There are several companies competing to offer the best London Bus Tour. They offer open top tours of all the big tourist attractions including Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the British Museum.
Some London Bus Tours also include a free river cruise as part of the deal. Some are hop-on-hop-off whilst others just offer a straightforward tour for a couple of hours.
But which is the best London Bus Tour?
We've compared them based on customer reviews and cost. It's worth noting that you can often beat the 'official' prices by booking via a third party such as Wowcher, Groupon or Living Social.
Which London Bus Tour gets the best reviews?
We looked for the review score on TripAdvisor for the main London Bus Tour operators. As of September 2021, the ranking looks like this.
Please note: there are other specialist tours, which offer things like Harry Potter tours. We've just included London Bus Tours which cover a general route of the whole city. Of course, there are also buses operated by Transport for London which go past a lot of attractions - the number 11 bus is a good one for visiting several popular spots.
Which is the cheapest London Bus Tour?
This is where it gets a little bit complicated, as there are endless offers and packages which all provide slightly different things. We did three price comparisons to get a general idea of which London Bus Tour is best value for a family ticket.
Price Comparison #1: a simple two hour tour of London by bus
For a very rough price comparison, we looked for a two-hour (ish) tour of London with the five bus companies above, on a Tuesday, booked a week in advance. We searched for the price on their official website for two adults and two children and found these results:
Megabus is the winner here and it also gets the best reviews. However, we struggled with the online booking option which sent us round in circles.
The advantage of a non-stop tour is that you can settle in rather than risk losing your seat every time you get off the bus. However, two hours on a bus is a long time, particularly with children. The downside is that you can't get off to spend time at the attractions which interest you most.
Also worth mentioning (again) is that you can do a DIY London bus tour by using the official Transport for London buses. By my calculations, it will cost a family of four £13.80 for unlimited bus travel for a day.
You'll still get a good view but the buses aren't open top. You don't get a commentary and the buses won't follow the ideal route. Start with the number 11 bus.
Price Comparison #2: a 24 hour hop-on-hop-off tour of London
Next, we looked for a one day ticket where you can hop-on and hop-off at your leisure. The downside of this option is that you might end up stood in the rain waiting for a bus to come along (several reviewers suffered such an ordeal).
The plus side is that you can pop into an attraction, jump off to see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace or stop for lunch.
Again, we searched for a family ticket for two adults and two children. From cheapest to most expensive at the time of searching.
So, Golden Tours appears to be the cheapest for a 24 hour ticket. However, it's worth noting that the Big Bus Tour will work out cheaper if you are also going to do a River Cruise. A typical river cruise for a family costs about £30-£40 but you're getting it for £11.60 extra.
Price Comparison #3: a 48 hour hop-on-hop-off ticket with a river cruise
Finally, we searched for the cost of a two day hop-on and hop-off London bus tour with a river cruise. This is a commonly offered bundle and it can work out good value if you don't to cram everything into one day.
We searched for the price for a family of four in mid September 2021:
Again, Golden Tours was the cheapest by a few pounds.
Conclusion - which is the best London Bus Tour?
But wait! Booking direct isn't always the cheapest way to get a London Bus Tour
We found that the cheapest option for a London Bus Tour isn't always booking direct.
Deals come and go, but we searched on Wowcher and found these deals for a family of four:
We also searched on Groupon and Expedia but didn't find they were cheaper than going direct. Of course, they might be cheaper when you do your searches.
Good luck and happy travelling!
What we know so far about Beaches new resort in Jamaica
We wrote recently on this blog about plans for Beaches new resort called Beaches Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
However, there are also plans for a fifth Beaches resort called Beaches Runaway Bay which is coming to Jamaica.
Here's what we know so far.
Where will Beaches Runaway Bay be located?
Beaches Runaway Bay Resort will be on Jamaica's northern coast. It was already operating as a resort called Jewel Runaway Bay Beach Resort & Waterpark but it was bought by the company which owns Beaches in 2020.
In 2021, they revealed plans to redevelop the site to create an 'all-new resort'.
According to Travel Week that will include '400 one, two, three and four-bedroom suites'.
The current Beaches Resorts have between 180 and 750 rooms (see our comparison of the three resorts here). The two Jamaican Beaches resorts are much smaller than the Beaches Turks and Caicos resort so this new resort will probably be popular with people who want to visit Jamaica but want a larger resort. My hunch is that will have more swimming pools and restaurants than Beaches Negril and Beaches Ochos Rios, simply because it will have a larger number of suites.
The new resort will be about 40 minutes drive west of Beaches Ochos Rios and about two hours East of Beaches Negril. It will be about one hour drive from Montego Bay airport.
What facilities and activities will be available at Beaches Runaway Bay?
So far we know that Beaches Runaway Bay 'will feature dedicated wellness areas and exciting new activities such as skateboarding, bike trails, a climbable treehouse, access to 18-hole championship Runaway Bay Golf Club, and much more' (that's from the official Sandals website).
We also know that the resort will 'feature innovative designs that bring guests closer to nature, as well as new restaurants concepts with an organic farm-to-table approach' (also from the official website).
When will Beaches Runaway Bay open?
We don't have an opening date but we do have a few breadcrumbs of information.
The redevelopment is part of a bigger plan which will involve reopening two Sandals resorts. The company which owns Beaches and Sandals is hoping to open that resort in the fourth quarter of 2022 according to Travel Weekly (October to December 2022).
The same article says that this will be followed by the opening of Sandals Royal Dunn's River in 2023.
It isn't quite clear whether the Runaway Bay redevelopment will happen after that or concurrently.
What we know so far about the fourth Beaches holiday resort
At the time of writing there arethree Beaches Resorts in the Caribbean
However, there are rather exciting plans for a fourth Beaches Resort on the Island of St Vincent. Here's the official announcement on the Beaches website.
Here’s our guide to everything we know so far about the new resort
Where is the new Beaches resort?
The new Beaches Saint Vincent and The Grenadines resort will be on the South West coast of a Caribbean Island called Saint Vincent. The Island is roughly half way between Saint Lucia and Grenada and is part of a country called Saint Vincent and The Grenadines. The Grenadines are an Island chain which are near to the main Island – some are inhabited, some aren’t.
The new resort will be on the site of a former resort called Buccament Bay Resort after it was bought by the company which owns Beaches in 2020.
Buccament Bay Resort closed back in 2016 after financial problems and there are several reviews from around 2016 about it being wound down. When it was open, the resort had two swimming pools, six restaurants/bars and about 100 rooms according to Caribbean Warehouse.
However, we know that the site is undergoing a ‘complete transformation’ so it will look very different when it opens under the Beaches name.
We also know that the new resort will be about 45 minutes drive from Argyle International Airport. That means it will have a quicker transfer time than Beaches Ochos Rios Resort and Beaches Negril Resort.
At the time of writing, getting from the UK to Argyle International Airport is not an easy journey and involves 30 hours of travelling including a long stop in Miami. However, I am writing this whilst COVID-19 continues to bring massive disruption to airlines so this may not be the case when the new resort opens. Argyle International Airport currently flies direct to locations including Barbados and Grenada.
When will the new Beaches resort open?
Unfortunately, we don’t know.
However, we know that news of the site being purchased was reported by TTG in July 2020. We also know that the site will undergo an ‘extensive re-imagination and renovation for a complete transformation’. So, we can assume that it won’t be a quick job.
Google Maps says that the resort is ‘coming soon’ without adding further detail.
Read our comparison of which is the best family resort - Beaches Negril, Beaches Ochos Rios or Beaches Turks and Caicos.
What facilities will the new Beaches Saint Vincent the Grenadines Resort have?
We don’t know a lot about this yet but we can get a rough idea with a bit of detective work (Ed: I think you mean ‘guess work’...).
We know that Beaches Saint Vincent and the Grenadines will cover 40 acres, whereas Beaches Negril covers 20 acres and Beaches Ochos Rios covers 22 acres. There’s some mixed information online about how big Beaches Turks and Caicos is with different website quoting between 65 and 94 acres.
Regardless, we can be pretty sure that the new Beaches resort will sit somewhere in the middle in terms of scale compared to the three current resorts.
We do know for certain that there will be 'one, two and three-bedroom villas' as that information has been shared by Beaches on their official website.
We know that Beaches Negril has 180 rooms, Beaches Ochos Rios has 220 rooms whilst Beaches Turks and Caicos has 750 rooms. My guess is that the new resort will have 300-400 rooms.
Let me emphasise, this is just a guess based on the size of the site and the assumption that the new resort will follow a similar design and use of space as the existing resorts.
We also know that Beaches Turks and Caicos has a total of 36 swimming pools and restaurants, whilst Beaches Ochos Rios has a total of 13 pools and restaurants and Beaches Negril has a total of 12 pools and restaurants.
So, we can make a rough guess that there will be something like 15-20 restaurants and swimming pools at the resort. Beaches Ochos Rios has 6 pools and 7 restaurants whilst Beaches Negril has 3 swimming pools and 9 restaurants so it’s hard to say how it will be split up.
Again, this is just an educated guess.
Beaches hasn't shared much about the plans on social media but we did find this tweet from November 2020.
What will the weather be like at the new Beaches Resort?
Finally, some information we can offer without too much guess work!
According to Climates to Travel, Kingstown in St Vincent averages 26.5 to 28.5 Celsius all year. That is about 80-83 Fahrenheit. There is some rain all year but January to May is the driest time to visit.
Kingstown actually gets more rain per year than the Lake District. Kingstown averages about 2000mm of rain per year compared to 1470mm in Keswick, according to Visit Cumbria.
Yes folks, it's our 2021 comparison of standard v deluxe v prestige v platinum v platinum plus models of Haven caravan
**Haven Offers: Last minute bargains from £120 + October Half Term from £299 + 2022 Holidays from £49**
There’s a significant difference in price between the different types of Haven accommodation – particularly during peak season. So, what are you getting for upgrading?
The grading for Haven caravans looks like this. From cheapest to most expensive:
With some models you can also upgrade to 'newer models' which are less than three years old at the time of writing. Some more expensive models also have optional upgrades such as outside decking, a sea view or a lakeside view.
You'll find that some Haven parks don't have every grade of caravan and some have extra options such as glamping.
Here's our table showing some key differences, along with further explanation below. Some of this information took us a long time to figure out so apologies if there are any inaccuracies (feel free to politely comment below).
Details are correct at the time of writing - it may well change over time.
Summary of what you do and don't get in each grade of Haven caravan
Standard Haven caravans
Deluxe Haven caravans
Prestige Haven caravans
Platinum Haven caravans
Platinum plus Haven caravans
So, which grade of caravan should I choose?
That's a good question.
For me, a newer prestige caravan with decking/veranda or a higher grade is ideal, but it really depends on what's important to you.
For me, the most important differences between the cheaper caravans and the more expensive Haven caravans are a) the fridge/freezer b) the dishwasher and c) the outside decking/veranda.
However, that's because we like to self cater on a caravan holiday or a lodge holiday and it is very limiting if you don't have a decent freezer and it's less of a holiday if you have to wash up all the time. I also love sitting outside on a summer's evening, so a bit of decking is worth it for me. A sea view is something I'll pay for as long as it's not extortionate but I don't want a lakeside view as I prefer to keep the children away from lakes!
I'm less bothered about towels, hair dryers and bluetooth speakers because I can bring my own. I'm also not bothered about how big the TV is and I can cope without an extra toilet if I have to.
I would certainly want central heating and double glazing during the colder months but Haven close their parks in winter, so I could probably live without that if I had to. A slightly wider caravan is certainly more spacious but we tend to get out and explore a lot anyway so it's not essential.
Of course, the amount that you are paying extra is a big consideration. As an example, we searched for a week's holiday for a family of four in early October 2021 (off peak) at Haven Allhallows in Kent. Prices looked like this:
(They didn't have any Platinum or Platinum plus models available when we checked).
So, in this instance it would only cost about £90 to jump from the lowest grade to the highest grade. Personally, I'd pay for the top grade.
We then looked for a week's holiday at Haven Perran Sands in Cornwall in early August 2022 (peak season). Prices were:
So, in this instance there is a difference of about £1500 between the cheapest and most expensive grade of caravan. In this instance, I'd be much less keen to upgrade from standard to prestige or platinum as I'd rather save myself £1300 and make do without a dishwasher and a freezer. With the money I'd saved I could take the family out for dinner every night .
1. Discover hidden holiday homes
So, you've decided which holiday park you want to stay at and your dates are fixed thanks to the August school holidays and other inconveniences. Unfortunately, the cheapest caravan left is showing as £2000, even though it's just a 'standard' caravan rather than anything fancy.
Before weeping in a corner or selling the children's toys, try this trick.
First, go onto Airbnb and search for the nearest town to the holiday park. You can't search for the exact holiday park, but if I was searching for Haven's very popular and highly rated Devon Cliffs holiday park I would search for Exmouth which is the nearest town.
Second, choose the 'map' option on Airbnb and move it over the area of Devon Cliffs. You might need to do a bit of detective work to find smaller resorts but big holiday parks are quite obvious from above.
You'll find that there are several caravans and lodges available for hire which aren't listed on the official websites (click here to see what I mean, or see the screenshot below)
These are caravans and lodges which have been sold off to private owners who then rent them out. At a big holiday park there will be several to choose from and owners set their own prices so it’s often much cheaper than going through the official website.
You can also see the exact location of the caravan you are booking as well as photos and reviews.
In some cases, I've seen privately owned caravans available for hundreds of pounds less than those on the 'official' website. Of course, you are booking with an individual rather than a big company so read the smallprint carefully.
2. Book a holiday park in the last week in August
Most people avoid holidays during the last week of the school summer holidays because they want to buy a new pencil case and sew names into their jumpers.
That means that there’s a big drop off in demand for the last week in August/first few days of September - and much better prices. We looked at Haven's Perran Sands in Cornwall and found a difference of about £600 between the first and last week in August for a family holiday.
The downside is darker evenings and a slightly reduced chance of good weather.
3. Fill up a caravan
As things stand, you will be able to travel with whoever you want from June 21st 2021. Of course, this might change but you could save yourself hundreds of pounds by sharing an eight person caravan with friends or relatives.
In some cases, we’ve found it is more than £1000 cheaper than hiring two caravans for four people. It’s certainly cosy in a caravan’s kitchen but you’ll be able to afford to eat out more often.
4. Arrive on a Friday or Monday
5. Check the holiday park offers pages and last minute deals pages
Most big holiday park chains have an offers page where they have some last minute bargains and other discount codes to entice you in.
Check out the offers pages for:
6. Head North for the cheapest holiday parks
8. Don’t pay for facilities you won’t use
9. Read your cancellation rights
Finally, I feel I should include something about cancellation policies as it's hardly a bargain if you end losing your money.
You might assume that every holiday park works to the same rules and cancellations. Unfortunately that's not the case, so read the small print to find out what happens if you are ill or if the Covid restrictions change. Or perhaps you might just feel less comfortable about travelling for a holiday than you did when you booked.
To give you an idea of what some of the bigger holiday parks are offering, have a look at Haven's Coronavirus Guarantee and Park Holidays' Cancellation Policy.
Images are from Haven, Away Resorts and Center Parcs Europe
In December 2020, Haven made a pretty big change to the way that you book a holiday with them.
You can now pick from 'Haven Stay' or 'Haven Stay + Play' and there's quite a big difference between the type of holiday they offer.
The idea is that you can either book a holiday with lots of family friendly activities available (Haven Stay + Play) or you save yourself some money and just book the accommodation (Haven Stay). It's not really accurate to say that a Haven Stay + Play holiday is 'all inclusive' as you still pay for some activities, but it means you have the option of signing up for things.
From what I can tell, Haven are trying to appeal to holidaymakers who want Haven's prime seaside locations and the self-contained accommodation but aren't really interested in archery or sliding down a flume. It seems that Covid-19 has prompted a big change in the ages of people booking into Haven resorts for staycations, with more couples and older families wanting a simple seaside holiday.
From what I can tell (after looking at a few price comparisons) Haven haven't really increased the price of a 'normal' Haven holiday with this new scheme. Instead, they've lowered the price for someone who feels they won't use the facilities and just wants a base for days out.
Before you decide whether to book a Haven Stay or Haven Stay + Play holiday, here a few things to keep in mind:
What's the difference in price between a Haven Stay holiday and a Haven Stay + Play holiday?
Right, let's get to the interesting bit. How much extra does it cost to opt for a Haven Stay + Play holiday compared to a Haven Stay holiday? Is it worth paying the extra on the off-chance that you might decide you'd like to have a swim or watch a show in the entertainment venue?
We searched in December 2020 for a week's holiday for a family of four at five of the best Haven holiday parks. We searched for a holiday in August 2021 (peak time) and a holiday in early October 2021 (off peak).
So, the difference in price between a Haven Stay + Play holiday and a Haven Stay holiday for a week for a family of four varied by between £36 and £277. Per person, per night that means it would cost you anywhere between £1ish (off peak) and about £10ish (on peak) to use the facilities.
Unsurprisingly, you save a lot more with a Haven Stay holiday by opting out of activities and facilities at the best equipped resorts.
Personally, I would always pay for Haven Play + Stay for an off peak holiday. The saving is not really enough to take away the option of going for a swim if the weather is awful.
The exception would be if you are a couple or a group of friends holidaying without children who just want a self contained lodge or caravan for beach trips and walks. You're unlikely to want to visit a noisy swimming pool and you can still use the onsite restaurants with a Haven Stay holiday.
During the summer months and peak holiday times I would say it is worth taking a look at local attractions if you're sitting on the fence. You might save yourself £100-£200 but will you end up going out more and paying for days out?
As far as I can tell, you can't turn up and then decide that you want to buy a Play Pass after seeing everyone else having more fun than you... The official website says 'Play Passes are only available to those who have booked a Stay+Play break'.
See our guide to 10 of the best Haven holiday parks for ideas of where to stay.
A few years ago we attempted to visit Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park with child one. After travelling a considerable distance and coughing up for the entrance fee, she decided that the only ride she was interested in was the swings. To me, these swings looked very similar to the ones we had in the park near our house. She was on there about 10 minutes so we probably paid about £1 per swing.
And so, we waited another three years before attempting our second visit to Peppa Pig World.
On this occasion we decided to stay at Sandy Balls Holiday Park near Fordingbridge on the edge of the New Forest. It was November, so we paid around £200 for a weekend in a caravan which was big enough for 8 people (well, you could squeeze in 8 people but I’d say 6 was plenty).
We arrived in the dark, which is never ideal with children and spent about 15 minutes scouring caravan numbers in the dark. The other half of our party was arriving separately, so I saved them the same anguish by sending them our coordinates on Google Maps. Sandy Balls is a large site and I suspect that my mother would still be driving round it now if I hadn’t offered assistance.
The caravan was a ‘woodland’ one which only seemed to be a few months old. We’d stayed in a few similar caravans, but my mother was expecting the kind of caravan which you’d hook onto a Volvo so was very impressed.
“A freezer!” she said with a genuine sound of shock in her voice.
“An en suite toilet!” she bellowed through from the largest bedroom as we unpacked in the lounge.
This went on for about 20 minutes.
In the morning, we got to see the holiday park in daylight and realised that a very nice playground was 20 metres away from our caravan. Luckily the children hadn’t seen it in the dark or it might have caused a few issues at bed time.
Peppa Pig World was 25 minutes away through the New Forest. It’s a lovely drive, as long as you can avoid the horses and donkeys which like to wander into the road.
The park itself was a much bigger success on this occasion. Child one was old enough and brave enough to try several rides and child two even had a go on some of them after seeing her sister’s confidence. The real plus point was that the queues were no more than 10 minutes, although the park was far from empty. It was certainly wise to arrive exactly at opening time, as we managed to squeeze in a couple of rides before everyone else turned up.
My highlight was winning a giant Peppa toy on one of those ball throwing games which you assume are rigged and completely impossible.
We did have a quick wander round the rest of Paultons Park, although quite a lot of it was closed for the winter. I toyed with the idea of trying out their largest rollercoaster before remembering that my stomach complains on a carousel.
Back at Sandy Balls we had a wander round the site which has had a lot of investment in recent years. There’s a well laid out courtyard area by the entrance surrounded by shops, a couple of places to eat and a swimming pool which is a lot cleaner and neater than some we’ve seen. We didn’t eat in the restaurant, but it looked appealing.
We also discovered a second playground which was smaller on the map, but much larger in real life.
As it was a pretty jam-packed weekend, we didn’t take up any of the paid-for activities although we did have a glimpse of the alpaca walks. There was a busy schedule, as well as evening activities if you fancied it.
All in all, our second visit to Peppa Pig World was much better value for money. Although that’s not saying much...
See our guide to holiday parks near Peppa Pig World for more ideas
Here's a guest post from the people behind the Holiday Park Show. We didn't receive any payment for this guest post, but they've kindly offered to give our site a plug and we hope you'll find the article interesting.
With a universal focus on health and wellness on the rise, making sure your holiday park or resort has a spa is becoming a necessity! Learn more, here...
Between 2015 and 2017, the health and wellness market grew by around £500 billion! This isn’t any surprise when we consider our modern emphasis on mental health awareness in recent years. With this in mind, it’s never been more important to implement health and wellness ideas within your holiday park.
So, what’s a simple, yet effective, way to change up your holiday park offerings with ease? Spas and hot tubs!
At the Holiday Park & Resort Innovation Show, on 6th & 7th November at the Birmingham NEC, you’ll get the opportunity to forge brand new contacts to boost your hospitality offerings. Our exhibition welcomes lots of companies, all with expertise in spas and hot tubs, who will take you through all the potential possibilities.
Get your FREE ticket to the show to discover more ways to increase your visitor numbers, by taking very simple steps! Read on to discover more…
The Benefits of Spas
These days, spas no longer make your holiday park or resort special, they’re a necessity! Customers will expect an on-site hot tub to help them relax on their holiday getaway. The question is, what makes a spa so beneficial?
Want to Network With Some Spa Companies, Face-to-Face?
Our exhibition welcomes hundreds of exhibitors from across the holiday park and resort industry, each with a new innovation to inspire you with ways to boost your offerings and, therefore, profits! Within the spa industry, alone, we’ll be welcoming an array of fantastic exhibitors, each with something different to bring to the table:
Want to Meet These Fantastic Exhibitors, and Many More?
As you can see, there are so many benefits to hot tubs, which will keep your holiday park goers happy and relaxed.
Want to discover more about how you could utilise hot tubs to increase your visitors, and boost revenue at your holiday park? Then don’t hesitate to book your FREE tickets to the show, so you can get networking straight away.
We can’t wait to welcome you!
I have a bad habit of holding irrational grudges against places which can't defend themselves.
I fell out with Cornwall some time ago due to a vague association it had with an ex girlfriend. Such things have no logic, especially considering I can't exactly remember what the link was.
Nonetheless we booked a week at Sandymouth Holiday Resort near Bude. The park is only just within Cornwall, so it's a lot nearer than a stress inducing drive to Land's End.
Within about 10 minutes of arriving I had made an important first step towards outgrowing my Cornish prejudice thanks to the coastal view from our caravan. Although the site is about a 15 minute walk to the beach, you can still see the waves crashing and the far reaching vista was glorious. It immediately reminded me of a view from the south west of the Isle of Wight (my favourite place in the world). If I wasn't biased I might even admit the view was better, but I won't.
Sandymouth Holiday Resort is run by Darwin Escapes, which has about 20 holiday parks at the posher end of the market in the UK. We've previously stayed at their Cheddar Woods resort and another nearby called Bath Mill.
We went for a holiday home which was half way been being a lodge and a caravan. If I'm being polite I'd say the bedrooms were compact but there were two toilets, the lounge was a good size and the verandah was fantastic with an unobstructed view. The lodges we stayed in at their Cheddar and Bath locations were much bigger and more spacious, but Sandymouth is in a prime spot in a popular part of the Westcountry.
Our lodge/ caravan in Sandymouth was for 6 people and cost about £1400 for a week. We paid extra for the view and verandah but the posher lodges had sold out by the time we booked. There were cheaper caravans which didn't have verandahs which would have been OK if you just wanted a base, though I'd have felt a bit squashed.
The main annoyance was the caravan behind us which had confused this classy holiday park for a music festival. Despite the local attractions, they spent 23 hours of each day sat on their verandah with music blaring out. The only plus point was that it mostly drowned out their seemingly never-ending conversation. I won't hold this against the park though, and can only blame myself that I am too British to complain.
On-site facilities were impressive and in good condition as the park had a big refurbishment in 2017. We made use of most of it, including the splash park, a good-sized playground, indoor play for under 5s, a restaurant (solid pub grub in a nice setting for about £10 for a burger) and an entertainment venue (we did the toddler disco and Disney quiz, we didn't do the bingo and cabaret). We also went for a swim in the pool. It was clean and the staff were friendly but it was very busy as it was operating at capacity and the main pool was too deep for my children, so it was a bit of a traumatic experience for me. Still, the children enjoyed it and I can't really complain about a swimming pool being popular in July.
If we'd been inclined we could have signed up for paid things like archery and football but we concluded that we would rather explore.
The local beach at Sandymouth was a highlight for me with imposing rocky cliffs and sand at low tide. It wasn't as child friendly as some beaches with the approach requiring some clambering and no facilities to speak of, but it's a beautiful spot. There were lifeguards too, although we didn't get much further than paddling.
We explored a few other beaches during our week, including two in Bude and another at Widemouth. All of them had crashing waves with surfboard lessons on offer and plenty of sand for digging. We had a few close scrapes with bees (why are children's swimming costumes the same colour as flowers?) but avoided most calamities.
Besides the beaches we visited historic Clovelly ("that was steep" I quipped) and an adventure park called Milky Way. The latter was a welcome shelter on our only rainy day with most of it indoors and an entry price which I thought was pretty reasonable (about £45 for 4). We also did a Treasure Trail around Bude, which is a great way to trick children into going for a walk for £6.99.
All in all, we had a blast and holidays are (occasionally) starting to feel like holidays again rather than the exhausting adventures that they have been in recent years with young children.
I'm sorry for holding a grudge Cornwall, will you forgive me?
Somerset sometimes feels like the least popular member of the Westcountry family. Cornwall, Dorset and Devon have more impressive beaches in my opinion, and tend to attract bigger crowds.
However, I’m rather fond of Somerset, having spent much time in Minehead, Frome and Yeovil due to a combination of work, relatives and holidays.
It’s also a little easier for us to get to, coming from the Midlands. For example, if you’re travelling from Birmingham it will take two hours to get to Bath or five to reach Lands End.
I’m also a fan of a good deal, which was probably the biggest factor.
After much searching, I found a four night mid week break at Bath Mill Lodge Retreat reduced to about £400 from about £600. That may not sound like a billy bargain, but this was May half term in a fairly posh lodge park and it was a four bedroom lodge which slept up to 8 people. We had a party of six, but if we’d filled it up with eight people it would have cost us about £12 per person, per night. I reckon that’s pretty good value, particularly as holiday parks in the Westcountry are often a bit pricier than those in the North of England and in Scotland.
The park is run by a company called Darwin Escapes which has about 20 lodge resorts across the UK. We’ve also stayed at their Cheddar Woods Lodge Resort and Spa, which gets similarly positive reviews from customers.
Our lodge was well equipped with TVs in every bedroom (perhaps a little over the top), a dishwasher (essential, in my opinion) and a washing machine amongst other things. The furniture and décor was modern and clean, and the whole thing was hard to fault.
Bath Mill Lodge Retreat is certainly more of a base than somewhere you could spend a lot of time during the day. There was a restaurant and a small gym, but it didn’t have a swimming pool or anything like that. If that’s what you after, Cheddar Woods Lodge Resort and Spa is a better option as it has all that plus a bowling alley and some sports activities. I reckon they could do with a small shop for milk and bread and perhaps a little library of books and games, but it wasn’t a long way to the local shops.
Towards the end of our holiday we did discover a big patch of green space over a river at the nearby stream which meant our children could run and up and down.
We were only there for three full days, so we had no trouble finding things to do. On a wet day we tried out Avon Valley Adventure Park which had a good-sized indoor play area with drop slides and things like pig racing outdoors. We also had a couple of animal related outings to Bath City Farm and Hope Nature Centre, both of which occupied a good chunk of time for very little cost (Bath City Farm was free whilst Hope Nature Centre was only about £3 each).
The only disappointment with Bath Mill Lodge Retreat was the restaurant, which served us undercooked chips and overcooked peas. The building itself is lovely, and it’s in a pleasant riverside spot, but the food was about as tasteless as Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen’s wardrobe contents.
Being British, we didn’t complain of course although we left some diplomatically worded comments on the end of holiday report card.
On our final night, with the children asleep and the wife and I both zonked, we dragged ourselves into Bath when we really would have rather gone to bed. Neither of us had visited Bath since we were teenagers and I was determined to have a quick look round when we were only 15 minutes away.
We wandered the streets at a great pace, admiring one of Britain’s great cities. It was a bit of a dreary evening, but Bath was even nicer than I remembered with row after row of well-kept old buildings and the occasional McDonalds.
Being a gentleman, I took the wife out for a decaf coffee at a Costa which was part of the cinema in Bath. Thankfully, we didn’t have the time to watch a film, as I noticed that it would have cost £30 for two of us (admittedly that was the price of a blockbuster in 3D, but still...). We had a brief rant about the likely decline of cinemas as TVs get bigger and ticket prices get higher.
I got over it, eventually, and headed back to our lodge.
Stay classy Somerset, we’ll be back.
Holiday Park Guru Blog
Occasional thoughts on holidays in England, Wales, Scotland and further afield, including the latest deals, discounts and last minute offers.
Westcountry & Wales
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