst I enjoyed the experience and could not fault the food, I could not help thinking the setting wasn’t quite right.

For a fine dining experience like this I want white table cloths and a feel of luxury. Instead this restaurant (as lovely as it is) is accessed via the spa.

The Clocktower

This is the main restaurant in the hotel where you will find modern British food with a relaxed ambience.

Guests can dine in the restaurant with its striking pink glass chandelier, or the bright and airy conservatory alongside the 400 year-old olive tree.

Here you can choose from a set menu or dine a la carte. Dishes include everything from burgers, steaks and monfish to lamp chops and fish and chips.

Our break was perfectly finished in here with a delicious breakfast, before we had to return to reality.

Perfect for…

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A romantic mini-break, special occassions, a girlie weekend or a stylish hen do.

Need to know

Where: Rudding Park is located near the former spa town of Harrogate. It’s a 13-minute drive from the station. Use postcode HG3 1JH.

Prices: The sleeping Beauty spa break including dinner, bed and breakfast, access to the spa and a 50 minute treatment each costs £177 per person.

Call: 01423 871350

Visit: http://www.ruddingpark.co.uk

 

Will my kids enjoy the new £3m adventure park William’s Den?

If you take the kids to the new William’s Den you must remember to take them a change of clothes and a towel!

Whatever the weather, kids are drawn to the rainmaker shower in the indoor area like a moth to a flame and can’t help but get drenched!

The new £3m adventure park – which is designed to give kids an open space to climb trees, paddle, build dens and explore with their friends – opened in North Cave in early July.

And with sandpits, little rivers and water play there’s no way kids can escape a visit without getting wet and dirty!

I took my six and four-year-old children with my eight and ten-year-old niece and nephew to try it out.

READ MORE: Why a Haven family holiday is the easiest break you will take

We chose a hot day during the summer holidays and I must admit it was packed. It’s new so that’s to be expected. It started to ease off at about 4pm and I found it much better once it got quieter!

It’s best to book online because it’s reached capacity a few times and they do turn people away once it’s full.

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Oliver and Jasmine enjoy the outdoor water and sand play

Indoor play

The Den is a 475 square meter indoor play barn and is a world away from the usual soft play centres you may have found yourselves in over the years.

From the Tree House to the Forest Glade and the Eagles Nest, The Den is is made of wood and full of sand, water, nets, bridges, and there’s even a pole to slide down.

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Oliver and Lewis play indoors

There’s plenty to keep children amused in here and adults can watch from seats around the edges. If they want a rest there’s even a hideout relax zone. It just looks nicer and has an overall more natural feel to it than a typical indoor play area.

Outdoor adventure play

Outside you will find find a huge sandpit (we took our own buckets and spades), where my kids spent ages pumping water, digging in the sand and splashing in the little river.

The rest of the outdoors, which is surrounded by beautiful countryside is comparable to a huge park. My daughter loved crawling through tunnels in the mole hills and climbing on slabs of stone. There’s also a long zip wire, nets and a huge spiders web.

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Jasmine on the zip wire

There’s also plenty of large sticks to make a den with. There was a bit of push and shoving between two groups of children during our visit, but I’m pleased to say there were staff on hand to sort their disagreements out!

There’s also a dedicated toddler area called the Fort Yard which has little ride ons for them to enjoy.

READ MORE: What National Holidays coach trips with two kids are like

The entire place has a free-range and natural feel about it and it also feels safe for children to explore – although adult supervision is mandatory. If you kids like climbing, splashing, running, digging, getting stuck in and building, they will enjoy this place.

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Lewis and Emily climb to the top

The facilities

The Kitchen Table restaurant – which you can visit without paying to get into the actual attraction – does a range of food, including pizzas made by the chefs in wood fired ovens as you wait, and watch! There’s also the Snack Box for buns and cakes and an ice cream counter.

For the parents it’s licenced too, so you can enjoy a glass of wine whilst the kids play nicely (that’s the dream anyway!)

The owners have no problem with you taking your own food in, so you can enjoy a picnic on the benches there or on the grass, you just can’t eat your own inside.

The toilets are clean and spacious and there’s even double cubicles for you and your little one. There’s baby changing facilities and the kids soap is brightly coloured which encourages them to actually touch it!

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Emily with a den she helped build

It’s a place you can visit whatever the weather. I can imagine us going on colder days with wellies. Of the four to ten year old children I visited with, I’d say the younger three got the most of out it. My ten-year-old nephew did enjoy it but there might not be enough to entice him to keep going back.

That said, there’s plenty of land around it, so I’ll be interested to see what, if anything else is added to make it even better over the years.

A few people I know have already bought a season pass which is great if you live locally. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Hull city centre, but it’s open late nights on a Thursday and Friday so even if you pop after school you will soon get your money’s worth.

Parking is free and they also do birthday parties for groups of ten children or more. So, is it worth the money? It’s £35 for a family of four. It’s not bad, but personally I prefer if they charge more for a child and less for an adult. £8 for an adult isn’t cheap.

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Emily relaxes at William’s Den
  • Reviewed August 2017

NEED TO KNOW:

WHERE: Wold Hill, North Cave, HU15 2LS
PRICES:Adult £8, Child £9.50, Under 3’s £3, Concession £6. There is no charge for babies under the age of 12 months. If booked online a 10 per cent discount is applied.

VISIT: http://www.williamsden.co.uk

Devon Cliffs holiday park with Haven – the easiest family holiday you will take

Waking up to the view of the waves crashing into the beach from the comfort of my bed made me realise the long drive to the south coast had been utterly worth it.

This year we chose Exmouth in Devon for our family staycation, where we arrived to sunshine after leaving behind a rainy Hull.

Whilst Sandy Bay would make a dreamy picture-postcard setting for a relaxing lazy holiday, we were actually there for an “all-action” holiday with the kids.

We were staying at the Devon Cliffs Holiday Park – one of the region’s finest all-action resorts. And with such stunning views, it was hard believe it was a caravan site we were staying on.

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The view of Sandy Bay from Devon Cliffs holiday park

Haven Holidays

As a family we love our static caravan holidays and find Haven holiday parks by far the best. As soon as you drive in you instantly get that holiday feeling.

Haven has everything covered. The breaks are all about spending quality time with your family, which is exactly what we did, making memories.

I’ve stayed on numerous caravan parks up and down the country with various companies, but none seem to do it as well as Haven Holidays.

Whether you want to camp or take your own caravan, or stay in a static home, Haven have something for everyone. There are 36 parks in seaside locations around the UK to choose from and they’re all rated so you can choose from a quiet secluded site to an all-action adventure park and everything in-between.

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#myhavendays

The best thing about Haven is that there’s plenty included in your break too so you don’t have to spend a fortune searching for activities to keep the kids amused. Everything is on your doorstep, available on site.

On arrival you will be given a welcome park complete with park map and a what’s on guide which outlines everything which is going on during your stay. It couldn’t be easier.

Access to the pools is included so you can swim as many times as you like, and at Devon cliffs the indoor pool has three slides and a designated toddler play area and there’s also two outdoor pools newly refurbished for 2017.

Being in the outdoor pools in the sunshine was like being abroad – without the stress of airports and delayed flights. The kids loved splashing around and the adults even got a bit of time to laze on the sun loungers.

 

All the Haven parks have Nature Rockz activities, which aim to teach survival skills. These include shelter building, bug hunting, bird food making, fire lighting and building bird boxes and are all included free of charge.

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The pools at Haven’s Devon Cliffs holiday park

There are some really great shows including wrestling, the pantomime and creepy crawly shows which are all free.

There’s also dedicated theatre company performers who get the kids involved and host the entertainment with everything from tots discos to karaoke, bingo, game shows and later in the evening there’s live music, bands, artists and comedians.

Activities

If you still want more after paddling in the sea, building sandcastles, skimming stones, kite flying, playing in the amusements and taking part in all the free activities and entertainment, there’s also plenty of paid-for activities you can choose from.

The highlight at Devon Cliffs is the aerial adventure course – an incredible rope course high up in the treetops.

My six-year-old son loved the climbing wall and my ten-year-old nephew loved taking part in the aqua jets class in the indoor pool.

 

All four children enjoyed the inflatable pool party and there’s also everything from fencing, archery and segways to football, target shooting and adventure golf.

All ages are catered for and many activities have different sessions for each age group. As all parents know, if the kids are happy, we are happy.

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The inflatable pool party and climbing wall at Devon Cliffs holiday park

Devon cliffs is also one of only a few Haven sites in the UK that can offer watersports training and hire. From its Beach Club you can learn to windsurf, paddle board, kayak or body board in the sea.

I recommend buying an activity bundle before you go and using the Haven app to pre-book your activities. You can do this seven days in advance of check in. That way you can have a bit of an itinerary and also, you may find if you leave it until you arrive that all the activities, especially the free ones, are all fully booked.

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The beach at the Devon Cliffs holiday park

The caravan site

Devon cliffs is by far the best Haven park we’ve been to and it’s easy to see why it’s award winning. There’s round-the-clock entertainment, plenty of activities, the pools are brilliant and the location is superb.

A particular highlight this park has to offer is the dining experience you’ll get at the South Beach Café, which offers a stunning view from its location high atop the cliffs.

With fresh ingredients and produce delivered straight from local suppliers, it’s not average pub-grub you might expect from a caravan park eatery. We ate there on our last night and the meal was superb, comparable to any top restuarant.

And with it being on the park, you can enjoy a drink or three and walk or stumble back to your caravan at your leisure without the need to move the car. Everything is on your doorstep.

The caravans

There’s a wide range of choice of caravan to suit every budget at each park in the UK. We stayed in a three-bedroom “platinum” caravan which can sleep up to eight people.

The caravan was superb and luxurious. The cozy, roomy lounge with sofa and two chairs was seperate to the kitchen and dining area and there was plenty of room for myself, my parents, my two children and my niece and nephew.

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Our caravan lounge – look through the windows and you can see the sea and the bay in the background!

The location was perfect, we had private parking and our balcony overlooked the sea giving us simply stunning views.

Inside it was extremely modern throughout with attractive furnishings making it home from home and had everything you could need, including a TV in the master bedroom and a full size fridge/freezer.

Our beds were made up for arrival so there was no work to be done on arrival and we also had towels waiting for us.

Remember things like tea towels, bin liners, a bath mat, dish cloth and washing-up liquid. That’s the stuff I usually forget on a self-catering holiday. However there is a convenience shop on site and a Tesco just down the road, so you’re not far away if you need to buy anything.

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Lewis on our caravan decking overlooking the sea

The surrounding area

We could have spent our entire stay on the caravan site because there is so much to do, but you can’t travel all that way and not explore the local area. You won’t be stuck for things to do because the list is endless.

We had a great day at Crealy Adventure Park which is about a 40 minute drive from Devon Cliffs. It’s great value because a day ticket is valid for seven days so you can go as many times as you like.

We also had a day out with Stuart Line Cruises sailing from Exmouth on an hours’ trip to Topsham. Once there we looked around, visited riverside pubs and our round-robin ticket included a return trip via train. We then got the open-top bus back from Exmouth which drives through the caravan park.

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Me and my son Oliver on the boat trip with Stuart Line Cruises

World of Country Life – an indoor and outdoor adventure farm park is also worth a visit and is right next door to the caravan site. There’s plenty for kids to do come rain or shine.

There’s also The Donkey Sanctury, Exmoor zoo and Powderham Castle nearby.

Also, you can’t go to Devon without having a cream tea either and we found a beautiful thatched cottage just outside the caravan park for ours.

How do I book?

To find out more about Haven Holidays, or to book visit www.haven.com or call 0333 202 5305.

If you want to enjoy that holiday feeling all year round you can become and owner at any Haven park. We used to be owners at Thorpe Park in Cleethorpes and there were so many benefits, including an owners only lounge and owners only changing rooms. At Devon Cliffs the owners even got their own pool, gym and spa! #myhavendays

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Oliver and Jasmine at the indoor pool at Devon Cliffs holiday park

 

This is what the new James ride at Thomas Land is like

Just when you think Drayton Manor Theme Park can’t get any better, a new ride is unveiled for the 2017 season. James is now the latest train to get his own themed ride on the island of Sodor inside the much-loved Thomas Land.

The Fat Controller officially opened James and the Red Balloon to a packed crowd of families at the beginning of the month.

My six-year-old son, three-year-old daughter and I were lucky enough to attend the launch event and were among the first to try out the new ride, which sees families fly up and away in their own hot air balloon.

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IN A SPIN: The New James ride at Drayton Manor

The £250,000 ride has a spinning wheel inside, so if that’s left alone you can enjoy a gentle flight that goes up and down while going around in a big circle. But if, like my two, your kids want more excitement, you can make the ride spin, too.

The new attraction is the 20th ride in Thomas Land and proudly sits alongside the likes of the Troublesome Trucks runaway train, Terence’s Driving School and Jeremy Jet’s Flying Academy. The new ride is part of the huge expansion completed in 2015.

Thomas Land – which is free to enter once in the Drayton Manor theme park – really is a dream come true if your little ones are fans of the programme, but even if they’re not they will love the variety of rides.

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Thomas Land

Outside the Thomas Land gates, there’s also the rest of the Drayton Manor theme park to explore.
It’s easy to see why it is one of the UK’s most popular family attractions with more than a million visitors per year.

The rides are for children of all ages and include everything from the carousel, dodgems and pirate ship to the G Force rollercoaster, splash canyon and the Apocalypse drop tower. There are lots of other attractions, too, including a 4D cinema, dino trail and crazy golf. Animal lovers can also get up close and personal with the park’s furry friends in the 15-acre zoo.

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FUN: Oliver and Jasmine Lovell at Thomas Land

Can you stay over?

But Drayton Manor is more than a day out. At the end of a great day you don’t have to make tracks home because the theme park has its own hotel. The four-star 150 bedroom Drayton Manor Hotel features executive rooms, presidential suites and 15 Thomas-themed rooms, as well as two bars, two restaurants plus The Grill Inn, next to the hotel.

I’d thoroughly recommend staying over. The hotel is lovely, contemporary and stylish, and obviously caters well for children. Our family room had a very comfortable king bed and a lovely sofa bed for the kids.

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HAPPY: Jasmine Lovell at Thomas Land

In the hotel’s restaurant, my children enjoyed playing with the train tables with other children, which kept them amused while we waited for our food.

While it’s not cheep and cheerful, the food is of a high standard, with duck and steak on the menu, to name just a couple of choices.

We went for the buffet, which seemed easier for the kids, and they loved helping themselves. After eating, we headed to the children’s entertainment, which runs from 6.30pm to 8.30pm and really makes you feel like you’re on holiday.

The children’s entertainers were great with the kids, who loved the Punch and Judy show, juggling and party tricks, which was followed by a disco. The entertainment is all included in the price of your stay.

The kids were so excited to stay at the theme park and could see the rides from our bedroom window. Staying over turned a day out into a mini-break and if you’re having a second day in the park, or stay over the night before, you can get in nice and early without any travelling.

Where is it?

Drayton Manor Theme Park is near Tamworth, Staffordshire. Use postcode B78 3TW

How much is it?

It’s always cheaper to book in advance online instead of paying on the gate on the day. Aged 12-59: on the day £39, pre-booked £25. Aged 4-11/ 60+: on the day £29, pre-booked £20. Aged 2-3: £7 on the day and pre-booked. Under 2’s: free. Other discounts are available. For tickets visit the website or call 0844 472 1950.

The 2017 Drayton Manor Park season runs until Thursday, October 26. The award- winning Magical Christmas event will be on selected dates from November 18 to December 31.

  • Reviewed April 2017

UPDATED: How and when to get tickets for Radio 1s BIG WEEKEND 2017: HULL

UPDATE:  Radio 1 has revealed the date thousands of tickets for Big Weekend Hull on May 27 and 28 will be released.

Fifty thousand free tickets will be released on the BBC Radio 1 website at 9.10am on Monday, April 10. 

They will be sold on a first come, first served basis. Once booking opens, a link will appear to a secure site hosted by Ticketmaster. Tickets are limited to two per transaction.

Katy Perry, Little Mix, Kings of Leon and Stormzy have already confirmed their attendance at the event at Burton Constable Hall in Skirlaugh (A superb stately home with immense grounds), which is just east of the city of HULL. It’s part of the Hull City of Culture 2017 events.

Radio 1 say 70 per cent of the tickets will be exclusive to people living in Hull and East Riding postcode areas. A further 25 per cent will be available to people in the LN, DN, and YO postcodes.

There is no ticket charge for the event itself, but a non-refundable event admin fee of £8.50 per ticket will be applied to cover ticket handling, postage and other event administration costs. You do not need to register in advance.

Those without internet access can call 0844 453 9012 to book tickets, with calls costing 7p a minute plus standard network charges. Calls to this number before 9.10am on Monday 10 April will not be answered but will still be charged.

There is no age restriction at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Hull; however under-16s will need to be accompanied by a responsible adult aged 18 or over. You may be asked for ID to verify your age.

Children under two years old do not need a ticket, but those two and over will need one. The BBC say, please bear in mind that this is an outdoor event, with loud music and large crowds expected – it is not an event designed for young children.

 

Nick Grimshaw from Radio One said: “I’m super excited for Big Weekend as it kicks off festival season and always has a mega line-up of the best live music. Roll on May – I can’t wait to party in Hull alongside Kings of Leon, Little Mix, Stormzy and loads more!”

Martin Green, Director Hull UK City of Culture 2017, said: “We are thrilled that BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend is coming to Hull for 2017. Bringing this major national event with some of the biggest names in the music industry is a massive coup for the city and confirms its growing international profile as THE place to be.

“As ever, events like this can only happen thanks to the different partners and other organisations working together, and we are delighted to be working closely with the National Heritage Memorial Fund appointed trustees and family at Burton Constable, as well as our colleagues at Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council to ensure a successful event. Natural England and Historic England have also been crucial in providing support to bring this event to the area. “

The two-day festival is not being held ‘IN’ the city of Hull due to safety and logistics.

The best Hull City of Culture events for kids

There’s no excuse not to visit Hull right now – there’s so much to during its year of having the City of Culture status.

We visited mainly to see Blade in the city centre. We then made a full afternoon of it by having a look around the newly re-opened Fernes Art gallery and the Maritime Museum (both free entry) before popping to Furley and Co for a freakshake. (This is a MUST, you have to see them to believe them, £5 each!)

There’s a great kids’ gallery at Ferens in Queen Victoria Square. My kids, six and three loved playing picnics in the little house, launching themselves on the giant pillows and writing on the wall.

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FUN: Oliver & Jasmine play in the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull

The City of Culture year has been split into seasons, the first of which is now underway and runs until the end of March. Here’s the best events to take the kids to:

Look up

A giant wind turbine blade has landed in the city centre. Blade is the first in a series of temporary artworks which will be displayed in public places and spaces to form the Look Up programme. Who knows what will come next after it’s moved on March 18?

Oliver and Jasmine loved seeing it and touching it and having their photos taken with it. Oliver then drew it as part of his homework when we got home.

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INSPIRATIONAL: Oliver and Jasmine post their Challenge Hull notes

Get creative

Every Monday, the City of Culture team are setting a new challenge to encourage people to get creative. Children can try writing, drawing, dancing, cooking, discovering, exploring, performing or photographing.

Check out the Facebook and Twitter pages or visit hull2017.com every Monday for your weekly challenge then post it online with #challengeHull.

We joined in with the ‘Write an inspirational message’ where people were challenged to write a note and then leave it for others to find. My two children LOVED doing this.

A moth for Amy trail

There are 59 giant colourful moths to find across Hull, East Riding and beyond. The art project is modelled on Hull’s highly successful Larkin with Toads project.

Each moth reflects the powerful inspiration of Amy Johnson and her amazing flying achievements. The Moths remain where they have settled until March 31, 2017.

Diverse Fest

Diverse Fest is a performance festival for those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities to showcase. It is open for everybody of all ages to enjoy. Expect to find a café and stalls, as well as activities, karaoke, performances and a disco.

The event will be held on Saturday, January 14, at Bridlington Spa, between 12 noon and 8pm. Tickets which can be booked online are £3 for the day.

Re-made in Hull

A series of educational craft workshops set in a pretend factory. Families will be encouraged to work together to celebrate the culture of recycling in Hull and have fun making arts and crafts.

Workshops will take place from 11am to 1pm on Saturdays, from January 14 to April 22, at Hull Scrapstore, Dairycoates Avenue, Hull. Workshops will also take place during the February half-term school holidays and the school Easter holidays. See www.hull2017.co.uk for times and dates and to book.

Bowhead

Get up close and personal with a Bowhead – also known as a Greenland Right Whale – in a lifelike visual installation. Bowhead is at the Maritime Museum in Queen Victoria Square, Hull, which is open daily from 9am until 5pm until March 19.

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YUM: If you’re visiting Hull, pop to Furley & Co for a freakshake!

Creative Voice Dance

The next generation of performers from Creative Voice and Hull Dance take over the stage at Hull Truck Theatre. The evening will showcase a newly created piece by Hull Dance Youth Company.

The dance show is being held at Hull Truck Theatre on Sunday, January 29 at 7pm. Tickets are £3 each.

Back To Ours

The Back to Ours events include comedy, music, circus, theatre, cabaret, dance and film, including the following:

1) The Story of Mr B

A surprise-filled puppet show, set in a giant pop-up book, tells the story of Mr Bumblegrum. Suitable for children aged three and over.

This show will be held at the Sirius Academy West, on Wednesday, February 22, at 11am and 2pm, on Thursday, February 23 at 11am and 2pm at Winifred Holtby Academy and on Saturday, February 25 at 11am and 2pm at Archbishop Sentamu Academy. Tickets, available online are priced between £2.50 and £5.

2) Picture House: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

This film will be screened on Wednesday, February 22 at 10.30am at Archbishop Sentamu Academy, on Thursday, February 23 at 10.30am at Sirius Academy West and on Saturday, February 25 at 10.30am at Winifred Holtby Academy. Tickets are £2.50.

3) Picture House: Matilda

This film will be screened on Wednesday, February 22 at 1.30pm at Archbishop Sentamu Academy, on Thursday, February 23 at 1.30pm at Sirius Academy West and on Saturday, February 25 at 1.30pm at Winifred Holtby Academy. Tickets are £2.50 and can be booked online.

4) Picture House: Fantastic Mr Fox

This film will be screened on Wednesday, February 22 at 4pm at Archbishop Sentamu Academy, on Thursday, February 23 at 4pm at Sirius Academy West and on Saturday, February 25 at 4pm at Winifred Holtby Academy. Tickets are £2.50.

There will also be two more Back to Ours festivals planned for the half term school holidays in May and October – details to be announced.

Telling Tales

Actor Simon Callow narrates a family-friendly programme of classical music presented by the New London Chamber Ensemble. Featuring the musical stories of Opus Number Zoo, Peter and The Wolf and Martin Butler’s Dirty Beasts Tales

The show will be held on Friday, February 24 at 1pm in the Middleton Hall at the University of Hull. Tickets, available online are priced between £4 and £8.

Goldilocks and The Three Bears

Northern Ballet’s productions especially for children are not to be missed and have even been showed on CBeebies. This is the perfect opportunity for your little ones to enjoy live ballet, music and theatre for the first time.

Performances take place at 12pm and 2pm with a relaxed performance at 5pm on Friday, March 17 at the Bridlington Spa. Each performance lasts approximately 40 minutes.

 

Child models needed for Hull Daily Mail photo shoot

The Hull Daily Mail is looking for child models to feature in a series of City of Culture photo shoots.

The paper wants children of all ages who will be photographed at different City of Culture events.

 

ADVENTURE: Oliver Lovell at Hessle Foreshore

 

 The winning children will be invited to one of several fun photo-shoots throughout the year.

The first photo-shoot will take place with the Blade in Hull’s city centre and will be used as the cover photo for the ‘Hull Daily Mail – Family News‘ page.

The photographs will be used to illustrate stories in print, and will also be used on social media, including on Twitter and Facebook.

It is a great opportunity for children who like having their photo taken and would like to see themselves in the paper. At the end of the year the paper will feature all children who have taken part in a celebratory feature in the paper.

 

FUN: Jasmine Lovell at the Deep in Hull

 

Entry is via Facebook only. To enter your child, you must first ‘like’ the new ‘Hull Daily Mail – Family News‘ Facebook page. Then like and share the child models post on that page and comment by posting a picture of your child or children.

The paper is only looking for a few families and winners will be chosen at random. The closing date is Tuesday, January 31, at 4pm.

Winners will be announced on the ‘Hull Daily Mail – Family News‘ Facebook page on Wednesday, February 1.

Gulliver’s Kingdom at Christmas

It snows every day at Gulliver’s Kingdom in Matlock Bath during the festive season.

The children who had gathered for the little Gully show were asked to close their eyes and cross their fingers and make a wish for snow – then, as if by magic the white stuff fell from above and the music began to play.

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As soon as that snow began to fall the children who had been mesmerised by the characters could not run over to it fast enough.

Obviously it was fake, but it was white and fluffy and they had the best time playing in it.

Seeing my children stood there wishing for snow then watching their faces as it began to fall was truly magical.

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WISH: Oliver and Jamine Lovell wish for snow at Gulliver’s Kingdom

Straight after it was our turn to see Santa. Gulliver’s Kingdom – a theme park which is aimed at children aged three to 13 – is the only place we’ve seen him this year and not had to queue. We were able to walk straight through the lovely winter wonderland during our time slot and admire the displays, then were taken straight to Santa by his friendly elf.

MORE REVIEWS: Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath in summer

It wasn’t the best grotto we’ve ever seen, or the most enthusiastic Santa – but the kids did love being invited into his workshop afterwards where they were able to choose their present themselves. They loved searching through the shop and it’s nice as a parent to say you can have anything you like – absolutely anything – and not have to worry about the price!

Seeing Santa is included with all tickets during the festive season and despite it not being in the height of summer, there was plenty of rides open, including the log flume!

The wide range of rides and attraction – from the Western World and pirates play area, to the log flume and Drop Tower – makes Gulliver’s Kingdom one of the best theme parks in the UK for children which is why we didn’t mind the 90 minute journey from Hull.

Children shorter than 90cm go free, yet can still go on 11 of 23 rides and enjoy all of the shows, play areas and interactive experiences.

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VIEWS: Oliver and Jasmine Lovell at Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath

The theme park is set on a stunning hillside which gives fabulous views over the main street in Matlock Bath. Make sure you’ve got your comfortable shoes on for walking up the hills though! However there is a travellator for one of the steepest hills you can hop onto and also a char lift to transport you from the bottom of the park to the top.

With that in mind I’d say it’s best to start at the top and work your way down to the bottom of the park.

If you want to keep the costs down, picnics are allowed in the park. I was really impressed there’s a warm indoor picnic area upstairs in the party house where adults can also get a hot drink.

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GROTTO: Oliver and Jasmine Lovell meet Santa at Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath

But it’s downstairs where the real fun happens! The huge house has everything from a cinema room to rides, a massive sandpit, indoor soft play, ball pools, pedal tractors and interactive games. You could actually spend hours in the party house alone, I’ve not come across anything quite like it anywhere else.

Mrs Christmas’ Kitchen is also inside the party house where you will find a very welcoming Mrs Christmas. Due to it being so cold, we spent a long time in the party house and we still had to drag the kids out.

The entire park is decorated very festive and if like us you leave when it closes at 4.30pm it will be dark so you will be able to see all the twinkly lights which light the entire park up.

I loved the fact there wasn’t a teenage crowd at Gulliver’s Kingdom too. It’s very family orientated, there are no bars and no alcohol is permitted. Unlike other large theme parks, you won’t come across groups of teenagers, as not one guest who isn’t part of a family can enter.

MORE REVIEWS: Dayton Manor including Thomas Land at Christmas 

My six year old son loved Western World, where you can explore little buildings, including a bank, a church and a jail. He also loved operating the diggers, which surprisingly didn’t need extra money to operate and my three year old daughter liked the outdoor play areas and the magic carpet.

There’s also Gulliver’s parks in Warrington and Milton Keynes so no doubt we will be trying them next!

 

Need to know…

LOCATION: Temple Walk, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, DE4 3PG

OPEN: March to December, excluding November.

PRICES: Children measuring under 90cm go free. £15 if booked online for those taller than 90cm. Prices range at Christmas for various packages.

FACILITIES:

  • Lockers
  • Wheelchair hire
  • Cash point
  • Dedicated smoking areas

BABY:

  • Mother’s feeding room
  • Microwave facilities in the restuarants
  • Baby change rooms in each area of the park
  • First Aid point

PARKING: Free

VISIT: www.gulliverskingdom.co.uk

HOTEL: www.batemansmillhotel.co.uk