The time is 3:04pm. I’m standing excitedly waiting behind my desk, chair pushed neatly under, of course, eagerly staring at the bell in the corner, wishing it to signal the end of not only the school day, but the school year. There it is! An ecstasy of fumbling as bags and belongings are gathered up rapidly. The door swings open, letting air and light in, and a mass of little bodies out. The school summer holidays have finally arrived!
You’d be forgiven for assuming that this is 1989 and I’m four and half feet of skinny, gangly excitement. Rather, this is 2016 and, as their 6 foot tall teacher, I’m at the front of the queue, elbows out, Cheshire Cat grin plastered across my face, doing a power walk/happy dance/mum run impression to my car and six weeks of FREEEEDOOOOM! (belted out in classic Braveheart style).
I still get that same giddiness I did when I was a critter, at the prospect of long sunny days filled with all manner of adventures and experiences. I get to spend a hell of a lot more time with my kids for one, and Nat usually books some time off work herself, so we get to indulge ourselves in some quality family time. But, away from the big trips and festivals that we plan every summer, we are also always on the lookout for free and affordable days out in and around north Wales.
So, with that in mind, here’s the first part in our series on days out that won’t break the bank. We’ll bring you three different destinations each week during the summer holidays, to ensure that you and your critters always have new and affordable adventures to discover. Enjoy.
As well as enjoying longer breaks on this beautiful isle, it’s also a great destination for adventurous family days out. Go to Newborough Forest to spot red squirrels before walking down to the adjacent beach, which is regularly listed in the national press as one of Britain’s best. Check the tide times so you can walk across to stunning Llanddwyn Island to watch the sun go down from the lighthouse, before enjoying a late supper back on the beach.
Or explore the beaches and rock pools, perfect for crabbing, between Benllech and Red Wharf Bay. Be sure to pack your bucket and spade and fishing net, or take a kite to while away the hours in another of the isle’s stunning coastal locations. Take a picnic or, if you prefer to be waited on, grab lunch, followed by an obligatory fresh Anglesey ice cream, at the delicious and ever so family friendly Boathouse.
If you’re feeling energetic you could hike the 11 miles of coastal path from Moelfre to Lynas, or the shorter and easier Lligwy to Moelfre path, which is just under 4 miles in length. Both offer absolutely beautiful views and scenery that will keep you and your critters engaged for hours on end. Of course, if you’re staying for a few nights on Anglesey, you could always attempt the entire 128 mile circular coastal path around the whole island!
For more on this beautiful isle visit: http://www.visitanglesey.co.uk/en
Oneplanet Adventure at Coed Llandegla
For the £4.50 price of the all day car park, you and your critters can grab miles of smiles at one of the UK’s leading mountain bike trail centres. With a range of trails to keep all the family happy, from the family orientated green route, perfect for experienced balance bikers and new peddlers, all the way to the grin- inducing black route, with its technical trail features and its fast exposed edge descents, perfect for teenagers and adults who know their way around a mountain bike, and know their berms from their tabletops. Just make sure you have bikes that are up to the job of the trail route that you select. If any family members are stuck for two wheels, there are bikes available for hire from the Centre. Just make sure you book in advance to avoid disappointment.
If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, the Centre also offers a range of walking routes of varying lengths and difficulties. After all this energy has been expended, you can picnic either on the edges of the reservoir or check out the Centre’s awesome cafe, which has previously won awards for the quality of its bacon butty. There you’ll find friendly staff more than happy to offer any advice that you and your family may need.
For more information and downloadable trail maps visit: https://oneplanetadventure.com/
Bala Lake, Lake Vyrnwy and Coed y Brenin
Bala Lake is spectacle to behold. It has beautiful scenery, an array of walking and hiking opportunities and, of course, huge potential for watery family fun on the magnificent lake itself. With everything from paddling and fishing, to kayaking and white water rafting available in the area, there is something for children of all ages to enjoy.
To check out other family friendly activities in the area visit: http://www.visitbala.org.uk/things-to-do/with-children
Taking place throughout August, the RSPB have organised a series of children’s nature activities. From bug hunting to pond dipping, it will certainly encourage you and your critters to get closer to nature in another stunning Welsh setting. Priced at just £3 you could easily combine one of these sessions with a walk around the lake and a relaxing picnic. Just wash your hands first after all of those bugs!
Coed y Brenin
Located about an hour away from Lake Vyrnwy, Coed y Brenin is better known for its famous mountain biking trails. However, during the school holidays, and at a cost of only £3 per child, they are running a series of survival skills sessions suitable for 4 – 10 year olds. You can expect den building, learning how to make a campfire and experimenting with outdoor cooking, all of which will bring out the little Bear Grylls in each of your critters. Once the session has finished, explore the walking trails around the forest to find your perfect picnic spot. To help you out, they have numerous picnic tables dotted around, some of which even have metal frames to hold your disposable BBQs!
For specific dates and to book, head over to http://www.visitbala.org.uk/events