Top 10 UK family holiday destinations
Planning a family holiday? There's never been a better time for a glorious Great British getaway. Here are the 2021 destinations for UK breaks that Mumsnet users really rate.
While the country is still in lockdown, the end of the Coronavirus pandemic is in sight. And though it's still unclear exactly when travel restrictions will be lifted, there is hope for UK summer holidays. We scoured the Mumsnet forums and hundreds of holiday cottage reviews to bring you this list of the best UK holiday destinations.
Northumberland has been a Mumsnet favourite for the past few years and we can't see that changing any time soon – the region has something for everyone.The Northumberland coast wins for us every time. If you stay in Seahouses you have all the traditional seaside stuff on the doorstep – but we tend to go for a holiday cottage in one of the pretty villages dotted around.
The county gets rave reviews for its beautiful clean beaches. You can also take a boat from Seahouses to the Farne Islands or drive over the causeway to Holy Island.
Bamburgh's imposing castle, dramatically positioned next to the sea, is perfect for imagining 'the olden days' of knights and queens with little ones. And don't forget Alnwick Castle, where many scenes in the Harry Potter movies were filmed – bliss!
For woodland trails, bike rides, and some much-needed peace and quiet, head to the picturesque Northumberland National Park.
Where to stay
Book a trip to Northumberland with Cottages.com and receive 7% off your stay when you use code PART07 at checkout. Book here.
- Seashell Cottage is in the quaint seaside town of Amble, 9 miles from Alnwick, and is very close to the shore for lovely coastal walks.
- Or try rustic Tweed Cottage, a cosy cottage in a quiet location that sleeps five. It's about 40 minutes from Holy Island and is an ideal base for exploring the Harry Potter castle. Get 7% off your stay by booking here.
- If you fancy a holiday in the grounds of an actual castle , why not try Haughton Castle Garden Cottage in the North Tyne valley? It can sleep four (plus one dog) and, although the castle isn't open to the public, the owners are happy to give tours to holiday home guests.
What should I take to Northumberland?
A good pair of wellies are a must and Mumsnet users have a few recommendations up their sleeve. Among them are the Dunlop Ladies Black Wellington Boots. As one Mumsnetter said,“They're currently on their second winter and are still intact, and are warm and comfy with a couple pairs of socks inside."
These Joules ankle-height wellie boots also come highly recommended. According to one Mumsnetter, they're “warm, comfortable and I've never had any problems with cracking or leaking. Mine are worn on the farm daily as well as on long dog walks and in the sea.”
2. Isle of WightIt's never too busy, has some lovely things to do and see, and great places to eat. Steephill Cove is one of my favourite places in the whole world.
The Isle of Wight has the considerable bonus of being reached via ferry – very nearly counting as a trip 'abroad'. Beach lovers get vast stretches of sandy coast, plus rocky beaches ideal for paddling, and the entire island has a lovely old-fashioned feel.
There are walking and cycling opportunities galore and a surprisingly good section of nice restaurants and pubs, plus an array of attractions including Blackgang Chine, the Roman Villa, Osborne House and Carisbrook Castle (top tip: consider English Heritage membership if you're planning to visit more than one).
The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse is, quite possibly, the island's most famous attraction – and we can see why. With a chairlift that takes you to the beach, where you can see the rocks in all their glory, plus other fun activities such as a glass blowing demonstration at Alum Bay glass, there's more than enough on this tiny island to keep children entertained.
Where to stay
Book a trip to the Isle of Wight with Cottages.com and receive 7% off your stay when you use code PART07 at checkout. Book here.
- Bodwen Corner Cottage is a lovely old Victorian property, which is in striking distance of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and the Museum at Havenstreet station. Get 7% off by booking here.
- You could also stay in one of the four parks offered by Parkdean Resorts, with Nodes Point and Thorness Bay offering glamping options.
3. North Norfolk
For a traditional, family seaside holiday, you can't beat Wells-next-the-Sea. It's a bit posh, a bit tacky – in all the right proportions! The beach itself is great for kids; large, sandy with colourful beach huts and a big island of sand dunes.
North Norfolk is a firm family favourite, with gasp-worthy beaches and traditional seaside resorts offering a plethora of quayside seafood (i.e. fish and chips) opportunities.
Popular spots along the coast include Cromer, Wells-next-the-Sea and Hunstanton. On the whole beaches are very accessible – just be sure to arrive at the car parks before 10.30am in peak summer.
There are plenty of English Heritage and National Trust properties to explore too.
For other less sandy things to do, Bewilderwood is a fun adventure park with treehouses and marsh walks, while Dinosaur World offers a life-size dinosaur trail which kids will love.
Where to stay
Book a trip to Norfolk with Cottages.com and receive 7% off your stay when you use code PART07 at checkout. Book here.
- Thorpe Forest Lodges allow you to feel at one with nature – without sacrificing your creature comforts. Get 5% off your stay with a Mumsnet discount when you book here.
- Saracens Retreat, one of the oldest cottages in Wickmere, sleeps five people and within close proximity to the beaches in Sheringham (8 miles) and Cromer (9 miles). Get 7% off by booking here.
- The Corrie's Cottage is within the prestigious development of the Old Vicarage – with it's 2.5 acres of communal ground for children to roam in – and is just a short walk from the centre of medieval Little Walsingham.
4. YorkshireYou can't beat Yorkshire. There's Filey for a more traditional, sedate seaside experience, then there's Scarborough – still traditional (think donkey rides) but a bit more lively with lots of arcades along the seafront.
Yorkshire's a brilliant bet – it's got dales and moors, peaks, national parks and a breathtaking coastline to boot.
Scarborough is great for young 'uns, with a Sea Life centre and penny arcades for rainy days, plus plenty of family-friendly beaches and parks to explore when the sun is shining.
Pack your swimmers and head to Scarborough’s newest attraction, the Alphamare water park – a multi-million pound attraction with plenty of slides, a water playground, heated outdoor pool and a spa area.
Where to stay
Book a trip to Yorkshire with Cottages.com and receive 7% off your stay when you use code PART07 at checkout. Book here.
- Haven's Blue Dolphin resort is a short drive from Scarborough's sandy beaches and has plenty of indoor play options on site, including a climbing wall and indoor pool – great if it rains (which it wont, we're sure) or for keeping older children entertained.
- Holmedene cottage sleeps eight, making it ideal for bigger groups, and is close to both the fishing village of Filey and an RSPB nature reserve with puffins and kittiwakes. "
- Or, if you'd like to get back to nature, opt for The Byre – located in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park with stunning panoramic views over the rolling countryside. Get 7% off your stay with Mumsnet discount partners – book here.
5. Scottish Highlands, Aviemore
Don't forget that there is a beach there – it's not unusual to be swimming in the loch in blazing sunshine while overlooked by snow-capped mountains!
“There's nothing to do,” said no one on holiday in Aviemore, ever.
With wildlife parks, a mountain railway, outdoor adventure parks (think zip wires, quad biking, clay pigeon shooting, gorge walking, kayaking and more) plus fishing, grass sledging and miles and miles of beautiful trails, Aviemore is perfect for an active family break. Frankly we're exhausted just talking about it.
5km south of Aviemore sits Lock an Eilein, a small freshwater loch in Cairngorms National Park – a popular spot for many visitors surrounded by lots of walking trails.
Where to stay
Book a trip to Aviemore with Cottages.com and receive 7% off your stay when you use code PART07 at checkout. Book here.
- Secluded Suidhe Cottage is conveniently close to the water sports and wildlife parks of Kincraig. Or if you'd rather stay in, it also boasts its own hot tub.
- Glencanisp, on the other hand, is a grand old house in the centre of Aviemore with open fires, which sleeps up to six.
- For a more rustic break, stay at Aviemore Woodland Lodges and hire mountain bikes to explore the local landscape.
- Cottages.com also has Cairn View park in the region, and you can get 7% off your stay by booking here.
Probably my favourite part of the country – there's so much space on all of the beaches, and so many to choose from.
Pembrokeshire is home to the UK's only coastal national park, so it's a great spot for an active family break – especially if you're taking teenagers with bags of energy.
Mumsnet users rate Tenby as a top place to stay with its fantastic beach, National Trust properties, boat trips and a dinosaur park – plus plenty of wet weather options for rainy days.
If you thought whales and dolphins could only been seen in seas surrounding exotic islands or countries with Arctic-like temperatures, think again. whales, dolphins and harbour porpoises can be spotted from the coast of Pembrokeshire during the summer months so it's well worth booking a boat trip to visit the waters nearby.
Where to stay
Book a trip to Pembrokeshire with Cottages.com and receive 7% off your stay when you use code PART07 at checkout. Book here.
- Hoseason's Kiln Park, based in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, has loads of activities to keep children busy, as well as being very close to Tenby. Book here for 5% off your stay.
- Clydey Cottages, another self-catering option, has a coveted Mumsnet Best award with high praise for its facilities and friendly atmosphere.
We went to Weymouth last year which has a real old-fashioned seaside holiday feel. There are even donkey rides on the beach. Lots to see and do in the area – my son is constantly asking to go back.
If you're holidaying with small children, then Dorset is a great spot.
With old-fashioned seaside resorts in Weymouth and Swanage, the beautiful Isle of Purbeck, a wide open beach at Studland, fossil hunting on Chesil Beach, plus aquariums, Monkey World and plenty of National Trust and English Heritage properties, you won't be stuck for things to do in this beautiful county.
You can relive the Enid Blyton books of your youth in Corfe – Blyton regularly visited the area and the castle is said to be the inspiration for Kirrin Castle in her book, Five on a Treasure Island.
Where to stay
Book a trip to Dorset with Cottages.com and receive 7% off your stay when you use code PART07 at checkout. Book here.
- Delimara is on a lovely peninsula on the Jurassic Coast, six miles south of Weymouth and close to Chesil Beach, so there's lots of local wildlife to spot from the property's garden.
- Hoseasons has a coastal park which is a mile from Swanage and comes with an exclusive 5% off for Mumsnetters – book here.
- Explorer House near Poole gives you easy access to the harbour, where you can take a boat trip to Brownsea Island.
Bude in Cornwall gets our vote. Fabulous wild beaches – or more tame ones if you prefer. Much emptier than other parts of the Cornish coast, and only just over the Devon border so not too far to drive.
A UK holiday round-up that doesn't mention Cornwall? Impossible.
A perennial favourite on the Mumsnet forums, Cornwall has a breathtaking coastline and a wide range of attractions like Land's End, The Minack open-air theatre, St Michael's Mount and, of course, the Eden Project.
Hayle is a popular destination, with its miles of sandy beaches, where there's surfing lessons for older children, while younger kids can explore in shallower water and do some rock pooling. And let's not forget the cream teas, pasties, and ice cream – Cornwall is a foodie's paradise.
Where to stay
Book a trip to Cornwall with Cottages.com and receive 7% off your stay when you use code PART07 at checkout. Book here.
- If it's the Eden Project you're after, then The Ark is just a mile from the site and boasts its own tranquil garden haven, as well as a cosy woodburner.
- The Mackerel is very close to St Austell, Cornwall's biggest town, and its many beaches.
- There are also three properties in Cornwall with a Mumsnet Best award: Bosinver Farm Cottages in St Austell (book here), Coombe Mill in Bodmin (book here) and Tredethick Farm in Lostwithiel (book here) all come with the family seal of approval.
What should I take to Cornwall?
A good camera to capture all those seaside sunsets and sandcastles-gone-wrong. Mumsnet users often single out the Fujifilm X-E2 as a worthy investment.
“Even if you just use the automatic settings, it takes absolutely gorgeous photos.”
9. DevonWe had a great holiday here when our kids were small – we stayed at a caravan park right on the beach, and not far from lots of attractions. We went back last year to Ilfracombe which had lots to do and see, plus wonderful beaches nearby.
You'll be spoilt for choice if you holiday in Devon.
Up t'north you've got the stunning beaches of Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, plus the cobbled streets of Clovelly and the vast expanse of Exmoor to explore, while down south you've the considerable and varied attractions of Dartmoor, Plymouth, Exeter, Salcombe and Blackpool Sands.
Thankfully, cream teas are served north, south, and indeed everywhere in between.
While you're sampling the many baked delights, you could also squeeze in a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary or the Birds of Prey Falconry centre.
Fancy getting up close and personal with puffins and seals? Look no further than Lundy Island, just off the coast of North Devon. Reach it by boat from Bideford or Ilfracombe.
Where to stay
Book a trip to Devon with Cottages.com and receive 7% off your stay when you use code PART07 at checkout. Book here.
- Hoseason's Ladram Bay holiday park is packed with things to do and is near to the lovely Jurassic Coast, which is great for family walks. Get 5% off your stay by booking here.
- Devon is also home to two self-catering properties which are highly recommended on the Mumsnet forums; Three Gates Farm in Huntsham and North Hayne Farm Cottages in Bishops Nymphton.
10. Lake District
I love the Lake District, and so do my children. We're going on our first foreign holiday in more than 10 years this year, but it was very much booked on the condition that we can manage a week in the Lakes too.
Don your walking boots and dust off the three-wheeler buggy at the UK's largest national park – the Lake District. Grab a map from one of the many visitor centres dotted around and head off exploring.
Popular attractions include the Grizedale sculpture trail, a steamer cruise along Ullswater, and a visit to Beatrix Potter's home in Ambleside. If you're up for something a little more strenuous, there's mountain biking, climbing, walking, kayaking and canoeing readily available.
If you're after a spot of downtime, take a cruise on the Derentwater – and don't forget the Kendal Mint Cake.
As the largest natural lake in England, Lake Windermere boasts fantastic views and a whole lot of fun. While you can definitely walk or cycle around the lake, we'd recommend grabbing yourself a rowing boat and going on a little family cruise.
Where to stay
Book a trip to Lake District with Cottages.com and receive 7% off your stay when you use code PART07 at checkout. book here.
- Rustic lakeland cottage Crookthwaite has a big garden, and is close to Ambleside if you're driving, or a short walk to Hawkshead if you're not. Get 7% off your booking here.
- Get closer to the stunning lakes at Ullswater with Mell Fell View, which overlooks Northern Fells including Blencathra, Carrock and, of course, Mell.
- Parkdean Resorts also has four locations in the area – three in Windermere and one (owners only) in Kendal.
Travelling in the Covid-19 pandemic: Cancellation policies, refunds and returns
As the UK travel industry begins to reopen, lot's of us are keen to get out of the house and explore new territories, but the risk of local outbreaks or second-waves of Covid-19 can’t be ignored.
Many UK travel agencies have loosened their cancellation and refund policies to make it easier to travel. Cottages.com and Hoseasons, for example, will offer costumers a full refund if holidays are cancelled. In addition to this, they’ve moved payments deadlines to three weeks before the holiday, and provided their cottage owners with extra information about enhanced cleaning measures.
Always check the cancellation policy before you book and don’t travel if you develop any Covid-19 symptoms.
What is the most visited place in the UK?
According to a survey by Visit Britain, London is, unsurprisingly, the most visited place in the UK for inbound visitors.
Of our top 10 UK family holiday destinations, Yorkshire features highest on Visit Britain's list with it's main city, York, coming in at number 13. YouGov profiles data also reveals that York is the most popular city among Britons.
What is the best all-inclusive family resort in the UK?
Butlin's is the only all-inclusive family resort to have won a coveted Mumsnet Rated badge.
Out of 180 Mumsnet users, 87% said that they would visit Butlin's again with their families and 86% would recommend Butlin's to a friend.
“I would definitely recommend the Wave Hotel apartments. We have four children so need a lot of space to avoid being on top of each other. These apartments are lovely and spacious and very clean.”
“Butlin's is brilliant! I have been going there since 1993 after being introduced to it by my husband when were first started dating. He's been going there with his family since the 70s. Obviously it's a very different place now, but it still seems like a second home to us.”
“We go there a lot. The offers make it unbeatable value and my son adores the activities programme."
What is the best UK destination for a family weekend break?
While the place you pick for this year's family holiday will of course depend on family interests and budget, the best UK destination for a family weekend break according to Mumsnet users is North Norfolk.
With stunning beaches, beautiful coastal walks and some of the best fish and chips the UK has to offer, this vibrant county is ideal for children of all ages – and adults who want a bit of down-time away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life.
Popular spots include Cromer, Hunstanton, Wells-next-the-Sea and Blakeney among others.
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