This 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.

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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


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


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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




Why Strictly fans will love this family day out

ALL Strictly Come Dancing fans know that Blackpool Week is a huge milestone in the calendar.

Every year the remaining couples in the hit ITV one show travel north and enjoy dancing across this famous home of the ballroom, beneath the giant chandeliers.

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

And unlike the George Lucas stage at the Elstree TV Studios in Hertfordshire where Strictly is filmed week on week, the Blackpool Tower Ballroom is open to the public to take a whirl.

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Oliver and Jasmine dance at Blackpool Tower and pose outside the Tower by the tram

As long as children are accompanied by an adult, they too can waltz their way around the magnificently-decorated ballroom that is steeped in the history of dance.

You can dance on the celebrated floor every day, and visitors can take part themselves or simply sit and watch others during one of the daily tea dances.

My children absolutely loved dancing on the world-famous ballroom floor, but they also loved sat (with a bag of crisps and a drink from the Ballroom bar) and watching the dancers sweep the floor.

It was like stepping back in time watching the dancers waltz effortlessly. This is a great experience, but even more so if your little one is a fan of Strictly Come Dancing!

This year Strictly will be filmed live in the Blackpool Tower on Saturday, November 18.

What else is in Blackpool Tower?

Blackpool is famous for its tower, so a family holiday in the West coast resort wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the top.

Standing proudly on the seafront, Blackpool Tower, which was built in 1894 is 158m tall and welcomes over 650,000 visitors per year.

There are five great attractions inside the Tower and they’re all worth a visit.

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The Blackpool Tower Eye

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Don’t look down! The Lovell’s on the glass platform at the top of the tower

I don’t even like heights, but alongside my six-year-old son and four-year-old daughter we took the lift 380ft into the air and walked out onto the glass platform, where we looked down at the promenade below.

From the top you can see the North West of England spread out before you with views up to the Lake District and, on a clear day, down to Liverpool and to the Isle of Man.

The kids thought it was brilliant being so high up, but I preferred the comfort of the ballroom below.

The Circus

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Until our visit, I had no idea Blackpool Tower had so much to offer. I think my children’s favourite activity was the circus, which was simply amazing to see.

We saw jaw-dropping stunts and, at one point, when a gymnast was swinging on monkey bars with his feet, my four-year-old daughter had to cover her eyes.

We saw world-class acrobats, flying trapeze daredevils, aerial performers, gymnasts and stunt performers.

The venue itself is a treat. It’s unique, with its spacious seats and old- fashioned decor. It felt like an experience just going in and taking your seat, let alone seeing the show.

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Oliver at the circus

Jungle Jims

This is an ultimate indoor play area. Awaiting all your brave explorers, is a fun-tastic range of swinging, sliding and climbing contraptions.

The play zone, complete with cafe is set within an amazing themed Lost City.

The Blackpool Tower Dungeon

The Blackpool Tower Dungeon brings together an amazing cast of theatrical actors, special effects, stages, scenes and a ride in a truly unique and exciting walk-through experience that you see, hear, touch, smell and feel.

It’s hilarious fun and it’s sometimes a bit scary.

How much are tickets to the Blackpool Tower?

You can buy individual tickets for each attraction, but the Blackpool Big Ticket is the most affordable way to access all five attractions and also includes entry to Sea Life and Madame Tussaud’s – making seven attractions in total.

Tickets start at £32.50 for children and £45 for adults. The ticket allows entry to each attraction once, but is valid for 90 days so you don’t have to fit it all in to one day. Click here to buy tickets.

Gulliver’s Kingdom at Christmas

What else can we do in Blackpool?

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

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Oliver and Jasmine at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

The Pleasure Beach is one of Britain’s top tourist attractions and boasts more than 125 breathtaking rides and attractions, plus amazing shows.

Here you can ride Europe’s tallest and fastest rollercoaster: the Pepsi Max Big One.

There’s also Infusion, the exhilarating, quintuple-looping coaster, which is the first in the world to be suspended completely above water.

For my young children the favourite area was the UK’s only Nickelodeon Land. This is a new, six acre area loaded with 12 rides, a shop, fun game stalls, a new restaurant and is home to a whole host of famous characters.

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The Lovell’s on the runaway train at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

The kids also loved the vintage wooden rollercoaster with its comfy cloth seats.

The entire Pleasure Beach has a really good holiday vibe to it, with music playing and dancing fountains.

Unlimited ride wristbands start from £18 for juniors for off-peak days and £29.50 for peak days, if booked in advance online.

For more information on the Pleasure Beach, visit the website here.

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Oliver & Jasmine on Blackpool beach

Where should I stay?

The Big Blue Hotel

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The four star Big Blue Hotel provides the perfect base for a family break in Blackpool.

The hotel is right next door to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and you can get a hotel deal, which includes entry to the theme park.

My kids were particularly impressed with the bedroom, because they got their own area with bunk-beds and a TV for each bed. It came complete with a PlayStation 3 and even a giant magnetic snakes and ladders game on the wall.

The main bedroom was huge, comfortable and stylish and it made a nice change not to all be squashed into one family room.

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The kids area of the family room at the Big Blue Hotel

The hotel has a really stylish Blues Bar and Brasserie and the accommodation was modern at affordable prices.

The hotel is a 30ish minute walk to Blackpool Tower. It is much more fun, however, to take a ten-minute tram ride. I had not used one before, but was surprised at how easy it was – you just jump on and pay the conductor.

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Our family room at the Big Blue Hotel

To find out more about the Blue Blue Hotel, visit the website here.










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


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.


Why a Haven break is 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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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.


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 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

* Joanna Lovell was a guest of Haven. All views her own.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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

What National Holidays coach trips are like with two kids: Hull to Legoland


I don’t mind admitting I was a little apprehensive about taking two young children on a four-hour coach trip by myself from Hull to Legoland.

My six-year-old and four-year-old have never been on a coach for that length of time before and I worried I may not have been able to keep them entertained on the journey.

However, we like an adventure and when I told Oliver and Jasmine they were super excited so off we went and I’m so glad we did because it turned out to be one of the best family weekends away we’ve ever had.

FUN: Oliver thought the coach trip was fab!

We went on the Legoland Spectacular break with National Holidays – the UK’s leading specialist in short breaks and holidays by coach – which included a one-night hotel stay, travel and entry into the theme park in Windsor on two days.

The coach first picked up at Hull Paragon Station but we got on closer to home in Elloughton. Despite it being early at 7.40am the driver couldn’t have been cheerier welcoming us aboard and after I’d secured my children’s booster seats off we went.

I thought I would be the only one travelling alone with children but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Behind me was a mum and daughter spending some quality time together for her sixth birthday. In front of me was another single Mum from Hornsea and her son.

There was also a Grandma travelling with her grandson and a dad travelling with his toddler son and his mum.

I needn’t have worried about keeping the kids entertained either because the coach driver put Disney films on the main TV for them to watch and being in row four we had a perfect view.

I was also armed with their tablets, sticker books, colouring books and a huge picnic so they were happy and thought the whole experience was a wonderful adventure.

The coach also had a toilet so I didn’t have to worry about them needing the loo.

We stopped for 45 minutes at a service station, where we got lunch, and arrived at Legoland just after 12.30pm.

I actually enjoyed the journey and found it very relaxing. Usually when I take my children away, I drive us there, so it was nice having someone do that for us. I also felt very safe and it was nice to chat to other adults, too.

We were given free time in Legoland until it closed that day at 5pm. See my more detailed thoughts about Legoland in this review.

Jolly Family Outings visits Legoland, Windsor

It’s a brilliant family day out. The theme park is dedicated to children aged two to 12 and has more than 55 interactive rides and attractions. If you go in summer don’t forget your costumes as the outdoor splash zone is amazing. My children most enjoyed the pirate show – seeing them summersault into the water and also loved taking their driving test in the Lego cars.

FAVOURITE: The kids love taking their ‘driving test’ at Legoland

After our day out we were then driven to our hotel, which turned out to be the Hyatt at Heathrow Airport, which was about a half-hour drive away.

I was really impressed with the hotel – it was of a very high standard. Our mini break included bed and breakfast, but I’m told many National Holiday breaks also include an evening meal.

I asked my children whether they wanted to get changed and go down for a meal or get into our PJs and get room service.

So my son leisurely changed into his PJs while my daughter put on her dress and sparkly tights to go downstairs. Typical.

Anyway, it was two votes to one because I fancied seeing what the restaurant was like and I was glad I did, because we had a lovely meal. Then it was back to our room for a relaxing bath before bed.

SPACIOUS: The kids loved chilling out at the Hyatt Heathrow Airport Hotel

The next day, we didn’t have to meet at the coach until 9.30am, so it gave us chance to have a leisurely breakfast first

Oliver and Jasmine saw our driver and ended up calling him over and he even buttered Jasmine’s toast – if that’s not good and beyond the call of duty service – I don’t know what is!

We were back in Legoland by 10am and, having found our bearings, knew exactly what rides we wanted to go on.vWe had until 3pm when we met back at the coach to set off for Hull.

Jolly Family Outings (5)
REAL LEGO: The kids loved seeing Lego London!

On the way back, once the kids were settled and watching the film, I found myself googling more coach holidays.

It turns out National Holidays offers more than 1,000 holidays every year, including weekend and city breaks, showtime breaks, special event and sporting breaks, family fun breaks to the UK and Europe’s top theme parks and attractions and seaside breaks.

I’ve got my eye on going to Blackpool with the kids on our next trip.

We were back in Elloughton just after 7.30pm after having a 45-minute break at Woodall services for tea. By 8.15pm both Oliver and Jasmine were tucked up in their beds after a brilliant weekend and Mummy returned home relaxed for once!

LEGOLAND: Oliver loves the giant lego spider
  • Reviewed March 2017

Need to know…

LOCATION: Legoland Windsor,  Winkfield Rd, Windsor SL4 4AY

PRICES: Prices start at £99 per person with National Holidays, travelling from Hull.

MUST SEE: The pirate show at Legoland.

CONTACT: National Holidays website or call National Holidays on 0844 477 9990.

Legoland website  or call Legoland on 0871 222 2001.

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.

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.

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 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 for times and dates and to book.


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.

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.

Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland

THEY SAY: York’s three-time award-winning Christmas attraction. Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland is home to the North of England’s largest and best-loved outdoor ice rink .

WE SAY: If you enjoy skating, this is magical and makes a nice Christmas treat. Open November – January.

There’s something quite magical about ice skating in the open air – and when there’s a huge Christmas tree in the centre of the ice it’s certainly very festive too.

The Ice Factor forms the main part of Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland which is open every year from November until January at the McArthurGlen York Designer Outlet.

The rink is surrounded by an illuminated forest, log cabins and a newly extended viewing platform and café. We skated in the afternoon, but as we left we saw the dusk sessions which looked even more magical.

SKATE: Joanna Lovell and son Oliver try the skating at Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland

It’s fast become the North of England’s largest and best-loved outdoor ice rink, along with the alpine-themed café and vintage fairground rides and of course, an enchanting Santa’s grotto.

MORE REVIEWS: Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath at Christmas

I used the Winter Wonderland as a bit of a bribe for my six and three year old – if they were good inside the outlet (where there’s 120 shops), they could have some fun outside – and it worked!

My six-year-old was quite nervous and for a long time he didn’t want to let go of the side, but he really enjoyed himself once he got into it.

One of the staff members held his other hand as we skated and really took the time to help him find his balance which was a huge help.

Skating sessions last an hour and there’s limited space per session so the ice will never get too overcrowded. Pre-booking is recommended to make sure you get the time you want.

The rink is suitable for people of all ages. Skate hire is included in the price of the ticket and sizes range from a child size nine to an adult size 15. There are also special ice blades for toddlers which slip on over their shoes. You can also hire helmets if you wish.

FUN: Enjoying the Papa Kitchen Cafe and the rides at Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland

If you children are young, get them a snowman or a penguin aid to help them keep their balance. If you aren’t overly confident yourself you can stand behind them and lean on it as you push them around the ice. It’s so much easier than just holding their hand because if they struggle they can bring you down too and no one wants to see mummy fall over!

Afterwards we went into the Papa Kitchen for a hot chocolate and the entire heated chalet had that apres-ski feel to it. It’s complete with cosy furs, rustic wooden tables serves everything from mulled wine and Prosecco to hot dogs and loaded nachos.

MORE REVIEWS: The Polar Express train ride, Durham

There’s even an outdoor heated terrace to allow café spectatos the chance to get closer to the action and they even provide blankets!

Next to the rink you will find the rides where we enjoyed the dodgems, an original 1930s speedway, the traditional carousel and the flying chairs. The rides have all been lovingly restored over the last few years by a team of local craftspeople. There’s also game and food stalls.

The Winter Wonderland can operate in nearly all weather conditions so don’t let a bit of rain put you off – it’s well worth a visit.

  • Reviewed January 2017

Need to know…

Location: York Designer Outlet, St Nicholas Ave, Fulford, York YO19 4TA

Open: November to January

Prices: In 2016, tickets cost £10.45 per adult and £9.45 per child. A family of four costs £36. Family packages are available for families of three, four or five people. Tickets can be pre-booked online.


Call: 01653 619169.