Auchenlarie Holiday Park in Scotland

Late on Sunday we returned home from our 3rd and final adventure of the summer holidays. We had been up to Scotland for our 4th visit to Auchenlarie Holiday Park, which is in Dumfries and Galloway. Whilst we love to holiday in different places, Auchenlarie is somewhere we have never tired of visiting. The kids love it there as much as we do, and here is why

The Seaview

The site slopes down to the sea which means that virtually every caravan or lodge will have a Seaview. I find it so relaxing gazing out to sea with a coffee/wine in hand.  Here is the view from our decking

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The accommodation

As with most holiday parks, Auchenlarie has a wide range of accommodation.  On previous occasions we have stayed in a standard caravan, even snapping up 4 nights during Easter for £69.00. This year we stayed in the park lodge, which was virtually brand new. It had 3 bedrooms, a huge ensuite and a fireplace I could look at all day. The price was £575.oo for the full week, which for the quality of the lodge was fantastic value. One thing I love is that ALL of the accommodation comes complete with decking, even the standard caravans.

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Private Beach

Whilst it is quite a steep slope getting down to it, it is worth the trip to the private beach. We enjoyed many hours on the beach, playing football, climbing on the rocks, paddling in the sea and having picnics. It was never busy, and one time we even had the whole beach to ourselves. Pure bliss.

Beach

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Facilities on site

There is a small pool, arcade, restaurant, take away, sports bar, crazy golf, shop, and play areas dotted around the site. You have to book a session in the pool, and they also have pool parties twice a week. There is an additional charge of £2.oo per person, but this was well worth it as the kids had a great time. We enjoyed the take away one evening back in the lodge, which was good value and tasted fresh.

Entertainment

There is a modern entertainment suite which usually opens at 7.30pm. You need to purchase entertainment passes, which are around £30.00 for 2 adults and 2 children for the full week. There is a good mix of entertainment in the evening, and there is always a good atmosphere in there.  They also have activities running during the day. My daughter went to Build a Bear, daytime karaoke and we did the family quiz (which we won whoop).

Katie with the bunny she made

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This is the balloon Katie won when we visited in 2014. Oh the fun we had getting it in the car

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The local area

There really is lots to do in the local area, and even though we have visited 4 times we are still finding new places to go to. Some of our favourites are Cream o Galloway (ice cream farm and adventure park), Laggan outdoor activity centre and the chocolate factory. And whilst you are driving to nearby places, sit back and enjoy the stunning Scottish scenery.

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Would we return for a 5th time ?

Before we went, I honestly thought this would be our last visit. But sitting on the decking with the sun shining down (a rare miracle in Scotland), I felt sad with the prospect of not returning again. The park has such a nice atmosphere, and the staff have always been so helpful and friendly. Its a safe site and the children are getting to the age where they can go off and explore by themselves. The children are already asking to go back next year, so I am sure they will twist my arm. Though where holidays are concerned, my arm needs no twisting. See you next year Auchenlarie for our 5th visit.

Linking up with mytravelmonkey and packingmysuitcase for Monday Escapes

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Forest Holidays Sherwood Forest – Part 2

Forest Holidays

As soon as the children broke up for the summer, we headed to Forest Holidays in Sherwood, Nottinghamshire for the week. I did a little ‘live blogging’ when we there, and you can read it here if you wish. Believe me, blogging on the dining room table is not the same as having this gorgeous view when writing.

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So what did we think of our first visit to Forest Holidays ? Did it live up to all the wonderful reviews I had read before we went ? Well in a word YES, and this is why we had one of the most relaxing holidays we have ever been on.

The Surroundings

Forest Holidays occupy a small corner of the Sherwood Pines Forest. There are 82 lodges on site, ranging from a 1 bedroom hideaway to the treehouses for up to 10 people. The majority of the lodges seemed well spaced out and private, and we were very lucky with our Golden Oak cabin. We were literally nestled into the forest, and I loved how we could just see an abundance of trees from every window. The surroundings offer so much nature, and whilst we were there we saw birds, squirrels, rabbits, butterflies and even a lizard. The great news is you have even more forest on your doorstep, with Sherwood Pines being a 5 minute walk away. See my post for 10 things to do at Sherwood Pines.

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The accommodation

We stayed in a 2 bedroom Golden Oak lodge. I love the anticipation of going into a holiday home for the first time, and as soon as I stepped inside I was blown away. The lodge was spacious, and I loved the little touches such as the ‘Welcome’ on the scrabble board. Our bedroom was at the back of the lodge, complete with en-suite. The kids shared a twin room and there was a further large bathroom. Does anyone else get excited when they realise you have miniature toiletries included ? And the fluffy towels and robe were perfect for wrapping yourself in after a dip in the hot tub.

The main living area was open plan and roomy. The kitchen had a dishwasher and an under the counter fridge with small freezer compartment. Luckily I knew beforehand the fridge was small, so I just packed food for a few days. There is a great co-op in Edwinstowe which is less than 5 minutes drive away. I had paid for the entertainment package before we went, which meant WIFI and a selection of films. We really made use of the package (which was £65) watching around 10 films during our stay. The tween had the occasional moan that the WIFI was not super fast, but hey we were in the forest, what does he expect.

But to be honest who needs WIFI when you have this on the decking. This is where Forest Holiday sets itself apart from other similar holiday companies.  We have been lucky to have stayed in some amazing lodges, but this one will take some beating.

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Forest Holiday Activities

During our week my daughter did the pottery painting twice. This was held in the Forest Retreat and could be done anytime it was open. This was great as it meant you didn’t have to plan the activity. The pottery was good value and the ladybird below cost £8.50.  As we were in Sherwood the boys booked in for the archery. It was £20 per adult and £10 per child, for around 1 hour 20 minutes. They both enjoyed the lesson but I don’t think they will be giving Robin Hood a run for his money.

The Forest Retreat also held a quiz on the Saturday and Thursday at 4.30pm priced £1 per person. This was great fun and the best bit……. coming 1st on the Thursday. And boy did I enjoy our winning wine that night. Other activities include Young Explorers, Family Den Building and Hawk Experience. Opposite the Forest Retreat is where you will find the play area, picnic benches, and a great open space which was perfect for games of football.

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What else do they offer ?

Fancy a night off from cooking, then you can hire a chef to come to your lodge and cook your meal. If you can’t stretch to the £150 (plus meal costs), then how about ordering a pizza or curry from the comfort of your lodge and having it delivered. We didn’t do this but its great to have the option. Food and drink is also served in the Forest Retreat, and I can highly recommend the milkshakes at £1.70. There is also a small shop selling gifts and food items such as bread and milk.

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They also offer in lodge pamper sessions, celebration packages and even doggy deli delights.

 Would we return ?

YES, without a doubt. There was nothing negative about our week long stay, and as I am a ‘holiday perfectionist’ I can sometimes be hard to please. The hot tub was cleaned every morning, the accommodation was one of the best lodges we have stayed in, and the forest was just divine. Having a nearly 13 year old our holidays are changing, and I wondered whether he would be bored. But there were plenty of activities to keep him busy, though I would say the WIFI package is a must. To be honest my 2 were just as happy sitting in the hot tub. We went the first week of the summer holidays, and even though the site was full it never felt crowded or noisy. You have to quieten down after 10pm, and the majority of guests adhered to this. Most nights all you could hear was the bubbling sounds of the hot tub.

Thank you Forest Holidays for a truly relaxing and peaceful week. I received a discount off our week long break and all comments and views are my own.

photo (32)Coombe MillMonday escapes

Forest Holidays Sherwood Forest – Part 1

I thought I would do a little ‘live blogging’ following on from my last post of our Impromptu Getaway. Its Monday afternoon, and this is my current view from our decking at Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. Not a bad view to blog from.

View from our decking at Sherwood Pines

View from our decking at Sherwood Pines

Sherwood Forest is part of Forest Holidays, and altogether they have 9 locations around the UK. Forest Holidays combine 2 of my favourite things. Staying in the forest and hot tubs. We chose to visit Sherwood as its a part of the UK we have never visited before. The journey took us around 3 hours from the North West, and we checked in at the Forest Retreat. This is where you will find the reception, shop, place to book your activities and also the café. As I am writing this, husband and daughter are currently doing the pottery painting activity in there.

2 bedroom Golden Oak Lodge at Sherwood Pines

2 bedroom Golden Oak Lodge at Sherwood Pines

We booked a 2 bedroom Golden Oak lodge with the entertainment package. The entertainment package cost us an additional £65 for the week, which gives us access to films and WIFI. Believe me coming away with a tween and NO WIFI is no holiday. I have to say the lodge is stunning. We are totally in the forest, and our lodge is surrounded by trees. I am sat here on the decking and all I can hear are the birds tweeting. We wanted a relaxing holiday, and we have definitely found this at Forest Holidays.

We have no concept of time, and we are all enjoying being together as a family. We are loving the moments such as toasting marshmallows, playing charades in the hot tub and going for long walks through the forest. When I return home I will write more posts of our time here, but for now that hot tub is calling me.

Our hot tub at Sherwood Pines

Our hot tub at Sherwood Pines

I am linking up with the lovely ladies from @my_travelmonkey and @packingsuitcase for Monday Escapes #9

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Impromptu getaway

suitcase

I am a planner when it comes to holidays, days out and pretty much everything else. I am one of those annoying mums who fills in school letters and sends them back in the next day. I love an organised life, and like to know that my holidays for the year are all planned out. I sometimes spend more time on Trip Advisor than I do on the actual holiday.  But a few days ago I stepped out of my comfort zone.  I booked a holiday, AND WE GO ON FRIDAY.  That’s barely enough time for my pre holiday stress to arrive.

That’s only 5 days to wash, iron, stress what to pack as you never know what the UK weather will do, buy food, organise days out whilst on holiday, buy the obligatory new toothbrushes, purchase holiday alcohol (most important job of all), delegate boring but important car jobs to husband, and probably another 100 things which will wake me up at 2am. PHEW. As well as getting through the final few days of school and not forgetting work. So instead of packing I thought the sensible thing would be to blog about it instead.

I am just counting down the hours till Friday at 4pm when I can check in. And from 4.01pm you will find me in the hot tub with a very large gin. Happy holidays.

Do you like to plan your holidays or do you prefer spur of the moment breaks ?

 

The Pirates Show in Majorca

Pirates Show in Majorca

Pirates Show in Majorca

On our recent holiday to Majorca, we spent the evening at The Pirates Show in Magaluf. The show is now in its 29th year which is just incredible, and promises an evening of acrobatics, comedy and dance. My Dad who has lived in Majorca for over 20 years, raved about how amazing the show was, so I knew we were in for a good evening.

We got to the indoor theatre before the doors opened, and there were pirates outside interacting with guests. There was the chance to have your photo taken with a large bright parrot, and on the way into the indoor theatre we were handed a small bottle of cava each. Kids got some treasure in the shape of chocolate coins. We were then shown to our table by one of the stars of the show. I thought this was a great idea, and certainly reinforced what a great interactive show Pirates is.

We were seated on the Quarter Deck, and had a great view of the stage. To be honest I think every table would have a good view. We had a jug of Sangria on the table, together with a large bottle of coke. We were quickly served our meal which was chicken and chips, coleslaw, bread roll and a sausage. For afters there was ice cream. There were plenty of staff serving extra drinks to your table, and we ordered some more bottles of small cava which were 5 euros. Whilst we were waiting for everyone to finish their meal, there was plenty of interaction between the children and pirates. This certainly helps with the ‘when is it going to start mum’

Food at The Pirates Show

Food at The Pirates Show

Hubby helping himself to the Jug of Sangria on the table

Hubby helping himself to the Jug of Sangria on the table

Soon it was time for the show to start. I won’t say too much about it as I really don’t want to spoil it for you. But WOW what a truly amazing show. We were all mesmerized from start to finish, even the tween (and we all know how hard it is to get a nearly 13 year old mesmerized). The acrobatics were dynamic, the host of the show hilarious and the music fantastic. Afterwards there is the chance to meet the stars of the show and have pictures with them.

Meeting the stars of the show

Meeting the stars of the show

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Katie in a pirate headlock

 

Trying to make the tween smile !

Trying to make the tween smile !

My dad got us complimentary tickets, and I have to say a huge thank you to The Pirates Show for providing them. It truly is an amazing show, and I would not hesitate to return when we are next in Majorca. Thank you to all the acrobats, pirates, staff and all the stars of the show for providing us with a fun filled evening on our holiday.

The lovely Captain Scarlett. This was husbands favourite. I can't think why !

The lovely Captain Scarlett. This was husbands favourite. I can’t think why !

Our stay at The Fergus Cala Blanca Hotel in Majorca

Fergus Cala Blanca Hotel in Santa Ponsa Majorca

Fergus Cala Blanca Hotel in Santa Ponsa Majorca

We have just returned from a fantastic 4 night break to Majorca during the Easter holidays. I booked both the flight and hotel with Monarch back in January, and we chose to stay at the Fergus Cala Blanca hotel in Santa Ponsa. I have been to Santa Ponsa a few times as my Dad and Step Mum used to live there, but it would be our first time as a family visiting Majorca.

We had a VERY early get up last Tuesday morning as our flight was at 6.00am. As is the tradition at the airport, we had a very early breakfast at Frankie and Bennys around 4.30am. Soon it was time to board the plane, and we actually took off 10 minutes early. We flew with Monarch last year when we went to Corfu, and again I was really impressed with the service from them.

We met my Dad at Palma airport, and it was around 30 minutes to get to Santa Ponsa. First impressions of the hotel were wow as we were met by a lovely gleaming white reception. As we arrived at the hotel around 11am we had to wait a few hours for our room to be ready. Once we were in our room, we quickly unpacked and headed to the restaurant for lunch. We were all inclusive, but the hotel also offers bed and breakfast and also half board options. We could not fault the service in the restaurant, and the choice at every meal was plentiful. We certainly got used to having a large glass of wine with our lunch and evening meal.

The restaurant at the Fergus Cala Blanca

The restaurant at the Fergus Cala Blanca

A very large gin and tonic

A very large gin and tonic

Part of the bar area

Part of the bar area

The rooms at the Cala Blanca are very spacious, and were perfect for us. We had a separate bedroom, and the children slept in the living room. There was a huge walk in room which was perfect for storing suitcases in. The balcony was the largest one we have seen, and the best bit was the bed. Perfect for siestas !

The separate bedroom at the Fergus Cala Blanca

The separate bedroom at the Fergus Cala Blanca

Huge walk in room for all your clothes and suitcases

Huge walk in room for all your clothes and suitcases

The balcony bed at the Fergus Cala Blanca

The balcony bed at the Fergus Cala Blanca

The hotel also has an entertainment programme, from pilates in the morning to shows in the evening. There is also a kids club which runs in the day at certain hours, but our 2 made friends really quickly, and they were happy to play/hang out with them. Our 2 loved the zip wire, the table tennis and the football pitch, and of course the hotels pony Pongus. This is where they spent the majority of their time with friends, whilst we enjoyed a very relaxing holiday.

The hotel zip wire

The hotel zip wire

Pongus the hotel pony

Pongus the hotel pony

The pool area is nice and there were plenty of people sunbathing. Daughter did brave the outdoor pool but it was very cold, but kids are kids and didn’t seem to bother them. The hotel also has a beach bar, and I believe you can see some stunning sunsets from there.

The pool area at the Fergus Cala Blanca

The pool area at the Fergus Cala Blanca

All in all we were very impressed with the hotel and we will certainly return. Its very clean and modern and the staff seem to work very hard in looking after the customers, especially in the restaurant. The only negative we had was not enough staff behind the bar. However this would not stop us from booking again, as the hotel had a very relaxed feel to it. The children made some lovely friends, as did we, and this certainly made our holiday. Happy kids = Happy parents.

Enjoying a gin in the hotel reception

Enjoying a gin in the hotel reception

Thank you to Fergus Hotels and also Monarch for making our holiday fantastic. I booked the flights and hotel separate (both through Monarch), and paid £920 for 2 adults and 2 children which was all inclusive. This was for 4 nights during the Easter holidays.

This post has been shared with the #TotsTravel linky for May

Apple Macs in the hotel reception

Apple Macs in the hotel reception

Looking back at our Florida and Disneyworld trips

A princess meeting a princess !

A princess meeting a princess !

4 years ago today we went on our ‘once in a lifetime’ trip to Disneyworld in Florida. I still remember the excitement of that day. Our first trip to the magic had been years in the planning. 2011 had been chosen as we had been married for 10 years, and also hubby turned 40. The kids would be 5 and 8 which we thought would be a good age to visit Disney (though I do think ANY age is great to go there). We were going with my mum and step dad, my step sister, her husband and their son. So in total there were 9 of us. I was chief planner and I threw myself into the task from the word go. I believe planning is key when visiting Florida, and I love all the excitement and build up before you go. Here are some of my tips I have learnt from planning our ‘once in a lifetime’ trip, and not forgetting the other 2 trips we had in 2012 and 2013.

You will not do everything in one trip. We have been 3 times and there is still things we want to do. Sit down and write a list of your priorities and which parks you want to visit. The first year we did all of the Disney Parks and Universal. Second visit was Disney, SeaWorld and NASA. And our third visit we just did Disney.

In 2013 when we stayed at Disney Old Key West hotel

In 2013 when we stayed at Disney Old Key West hotel

Don’t discount staying in a Disney hotel. Many people think that Disney hotels are simply too expensive, but if you book when they have the free dining on they can be great value. On our third visit we stayed in Old Key West Hotel. We booked for 2 weeks and paid £2000 which included all of our meals (including character meals) for the 4 of us. This meant that we dined in the ‘actual’ castle which was included in our dining plan. You do have to pay tips, but we covered this cost with a $300 gift card we also got when we booked. The free dining is usually released around the start of April.

The amazing Disney food

The amazing Disney food

Knowing when to book your flights is also key. You will need to decide whether you want to fly direct or indirect. Indirect will be cheaper, but you have to weigh up the cost saving against hanging round airports or worse still rushing (with kids) to get your connection. Direct was the only option for me, basically because I hate taking off and landing. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have sales throughout the year. For our last 2 visits we booked with Virgin Atlantic in the September sale, for flying the following May. Both years we paid just under £2000 for the 4 of us.

Shop around for tickets and I would personally get them before you travel. There are many ticket agents such as Attraction Tickets Direct  and FloridaTix who are great to deal with. You can also purchase Disney tickets at the Disney stores in the UK. If you are booking a Disney hotel combined with the free dining plan, you will have to order your Disney tickets at the time of booking. This is a condition of the deal, but to be honest last time we found Disney was offering the best price for their tickets.

Plan in some rest days. Florida is exhausting, with the walking and the heat combined. We tend to do 2 days of visiting parks and then a rest day. This seems to work well with us, and we can enjoy some down time in the hotel room or villa. This stops us from burning out towards the end of the holiday.

A tired princess back in 2013

A tired Princess back in 2013

Going back to our first trip it had been years in the planning. The photo below was taken about 2 hours after we had landed in Orlando. It was in Applebees which is your traditional American diner, and was about 2am UK time.

Our very first night in Orlando on 1st April 2011

Our very first night in Orlando on 1st April 2011

I still remember walking up Main Street in the Magic Kingdom and seeing THE CASTLE for the very first time. I was really emotional as I thought ‘wow we are really here’. Its funny as I don’t really feel I am there until I see the castle.

Our very first picture in front of the castle in 2011

Our very first picture in front of the castle in 2011

We hope to visit Florida again (hopefully next year) and I know next time we visit it will give us a different experience. That’s the beauty about this magical place. Any age is the best time to visit. I just really wish it was 4 years ago. I would be somewhere over the Atlantic, instead of sat here watching the rain pouring down. At least I have our wonderful memories of our 3 trips to treasure forever.

Never too old for a hug from a Disney Princess

Never too old for a hug from a Disney Princess

I am linking up with Monday Escapes run by the lovely ladies at My Travel Monkey and Packing my Suitcase

Monday escapes