When you have small children, a lot of parents want holidays and short breaks to be convenient. No more than an hour or two from home; accommodation that has been equipped with children in mind; plenty of nearby attractions and places to visit… including indoor options because, let’s face it, as beautiful as the UK is, we don’t always get the weather.
With this in mind, I’ve asked the parent blogging community for recommendations of family friendly holidays, all within easy access of Cardiff (no more than two and a half hours away). I’ve looked beyond the obvious ones – as wonderful as Bluestone, Forest Holidays, Center Parcs, Butlins and so on are, there are so many other options, from glamping and caravan sites to holiday cottages and hotels, which have plenty to offer families and are often cheaper too.
Here are their recommendations, as well as some of my own. Do click on the links to their reviews for more information. (All photos are copyright the individual bloggers mentioned in the reviews.)
The West Wales county of Pembrokeshire is a natural and popular choice for families living in and around Cardiff. Just a two hour drive, it’s filled with more than 200 beaches and plenty of amazing family friendly attractions such as Folly Farm (read my review here), Tenby Dinosaur Park (read my review here), Heatherton, Manor House Wildlife Park (read Cathy of Mummy Travels review here), Colby woodlands, Castell Henllys Iron Age Village (read Jo of Kiddie Travels’ review here). Bluestone is a popular choice for families, but the area is littered with holiday apartments, cottages, hotels and caravan parks.
Cathy of Mummy Travels recommends the five star luxury Clydey Cottages, a collection of 10 cottages ranging from one-bedroom options to a four-bedroom farmhouse. Children can join in with feeding the onsite animals, such as ponies, alpacas, goats, rabbits and guinea pigs, plus there’s an indoor heated pool, indoor soft play, kids club, games room, hot tubs and spa. Cathy says: “Comfy squashy sofas to relax on and a huge bed to snuggle down in, all in lovely tactile neutrals under the wood beams.”
You can read more about our stay in Tenby here, including our visits to Tenby Museum, South Beach and Oakwood, Broad Haven Beach South and Bosherton Lakes, plus family-friendly pubs The Carew Inn and The Jolly Sailor here. Jo of Kiddie Holidays talks about holidaying in the area with babies and toddlers here.
The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean
An hour from Cardiff, there’s plenty for families in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. We’ve found Tintern a great base from which to explore the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. We’ve stayed there twice in the last year – once at Foxes Reach Cottage and once at TIntern Abbey Cottage, both well-equipped properties with plenty of modern conveniences but still with a rural feel, run by Monmouthshire Cottages. There’s plenty to see in Tintern itself, including Tintern Abbey (read our review here), Tintern Old Station, as well as walks around the Wye River. Other family-friendly attractions (click on links for our reviews) include Perrygrove Railway, Puzzlewood, the Bird of Prey Centre, Clearwell Caves, the Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo and aMazing Hedge Puzzle, and the Dean Heritage Centre. Gretta from Mums Do Travel lists her top recommendations for outdoor activities in the area here.
Borth and Ynys Las
Just north of Aberystwyth, Borth is a quaint seaside town, while Ynys Las is a nature reserve famed for its sand dunes. Places worth visiting include Borth Animalarium, Uncle Albert’s Ice Cream Emporium, Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth, Bwlch Nant yr Arian to see the red kits being fed, the National Trust property Llanerchaeron, Devil’s Bridge, the Rheidol railway and the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth. We’re lucky to have a family caravan to stay in, but you can see accommodation options for the area here. Read about our stay in the area here.
A city break in Bath
As Clare from Suitcases and Sandcastles, says, “Bath is, quite simply, one of the loveliest cities in England. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, it’s the only city in the UK to be classed as a World Heritage Site. It’s not hard to see why when you first glimpse the gorgeous honey-coloured stone of the Georgian buildings and visit the spectacular Roman Baths. There are delights on every corner, from the numerous museums and parks to the wonderful independent shops and restaurants.”
It’s great for families because it is small enough to explore on foot, with easy access to Bristol, Wells (read Clare’s guide here), Stonehenge, Longleat and the Cotswolds.
Family-friendly attractions include visiting the Roman Baths, where you can see the ruins of the temple to the Goddess Minerva, the various bathing rooms plus all the excavated artefacts. There’s a children’s audio guide plus characters in costume every day, talking about Roman life, plus various family activities during school holidays. The Fashion Museum has a children’s trail, plus a dressing up room where you can try on corsets, top hats, Victorian dresses, bonnets and wigs. Read Clare’s reviews here.
See Tripadvisor’s recommendations for family accommodation in Bath here.
Mountain biking in the Afan Valley
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, Jen of Jenography blog recommends mountain biking in the Afan Valley, a former mining valley, not far from Port Talbot. Afan Forest Park is home to a Rookie Trail, with blue, red and black trails to challenge riders’ technical skills. There’s also a railway path for less strenuous cycling and hiking. Jen stayed in the Afan Lodge, “a family-friendly place” with the “feel of a ski lodge – casual, clean, convivial” and packed with mountain bikers. Read Jen’s review here. Also worth visiting is The South Wales Miners Museum (adults £3, children £2) which includes a replica mine tunnel, exhibits about the role of children in mining, plus a dressing up box. Photo copyright Jenography.
Swansea, Mumbles and Gower
An hour west down the M4 from Cardiff is Swansea and the beautiful beaches of the Gower. There’s so much for families – the LC2 leisure centre indoor waterpark; the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea Museum, Mumbles with its ice cream parlours, traditional pier and beachside path which is great for cycling or scooting along.
We stayed in a family room in the Swansea Marriott. Karen or Mini Travellers enjoyed her stay in Parc Le Breos House, an old Victorian hunting lodge set in beautiful ground, while Claire of Tin Box Traveller was really impressed with Bryn Parc holiday cottage in the Mumbles. Nell from Pigeon Pair and Me recommends glamping at Scamper Holidays in Llangennith.
Gower was designated as Britain’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty some 60 years ago, with sandy beaches, wild moors and rugged bays. My personal favourites include Llangennith, Caswell, Rhosilli and Three Cliffs. Claire of Tinbox Travellers writes about exploring some of the Gower beaches here.
Caravanning at Trecco Bay, Porthcawl
One of South Wales’s most famous holiday parks, the Parkdean-run Trecco Bay, near Porthcawl, is home to caravans and lodges, plus plenty of onsite entertainment, including adventure golf, a playground area, arcades machines, dodgems, soft play, bowling lanes and splashland. It’s also close to the beaches of Porthcawl and Coney Beach amusement park. Emma of Me, The Man and the Baby writes about her recent stay here.
Glamping at Crealy in Devon
An hour and 45 minutes from Cardiff, Crealy is an adventure park with its own caravan and campsite. There are medieval and safari areas, with themed tents with real bed and sleeping up to eight, and nearby bathroom facilities. Glamping trips include tickets to the adventure park itself, with rides including a traditional carousel, log flume, roller coaster, pirate ship, go karts, indoor play areas, a soak zone, and Meerkat Manor, home to a cheeky family of meerkats. You can read Kerry of All About A Mini Norris’s review of the glamping here and the adventure park here. Visit Crealy’s website here.
Around two and a half hours from Cardiff, North Devon is full of sandy beaches, dramatic scenery and family-friendly attractions.
We’ve previously stayed in Combe Martin and love Woolacombe beach, The Big Sheep (read our review here), Milky Way adventure park and Clovelly, where the steep cobbled hills lead down to the sea. Devon Mama writes about a day at Ilfracome, where they saw The Tunnels, hand-carved in 1820, leading to sheltered bathing areas, a tidal pool and café/bar; Damien Hurst’s 20m bronze Verity statue (pictured above), and the Ilfracombe Torrs, a twisting and turning zig-zag walk carved into the cliff face by the Victorians, offering stunning views of the coastline. You can read the Guardian’s top 10 family days out in North Devon here.
An hour and 45 minutes’ drive from Cardiff, Exmoor National Park is an area of hilly open moorland, woodland, valleys and farmland in west Somerset and north Devon, and the perfect antidote to city life. Emma Reed writes about her stay in the area here, including a visit to The Valley of The Rocks coastal path in Lynmouth where, she says, “the views, landscape and walks are just breathtaking”. Family-friendly attractions include National Trust property Dunster Castle, an ancient castle and comfortable country home with dramatic vistas and subtropical gardens; as well as Exmoor Owl and Hawk Centre, and Exmoor Zoo.