I’m putting myself in your shoes. You’re visiting the United Kingdom with kids for the first time. You want to see as much of our island as possible, but you don’t want to exhaust everyone in the process. So I’m thinking you’re here for a fortnight and you don’t want any more than five stop offs. And, although I’d love to be wearing your Jimmy Choos, I’m expecting you to be mostly wearing your Converse and to have packed clothes for every weather system.
Anyway I digress, you’ll discover we Brits love talking about the weather, because it’s so predictably unpredictable. Here are my five top holiday destinations in the UK with kids:
I’m guessing this is where you’re going to fly into and I’m going to suggest you check in and check out our Capital for four nights at least. It’s a very big city, you’re not going to see it all, but enjoy the tasting menu and then come back for a bit more when the kids are older.
Look for a hotel that is very central and within walking distance of a tube station and one of the fantastic Royal parks – Regents Park, Hyde Park, St James Park, Green Park or Kensington Gardens. We feature an array of family-friendly hotel reviews in London on Ciao Bambino. All of our options are in fantastic locations for sightseeing.
Whilst you’re in the centre take in London Zoo, the Science Museum, Buckingham Palace, the Museum of London, which has just been voted one of the UK’s most family-friendly museums, and hang out in Covent Garden enjoying the free street entertainers. Take in a show too, if the big musicals aren’t going to work, the Unicorn Theatre is a dedicated kids’ theatre, where there is normally something great showing.
I could go on and on, but you’re not here long and you need plenty of breaks in those parks I’ve already mentioned.
It’s so hard to pick a handful of must visits for the UK, but I think the next stop from London should be the Cotswolds, about an hour and a half away from the city by car. It’s worth hiring a car for this leg as there are so many pretty villages to visit, relying on public transport could become irritating.
After the manic urban vibe of London, you’ll probably want to choose a cute country house hotel to unwind in too and Calcot Manor, Ciao reviewed, won’t disappoint. You’ll want at least two nights here. Just enough time to visit the spa town of Bath and may be even take a dip in Britain’s only natural thermal spa at Thermae Bath Spa, have a cream tea in a nearby village, explore the Cotswold Wild Life Park and explore the host of activities on offer at the hotel. See my article on holidays in the Cotswolds with kids for a full list activity suggestions.
Next stop York, either by train or car for a couple of nights. The historic City of York has links to the Roman, Viking and Medieval eras and it’s a lovely walled city to spend time in. I haven’t stayed there but the Cedar Court Grand, is supposed to be lovely and it’s very central. Kids of all ages will enjoy the Jorvik Viking Centre on the archaeological site of the Viking city of Jorvik. Board a time capsule and prepare to go back in time as they bring that city back to life.
York is also home to the huge gothic cathedral York Minster, the National Railway museum and York Castle Museum, where a Victorian street scene is recreated for you to stroll along. If you have a car you could also take off into the countryside and explore the rugged Yorkshire Dales National Park. See our article on visiting York with kids for a more detailed list of ideas and attractions.
From York, I’d take a train up over the Scottish border to Edinburgh and check straight into the Balmoral Hotel a few steps from the station for another couple of nights.
It didn’t win the Best UK Heritage Attraction at the 2011 British Travel Awards for nothing, so a tour of Edinburgh Castle, is a must. Then there is the rather wonderful Royal Botanic Gardens, just north of the City centre, which often has family events running and the Museum of Childhood is fun to see.
The world famous Edinburgh Festival, held alongside the spectacular Royal Edinburgh Military Tatoo throughout August, is a great time to visit the city, even with kids in tow as there are plenty of events aimed at them, but – you’ve been warned – you need to book accommodation months in advance. Edinburgh is very much a festival city and there are lots of other events held throughout the year geared towards families. Be sure and read Edinburgh for kids for more insight on things to see and do with children in this historic city.
From Edinburgh you can also take a day trip out to Glasgow and the Scottish Seabird Centre. Or you could drive up to the Highlands and Loch Ness to catch a site of the Loch Ness Monster!
From Edinburgh, I’d fly all the way down to the other end of Britain to Newquay in Cornwall for four relatively relaxing days based at Fowey Hall Hotel before catching a flight back to London and then home. In between spa and crèche visits, you can visit the Eden Project, home to the world’s largest rainforest in captivity; and spend time exploring Cornwall’s picturesque coastal villages and golden stretches of sand.
Save Wales and Ireland for your next trip.
Photos by Nancy Solomon