by Jenny Schippers
As a family, with two young children, we love nothing more than to travel both at home and overseas; to meet new people, experience different cultures, and visit exciting destinations.
In previous years we have taken our daughters to Thailand and the Middle East over the Easter holidays but with travel restrictions still very much in place, we instead turned to the idea of a UK break away as an alternative this year.
With a degree of uncertainty surrounding travel right up to the last minute, we took a chance and booked a reasonably priced static caravan on a holiday park for a few days away. As lockdown restrictions in England eased on the 12th of April 2021, we were so happy to be finally heading off on our first holiday of the year, staying close to the town of Settle for four nights away. With easy access to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and within striking distance of the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire coast, and south Lake District it was the ideal spot.
With two young girls, aged 4 and 7 years old, the most important thing when considering a UK holiday is their comfort whilst we are driving long distances and for this trip, we used the hifold fit-and-fold booster seat. Both girls are at an age where they are too big for a conventional high back car seat that is bulky with wide sides, yet too young still for a simple booster seat that grants no side protection. The hifold booster seat fits perfectly between these two stages; offering a safe and secure high back car seat that includes excellent safety features without being too restrictive for older children.
Both the girls love that it provides head and neck support, and I am always happy to see this point proven time and again when they fall asleep on even the shortest of car journeys!
As a parent, I appreciate the fact it is completely tailored to the size and shape of the individual child sitting in it. I can adjust both the height and width of the seat easily and quickly allowing me to change the configuration depending on the age and height of the child I am strapping in.
With the hifold fit-and-fold booster seat providing a comfortable ride for the kids, I was confident we could spend long days out and about exploring all that this wonderful corner of the UK has to offer. We love nothing more than discovering hidden gems along with the ‘must-sees’ in an area so a couple of weeks before our holiday I make sure to plan a rough itinerary of the places we want to tick off the bucket list. We are fully aware however that plans can, and often do, change when travelling with children so we like to keep these ideas as fluid and amendable as possible. I think it is also important to include something each day solely for the children to enjoy, this might be a great playground, a family-friendly tourist attraction, or simply somewhere for them to run wild. It cannot be all about long walks and heritage sites when holidaying with young kids so a compromise between the two works well for our family.
One of the main reasons for choosing our holiday accommodation, a static caravan on the family-friendly Gallaber Park, was the children’s playground on site and the opportunity for plenty of quiet roads for them to use their scooters safely. This worked well and after a long day out driving, we could come back to the site and allow them some time to stretch their legs and burn off the final pockets of energy before bedtime. I can imagine during the busier summer months this holiday park, and ones similar will be bursting with young families providing a fantastic environment for children to play outside and make new friends. We have holidayed in a static caravan before and find it the perfect mix between being self-contained but also allowing for a sociable atmosphere and a friendly place to meet others. This site was located just over an hour from our home in Cheshire, the ideal distance away for a convenient midweek stay.
With just three full days to explore, having never visited this part of the UK before, we had a couple of places that we were keen to particularly see. As National Trust members we wanted to include Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens, so pre-booked a time slot two weeks before our trip to avoid disappointment. This World Heritage Site, located close to Harrogate, was incredibly impressive and the vast complex including the famous abbey and formal water gardens is easily a full day out in itself. Alongside the miles of stunning garden and woodland walks, there is an ancient deer park to discover and for little ones, a huge wooden playground adjacent to the picnic area.
My advice would be to book an early arrival slot, pack a picnic and enjoy the whole day at Fountains Abbey, weather depending of course. It is also perfectly positioned to combine with the quaint towns of Harrogate and Knaresborough as well as the famous Mother Shipton’s Cave. We chose to visit Knaresborough on route and were suitably impressed by its pretty medieval streets, winding cobbled alleys, and the imposing railway viaduct straddling the River Nidd. There is plenty to see and do here including hiring rowing boats, riverside walks, and on Wednesdays, the popular local market.
As we were blessed with amazing weather during our stay, we wanted to utilise the opportunity to spend as much time outdoors as possible. On one of the days, we visited the historic Cumbrian market town of Kirkby Lonsdale, stopping at Devil’s Bridge to admire the stunning view and to make the short walk down to the riverbank to throw stones into the water.
There are a couple of circular walks from the free riverside car park into the town itself and plenty of lawned areas for a picnic. As we were limited on time, we only spent an hour here before driving on to the south Lake District region.
Driving time from the caravan to Bowness-On-Windermere was a respectable one hour in total so easily doable from our base in North Yorkshire. Here we stopped for lunch at Driftwood Fish and Chips and had ice cream from Windermere Ice Cream all whilst taking in the breath-taking lake views and watching the world go by. There is plenty to do at this popular spot to please the whole family; you can hire a boat, take a lake cruise, and once restrictions are fully lifted, visit The World of Beatrix Potter.
After a full day driving through Lancashire and into the Lake District, we chose to spend the remainder of our trip in the Yorkshire Dales closer to our holiday accommodation. This included a full day at Fountains Abbey and a second day spent walking at Malham Cove before an afternoon at Bolton Abbey. The pretty hamlet of Malham, just four miles from where we were staying, provided the base to complete a return child-friendly walk to the well-known Yorkshire beauty spot, Malham Cove.
This spectacular natural limestone amphitheatre is an easy 3km return walk from the visitor centre car park and is suitable for both prams and wheelchairs. After a short walk through the village itself, the path veers to the right and takes you through fields to the base of the cove. From here you can choose to return the same way or for the more adventurous, climb the steps 260 feet to the top of the escarpment before incorporating Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss waterfall to make an 8km circular loop back into the village.
After an hour or so spent at the base of Malham Cove, watching the rock climbers in action and the girls dipping their toes in the water, we returned to our car stopping for a well-deserved ice cream from the Old Barn Café along the way. There are plenty of dining options in this small village, catering to the walking crowd, including a traditional pub meal at The Buck Inn and Lister Arms as well as, quite surprisingly, tapas from Beck Hall. From Malham, we headed on through the village of Grassington, famous as the backdrop for the programme All Creatures Great and Small before arriving at the delightful riverside spot of Burnsall for lunch at The Red Lion pub.
After a delicious meal, with great children’s choices, we finished the day at Bolton Abbey arriving for a pre-booked slot at 3 pm. There are several car parks in the estate, and they all require pre-booking in advance at £10 per car. We had chosen the main Bolton Abbey car park within a 5-minute walk of the abbey itself and a late afternoon slot with which to avoid the crowds. Here we spent a peaceful few hours playing with the girls, navigating the infamous stepping stones, and feeding the friendly resident ducks.
After an action-packed few days exploring this incredible part of the UK, we packed our bags and left a very sunny Yorkshire behind before heading home via the coast for a beach day. With wall-to-wall blue skies, it was a 1.5-hour drive to the National Trust woodland and sand dunes at Formby Beach just up the coast from Liverpool. Famous for its Red Squirrel population, this protected woodland and coastline was a fantastic spot to enjoy some much-needed beach time and the opportunity to dip our toes in the sea for the first time this year.
It was the ideal end to a successful family holiday, and it has certainly cemented our plans to enjoy more of the UK this year whilst travel abroad is proving a complicated process. As much as we love our overseas trips, it is so easy to pack up the car, strap the girls into their mifold booster seats and venture off to discover more of our beautiful country. Over the next 12 months, we have several trips planned to include Anglesey and North Wales as well as discovering more of Cheshire.