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 stopoffs. 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 London 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 and 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 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. Ciao Bambino’s Family Vacation Advisor team can help you book just the right property for your family, with lots of vetted options in fantastic locations for sightseeing.
Whilst you’re in the centre, take in the London Zoo, Tower Bridge, the Science Museum, Buckingham Palace and the Museum of London (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 playing.
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-see places for a visit in 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 that 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 for at least two nights here. That’s just enough time to visit the spa town of Bath and maybe 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 Wildlife Park; and enjoy the activities on offer at your hotel.
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Next stop, York, either by train or car for a couple of nights. The historic centre of York has links to the Roman, Viking and medieval eras, and it’s a lovely walled city to spend time in. 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 era back to life.
York is also home to a 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.
From York, I’d take a train over the Scottish border to Edinburgh and check straight into the Balmoral Hotel, a few steps from the station, for another couple of nights.
Edinburgh Castle wasn’t named one of the best UK heritage attractions for nothing, so a tour 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 Tattoo 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.
From Edinburgh you can also take a day trip out to Glasgow and the Scottish Seabird Centre, or you could drive up to the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness to catch sight of the Loch Ness Monster. You’ll also find the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, in this region; the views are awe-inspiring.
From Edinburgh, I’d fly all the way down to the other end of Britain to Newquay in Cornwall for four relatively relaxing days before catching a flight back to London and then home. While there, 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. Be sure your time in Cornwall includes sampling the fish and chips!
If you’re not up for additional flights during your trip, consider heading south from Scotland and exploring the Lake District or Peak District en route back to London. Both are national parks known more for incredible natural beauty than tourist attractions.
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