Since our son started school a few years ago, I’ve found February half term a challenge. The weather can be too wet and cold for days out so it can end up being an expensive and stir crazy week.
As our daughter has now started school, I decided to book us a little break – a staycation in Devon.
We stayed in a Hornbeam Lodge in Lady’s Mile Holiday Park in Dawlish. As it’s out of season, the Monday to Friday break cost us less than £300 for a spacious two-bedroom lodge with a bath, an ensuite and a hot tub . The park has a mix of pitches, static caravans and lodges and our lodge was spotlessly clean and well-presented.
Although a little dated in places, the park has a warm indoor pool, a restaurant, a small gym, a hairdresser’s, an arcade and bowling alley. Other facilities such as the on-site shop, chip shop and outdoor pool were closed due to the time of year.
We made it our base for a range of family days out. We also broke up the journey from South Wales with a stop at around half way.
Here’s what we did and thought about our South West staycation.
1. Bristol Zoo
We broke up our travel to Dawlish with a visit to Bristol Zoo. Our daughter hasn’t been before and our son couldn’t remember his trip as a toddler so it felt like a good chance for a visit.
The children loved seeing the animals – with the monkeys, lion and gorillas selected as their favourites – and to learn more about them. Its focus on conservation helped us talk to the children about caring for animals and our environment.
They enjoyed the zoo detectives trail that was running for half term spotting the relevant items and pictures around the zoo.
I loved the underwater walkway as we could watch the seals and the penguins swim past us.
Entry prices vary, but we booked online as it’s slightly cheaper. We paid £15 per adult and took advantage of the children go free at half term offer that was running. Parking was £3.
2. Killerton House
It’s nearly six months since we joined the National Trust and I make sure we make the most of our membership by visiting new places near home or when we’re away.
So on our first full holiday day, we headed to Killerton in Broadclyst, Exeter.
We walked the spacious grounds and visited the grand house including its Votes for Women? exhibition, which tells the tale of two Killerton women who sat on opposite sides of the suffrage campaign.
It gave us the chance to talk about the centenary of some women being given the opportunity to vote and the exhibition asks visitors to vote for and against.
The children enjoyed spotting the small toy mice hidden in the rooms dressed in suffrage and anti-suffrage colours. Our daughter also enjoyed dressing up as a suffragette and trying out the different hats.
Killerton also houses a fantastic fashion collection which showed the changes in fashion over the decades.
Killerton is free for National Trust members. Entry prices for non-members can be found here.
3. Babbacombe Model Village
We visited Babbacombe Model Village near Torquay for a fun few hours out. The children enjoyed seeing miniature villages, people and models.
New additions such as The Great British Bake Off and celebrity mansion kept me entertained too. They also enjoyed the free crazy golf and its 4D cinema experience.
With off peak prices, we paid £26 to visit as a family. There is a pay and display car park outside the model village.
4. Babbacombe Cliff Railway
Just a few minutes’ walk from the model village, you’ll find Babbacombe Cliff Railway.
Open since 1926, it takes passengers down the steep cliff to Oddicombe beach with views of the English Riviera.
We enjoyed the fairly unique journey to the lovely flat beach, where we skimmed stones and had a picnic before stepping back on board.
The return journey for four cost £9.60. The service also offers 10 rides for £10 (five returns).
After wrapping up warm, we had a brisk walk and visit to Exmouth beach. It is a beautiful sandy stretch and the children enjoyed hunting for shells, pebbles and sticks.
After a short walk, we thawed out in Oceans Soft Play, a beautifully clean soft play centre with sweeping views of the beach.
The children loved tearing around and it gave us all a chance to warm up.
Finally, we stopped for a delicious lunch at the Proper Fish and Chips Co, which makes high quality fare cooked to order.
As we made our way home to South Wales, we decided to stop at Tyntesfield in Bristol to stretch our legs. This is a very special National Trust property and the house is a must see. You need to get tickets upon entry to visit the house, which is filled with fascinating artworks and collections that bring the house to life.The grounds are beautiful and the children loved running free and exploring.Entry is free for National Trust members. Admission prices for non-members can be found here.