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London to Cornwall - stopping places and strategies?

(38 Posts)
NumptyNu Wed 05-Feb-14 21:40:58

Hi there,

Thinking of booking a holiday to Cornwall. We have three young kids. The idea of the holiday fills me with delight, but the car journey with dread.

Does anyone have any tips or recommended places to stop and let the kids run about for a couple of hours mid-route from London to Cornwall?

Rhubarbgarden Wed 05-Feb-14 22:14:53

We did this a couple of years ago. We stopped off for lunch and an hour's run around at Dyrham Park. This worked well; the journey wasn't anything like as bad as I thought it was going to be.

saintlyjimjams Wed 05-Feb-14 22:17:51

Which route are you taking? If A303 then Stonehenge or Avebury?

NumptyNu Thu 06-Feb-14 07:59:10

Hi rhubarb - is that a National Trust place?

NumptyNu Thu 06-Feb-14 07:59:50

Hi Saintly, yes looking at the 303. Is it a decent road?

Branleuse Thu 06-Feb-14 08:03:29

We used to stop overnight in bristol, then a picnic somewhere in Devon,

beachyhead Thu 06-Feb-14 08:04:26

Might be worth doing the journey early morning (with them still in pj's) and stop for breakfast....

SWStressed Thu 06-Feb-14 08:05:13

Get up at 5am take the m5 and you will do it in 3.5 hours before they have even really woken up. A303 hellish

Florin Thu 06-Feb-14 08:11:56

We do this regularly as have a place down there. We leave at about 5:30 pm and our son sleeps all the way down there (I Cut out his nap so he is really tired but normally goes to bed at 6 anyway). It takes 5 hours and we are tucked up in bed by about 11pm. Dh and I enjoy having a good chat on the way down with nice picnic food in the car. We do not stop at all.

ChippyMinton Thu 06-Feb-14 08:12:54

Agree, don't take the A303 - it's the road from hell with single lane sections and side turnings. Go early, take the M4/M5.

Pooka Thu 06-Feb-14 08:20:31

We do the journey every 6 weeks or so.

Is fine. We manage it by not driving on a Saturday or by going out of rush hour.

We always do the A303. Loathe the motorway.

We stop at fleet sometimes. Then Exeter services to stock up until food delivery the day after we arrive. If we've got time and are travelling during the day we often stop on dartmoor - but is a slight diversion and so usually just push on through. If travelling at night we sometimes don't stop if making good time. With a stop the average journey is about 5.5 hours. Kids have DVDs in back and plentiful snacks and bladders of steel.

In the old days if going during the summer holidays my parents would leave at about 5am to try and get the edge on the traffic, particularly if tied to a Friday or Saturday changeover.

frogs Thu 06-Feb-14 08:22:09

Oh god, do not under any circumstances take the A303, you will lose the will to live. And it's a scarily dangerous road too, as people try and overtake on the dual carriageway sections before it goes back to single carriageway. Any satnav or routeplanner that tries to persuade you that the A303 will be faster than the M4/M5 combo is LYING. Trust us on this.

The bottleneck on the M4/M5 route tends to be the bit around Bristol. As someone else said, get up early and aim to be past Gordano services before 8am. That way you can generally breeze the whole route, as you'll beat all the traffic coming from London and Birmingham. If you're later than that it will add several hours to your journey.

One of the services on the M5 (can't remember which one) has a children's play area, which is serviceable but not exciting. Otherwise it's generally best to just keep going, unless you have specific places you want to visit for their own sake.

plantsitter Thu 06-Feb-14 08:24:40

If you have NT membership, stop at stourhead for a run about.

mimolette Thu 06-Feb-14 08:27:56

You could fly or train? That would be my choice.
Otherwise, our friends, who do it regularly with small kids, start in the evening and drive straight through while kids go to sleep.

Rhubarbgarden Thu 06-Feb-14 11:00:21

Yep, Dyrham Park is NT. Lovely spot.

Florin Thu 06-Feb-14 11:13:23

We go down every few weeks as do my parents and have done for 30 years and we always take the A303 as it seems the best route to us however we do avoid Saturdays and travel late. If you leave at 10am on a Saturday in August you will get stuck although you will probably get stuck on all roads.

mummymeister Thu 06-Feb-14 15:25:58

the best strategies are to find somewhere that does Friday turn around day so you are travelling not when every one else is. we stay near Looe which is on the A38 not down the dreaded A30 carpark. I never visit N Cornwall in the summer now at all because it is always busy and the cars are car parks. we take motorway, stop at Bristol (@Bristol is a good museum for kids) then its only about 2 ish hours from there to Looe.

saintlyjimjams Thu 06-Feb-14 16:46:18

I always took the A303 - used to do Bromley - South Devon regularly. Meant I could cut off a large chunk of the M25 (especially also taking the Hogs back via Guildford) - never found it scary!

I'd take M4/M5 from west or north- west London but if coming from Surrey/Essex side would always choose A303z

NumptyNu Thu 06-Feb-14 19:35:50

Love mumsnet. Thanks all, some great suggestions. It's been sooo long since we had a holiday, I feel like such an amateur. Love the NT suggestions, and also thanks the traffic warnings. shock

frogs Thu 06-Feb-14 20:21:32

Jimjams, i'm sure you're right about the best route depending which side of London you're coming from, as often the most tedious part of any journey out of London is getting across the damn place to the right road to take you out of there.

From north London def A40 then M4/m5. But when we lived further east it could easily take an hour just to get to the Westway (nightmare). Hence the tendency of people who have to do this regularly to start at stupid o'clock am, or to do a late-night run.

saintlyjimjams Thu 06-Feb-14 20:40:21

Yes when we lived in Kew we always did M4/M5, but coming across from Kent getting to the M4 took forever, so A303 it was. I actually prefer the A303, but then I grew up in Devon grin and I could stop at my aunt's in yeovil for a cup of tea grin

Heading north from Bromley was always a total nightmare!!!

mellojello Thu 06-Feb-14 20:42:48

Travel through the night, they will love the excitement, and park up at the beach for sunrise grin

Pooka Thu 06-Feb-14 20:54:38

We are in Bromley - m25/m3/a303 for us!

saintlyjimjams Thu 06-Feb-14 20:57:34

If you can bare the hogs back that's even quicker as it knocks off a big corner of the M3/M25. That is a bit of a vile road though.

I am pleased I don't have to do London - Devon regularly anymore..... it's a bit of a a trek

Coveredinweetabix Thu 06-Feb-14 21:00:38

How come no one has mentioned the garden centre at junc 22 of the M5? It's perfect for a stop off. 5 mins off the M5 and, unlike a motorway services, is usually filled with OAPs on a day out so there's so stress. Cafe which does those kids' snack boxes where you pick five things as well as kids' hot meals and then jacket potatoes, salads, hot meals etc. There's an outdoor playground (although the new one is much more boring than the old one), an aquatic centre where the staff seem to expect that you're there to look at the fish rather than buy one huge areas of plants to play hide and seek around and a cheap book/toy section so you can cheaply indulge any need for a new toy for the second part of the journey. It's awesome. We actually spent 2hrs there at one stop off.
I particularly like it as youngest DC is still in a pushchair so there's the normal issue of how to carry a tray of food & push the pushchair but that is easily solved as the staff will carry your food to your table, go & get the cutlery/ketchup/whatever else it is you've forgotten, would warm a bottle etc.

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