Half term is coming up and as you know, I’m a big fan of a UK mini break. Well, to be honest I’m a fan of any sort of mini break, but going away for a few days within the UK is a little bit more feasible and affordable during half term than whizzing off to Monte Carlo or Verona or anywhere fancy like that.

I’m really looking forward to this half term. Belle is exhausted and in need of a good rest, and Fiance has the week off work. I’m imagining lots of cosy lie ins and afternoon outings to admire the autumn leaves before coming home to snuggle up on the sofa with a stack of blankets and some festive films. 

Oh, and I have to do a spot of work. Probably.

If you fancy getting away for a few days this half term, I’ve got a few suggestions for you here. They are recommendations from LateRooms.com, and there’s something to suit everyone, whether you like paddling in the freezing October sea or making an early start on your Christmas shopping. (I like both. But not at the same time.)

The beach break – Brighton

Here’s a little known fact for you – the sea here in October is actually warmer for paddling than the whole of the summer. Honestly. That’s what LateRooms.com told me anyway.  You’ve got the famous Brighton Pier too of course, which is open year round, with seaside stalls, fairground rides and plenty of tasty seaside snacks. Personally I don’t think you can go wrong with an hour on the 2p slot machines and a bag of salty chips.

Stay – The King’s Hotel, 3*

Located right on the sea front and close to the West Pier, this hotel makes for easy navigating of the beach and town. Double, triple and family rooms are all available and lots have sea views to make the most of your beach break.

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The city stayGlasgow

I’ve ashamed to say I’ve only ever been to Scotland once. I feel bad about it. When American friends come to England they ‘pop’ to places like Berlin and Paris, as though it’s just around the road, yet I’ve lived in the UK all my life and barely been to a huge chunk of it. Sorry Scotland.

The time I did visit, I went to Edinburgh, so Glasgow definitely needs to be on my list. It feels a bit like Edinburgh’s quieter, less popular cousin, but is a bit of a hidden gem for a UK break. You’ll find live music, street entertainers, vibrant shopping and dining, and of plenty of interesting child friendly activities. Try the Glasgow Science Centre and Planetarium where the kids can get involved with experiments, or explore the riverside’s tall ships (for free).

Stay – The Hallmark Hotel, 4*

The Hallmark Glasgow is in the heart of the city and has 12 family apartments which give you space to spread out. There’s an indoor pool, to keep the kids entertained along with a health club and spa (if you’re looking to wind down). The hotel’s own brasserie restaurant means you can always dine in at the end of a day’s sightseeing.

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I always look forward to the summer holidays with a mix of emotions. I’m excited about not having to get up early every morning, (and by early I mean at about ten to eight, in time to make a quick sandwich for Belle and try to look involved), but also anxious about juggling work, and keeping everyone entertained.

As it turned out, this summer fairly whizzed by. Belle went off to stay at my sister’s for a week, (flying to Ireland on her own!), and then we all went over a couple of weeks later for her wedding.  (My sister’s not Belle’s.) Belle and I went to Newquay, we threw some axes, it was all going on. On the final weekend of the summer holidays, we had one final hoorah and went of to Valleyfest for the weekend. 

Valleyfest is a diddy little festival, with a foodie twist, held on the edge of Chew Valley Lake. This sets it apart from all of the other festivals I’ve been to, as you have a stunning view of the water from everywhere in the site. Now admittedly, the weather was pretty shocking, but even so, it was  beautiful.

Valleyfest

We were there for the whole weekend, but were very lucky as we were put up by Tinkerbell Tent Hire, who were providing the glamping for Valleyfest. (I.e. the tents for people like me who are too lazy to knock a couple of pegs into the ground.) We were really grateful for it, as the winds did get up on Saturday night, and if we’d had been in a tent that I’d put up, we’d probably have blown away. Tinkerbell Tent Hire also hire out tents for things like weddings, so they are definitely worth a look.  View Post

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I have a bit of a thing for unusual museums. 

Whenever we’re away anywhere, I always look for the oddest sounding places to visit, or if I can’t find any, I’ll just drive around until I see a sign and follow it. A week or so ago I drove past a sign saying ‘stationery factory’ and got very excited, because I thought I might get to see how pencils were made, but it turned out it was just a regular factory and members of the passing general public weren’t allowed to just wander in. I had to turn around in the driveway by the barriers and try to look casual, like I had just gone the wrong way.

Over the years, visiting unusual museums has become one of those family traditions that you don’t start intentionally, but that you’re glad has happened, because it makes you feel like more of a team. Like an in joke, except the joke is on my children every time I take them to a weird museum about bees that’s actually just a creepy old man with an old beehive in his attic.

It’s nice though. It’s quality family time. A war time spirit almost – us against the crazy bee man. 

I’ve been meaning for ages to get around to writing a post about my unusual museums fetish, and so when Smart Insurance got in touch to say they were launching a campaign about the importance of families spending time together, having good old fashioned family fun, well, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. The Smart Insurance campaign has been inspired by the National Trust‘s mission to get children more connected with nature, and it doesn’t get much more ‘nature’ than bees does it? View Post

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Today I’m feeling mixed emotions.

Sure, it may only be officially less than four months now until Christmas, (hoorah!), but it’s also almost the end of our mini-break season. I wanted this year to try and get away for as many weekends as possible, and we accomplished it spectacularly – we’ve visited all sorts of lovely places, and had some lovely times, but the end of the summer holidays marks the end of the peak season. We have a couple of trips planned still, but mainly we’ll be hanging out at home. I’m kind of looking forward to this, but sad too, as I do like a hotel breakfast.

One of the last destinations on our mini-break calendar of fun was the Woodbury Park Hotel in Devon. It’s less than an hour away from us, but I actually kind of like to holiday nearer home, especially if you’re only going for a night or two. No one wants to spend half their allotted mini-break time driving there do they? Also, when you go somewhere relatively close by, you’ll often discover places you never even knew about, that you can then visit again.

That was the certainly the case with Dart’s Farm, where we headed after checking in, to hire bikes. Dart’s Farm is a massive farm shop, with a cafe, loads of food, drink, interiors stuff, an outside area, local fish and chips – I can’t believe that in the all the time I’ve lived in Somerset and been on family days out, we’ve never come across it. If you’re anywhere nearby, it’s definitely worth a visit, if only to go in the kitchen and bathroom showroom and gawp at the small glass bathroom shelf that’s on sale for £350. Seriously, it was about 10 inches long and maybe three deep? Bonkers. We started pricing things in shelves from then on – ‘Mummy, can I get this book? It’s not expensive – I could get 48 of them instead of a glass shelf.’ View Post

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As a blogger, I get to do lots of interesting things, but I can’t say I ever expected anyone to ask me if I wanted to learn how to throw an axe. To be honest, I’m not even sure why you throw an axe, unless you’re a Viking or something. I imagine them chucking axes about and roaring ferociously. 

I have been challenged by the National Trust though, to do something outdoorsy – something that I might not normally think to do, and you get to choose what that is. 

NT SWOF Jo Middleton Adventures 1

It’s to celebrate the South West Outdoor Festival, a totally new kind of festival, being held in Devon from September 23 – 25. It’s being hosted by The National Trust, together with Cotswold Outdoor, Panasonic, Exmoor National Park and lots of local outdoor experts. It’s a festival for people who prefer rafting to raving, and who’d rather been foraging for wild food than queuing for a burger. View Post

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