Take the kids on a short getaway for the half-term holidays. We've picked minibreaks packed full of great local food and fun activities for all the family.
Need a proper break from the daily grind and that midweek meal panic? These family-friendly boltholes make the perfect base for a foodie week away with the kids, from Northumberland's wild shores to Devon's scenic coast with plenty of beautiful countryside in between.
Best for... seaside retreats and superb fish feasts
Food-rich rivers, coast and farmland characterise Northumberland along with a remoteness that allows kids to be kids with no one scowling at them. As your base, choose the seaside village of Alnmouth whose collage of red, blue and sandstone houses are a distinctive local landmark. In recent years, word has got out about the village’s fine collection of pubs and tea houses.
Central Alnmouth Village Tea Rooms (58 Northumberland St) is perfect after a morning on the beach. You can enjoy home-cooked dishes ranging from ham pie (£5) to fresh crab sandwiches (£6) and a whopping afternoon tea of cake, scones and sandwiches feeds two children (£9). The nearby Red Lion is excellent, serving pork burgers for children (£12), seabass with mushy peas (£15) and Northumberland sirloin steak with mushrooms (£19). Curlew’s Return from the Allendale Brewery is among four local ales to enjoy while overlooking the estuary. On another day, head to Craster and walk the mile to ruined Dunstanburgh Castle before buying smoked haddock from L Robson & Sons, a traditional Northumberland smokery.
Where to stay
Malcolm Miller House, a converted townhouse, is set by a white sandy beach and an attractive play park overlooking the languid Aln estuary. It sleeps five people and costs from £410 per week, including special discounts at foodie hotspots across the county.
Written by Mark Rowe
Best for... log cabin comfort and forest fun
A stay in a luxury log cabin surrounded by Hampshire’s Blackwood Forest is something even the outdoors-averse will enjoy. If you manage to pry the kids away from the all-weather hot tub, there are myriad woodland activities. You could hire bikes and follow cross-country trails, involve them in the forgotten art of den building, or try the tutored ranger walks including foodie foraging. Cabin kitchens are well equipped and include barbecues.
Breakfast hampers and BBQ meat packs can be pre-ordered and the central bar/restaurant serves family favourites. Crank the luxury up a few notches with a private chef for the night. A food fairy arrives, indulges you with dishes like home-smoked duck and plum salad or fillet of haddock with sumac crumb, then magics everything away. Within a short drive, Winchester is a hive of restaurant activity. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has a River Cottage canteen here and Rick Stein chose it as his first location outside Cornwall. Very much a local restaurant, Stein still focuses on his signature super fresh seafood, cooked simply.
Where to stay
Forest Holidays was set up by the Forestry Commission to help preserve woodland. Blackwood Forest offers three-night breaks for four during half-term from £665.
Written by Barney Desmazery
Best for... eating "England’s Seafood Coast"
The country’s highest value seafood catch is landed at Brixham, yet less than 10 per cent is eaten locally. Chef Mitch Tonks and local tourism bodies aim to change this with the new Seafood Coast initiative to make the English Riviera an international seafood capital. Start with a tour of Brixham Fish Market (Wednesdays, 6am: £15pp from 14-years-old) where 40 varieties of fish go up for auction. Then walk along the South West Coast Path before lunch at Rockfish.
Mitch Tonks’ restaurant, above the market, serves premium catch of the day, local cockles and crab, as well as Seafood Coast Ale – a creation of Tonks' and Salcombe brewer Tom Maderious (mains £10-20). Enjoy crabbing off neighbouring Torquay’s harbour walls (kit £5 from waterfront shops), then check into Park Hill House, a luxurious hilltop retreat with glass walls overlooking the Japanese tiered garden and sweeping coast. Plus, there’s a cinema room and five en-suite double bedrooms.
Make it extra special and local chef Nina Groves will come and cook up a seafood menu to suit all the family, including creative canapés (a favourite with the kids). Five-minutes’ walk away, at No 7 Bistro, you can choose your catch of the day expertly cooked and served with sea greens and a huge choice of wines, including good local English labels. Next door, book a great value Michelin-starred lunch at The Elephant (two courses £16.50; £6.95 for children including a drink) where menus feature home-farmed produce and local catch. The Brixham hake with seaweed butter and purple potatoes was delicate perfection; the kids’ pasta with cheese, an accessibly grown-up dish.
Where to stay
Park Hill House sleeps 10 and costs from £1,401 for three nights in October.
Written by Sarah Barrell
Best for…. cool cabins and country walks
Hills, remote pubs and landmarks, such as the Long Mynd, make Shropshire a wonderful place for a family food break, where little ones can stretch their legs and try fine local fare.
Stay at Annie’s Cabin, an eye-popping self-catering structure of Douglas fir logs in a meadow outside Ludlow. George Tasker, its genius creator, provides a welcome hamper, including pain au levain from Price & Son’s Bakery, fresh asparagus, cherries, raspberries and strawberries from Ludlow Food Centre, plus fresh juices from Appleteme. The cabin’s wood pellet stove has a small oven ideal for casseroles while the earth oven will cook pizzas in a flash. Venture west to Bishop’s Castle, a hub of quirky, independent shops.
Favourites here include Andrew Pugh Butchers on Church Street where you can buy a Desperate Dan-sized fidget pie (£1.85). It's a local specialty with gammon, apple, bacon and thyme, or pick up samosas (£2) from the Chai Shop (33 High Street). Two outstanding pubs offer fine food: the Castle Hotel, has a garden with views to enjoy smoked haddock topped with rarebit (£15). Or try the atmospheric Three Tuns whose taps run with ale from the next-door brewery. Portions are hearty with classics such as beer-battered fish (£12).
Where to stay
Annie’s Cabin sleeps four and costs from £395 per week.
Written by Mark Rowe
Best for… luxury cottages and gourmet treats
Arriving through the fog on a winter’s night, Bruern Cottages lit up in the darkness has a magical feel. This mini hamlet of smart stone cottages, tucked away on a four-acre estate in the Cotswold Hills, was once the coach house of Bruern Abbey. From luxury linens and antique furniture to a basket of wood to feed the open fire, the cottages feel like your very own country manor. The indoor pool was a huge hit with the children (the ideal temperature, apparently) as were the extensive gardens and outdoor play areas. A cool games’ room was the hangout for older kids.
With a generous welcome basket, you may be tempted to stay put. Breakfast is great with local sausages, bacon and dairy along with beautiful blue, brown and white Cracklebean local eggs – a delight for the children. Champagne, cider and lemon drizzle cake were treats for later on. Just beyond Bruern, Burford Garden Centre has chocolate gifts, homemade ready meals, an array of gin and the chance to stock up on those Cracklebean eggs. Feeling more outdoorsy? You can ‘catch your own’ at Bibury Trout Farm. Worth a visit for the setting alone.
Gourmet pubs abound in the local stone villages. The Plough, 10 minutes away in Kingham, is family-friendly with classic children’s offerings (mains £6) and a menu replete with local lamb and cheeses (mains £18-23).
Where to stay
Bruern Cottages sleep 2-10; a two-bedroom costs from £540 per week.
Written by Jilly Topping
Best for…. beautiful barns and beaches
With some of the country’s best beaches, alluring old market towns and undulating farmland, North Norfolk makes a great family food break. Barsham Barns is an ideal base for exploring – it's made up of six converted barns in North Barsham, which can be rented together or individually. It’s self catering, but chefs are available to cook family-friendly fare with drop-off meals available too (three-course dinners from £16.50; £3.75 per child portion).
Nearby, farmers’ markets include Creake Abbey and Fakenham where you should seek out honey, saffron and fresh seafood (sea bass, crabs, lobsters), and local ales from Brancaster Brewery, Norfolk Brewhouse and Yetman’s Brewery. Gurneys Fish Shop in Burnham Market has hot smoked salmon pâté, fishcakes and French-style fish soup, plus local catches at market prices.
Gastro pubs, such as Victoria Inn, the Crown Inn, the Wiveton Bell and the White Horse, are the best for sampling local dishes, while the Michelin-starred Morston Hall is great to splash out. The £75-a-head tasting menu includes courses such as Holkham Hall venison with salt-baked beetroot, cabbage and white pepper jus. Walk it all off at nearby Wells-next-the-Sea where huge swathes of sand are backed by colourful beach huts and pine forest.
Where to stay
Barsham Barns sleeps 4-14 and costs from £425 for three-nights minimum stay.
Written by Pat Riddell
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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of the 01 October 2017 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out of date information in this guide please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assistance for this feature was provided by:
For Devon, thebluechipholidays.co.uk and englishriviera.co.uk; for Hampshire, forest holidays.co.uk; for Norfolk, barshambarns. co.uk; for Northumbria, visit northumberland. com and cottagesinnorthumberland.co.uk; for Shropshire, ludlowecologcabins.co.uk and shropshire tourism.co.uk; for the Cotswolds, bruern-holiday-cottages.co.uk.