We used to love long-haul holidays – before kids that is. Now our idea of a perfect getaway is somewhere close by (three hour maximum car journey), that has a play area, its own kitchen and a living room we can relax in once the children have gone to bed. Holiday cottages – fantastic. Center Parcs – even better.
This year we plumped for a self-catering lodge in nearby Blackwood Forest, Hampshire, courtesy of Forest Holidays. We were drawn to the pretty-looking lodges in picturesque woodland settings, and more specifically to the hot tub positioned invitingly on the terrace. So how did we get on?
The site itself was easy to find and well sign-posted when we arrived. You can drive right up to your cabin and park by it which we found very handy. The lodge itself was beautiful, all open plan in the living area with modern decor, a comfy corner sofa, a media hub for DVDs and music and Wi-fi was also available. The kitchen had everything we needed – we cooked a full-on roast in ours one day. We were pleased to find a couple of dishwasher tablets, washing-up liquid and a dishcloth so all you have to worry about is bringing the food – although there is a well-stocked shop on-site and you can order takeaways to be delivered to your door or pre-order food parcels like the pizza night pack. They even do freshly baked bread made to order.
Everything had been thought of - two bathrooms with hooks on all the doors to hang robes and a heated towel rail to dry swimming costumes and towels. We hired towels (for both the bathroom and the hot tub), robes and slippers, plus a cot and high chair so we didn’t have to pack them in our already full car. There are plenty of added extras you can order in, such as in-cabin entertainment on the flat screen telly which included Sky TV, and in-cabin spa treatments.
The highlight, as we knew it would be, was the hot tub on the veranda which we splashed about in first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. It was a completely magical experience to be able to do this surrounded by trees and looking up at the sky.
There was plenty to do to keep the children (aged one and four) entertained. We booked on to the nature trail with a friendly ranger called Phil (all the staff were very friendly and welcoming) which my eldest loved. He delighted in hunting for bugs under logs and collecting them in a special beaker with a magnifying glass that Phil had given him. They did tree rubbings with paper and crayons and then followed a trail of arrows made up of branches to find a lost flamingo hiding in one of the trees. Good wholesome fun!
On the other day we hired bikes rather than bring our own (again, hassle-free) with a trailer for our one-year-old and a tag-along for our four-year-old. There was a clear and very beautiful cycle path (plus lots of walking routes) which we easily followed. For older kids (and adults) there is archery, horseriding, tree climbing and in some of the locations, but not ours, Go Ape adventures with zip wires etc. There was a play area with swings and slide.
We also visited Paultons Park which was just a 40-minute drive away.
A thoroughly enjoyable and hassle-free holiday for those with little ones. Visit www.forestholidays.co.uk