Keep the kids entertained and work up an appetite with these family foodie holidays, packed with activities and fine-dining.
Tenby & Saundersfoot
Best for walks and seafood
Surrounded by some of the finest beaches in the UK, it’s easy to see why the picture-postcard Welsh towns of Tenby and neighbouring Saundersfoot are swamped in summer. Out of season, Pembrokeshire’s charm still shines through. In Tenby, go to Italian-Welsh family chippy D. Fecci & Sons for award-winning fish & chips and ice cream. On Castle Beach, Dennis Café offers fry-ups and doorstep toasties to sate those sea-air hunger pangs. Round the bay, South Beach Grill is part of a modern development.
Menu highlights include Welsh beef and seafood. Overlooking Coppet Hall beach in Saundersfoot, Coast is one of the best restaurants in Wales. Chef Will Holland’s menu takes full advantage of the fishing boats visible from your table. Skill is shown in starters like crab topped with a white tomato mousse, while turbot fillet with a lobster cream sauce, samphire & mash is very comforting. There’s a kids’ menu too. This area is one of the best in the UK for outdoor activities with a coastal National Park offering everything from clifftop walks and horseriding to seal safaris and boat excursions to nearby islands.
How to do it
Inland, the Grove in Narberth is a luxury country house hotel with an award-winning restaurant; rooms for four from £400 per night. Or if you prefer to stay on the coast, Trevayne Farm has a campsite and rental cottage. Pitches from £20 per night, cottage (sleeps eight, plus a cot) from £449 per week.
Best for scones, trains and snickelways
Compact, walkable York appeals to adults and children alike. The Shambles, cobbled streets, snickelways (small streets) and ginnels (narrow passages) amplify the historical nature of the city, but the lively centre gives it a modern edge. The food offering is great. As well as several high-end chains, there are plenty of independent restaurants and cafés, including the fabulous Le Cochon Aveugle.
You’ll need to ditch younger kids for the tasting menu (nine courses, £70) but the wine bar is worth a punt if they like charcuterie and cheese. More down to earth is Masons Bar & Bistro, with a menu of salads and burgers, and No8 Bistro, open from breakfast through to dinner. Don’t leave without visiting the National Railway Museum (free entry), where there are several good cafés featuring Yorkshire produce aplenty. The reconstructed Victorian street at York Castle Museum has a sweetshop selling sugar mice, and stop by Bettys for a proper cup of tea and a scone.
How to do it
Come by train and stay at the Royal York Hotel beside the station, which has recently had a swish makeover and offers a pool (useful if it rains) and an excellent breakfast. Junior suites can accommodate extra beds, or go for standard room number four, which has two king-sized beds, from £260 for a two-night minimum stay.
Best for chocolate, chips and Tintin
A mere two hours from London on the Eurostar, Brussels is a family-friendly city with an efficient transport system and a chocolate shop on every corner (a free taster will always revive a flagging child). Visit the Atomium, one of the world’s most bonkers buildings. Take the Wonkaesque glass-roofed lift to the top of the structure, then work your way back down the tubes via stairs and a disco escalator, then jump on the tram to a branch of the wonderful Exki for lunch, where you’ll find good-quality, interesting sandwiches, salads and desserts, all freshly made.
Head to Choco-Story for a look at the history and production of chocolate (with tastings and workshops, bookable) or take a stroll around the Grand Place and surrounding streets and conduct a chocolate-tasting tour of your own at the many, many shops. Comics, including Tintin, are big here. Visit the Comics Art Museum for everything from animation to restoration; exit via the gift shop, of course. In the early evening, stroll to the area around Halles de Saint-Géry, grab an outside table at Mappa Mundo for an aperitif and watch the world go by. Central restaurants include Peck 47, or Peck 20, for brunch dishes, salads or a bookie (brownie/cookie), and Bia Mara for fish & chips with a difference – panko, tempura, tacos.
How to do it
Eurostar from St Pancras, tickets from £29 one way. Choose a hotel near the Grand Place to be central. The Novotel is well situated and has family-sized rooms from around £75. Don’t include breakfast – there are coffee shops and waffles everywhere.
Best for fun on the farm
Drover’s Rest, a 16th-century farm and staging spot for market-going shepherds en route to London, now gives travellers one of the warmest welcomes in the Welsh countryside, near Hay-onWye. This immaculate sheep farm-cum-glampsite, newly renovated by South African couple Kesri and Paul Smolas, comes with five spacious safari tents so plush you can barely call this camping.
Think decked terraces, smartly kitted out kitchens, deeply-duveted beds, and beautiful, bright soft furnishings that sing of the South African sunshine. Several times a week, guests come together in the dining barn for BBQs, make-your-own pizzas fired in the outdoor oven, and curries. Room-service breakfasts are a treat, with standout South African-style omelettes, bacon rolls and croissants. Collect eggs on farm walks, and feed bunnies, alpacas, pygmy goats and pot-bellied pigs. Walks across the adjacent common allow kids to roam free, longer hikes to the Brecon’s peaks and waterfalls are within easy reach by car, while kayaking on the river Wye is a popular choice.
How to do it
Two-bedroom tents and cottages from £395 per week (short breaks available), from Canopy and Stars.
Best for Inn-to-inn walking
A new programme of self-guided hikes combines the loveliest bits of Dorset’s back country with a selection of fine foodie pubs. With maps, walking notes and even a tin of barley sugars supplied, parents need not worry about losing their way, or the will of small companions. Distances are manageable, luggage is transferred, and there are plenty of chances to pause at farm cafés and country pubs.
The five-day Dorset Royal Chase route takes in the villages and hunting grounds around Cranborne, former haunt of Henry VIII. Walking notes bring history to life, while food pitstops include the 17th-century Museum Inn at Farnham, where the Shed dining area comes with children’s toys and old school desks. Mains include steamed River Exe mussels and a hotsmoked pheasant salad. Weather not great? Get cosy at the Inn at Cranborne. Dine in front of woodburners on the award-winning local 30-Mile Menu, which includes smoked meat and fish platters plus daily steak selections.
How to do it
The Dorset Royal Chase break costs from £495 per person for four nights’ B&B, luggage transfers and a walking pack, from Foot Trails.
Best for a bella vita birthday blowout
Celebrate the 300th birthday of Italy’s best-known wine: Medici Grand Duke Cosimo III granted Chianti its denomination of origin three centuries ago, commemorated this year with wine-fuelled festivities throughout the province. Tour and taste at Chianti’s premier wine-producing estate, Castello di Ama, also home to a contemporary art collection including child-accessible works by Louise Bourgeois and Anish Kapoor. At the Dievole Estate, bike, hike and horse-ride along 27.6km of old sharecroppers’ trails; easily navigable for little legs (and the wine-weary).
Stay at Casa Camporata, a three-bedroom, country-style Tuscan pool villa. The shops, restaurants and kid’s playground in the pretty Siena town of Gaiole are in walking distance. A 15-minute drive away, in Radda, you’ll find Casa Porciatti, a deli renowned for its Tonno di Radda (not tuna but a delicate fennel-scented pork salami) and Lardone di Radda (a local variation of the classic Italian spiced slices of lard). Taste these and more meaty goodies at the family’s enoteca. In the neighbouring hamlet of Volpaia, enjoy Sunday lunch on the terrace of the mother-and-daughter-run La Bottega di Volpaia. The menu includes hearty cinghiale in umido con olive (wild boar stew with olives), and silky-soft pappardelle with porcini. For dessert, drive 15-minutes east to Gelateria Castellina for homemade ice cream in seasonal flavours that include vin santo (sweet wine), figs and ricotta.
How to do it
To Tuscany offers a week at Casa Camporata (sleeps six) from £1,509. Flights extra, to either Pisa or Florence.
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