Winning tip: Pigging out, Huddersfield
Top of my family’s list for a half-term outing is Pigs in the Wood – a non-profit sanctuary for rescue pigs near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire set in 10 acres of woodland. We can see the pigs roaming freely and even cuddle them. The sanctuary is currently caring for 20 pigs with wonderful names such as William, Charlotte, Dougal, George, Fred, Plum and Hugo. There’s a minimum donation of £5pp to visit, which is used for their food, water, straw, shelter repairs and maintenance. We’re also going to sponsor a pig for £20 a year. Can’t wait!
10.30-1.30pm Saturday and Sunday, booking essential, pigsinthewood.com
At home with Agatha Christie, Devon
I’m going to Torquay with my family for fresh air, good coastal walks and a long-awaited trip to Agatha Christie’s house, Greenway. We’ll do the circular walk from Torquay, past Galmpton windmill and creek to Greenway, then back to Broadsands Beach. Agatha Christie called Greenway “the loveliest place in the world” and treasured it as a holiday home for her and her family. Many of the first readings of her crime manuscripts were held here and the locality inspired Dead Man’s Folly. We could all do with visiting a lovely place on Earth at the moment!
Timed entry visits, nationaltrust.org.uk
Away with the fairies, Shropshire
Dare to venture into Dragon’s Wood, journey through rhododendron jungles and look out for trolls while crossing Swiss Bridge. Just a taste of the features at the Grade I listed-landscape, Hawkstone Park Follies, set in 40 hectares (100 acres) of parkland in the red sandstone hills of Shropshire. With its caves, towers and gullies, it’s a place to fire the imaginations of children and grown-ups alike. Be sure to don suitable footwear, take a torch for the grotto and enjoy feeling part of a fairytale world. Escapism for all ages.
Advance booking essential, hawkstoneparkfollies.co.uk
Easy riding along the South Downs Way
Our family of four is thinking of challenging ourselves to a mini adventure – cycling the South Downs Way and sleeping out under the stars (hopefully!) en route. Four years ago we cycled and hostelled along the Sustrans Hadrian’s Wall route and loved the adventure of staying in a different bunkhouse each night. Touching the sea on the east coast gave us a great sense of achievement. Our sons, Benjamin and Sam, are now 10 and 13 and ready for their next adventure. It will be wonderful to create more memories cycling along the chalk escarpment and ancient woodland of the South Downs.
Roaming free, North Yorkshire
During the holiday I’ll be taking my five grandchildren to Stewart Park in Middlesbrough, to explore its 50 hectares of woodland and arboretum. We can also visit the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, close to the spot he was born. On other days we can visit Redcar by the sea, and our beautiful North Yorkshire moors where we can run over the river stepping stones in the village of Lealholm. My tip is to get the kids baking cakes and biscuits the day before because they’re always happy to eat what they make. We’ll also take sandwiches (with homemade fillings) and ample bottles of juice. Good times, with many memories for them all.
Sandcastles and sublime cakes, north Devon
We’ll be making our usual (or what used to be) half-term trip to Westward Ho!, where we can enjoy beach time when the tide is out, building sandcastles, rock pooling, playing in the waves or taking a dip in the sea pool. On the way home, we’ll sample some of the exceptional cakes from Tea on the Green. For the rainy days (guaranteed!) we’ll take a short trip to Bideford to look at the latest offering at the Burton gallery and have a delicious crepe at the adjoining Cafe du Parc. Then we’ll pop into Walter Henry’s Bookshop to make additions to our girls’ reading collection. Another bonus is dad gets to sneak off to do his favourite run along the coast.
Steaming through the Highlands with Harry Potter
We’re planning a trip to Fort William in Scotland as the children are keen to take the Jacobite Steam Train (AKA the Hogwarts Express) through the Highlands to Mallaig. The children are huge Harry Potter fans, so going over the Glenfinnan viaduct on a steam train is the perfect half-term adventure. No complaints from me as I love Scotland, its magnificent lochs and the isolated beauty of the Highlands. We will eat fresh seafood and watch the boats heading for scattered islands. We will see Neptune’s Staircase at Banavie and take a boat trip on Loch Linnhe where Ben Nevis dominates the skyline. Seals pop up to say hello there and old croft cottages perch on the hillsides.
Pedalling past Victorian marvels, mid-Wales
Three generations of our family will be hiring bikes from Elan Valley visitor centre by the beautiful Caban Coch Dam in remote mid-Wales. The extensive cycle trails follow tracks and quiet roads around a network of reservoirs, stone bridges and other marvels of Victorian engineering. We’ll find a quiet spot on the Elan waterfall trail for a picnic of bread and Welsh cheeses. Then back for a wander around the Waterworks Museum and coffee and cakes at the visitor centre – or onwards to the pub!
Shingle racing in east Kent
We’ll be heading to the shingles banks at Dungeness, equipped with our homemade sledges. The best adventures have a buildup, and we build our sledges from any junk that’s been discarded, from laundry baskets to broken office chairs. With appropriate kit – bike helmets and knee pads – our shingle races can begin. In warmer weather at high tide we also have a splash-about. Who needs a theme park when we can bring our own!
Deep-fried Mars bars all round, Edinburgh