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Places to visit

Why Madeira is a great Family holiday Destination and things to do there!

Madeira is a Portuguese hidden gem which is often overlooked by travellers. Madeira is a beautiful island located of the northwest coast of Africa. 

No matter where you are on the island you will always enjoy stunning views. Madeira is swept with mountains, valleys, rolling lush green hills and banana trees galore.

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We have enjoyed two amazing family holidays to Madeira and will be returning again in the future.

Madeira is a perfect place for a family holiday even from the offset the plane journey had families and Madeiran people returning home not the loads of drunken stag and hen dos loitering the aisles like you get when travelling to places like the Canary Islands. 

We flew with Easy Jet the no thrills airline which I would recommend, as travelling with children can be expensive, so choosing a cheaper airline will save you money. We have flown with Easy Jet a lot and have never had any issues and always had pleasant flights with them. 

We didn’t pay for any hold luggage and took a hand luggage bag each so we kept the cost down, we bought a bottle of sun cream from the airport. Not only did this save money but it saved time on dropping the bags in and then waiting at the baggage reclaim to pick up your cases.

As we do on all our holidays we hired a car from Europcar at the airport, as we love to explore and travel. We wanted to see as much of the island as we could in our short stay. We have used other car rental companies in the past but have always received the best service from Europcar.

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Lucky for us Dino has family in Madeira so we were staying at his amazing Aunties house however there are lots of hotels and guest houses located around the Island and in Funchal, the capital of Madeira.

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As soon as we arrived we sat down on the veranda and gazed upon the view of the hills all around and the distant sea.

My children set about lizard hunting the little scaly creatures were hiding everywhere and darting across the walls. My girls were fascinated and were running around after them trying to catch one. When they had no luck they decided to feed the lizards and got the plastic top of a Pringles lid and started putting dead ants in it. 

When they put it on the side, in my haste I told the girls that the lizards wouldn’t come and eat the ants from their makeshift feeder but to my surprise a little lizard popped his head out of the plants and crept over and started lapping up the ants.

After a lot of perseverance they finally managed to catch a few lizards.

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Things to Do in Madeira

Cable car and Basket Ride

Madeira is famous for the basket ride and since we had told the girls about this and shown them the pictures before we left they could not wait to go on it. With the kids barely containing their excitement we headed off to find the ride. 

The basket rides starts off at Monte which is at the start of the mountains so you have 3 options to get there, 

1. Get a pricey cab, 

2. Drive up there but then you are faced with the problem of walking back up the very long steep hill which is near impossible to climb as an adult, let alone if you have children and 

3. Park in the car park in the center of Funchal and take the cable car to the top of the hill and then get the basket ride back down. The basket ride doesn’t go all the way back to the centre but then you can choose a 15 – 20 minute downhill walk or a taxi or the new tuk-tuks. Of course we opted for the 3rd option.

We got our tickets for the cable car and waited in line watching as the carts came round at a crawling pace as people hurled themselves into the slow moving cart. When are turn came we were lucky that we could all fit into the cart together as there was 7 of us. We all managed to get in and be seated in time for it to begin its accent to the top of the hill. 

I am not going to lie I was very scared on the cable car, especially when it goes over the support poles and it bumps along but I have to admit it was well worth it for the spectacular views of the island and seeing the excitement on the girls faces, they absolutely loved it.

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When you get off the cable car there is a beautiful church that you can go inside for free and admire the beauty of it, you can even climb the stairs to the very top and look out over the landscape with far reaching views over the land all the way to the glistening sea.

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Located at the top is Monte Botanical gardens which there is a charge to get into and sadly we couldn’t afford to do everything so had to give this a miss but maybe next time we will get to visit it.

On the way to the basket ride we passed a local guy selling strawberries in a plastic cup with cream and a finger biscuit from the back of his car. I think it was €2 a cup, we were a bit unsure as they were all just loaded in the back of his old rusty car, despite the doubts we gave them a try. The strawberries turned out to be the best we had ever tasted they were so sweet and juicy we scoffed the lot and went back for more.

We made our way to the basket ride as the girls could not wait any longer. The ride is very popular and with a lot of cruise ships stopping at the island and the coaches ferrying all the people up from the port to go on the ride there was a lot of people. The queue went down quite quickly but everyone enjoyed watching others in front of them going off down the hill in the basket and there was a nice atmosphere.

When we were there we saw a wedding party come out the church and go down on the baskets to the reception at the bottom of the hill.

All the men that work on the ride wear white outfits with, blue jackets and straw hats and the baskets are reinforced wicker baskets with a bench inside mounted on wooden slats and pull strings at either side for steering. When it was our turn we had two baskets to fit us all in Dino and I was in one with Alexa on my lap, Lia on his and his little cousin squeezed in the middle of us and in the other was my mum, Sophia and Bella.

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Once we were all in the men gave a good push then ran as fast as they could to push us off down the hill, once we had gathered up speed they jumped on the back then just used one leg to push, to keep us ploughing down the hill. The ride was a lot faster than I thought it was going to be. I will never forget the smile that was on Alexa’s face it was from ear to ear she was beaming with joy. We were all laughing and enjoying ourselves the whole way down it was an amazing experience.

The Pirate Ship

The girls had spotted the pirate ship (a replica Christopher columbus ship) in Funchal marina and they really wanted to go on it , Sophia and I wanted to see dolphins anyway so we decided to take a trip on it. All the staff were dressed up in pirate outfits and got into character, they had a parrot which you could have on your shoulder, Lia was the only one brave enough to hold it. There is also meant to be a dog that rides on board but unfortunately he was at the vets the day we went.

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Once everyone was on board we set sail and the boat took us out away from the coast in search of dolphins. One of the guys was high up on the mast in the lookout tower with his binoculars searching for dolphins. We were all watching out over the vast calm blue ocean with the mountains of Madeira in the background surrounded in a wisp of cloud. 

All of a sudden there was a shout from the guy up the mast and we were off the boat going as fast as it could until we reached the mammals they had spotted. Now to me they looked like dolphins but to the trained professionals running the boat they were actually a type of whale and I forget now what type they were but nevertheless it was amazing to watch them breaking in and out of the water around the boat.

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After we had finished watching the whales the boat took us on a tour of the stunning coastline, then stopped for a spot of swimming, none of us were brave enough to get in as the water was cold. After that we were all given some Madeira honey cake and a glass of Maderia wine (juice for the children of course) and then headed back. 

On the journey back Lia handed the pirate her rubbish and he kissed her hand and to this day she still remembers and talks about it as soon as anyone even mentions Madeira.

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Star Gazing

When you look at activities to do in Madeira stargazing does not really come up and there is not much information on it. However, it is one of the most amazing things to do and every time we have been to watch the stars there has not been a single other sole around. It is mesmerising with the amount of stars in the sky, it is my favourite activity to do in Madeira.

We headed to the top of Pico Do Arieiro which is 1810 meters above sea level and we stop at the last viewpoint before reaching the very top where there is a few street lights and a very big government telescope. 

From there the sky is lined with stars, it was like someone had split a pot of glitter all over a sheet of black paper, you can even see the Milky Way. 

When we go we all wrap ourselves up in blankets and wear warm clothes as it is very cold up there, then we either lie across the bonnet of the car or sit on it but remember if it is a rental car you have be careful not to scratch it. I have even lied down on the road in front of our parked car to gaze up at the sky.  We were all lucky the last time we went because as soon as we stepped out of the car the biggest brightest shooting star shot across the sky like a firework. It was an amazing experience for the kids to have and one they won’t forget.

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Beaches

Madeira has mainly rocky beaches across the island however there are two man made sandy beaches which are located in Calheta and Machico. Both beaches are great for children to swim in as they are enclosed with stone walls so the water is a lot calmer and excellent for a bit of snorkelling. We found that both the beach were not that busy when we were there not like the beaches you find in some other European holiday destinations or even the UK on a rare hot day when everyone flocks to the beach.

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Machico

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Calheta

If however you do want to experience the long white sandy beaches with crystal blue waters, then just a 2 hour boat trip away is the island of Porto Santo and the beaches there are breathtaking. We didn’t manage to take the kids there but Dino and I have done this trip about 9 years ago before having children. The trip from Madeira to Porto Santo is a bit rough and from personal experience and from everyone else’s who has done the trip, it can make you feel a bit queasy but strangely enough the trip back from Porto Santo to Madeira is fine. Apart from its beautiful Caribbean looking beaches, Porto Santo offers a big go kart track and also a lovely town with coffee shops and restaurants.

Natural Rock Pools

As well as the sandy beaches Porto Moniz offers amazing natural rock pools that you can swim in as well as a man-made swimming pool. When we visited the sea was a bit rough but there were still a few hardy souls swimming in these beautiful rock pools. There is also lovely restaurants that you can sit and watch the sea from.

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Faial

If you are looking for a quieter beaches with beautiful views across the Island then Faial is a lovely spot. It only has one restaurant and a small park but a nice little rock pool cove for swimming or snorkeling but be careful as the steps leading down to it are very slippery. You can also follow the road and admire waterfalls trickling water down from the mountains into the streams. There is also a big go kart circuit there that you can do arrive and drive.

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The Glass viewing platform

In Carbo Girao you can walk out on the glass viewing platform which is a mere 580 meters above sea level and wonder down at the sea crashing into the cliffs below. As most adults would, we edged our way onto the platform and slowly went further and further on to it to take a look. 

Not the kids though they walked straight on to it, walking around and looking down at everything below them. They then all sat down watching the lizards running on the cliff below and following them around the glass, they were not even the slightest bit bothered that we were all standing on a glass platform hanging off a cliff edge some 580 meters up. If you can bring yourself to stand on it the view is amazing and well worth conquering your fear. There is also a lovely coffee shop and souvenir shops.

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Traditional House

If you are out and about the traditional houses are worth a visit. They are smart little triangle houses with thatched roofs that used to be the traditional Maderian house many years ago. They are now turned into shops for tourists to visit. There is a gift shop, a flower shop and one that sells food and shots of Poncha (the traditional Madeira drink). The kids liked the houses as in a way they do look like big dolls houses and they are great for having your photo taken next to.

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Sun Set

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Ponta del sol (point of the sun) is the best town in Madeira to watch the sunset. There is a great restaurant on the beach and another one built into the side of the cliff both overlooking the horizon. There is also stunning views and a walkway going out into the sea so you can look back at the rocky shore. We sat for a good few hours at the restaurant watching the sun set drinking beers will the kids played with the rocks.

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Visit Madeira

When choosing a family holiday destination Madeira should not be overlooked as for a small island there is so many activities to do there. Madeira has more mountain peaks to explore than the one I mentioned above, lots of guided walks, there is a place called the 25 fountains (25 Fontes Falls) which is a group of waterfalls located near Porto Moniz, hopefully we will get to do the walks when the children our a little bit older. Madeira enjoys great weather most of the year however no matter how warmer day it is if you are going up into the mountains take warm close as the temperature up there can drop dramatically.

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There is also a water park, casino and amazing restaurants all serving delicious local produce cooked to perfection wherever you go on the island. One of the

favourite meals there is ‘Espetada’ which is chunks of steak that have been skewered sometimes by a flavoured stick then hung in front of you for you to pull off.

In Funchal there is the famous local fish market, although the smell is very strong it is worth having a look on market days as you see lots of fish and get a sense of the size of the fish. We have even seen the remains of a shark head in there, this is not for everyone but if you can stomach it, it is worth a visit.

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Throughout the summer in Madeira there is always a festival of some sort going on and also there is a weekly fireworks display down on the harbour as companies compete to win the contract for the world renowned New Years Eve fireworks. 

The Madeiran people are all so welcoming and very big on family we often got stopped in the streets and complimented on how beautiful the girls are. We cannot wait to get back to this beautiful Island.

We are lucky and only needed to book flights to Madeira as we had family to stay with so we always book our flights with Easy Jet directly but if you are looking for a hotel as well we have used onthebeach.com a few times for holidays and have always found some good deals on there especially if purchasing flights and hotel together. You can also search hotels separately using Booking.com that I have used a lot in the past as well.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

Why you should visit Porlock Weir

Our road trip to France

Sea Vs Air Travel with Kids

The Un-spoilt natural wonder of Kilve

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.


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Places to visit

English Heritage annual passes are they worth it?

One Sunday morning a few years ago we were searching for somewhere to go for the day when my husband came across Porchester Castle in Hampshire so we jumped in the car and headed off there.

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When we arrived we paid our entrance fee whilst turning down offers of signing up for the annual membership with English Heritage. We hadn’t even got past the ticket office so I didn’t want to pay for a whole year until I had at least been inside. After politely declining the offer and just paying for the day they said that if we did change our minds before we leave and signed up we would get back what we paid that day off the price of the membership.

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Well after an amazing day at Porchester Castle that was it we were hooked before we left we took out the family annual passes. Not only are they good value for money but they also encourage you to get out and explore new places. I always find annual passes are a bit like buffets you want to make sure you get your monies worth but instead of leaving with an uncomfortably full belly you enjoy a great day and leave with knowledge of the past.

The English Heritage put a lot of effort and pride into the upkeep of all their historical buildings and really bring history to life. All of their sites that we have visited are family friendly and were always full of activities to keep the children occupied. They also host events and activities at their sites throughout the year.

There is so much to learn and explore for the whole family that I would recommend a day out to one of the English Heritage sites and if you enjoy yourself it is so worth investing in annual membership.

In one year’s worth of annual passes we visited the following places and I have listed the prices of what we would have paid without the annual passes –

Porchester Castle – £19.80 with gift aid

Stonehenge x 3 – £50.20 x 3 with gift aid

Dover Castle – £55.00 with gift aid

Charles Darwin’s Down House – £34.40 with gift aid

Total we would have paid – £259.80

Annual membership for 2 adults and up to 12 children (the family gate price is only for 3 children) – £99.00

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To conclude English Heritage annual membership is so worth it, it will save you money in the long run and it will also encourage you to get out more and explore our nation’s history.

For more information on Membership take a look here at the English Heritage site and take a look at their locations throughout Britain here.

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Places to visit

Our Road Trip to France

In the May half term we went on an amazing family road trip to France. We booked this trip over 8 months before and had been looking forward to it for so long that we were all so excited when the day came to finally depart.  

As we booked this trip so far in advance we got the ferry with car boarding and accommodation for 2 adults and 3 children on the school half term for £500 with Brittany Ferries. Bargain!

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We live in Somerset, UK so we drove down to the port of Plymouth where we boarded the Brittany ferry across to Roscoff. The ferry journey for us was so much easier and better than flying to our destination with children.  I recently wrote a post on Sea v Air travel with kids explaining why for us sea travel is much better.

We took the night ferry to Roscoff and to save some money we didn’t purchase a cabin and opted for a recliner seat each to sleep on. In hindsight this was a huge mistake, the recliners aren’t really recliners they are like plane seats where only the headrest moves back ever so slightly. If you are short like me or a child it is really uncomfortable as if you lean back on the chair your feet don’t touch the floor. In the end we all decided to sleep on the floor it was far more comfortable than the chairs, the kids had brought with them their pillows but stupidly me and Dino hadn’t so we ended up with neck ache in the morning. If we were allowed I think we would have all gone and slept in the car, we probably would have got a better nights sleep. I would recommend spending the extra on a cabin if you are getting the overnight Ferry.

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We arrived at Roscoff in the morning and set off on our journey to our accommodation, the place we had decided to stay was a 4.5 hour drive from the port so we had planned to stop at Vannes as a halfway point.

Vannes

Vannes is a beautiful walled medieval town in the region of Brittany in North-Western France.When we visited Vannes it was a Sunday and nearly everything was closed and the streets were empty except for a few locals and other tourists. However with so many beautiful Medieval buildings to look at it was a blessing to be able to stop in the streets and take time to enjoy the history instead of being swept along in a crowd. 

As we had not had any lunch we found a little café that was open and luckily the owner spoke a little bit of English. This is where we first encountered our problem with eating out in France, they don’t cater for vegetarians. Apart from the creeps everything on the menu contains meat and with us only knowing a few words in French and the waitress/waiters only knowing basic English it made it very hard to order food. However this being our first day it was creeps all round and all oozing with chocolate and very delicious.

After a lovely lunch and a walk around the town we headed back to the car and off to our accommodation.

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Camping Sol a Gogo, Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez

When we arrived the check in was really easy and the staff were all very friendly and welcoming. We were shown to our 3 bedroom chalet which was quite spacious,  modern and clean. The kitchen had a good stock of cutlery and utensils however I only realised after putting a pizza in the oven that no oven gloves or tea towels are provided so I will definitely make sure I bring my own next time.

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 The campsite had a brilliant indoor and outdoor swimming pools with waterslides and a nice children’s play park next to it. There was a lovely bar to chill in which also offered evening entertainment such as karaoke a disco and even a rodeo.  

After a couple of drinks I felt brave enough to do karaoke and wrote out a ticket but my daughter Lia took it off me and screwed it up whilst crying saying that she didn’t want me to do it. I didn’t think my signing was that bad but obviously I was mistaken. 

I was allowed to participate in the rodeo ride and did really enjoy it but it is a lot harder than it looks and my thighs were burning afterwards from using muscle’s I never knew I had. 

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On the other side of the campsite there is a gate leading directly onto a beautiful sandy beach. The weather was overcast most of the week so we only visited the beach once but it was an enjoyable day.  The golden soft sand of the beach stretched for miles in each direction and was filled with shells for the children to collect. The sea was producing some big waves as it crashed to shore and we all enjoyed jumping over them, we were gutted we didn’t have the body boards with us as they would have been perfect on this beach.

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When I was at the edge of the sea I saw a shell with what looked like legs sticking out flow by my feet and off towards the sea. When we looked closer we noticed that the sea was full of hermit crabs. My girls then enjoyed watching them scurrying about.

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Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez

20 mins from where we were staying was the quaint fishing village of Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez with a rocky coast line with loads of rock pools that were full of marine life. We all went along the shore hopping from rock to rock peering into the pools of water to see what we could find.

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After about an hour we were starting to get hungry so we headed for Café de la Plage that was by far the best place we ate at all holiday. I had the mussels in white wine sauce they were delicious, they were so fresh that some of them had tiny crabs inside. Dino had the chefs squid special which was also delicious and of course being in France the girls had Crepes again.

After our delicious meal we went for another walk along the rock pools to try and burn off some calories. We were hopping over the rocks getting further and further towards the sea line so engrossed in the life inside these pools that we didn’t notice the tidy had started coming in. We shot up and quickly started jumping our way back to shore but the sea was pouring in so fast that all the rocks that were still above the water were unreachable. 

After trying a few different ways were had reached the conclusion we were stuck and every second we took to make a decision the more water flooded in. That was it there was nothing else to do, I wiped of my shoes and socks and carried the kids over to safety on  the other side. I tried my best to not think about the fact that I was walking barefoot through a rock pool that a few seconds ago we had just been looking at crabs and sea anemones and I prayed that there was no sea urchins lurking beneath. I have had a rather nasty incident with a sea urchin shooting its spikes in my foot before while in Spain and did not want to have a repeat. After carrying the last of my children across and getting back safely on dry land I thanked my lucky stars I still had all my toes.

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Chateau de Apremont

This was our first chateau that we visited on the trip and although beautiful and interesting it was the most scared I have ever been visiting a castle we genuinely feared for our lives. One of the towers that remained you were allowed to climb to the very top. At the bottom of the stairs was a sign saying only 18 people allowed up at a time but no one at the bottom to enforce this and there was no way of knowing if anyone was up there already. We had arrived just as it had opened so we were as sure as we could be that we were the only people there so we went up. 

The stairs were ancient wooden rickety stairs creaking with every step we took, each step was lopsided and there were holes in some of the pieces of wood and in places whole steps replaced with a new wooden plank nailed in. The stairs got worse as we went up but we were so near to the top we carried on and finally made it to the balcony and enjoyed the beautiful view across the village. Still filled with fear we didn’t hang around long and went back down the stairs and as far away from the tower as we could. I half expected to turn around and see it crumbling to the ground behind us.

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After leaving the chateau we headed down the hill and found a cafe with an idyllic view of the village and castle to have lunch. Once again it was crepes all round.

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Noirmoutier-en-l’Île

We took a day trip to the island Noirmoutier-en-l’Île which can be reached by a bridge crossing over the sea. All along the island was miles of salt marshes most of them with little shacks next to them where they sold the fresh salt.

We stopped in the town and went for a walk around admiring the beautiful architecture, all the buildings were freshly painted with colourful shutters and all looked very leek and elegant.

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We visited the chateau this time we felt safe making our way to the top of the tower and spend a little longer admiring the view. The chateau was interesting and had some interesting pieces to look at but for what was there and the price compared to the other chateau’s we visited it wasn’t great value for money.

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We also stopped off at the miniature village on the island and let the kids out for a run around. This place was very interesting it had small scale models of the typical house styles you find in the different regions of France and also what each region is famous for. The kids enjoyed running round the place and spent ages in the play area and sticking their heads through the cardboard cutouts dotted everywhere.

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Château Logis De La Chabotterie, Saint-Sulpice-le-Verdon

This was by far the best chateau we visited while in France and it was the cheapest out of all of them. The chateau has been very well preserved and there is so much history throughout the whole place. 

At the beginning there is a room packed with videos, holograms and audio explaining the history of the Vendee war and about the owner of the Chateau. To walk round the house you are given an audio set and sent off to explore the rooms. Every room within the house is kitted out with items from that era and the audio tape explains in details what all the items are, what year they were made and what they were used from. It was the most detailed and informative tour we have ever been on. After visiting the house we walked round the well kept grounds then made our way round the hedge maze. 

I would highly recommend a visit to this chateau if you are ever in this part of France it is worth every penny of the entrance fee. One piece of advice though is to bring a picnic as in France they don’t tend to have cafe’s at their attractions unlike England where it is rare to find an attraction that doesn’t have overpriced food for sale.

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Jardin Du Vents, Notre-Dame-de-Monts  

We were luckily when we attended as it was a national garden day throughout France so all public gardens were free. Jardin Du Vents or Garden of Wind in English, was a lovely colourful place with lots to do and explore. This place can really bring out your inner child but unfortunately we couldn’t give this place the time it deserves as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was hoping it would sell food but again it didn’t. I could have easily lied in the hammock for hours while the kids played and ran around.

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Morlaix

Our ferry home departed at 3pm and due to the 4.5 hour drive back to Roscoff we decided to do the whole journey in one go not to risk missing the ferry. As we were nearing Roscoff we were 2 hours early so we decided to visit the medieval town of Morlaix. Morlaix was a stunning town with a magnificent viaduct stretching the width of the town and medieval architecture in abundance. As it was Sunday again the place was very quiet with most places shut but thankfully we managed to find a bakery that was open and the sandwiches were delicious.

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Advice for traveling around France

My advice to anyone planning a road trip to France is the following –

 – Don’t skimp out and pay the extra for a room on the Ferry especially if you are travelling overnight.

 – Always make sure you have food with you in case you cannot find anywhere open to eat out

– If you are a vegetarian or vegan I would advise learning some French or at least making sure you have a phrase book with you so that you can ask what they can do for you. We don’t eat meat only fish and we struggled to find food to eat so a full vegetarian or a vegan will find it even harder.

– If you are going on a road trip with kids expect the back of the car to look like a tip when you return home.

– Last but not least enjoy, take in the sights and reveal in the history. France is a beautiful place if you look in the right places.

If you enjoyed reading my post why not take a look at my other post –

Why Madeira is a great family holiday destination

Sea Vs Air

The Wonders of Wookey Hole

Rainy Day Children’s Crafts and Activities

Children’s Christmas Decoration Craft Ideas

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

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Parenting Advice Places to visit

Sea Vs Air travel with kids

We recently went on holiday to France with the children and we took the ferry for the first time and I have to say we all preferred it to air travel.  Travel by sea is of course limited to your destination choices and can take considerably longer however the time goes quickly as you are able to walk around, there are activities on board and you can go outside to watch the world go by.

We have done air travel a few times with the children and although I would do it again I would choose the ferry over plane any day as it is so much easier with children.

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One of the biggest benefits for us of travelling by ferry is that we could take our own car, every time we go on holiday we always hire a car so that we can travel around and explore so being able to take our own car saved us a lot of money. It is always nicer being in your own car than a hired one and is great that you have your own child car seats. 

Having our own car also made a huge difference to the children as through the whole boarding experience they just got to sit there and chill oblivious to everything.

When we first arrived at the port we handed our passports to the staff through the car window and all we were asked to do was wind down the back window so they could see the children in the back. We were then waved through and drove over to security where they asked us questions and checked the boot and around the car but for the kids they were already back to playing on their tablets and didn’t notice a thing of what went on for us to pass through security.

As my eldest daughter suffers from anxiety so boarding the ferry was a breeze compared to facing airport security. When we have traveled by plane before, she needs to be encouraged to walk through the air port scanner by herself which she can just about cope with but last time I failed big time and I forgot to take her bow out of her hair so she set it off. This happened to be at Gatwick where she then had to go through the full body scanner which was very difficult for her and took quite a while and a lot of tears to get her through it. 

It is also much easier to keep children occupied on the ferry journey than on a plane. They are free to move about and walk around the ship, there are normally lots of things to do on board. The ferry we were on had shops, restaurants, a cinema, play area and arcade to visit. You can also go out to the back of the ferry and look over the sea as you travel through the waves and right up to the top open deck.

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We went with Brittany Ferries so they offer lots of activities for children during the journey like a colouring competition, magic show, balloon animals and a hunt round the ship.

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When we have flown to our destinations the most excitement the kids have on the plane is when they get to walk down the aisle to use the loo and trying to keep them entertained for 4 hours whilst sitting on a plane is a hard task.

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We are now even considering getting the ferry again next year either to Spain or to France and we drive across to Spain. The journey will take 3 times longer than the plane but it will be so much easier. We can take our car and the children will find it less stressful. To us travel is about enjoying the journey just as much as the destination.

Although sea travel is now our favourite method we will still be travelling by planes in the future as the destination has a big impact on how we travel as the ferry is limited to where it can go, but to countries where we have the choice of sea or air we will be choosing sea from now on when we are travelling with the kids.

If you enjoyed reading my post why not take a look at my other post –

Why Madeira is a great family holiday destination

Our road trip to France

The Wonders of Wookey Hole

Rainy Day Children’s Crafts and Activities

Children’s Christmas Decoration Craft Ideas

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.


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Places to visit

Why you should visit Dunster in Somerset, UK

The medieval village of Dunster is one of my favourite villages in Somerset and I highly recommend visiting to anyone. Dunster is set between the foothills of Exmoor national park and the Somerset coast and is rich with history.

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If you live in Somerset it is a great place to visit and that you can return to time and time again. If you are just on holiday in Somerset then Dunster should be on your list of places to visit.

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On the approach to Dunster you will see the Dunster castle nestled high up in the hills in all its glory from the road. When you arrive in to Dunster village it is filled with character and history there is over 200 listed buildings within Dunster ensuring the charm is preserved.

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What I love about Dunster is the sense of pride for the village every cottage is in good condition, freshly painted and with most having beautiful floral arrangements outside and this is all kept up by the residences of this pretty little village.

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Dunster castle itself is well worth the entrance fee (or free to National Trust Members) just within the castle there is so much to see and do. 

Inside the castle it is full of history and beauty with the National Trust doing an amazing job to portray the castle as it would have been. From the castle you

will be taken aback by the far reaching views over Exmoor and the Bristol Channel.

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You can enjoy a walk around the well-kept gardens and alongside the river that flows through the castle grounds and also visit the water mill that the National Trust has preserved and is still working.

When I visited there was a very knowledgeable employee that happily explained to us all how the mill works and just from using the power of the river.

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Located in the village itself is the old yarn market still wonderfully preserved and a lovely prominent feature to the village. There are lots of lovely cafes, gift shops and art shops spread out along the main street.

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There is also a packhorse bridge that you can walk across and in the summer months the river below is filled with children paddling in. It is also located right next to a well-equipped children’s park.

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There is also the most beautiful thatched cottage covered in flowers and surrounded by a well-kept front garden. We were lucky enough on one of the days we visited that they were allowing people to look round there back garden which is truly amazing and they were a lovely friendly couple that welcomed us in.

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If you like to walk then Dunster has some lovely walks details of one of them can be found here https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walksdb/756/

If you are on holiday in the area why not make the visit to Dunster then head down to Porlock Weir about 20 mins drive away.

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Why not take a look at my other posts –

Why you should visit Porlock Weir

Our road trip to France

The Un-spoilt natural wonder of Kilve

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

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Why you should visit Porlock Weir in Somerset, UK

Porlock Wier is an idyllic spot located on the South West coast path of Somerset. It is a peaceful picturesque place with a pebble beach, pretty harbour and a couple of restaurants, small shops and a lovely pub.

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If you live in Somerset and are looking for a nice day trip or if you are on holiday visiting the county then Porlock Weir should be on your list of places to visit.

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Porlock Wier is located 1.5 miles from the village of Porlock and is at the foot of the rolling lush green hills which adds to its charm. The port has existed for more than a 1000 years with some of the cottages dating back to the 17th century.

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This is a lovely place to take children to my girls all loved our day out there and would happily go back. The car park is located right next to the beach so it does not involve a lot of walking for little legs, there are also benches and picnic benches located at the edge of the beach so adults can sit and relax whilst still being able to see the children playing on the beach.

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When it comes to food you can either bring your own picnic and with the parking being so close you don’t have to carry it far or you can grab a bite to eat there. We went to the lovely little pub ‘The Ship Inn’ that has lots of outside seating and offered a great menu section. There is also a little café and a pizza restaurant.

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You can take a stroll around the harbour admiring the small and colourful yachts and fishing boats that are moored up and on the edge of the harbour is the 17 th Century cottages which are full of character.

The reason I loved Porlock Weir is being able to take in the fresh air surrounded by lovely views of the sea and the rolling hills behind as well as the history and the character while the children are able to roam free exploring and running around the beach.

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Even without children this is still a lovely place to visit and to relax and take in the surroundings. If you like walking there are a few walking routes you can find details of these on http://www.walkinginsomerset.co.uk/porlock.php

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If you are on holiday visiting the area then why not visit the village of Porlock just down the road as well or to really pack your day out visit the medieval village of Dunster and the awe inspiring Dunster castle.

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Why not take a look at my other posts –

Why you should visit Dunster in Somerset

Our road trip to France

The Un-spoilt natural wonder of Kilve

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

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The Wonders of Wookey Hole

We went to Wookey Hole for my daughter 6th birthday in September and all enjoyed a great day out. Wookey Hole has lots of things to do and see there and they are not just for children.

Wookey Hole is located in the Somerset countryside so don’t be alarmed when your Sat Nav starts taking you down country lanes to get there, you are on the right track.

The caves at Wookey Hole are the main attraction but there are also lots of other great activities, I had planned to do some of the other attractions first then when the kids are happy, go exploring the caves. What I didn’t know was to get into the attraction you have to go through the cave first. I actually think this works better as the children have no choice but to explore the caves if they want to get to the rest of the attractions.

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We have explored very small tunnels before in Exeter so my children were all fine with the big Wookey Hole caves. We were all amazed by how large and beautiful they were and the guides are so knowledgeable, they overloaded us with so much information and pointed out so many interesting things in the cave. The colourful lighting inside also helps set the mood and add wonder to the experience.

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During the tour you are taken past the cheese room where behind a metal gate is rows and rows of Wookey Hole cheese that are stored in the cave to help the maturing process. The children were very quick to point out the strong cheese smell as you passed past the gates. I have to say that the cheese is very nice you can buy it in the shop outside the caves.

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The last tunnel in the cave has not long been open so  you do have to wear a hard hat to walk through it but as the guide assured us it is just a precaution due to the tunnel being so new.

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The caves are pretty nippy inside so make sure you bring some layers and wear something warm whilst inside.

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After visiting the caves you are taken out another exit which leads out into the grounds of the park. There is a decked area surrounded by lush green gardens with streams and waterfalls to look at  with the rocky cliff backdrop that the caves are carved into. It is a beautiful spot to stand and enjoy your surroundings for a bit, that is if the kids will let you. The shop selling the cheese and wine is also located at the bottom of the decked path.

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Next stop we visited was the 4D cinema which was amazing. The effects and movements of the chairs make you feel as if you are immersed in the film. We were shown a clip from Monster Family which had spiders come at you and the air and streamers would tap your head and legs at the same to give the feeling of the spiders on you. It can be quite scary for children of a nervous disposition so be aware before taking them in, they do change the film clips so it may have just been the one we watched that was a bit scary. 2 out of 3 of my children enjoyed it and only one was scared so that’s not bad going.

After thoroughly scaring the kids we went on into the building where we were just in time to catch the next circus show so we took are seats and waited for it to begin. My girls really enjoyed the show the performers ranged from about 6 – 30 years old and were all amazing. For weeks after my children talked about the show and how they wanted to be an acrobat my youngest kept asking to be picked up so she could pretend to be doing the moves.

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There is an indoor play area where the children can run around and let off some steam while the adults can get a cuppa and sit and chill for a while.

When the children had finished with the play area we headed through the wall of mirrors which was great fun, trying to find our way through and not walk face first into a mirror is tricky but a good laugh. When we successfully negotiated our way round we went to the funny mirrors where the children spend a long time looking at how funny they looked  and laughing at themselves.

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Inside the building there is also the paper mill where you can have a go at pressing paper this is an additional cost. There is a vintage arcade with the old fortune telling machines and lots of other interesting forgotten archard games.

Outside there is a miniature golf, another great activity for the children and Adults to enjoy. We all had fun playing, there were a couple of holes in one but a lot more balls going a drift.

When you are all thoroughly tired out you can make your way to the lovely café selling the most delicious ice cream in loads of different flavours, what a great way to end a lovely day.

Wookey hole is a great family day out I would recommend visiting. There were 12 of us that went and all the children and adults enjoyed the day.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

Why you should visit Dunster in Somerset

Why you should visit Porlock Weir in Somerset

The Un-spoilt natural wonder of Kilve

Disclaimer

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

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Places to visit

Lyme Regis, Dorset

There is so much to see and do at Lyme Regis in Dorset and fun to be had for the whole family. You can easily spend the whole day exploring.

As with any popular UK beach as soon as the weather gets warm everyone flocks in the masses to the beach so if you are planning a trip to Lyme Regis in the summer months then getting there early is essential to get a parking space easily.

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The beach itself is mainly stones but does have a small part near the marina that has sand and it is also sheltered by the man made rock wall so it is a good swimming spot especially with young children.

There is also a lifeguard there during the summer months and safety flags to mark out where it is safe to swim. This little part of the beach can get quite packed so it may be worth building your sandcastles and doing your swimming first (if the water is not cold) then moving onto the quitter stony part of the beach, when the sandy part starts to fill up to do your sunbathing.

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On the beach they do kayak hire, where you can get 1 or 2 man kayaks and take them out to explore the sea. You can hire them for 1 hour or half a day, unfortunately there being 5 of us we couldn’t really do it as one for the children would have had to go on their own and they would need a lot more practice on calmer waters before taking on the sea on their own.

At the end of the beach is the busy marina stocked full of boats, which you can walk all the way round admiring the boats on the water. This is also a good place for crabbing from what I have seen from other peoples catches, we have yet to try out crabbing here but this is on the list for the next time we return.

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When it comes to lunch time, there are loads of lovely food huts and restaurants right there on the beachfront. All the food places sell fresh fish and crabs that have been caught locally, which enhances the taste and experience. 

Last time we went we decided on fish and chips from the hut, we all ordered a portion each but on hindsight 3 meals between the 5 of us would have sufficed as they were packed to the brim with food and not one of us managed to finish our meal. We took our food up above the beach and sat on the grassy hills to sit down and eat whilst looking out over the sea and watching the world below us.

This is a lovely area to sit and enjoy as the children can run around freely and roll down the hills and the grownups can sit and chill and enjoy the view and the sounds of the sea. You need to watch out for the seagulls if you are sitting there with food because even if you turn your back for a minute they will be all over your chips in a blink of an eye.

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From there we went further up the hill where there is miniature golf and a woodland walk. We decided to go on the woodland walk climbing up the steep hills to the top then walking through the trees where we caught glimmers of the beach below through the trees. We kept walking until we came back out near the shops.

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As Lyme Regis is part of the Jurassic coast there is a lot of fossil shops throughout the town, selling anything from ammonite fossils to fossilised shark teeth and one shop even had parts of a meteorite that had fallen and had pictures on display showing it falling down to earth.

As well as the fossil shops there are lots of shops selling crystals and trinkets and also art shops with everything from sculptures, paintings, photos and pottery. If you are ever looking for some art pieces for the home Lyme Regis is a great place to go to look for that special piece.

Not to mention the fudge shops, there are two good ones in the town on opposite sides of the road selling amazing fudge in all different flavours. We always go a bit wild filling up a pick and mix bag full of the different type of fudge.

 On the beach front there are a couple of huts selling deliciously tempting ice cream in all different flavours and cones to choose from. Once you have your ice cream you can go for a stroll along the beach.

There are plenty of toilets located along the beach which is great when you have little ones, as when they need to go they need to go there and then.

On the beach there are also trampolines for the children and a small arcade to keep the children entertained once they have had enough of the beach.

Round the corner from the main beach you can walk up to the rocky beach under the cliffs where you can check through the pebbles to see if you can find fossils of your own. Or just take a walk around to watch and listen to the waves crashing on the rocks and admiring the cliffs.

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At the back of the shops there is a walkway through the houses that has a stream either side flowing through with the walkway in the centre. Once side is a very steep drop down and no railings so be careful with little ones. When walking through there to get back to the car we bumped into a lovely lady sitting on the bench with her 17ft pet snake called Rainbow wrapped around her. She said she had bought him out to bask in the sun and she let us pet him and answered any questions the children had about her snake.

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I would recommend a visit to Lyme Regis it is a great family day out with lots to keep you entertained. I do stress through that you do need to get there early as it is near impossible to find parking later on in the day during the warmer months.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

West Bay, Dorset

Why you should visit Dunster in Somerset

Why you should visit Porlock Weir in Somerset

The Wonders of Wookey Hole

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.


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West Bay, Dorset, UK

We recently visited the wondrous beach of West Bay, set on the beautiful Dorset coastline. If you are looking for places to visit in Dorset I would recommend checking out West Bay, there is so much to do you can easily spend the whole day there and if you are on holiday there is lots to keep you busy.

West Bay is a popular beach so it is well worth leaving that bit early to grab a parking space. We have been there before after 11am and struggled to find a space to park and then have got there another day before 10am and had our pick of spaces but within the hour the car park was full. With parking at the bargain price of only £2 for the whole day it is worth arriving early.

Children’s play park

Right next to the car park is the most amazing play park for all ages even adults. The sign on the gate clearly states the park is for everyone from ages 0 yrs to 99 yrs. I definitely enjoyed playing in the park with the girls letting my inner child free.

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There are so many cool things to play with and keep the children busy for hours. It is a brilliant park with so many different climbing apparatus. 

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There are climbing frames, swings, trampolines and much much more. There is so much to do at the park we nearly all forgot about visiting the beach.

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The Beach

To get to the beach you have to climb up the pebbled hill which is a slow climb as for every step forward you slid back two, but it is a good laugh trying to run your way to the top and the kids enjoyed trying to get to the top first.

Once at the top you get a lovely view of the beach with a band of blissful sand at the bottom of the pebbles leading into the sea with the beautiful golden cliffs as an imposing backdrop.

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The sea is great for swimming or paddling in and there are always lots of children enjoying the foaming waves. The beach is quite safe for children and you can easily keep an eye on the kids. There is space to fly kites, play football and build sand castles, the sea is clean and so inviting although cold.

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When we were on the beach there was a shoal of white bait fish swimming near the shore and loads of them were washed up along the beach. All along the shore line were these bright simmering little fish we tried to put some back into the sea but it was too late for some. The fisherman on the beach told me that they washed up on the beach because they were being chased by mackerel and to escape headed to far into shore.

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Food

When your tummies start to rumble there are so many amazing food places to choose from. Around the canal there are lots of quaint food huts selling fast food and ice cream. We have had the most amazing battered calamari from the fish and chip hut and the kids had perfect sized meals at reasonable prices.

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The last time I visited West Bay I didn’t have any cash on me and the hut didn’t take card and the cash machine in the arcade had run out of money so we headed to the cafe the other side of the road. There are three cafes this side selling Cornish pasties, sausage rolls and freshly made sandwiches and they did take card. 

The kids enjoyed sausage rolls and I enjoyed a pulled pork sandwich. Once you have finished lunch it is time to embark on a hunt for ice cream. I have to say that the ice cream in West Bay is out of this world. I had a mango ripple soft scoop ice cream and it was so delicious, there are 30 different flavours to choose from all looking so delicious.

The kids meals were very reasonably priced and the portion size of the meals were just right for the girls. Dino and I had the cod and chips and the battered calamari which was amazing. It was the first time I tried it and I loved it, I have had some more calamari since but unfortunately it was not as good as the one I had at the food shack.

When you get your food if you are not eating in you can sit on one of the benches or the wall looking out over the idyllic canal where a dozen seagulls laying wait for  their next scrap of food to be dropped. 

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Cliff Walks

There are two great cliff walks on either side of the beach one is short but very, very steep and the other is quite a long walk but not so steep. If you are going to walk up the longer cliff it is worth making sure you have some water with you as it is a bit of a walk especially when you have children. 

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Once we made it to the top there was a caravan park and a big field full of daisies at the top where we all lied down for a while and sun bathed. 

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From the top we were rewarded with a stunning view over West Bay. We could see the beach that we had come from and then another beach down the other side of the cliff. It is a lovely place to sit for a while and enjoy taking in the views and the fresh air.

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The other cliff walk is so steep and very hard to walk up at points it is easier to crawl up on all fours, especially for the children. It is advised though not to let the children go to far ahead as when you get to the top there are no barriers and a very steep drop off the cliff not to mention that there has been a few rock slides recently. 

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After the grueling climb to the top once again you are rewarded with far reaching views of West Bay and can stay there just looking over the bay and taking it all in. The climb down was just as hard and in part the kids had to go down on their bottoms.

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Crabbing

When you walk around the marina you will see loads of people pitching up around the high walls casting their crabbing nets into the water. If you don’t have a crabbing net you can buy them from the shop for a few pounds. If you wanted to purchase one before you go if you click here i have found the same net that I bought on Amazon for the same great price (affiliated link).

We didn’t have any bait but were kindly gifted some from one of the other family’s crabbing. If bringing your own bait the crabs eat anything from fish remains to bacon, I am told. If you have never been crabbing before you really should give it a try it is great fun and the kids will enjoy catching the crabs and will enjoy looking and observing the crabs up close.

We ended up catching a crab, eel and we were even given a shrimp by another family as they had more crabs in their bucket and were worried that it would be eaten by them.

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When it is busy on the crabbing wall it is like a little community everyone talking, exchanging tips and the kids all showing each other their catches. People walk around and look into everyone buckets and have a chat about what they have caught.

Boat rides, canoeing and more

From the marina you can take a trip out to sea on the high speed boat ride that crashes around the waves giving people a thrill ride. I have not yet done this myself but have watched the boats doing high speed figure of 8’s around the sea.

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There were lots of signs offering fishing trips from the marina and wakeboarding. On the canal opposite the marina they offer canoeing lessons on the calmer water.

To see more activities in West bay and customer reviews you can take a look at Trip Advisor where you can also book ahead (affiliated link).

Shops

The little corner shop has lots of pretty little trinkets and souvenirs as well as buckets spades and all the equipment you will need for crabbing. 

Near the car park is a little courtyard with a little market selling beautiful artistic pieces and antiques. Round the marina there is usually a van parked up selling beautiful pictures taken around West Bay.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

Lyme Regis

Why you should visit Dunster in Somerset

Why you should visit Porlock Weir in Somerset

The Wonders of Wookey Hole

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

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What to do in 4 days in the Algarve

Recently my finance and I went on our first ever holiday away without our children. Since having Bella 9 years ago we had never been away for longer than 1 night and even that was very rare, so the chance for us to go to the Algarve for 4 days together we both jumped at it. 

Instead of getting each other Christmas presents we put the money together to buy a well deserved holiday for us both. As I work full time, Dino works away from home Monday to Friday night and then we have the kids to look after and house work to be done, you can imagine we don’t really see each other very much.

This was going to be the longest we had ever spent in each other’s company in a very long time.

We were both looking forward to just relaxing and taking things easy on holiday, lazing by the pool or the beach and taking in the sun.

In reality our holiday turned out nothing like we had envisaged, we didn’t once relax by the pool or lie on the beach. In fact our holiday was so busy and action packed it turned out to be our best holiday ever.   

Thinking about it now we are both active people so relaxing all day was not really our cup of tea and I am sure we would have got bored. We turned in to travellers for the 4 days and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 

We always hire a car when we go on holiday as you get to see so much more of the area rather than staying in one place and relying on taxis to ferry you about which can be expensive. We used Europcar in the Algarve and we have used them before on previous holidays and had good service. We were given a nice fairly new and very clean Renault Megane and when we handed the car back to Europcar we had clocked up a huge 411km in just 4 days.

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Our Algarve Activities:

Dirt Buggy’s

One of the activities we participated in was the dirt buggy tour around the country hills in Loule with a company called Buggy Safari which you can find on TripAdvisor. When we arrived the ladies running the tour were very friendly and spoke Englishl. They gave us a quick briefing and got us to fill out forms. 

They told us before we set of that half way through the tour they stop so the drivers can swap over. I am not a confident driver back home when driving on the left side of the road so the thought of driving an open dirt buggy around unfamiliar roads on the other side of the road was out of the question I was happy to let Dino drive us round, especially as we forgot to get any travel insurance before we left. 

Dino and the ladies running the tour persuade me to fill in the form anyway just in case I changed my mind and did want to drive.

We were strapped into the seats given our huge goggles to shield our eyes from the dirt and mud and off we set. The dirt tracks were very rocky but surprisingly the buggy was very comfortable and you did not feel the bumps. We were at the back of the group so we bore the brunt of the dirt flying around. Lucky for us it had not rained for a few days so the track was quite dry as the guides had warned us that when it rains people come back from there tours covered in mud from head to toe.

We were taken all round the countryside up and down steep hills, Dino enjoying driving the dirt buggy even with the wonky steering that he had to fight with to keep in a straight line and I enjoyed sitting back and enjoying the view with the wind blowing through my hair.

Eventually we stopped at a lovely local pub in a quiet little village of Tor for a drink. The village itself was so quiet it was like a ghost town with not a sole around until we reached the pub where there were a few locals relaxing with a beer. After having a rest stop and a drink we were off to hit the road again. 

That’s when our guide said it was my turn to drive and Dino was egging me on to drive. I was really nervous but knew if I didn’t drive the rest of the way I would be regretting it, so I plucked up the courage and off we set. The buggies were parked one behind the other and before we had even set of I nearly went into the back of the buggy in front as I was looking behind to see if any cars were coming and didn’t notice him stop. After that little hiccup we were off and within minutes my fears had melted away and adrenaline taken over. 

I was constantly fighting with the steering wheel to keep the buggy in a straight line and the breaks were a little stiff. Despite the difficulties driving the dirt buggy it was exhilarating; with the wind blowing straight onto our face and the dust that was flying around it felt that we were going very fast. If the speedo was working in the buggy I could have told you the speed that we were doing by either way it felt fast to me. We survived the next part of the trip with me driving and for once Dino got to sit back and enjoy the views. We drove over big rocks and down really steep hills that had a huge drop off at the edge. 

Unfortunately because it had rained so much the week before we arrived in the Algarve the river was too deep for us to cross in the buggies as they normally do but we still came across some big puddles we had to get through without getting to muddy.

When we arrived back and got out of the buggy we all started laughing at each other as it was the first time we had noticed just how dusty we all were. From head to toe we were covered in orange dust, I looked the worst as with my pale skin I looked like I had streaky fake tan all over me. We shook ourselves as clean as we could still laughing and ecstatic over the amazing experience we had just and watched the dust fly out of clothing on every shake. The trip was a bit pricey at 120 euros for a 2 person buggy but the experience was well worth the cost.

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Kayaking

I had seen pictures of the rocks and caves round the Algarve and wanted to do a boat trip out to see them, Dino wasn’t so keen on the idea of going on a boat but as we looked through the leaflets at the hotel we came across Kayaking trips around the coast of Lagos. We both jumped at the idea and set off to Lagos to book the trip. Dino had been in a canoe before but I had never done anything like this and it was going to be a completely new experience and another activity off the bucket list.

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There were loads of excursion companies offering trips around the caves but after looking at the leaflets and the TripAdvisor reviews we decided on a company called Days of Adventure and booked our tickets which were 35 euros each and went down to the meeting point to get on the boats.

At the start of the trip we jumped on to a normal boat that carries us out to sea from the marina with the kayaks on board, once we had reached the point at the begging of the caves we were loaded into the kayaks and pushed off a special ramp at the back of the boat and into the sea. Having never been in a kayak before I was surprised at how buoyant they were, I was worried that once I started moving trying to paddle the kayak would rock and we would fall in.

As it was the very beginning of April the sea was cold and at first the splashes of cold water on your legs as you paddled made you jump every time but after a couple of minutes paddling and working up a sweat the cold splashes were a welcome feeling.

Paddling was quite easy and we managed to get into a routine and were able to glide through the water and keep up with the guide and the other 4 kayaks in our group. 

The guide stopped us at points of interest and explained some history of the beaches and rock formations. The guides were all friendly and a real good laugh. As we went around they pointed out ancient rock formations that the old fisherman had named after the object they looked like and after the guides pointed it out you could really see the object in the rocks. Some of these formations were ‘The Portuguse Titanic’ where there was a rock shaped like a boat with another rock to the side shaped like an iceberg, ‘The French kiss’ this is a rock that looked like 2 people kissing, ‘Skull cave’ where what looked like a skull carved into the recess of the rocks, there were many more that we visited on the trip.

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Our guide also took us through cave openings that were just big enough for the kayak to squeeze through really putting our new found skills to the test. 

We all came out unscathed and got to wonder at the inside of these amazing caves carved into the rocks over millions of years. Inside the cave, the temperature was so cool and the water as cold as ice glowing a deep blue in the shade of the cave.

Once our tour had finished we headed back to the boat where we were pulled aboard and told that the boat would stop here for a while for people to go swimming. 

Having already felt the water I knew it was going to be cold but didn’t want to miss the experience of jumping into the sea from the boat. I made my way to the front of the boat where I saw some of the other passengers mainly the younger ones jumping off into the sea and happily swimming off. That was it I had to jump I couldn’t be the only one on the boat that had not been swimming so after sitting on the edge for what must have been about 5 minutes trying to pluck up the courage I finally though it is now or never and I jumped.

The coldness of the water pieced through my body, as soon as my feet hit the water I regretted the decision and started flailing around. The shock of the cold meant I was struggling to breathe and not being the strongest of swimmers I did start to panic a bit, I scorned myself for not jumping off the other end of the boat by the steps then I could have easily got back on board or at least had something to hold on to until I calmed myself down. 

Instead in my panic state I now had to try and swim to the other end of the boat before being able to get back on board. I was really struggling until I heard the Dino call to me asking if I was ok with a slight hint of worry in his voice. Hearing his voice helped me to calm down and I was able to begin the slow swim round to the other side. Still slowly panicking, once at the side of the boat the guide was leaning over the side unaware of my predicament, he proceeded to wind me up, saying that he could see a fin sticking out of the water behind me and it was getting closer.  For a moment I forgot about the cold icy water around me and when he had finished with his fin in the water joke I was a lot calmer and managed to swim round to the other side of the boat and climb back on board. I quickly wrapped myself up in a towel and looked up but Dino had gone I rushed to the side of the boat to see him casually swimming along.

I would highly recommend this trip to anyone visiting the Algarve it is a great experience, just be warned the sea is freezing so make sure you put it into consideration before jumping in. If however you did not want to do the kayaking but wanted to still do the trip there are loads of other boat tours available from the port. 

The company we went with ‘Days of Adventure’ also gave us discount vouchers for 2 local restaurants located in Lagos. We went to the orangery restaurant, the staff were very friendly and the food was fabulous which was well needed after all the hard work of kayaking.

Silves

We took the day to look around the historic town of Silves, which is rich in history and full of beautiful old buildings. I do love the old Portuguese Architecture it is always so grand with beautiful detail. 

In the centre of town is the imposing Silves Castle (Castelo De Silves), which is stood high up on the hill where it can be seen for miles. This Moorish stronghold has been used to defend the town in both the 12th and 13th Centuries. With its impressive stone built walls and amazing 360-degree viewpoint it is easy to see how it has stood the test of time and helped to defend the city.

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Inside the Castle are remnants of houses that were once situated within, mainly as excavated foundations now. The entry cost for the Castle De Silves is a very reasonable 3.80 euros each and this also includes entry to the town’s museum. 

Round the castle there is a beautiful landscape garden with blossom and orange trees and a lovely water feature built around a restaurant. The restaurant is a great place to stop for a spot of lunch or even just for a quick drink.

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 After visiting the castle we went down to the archaeological museum (Museu Municipal de Arqueologia de Silves) which is built around an excavated 12th-13th Century well. 

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Inside the museum there are plenty of artefacts to look at and you are allowed to take photos of all the exhibits as long as you do not use a flash.  The well itself is fascinating it is around 20 meters deep and made out of Silves sandstone.

Around the town of Silves there are some lovely little cafes and local bars serving Portuguese cuisine.  When we visited, there were a lot of tourists around but I do mean tourists who have come to enjoy the culture not holiday makers who are there for the sun and the booze. Slives was a very peaceful town with a lovely friendly atmosphere. Everywhere you looked there was beautiful architecture in the old buildings and churches.

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There were loads of stalks flying around the town and they had nests everywhere from the rooftops to the ruins of a house, too pylons. It was the first time I had ever seen a Stork, I did have to google them to find out what they were.

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Also when we were in the gardens of Silves Castle we saw a chameleon walk really slow from the bushes across the path and up the tree. He was a beautiful creature with really big looking eyes.

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Largos

 After we finished our kayaking tour and had lunch at a local restaurant we took to the streets of Largos to do some exploring of the town. Largos is also a historic town but unlike Silves it is a popular holiday makers destination so there are a lot more bars and restaurants with nearly everyone we meet being able to speak English. There were quite a few holiday makers in Lagos but as we went off season the town was still peaceful, I can imagine it being quite busy in the summer with the bars and restaurants very full.

Largos still boasts its historic walled old town with historic buildings and beautiful churches.

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There was a market along the promenade when we visited offering clothes, bags, ceramics and gifts. There was also a main shopping parade with lots of well known and local shops so great if you would like to do a bit of shopping whilst on holiday. There is also a cliff walk you can take around Largos, although we didn’t get time to visit.

Portimao

We stayed in Portimao in Vitors Plazza a lovely purpose built hotel with outdoor and indoor swimming pool (not that we even went in it). Our room was a good size with a large balcony and the room was very clean and looked newly decorated. We enjoyed watching spectacular sunrises from the balcony with the sun shining through the palm trees.

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The nearest beach to us was a 5 minute drive from the hotel and had a wooden promenade spanning the width of the beach. With quaint little restaurants serving delicious local food, the beach was made up of beautiful white sand and deep blue ocean with the cliffs in the distance. We went down to the beach every night and watched the sun set then stopped at the restaurants for dinner. After we had finished we left under the starry night sky.

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Praia da Rocha in Portimao

About a 10 minute drive from our hotel was Praia da Rocha (meaning beach of rocks) as the name suggests this is where you can walk along the rock formations and into some of the caves made from erosion. The beach is picturesque with its golden sands, blue waters and the limestone rocks. We spent some time walking along the beach into the caves and through small archways carved into the rocks. The tide was out when we visited so we were able to fully explore the rocks.

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Once we had finished we headed up to the top where we were greeted by cafes and restaurants where we spend the time resting in the sunshine looking out onto the ocean.

Faro

Faro was the last town we visited, as the airport is in Faro we spent the day there before catching our late flight home. We started off in the new part of town where we ended up walking around the biggest shopping centre I have been too. 

There was lots of well known shops like Zara, Addidas, Lacoste, Levis and so on anyone who loves to shop should definitely visit the Forum Algarve shopping centre. As we had travelled light with only hand luggage we were limited to what we could buy but enjoyed pondering around the shops anyway. 

When it got to lunch time we headed up to the food court and were hit with so much choice. There was the usual Macdonalds and KFC but we didn’t come to Portugal to eat English food so we picked a Portuguese restaurant chain and picked what we wanted from the pictures at the side. I ordered a frango deluxe salad and I have to say it was the best salad I have ever had. The salad came with orange, fennel seeds, balsamic vinegar, salad and chicken. We also had freshly squeezed lemonade with chopped mint, this was the most refreshing drink I have ever had, it was so nice we got one each to take away as well. Even in a food court fast food restaurant the food was still amazing it is hard to find anywhere in the Algarve that doesn’t serve good fresh food.

We had a walk around this part of town and saw the dried up beds of the mudflats and salt water lagoons where there were small fishing boats that had been stranded.

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After we had finished exploring this part of town we headed to Faro old town to explore yet more Portuguese historic architecture. Faro old town is a very scenic town especially with the old walled part, with medieval cobbled streets and beautiful buildings, it also boasts a marina.

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Faro has a very Portuguese feel with a few tourists visiting and not holiday makers so there is a very relaxed atmosphere. There are still a lot of restaurants dotted around selling authentic Portuguese cuisine and with more of a Portuguese vibe and once again serving delicious food. What a great end to our holiday in the Algarve.

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We only had 4 short days if we had longer there is a lot more activities that you can do Viator has a great selection of excursions on the Algarve.

Why not also read my other posts –

Why Madeira is a great family holiday destination

Our France Road Trip

Sea Vs Air travel

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