I have two very specific memories of Lincolnshire; the first is of driving miles out of our way to a small place called Boston around 11 years ago in order to pick up a gorgeous white kitten; our first real pet as a couple (because I’m not counting the many hamsters…) and the second is of a trip to Lincoln itself on our first wedding anniversary, and of finding out that very day that I was pregnant with Meg.  You might say it holds a special place in my heart because of that last memory, but it’s strangely a place we’ve never revisited with the kids, despite our best intentions.

So when we were invited to spend a few days exploring the Lincolnshire Wolds; an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we jumped at the chance.  We are very lucky to have had some fantastic travel experiences in 2018; as a family we love to visit new places and I was so pleased to see out the year by being able to add one more to the list.

Maggie Mews Greetham Retreat

window views maggie mews lincolnshire wolds

We arrived at our accommodation late Friday evening after battling the rush-hour traffic.  It’s always a relief when you reach your destination after a lengthy journey and an added bonus to be greeted by a friendly face.  We were staying in one of the luxury self-catering cottages at Greetham Retreat: you can see my vlog if you want a tour of the interior of the cottage.  Greetham Retreat is an award-winning site set in rural Lincolnshire, just a short drive from Horncastle.  We were given a quick tour of our cottage with an explanation of how the necessities worked and then left to settle in.

We had a fairly solid itinerary for the following two days and we decided to hit the ground running.

One of the main draws in the autumn to this area is the arrival of the baby seals at Donna Nook.  Donna Nook is a National Nature Reserve and every year in November and December, grey seals come to the shoreline to give birth to their pups.  There is a fence to keep the public and the seals separate but you can get so close.  It’s absolutely fascinating and such an experience.  We decided to arrive first thing as we felt it would be busy on the weekend and we were right; by the time we left at around 11am it was much more crowded than when we had arrived.  It is free to see the seals, but you do have to pay £5 for parking and dogs are not allowed in the seal viewing area.  There were wardens dotted around who were more than happy to chat about the seals and the local area and this was a real highlight of the trip for us.  Especially for Eli who was utterly delighted to discover that some of the seals had most likely come into contact with sharks in the wild (because sharks will always be king…!)

Donna Nook

donna nook seal up close

Baby Seal Donna Nook

Meg with seals donna nook

After spending some time with the seals we decided to head into nearby Horncastle for some brunch.  We ate at some really quaint and lovely places during our time in Lincolnshire including The Old Stables, The Tea House in the Woods, The Blue Bell Inn, and The George and Dragon.  We’d recommend each one as being very family friendly with good food options.

Our original plan for Saturday afternoon had been to ride the steam train, but we arrived at the station only to find that it was closed!  After a quick re-group we decided to go out for an autumnal walk and we chose the Spa Trail which is a 3 mile bridleway ideal for young families.  There was a little reception area at Greetham Retreat with a number of different walks available.  We didn’t manage to quite finish the trail before dusk fell and we headed back for some food but it was the perfect way to round off our day; by appreciating and enjoying the stunning Lincolnshire countryside.

the old stables horncastle

Spa Trail autumn walks

the spa trail lincolnshire sunset

We were so lucky with the weather during our trip and although it was chilly we had sunshine and clear, blue skies for the entire time which lent itself very well to the gorgeous autumnal colours of the area.

Sunday was possibly one of the most quaint experiences we’ve ever had.  We had booked tickets to watch Disney’s The Nutcracker at a local independent cinema known as The Kinema in the Woods. A trip here is like taking a step back in time from the rich, red drapes which cover the screen to the working organ at the front of the screen.  Apparently sometimes the organ gets played before a movie begins but we weren’t lucky enough to be treated to this.  There is even an interval in the middle of the film!  We opted for some delicious ice cream ahead of the second half.  We followed this up with a trip to the nearby Tea House in the Woods for Sunday lunch and then we attempted round two at Ludborough.  Ludborough is the only standard gauge steam train in Lincolnshire and offers a lovely authentic experience through the countryside, although the kids were mostly thrilled with the fact that the doors to the carriages opened by sliding to the sides like they do in the Harry Potter films; suffice to say we all had to take our turns acting out scenes!  The journey is only short but it’s definitely something younger children will enjoy.  There is also a small museum with some station memorabilia which is open to the public.

Kinema in the Woods outside

Kinema in the Woods

Lamp post Kinema in the Woods

Ludborough Steam Train Lincolnshire

eli fields lincolnshire wolds

We had such a lovely time during our stay and I wish we had been able to extend it so we could fully explore the area as I feel like we really only scratched the surface.  It always amazes me that the UK has such hidden nuggets tucked away and they are well worth taking the time to explore.  The majority of the things that we did were inexpensive as well; I don’t think we spent more than £20 on any one attraction which would make it very affordable, especially if you also took advantage of the vast countryside to get out on walks.

We also wouldn’t hesitate to recommend staying at Greetham Retreat; our hosts went out of their way to make sure we had all the information we needed and Maggie Mews had more than enough space for the four of us, plus the dog!

*We were invited for a complimentary stay at Greetham Retreat and to explore the local area.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.
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When it comes to days out in the north west, Chester Zoo is probably one of the better known and more popular options.  After our kids fell in love with watching ‘The Secret Life of the Zoo’ it is one which we have been meaning to explore for a while now but at over £70 for a family of four, it isn’t the cheapest attraction around.  Imagine our ‘delight’ then when we finally got round to booking tickets for my sister’s 30th birthday, only to spend the majority of the day walking round in the torrential rain?!  It was still a good day out; and the wet weather was definitely the prompt for me to write this post.  With such a high entry price, if the weather forecast looks grim is it better to don those wellies and waterproofs or head for an indoor attraction instead?

We visited in September so although it rained pretty much non-stop all day, it wasn’t too cold temperature wise.  We bought Chester Zoo branded umbrellas on entry, after realising our coats probably weren’t going to cut it if we wanted to actually be able to see the animals which were out and about.  As you might expect, there were fewer animals in the outdoor enclosures, and some we couldn’t see at all because access to their indoor enclosure was limited.  Whilst this was a shame, I think we got to see a decent amount throughout the day.

I particularly enjoyed the layout of the Zoo itself; each section is set out in habitats which I found to be really interesting and unique. There were several indoor sections which was great for escaping out of the rain. Although the Zoo wasn’t particularly busy (more on that in a moment) these sections tended to be more crowded which was somewhat frustrating as inside was where the majority of the animals were hanging out!

Outside Chester Zoo

Meg with Chester Umbrella

Bali welcomes you chester zoo

When the rain got to be too much, we made use of the monorail which goes around the park.  This is an additional cost (£4 per adult and £3 per child for an all day pass).  Each journey on the monorail takes you halfway around the zoo so it’s a good option if you are visiting with children and need to rest those tired little legs for a short period of time.  You can see some of the enclosures from the monorail although the rain obscured some of the view for us.  It did offer a respite though and the chance to warm up a little before we headed back outside.

The biggest difficulty for us on the day with the weather was probably eating.  We were on the Islands section of the Zoo at lunchtime so headed to the Manado Street Kitchen for something to eat.  Initially this was the best option as there were 10 of us to please and there was a good variety on offer but all of the seating is outside.  Most of it was covered with a roof, but the sides were exposed which meant we were basically eating in the wet and our food got cold pretty quickly.  This was less than ideal and I think if we were to go again in poor weather we’d look at an alternative.  I didn’t see any indoor picnic sections either so I think it would be even trickier if you decided to bring your own food along.  That said, the food was fairly reasonably priced and as I mentioned, there was a good variety, with something even for our fussy kids to choose from.

Lunch chester zoo

Tiger Chester Zoo

Sunbear Chester Zoo

Rhinos in rain Chester Zoo

Red Panda Chester Zoo

On the flip side of this, the wet weather meant that the Zoo was a lot quieter than I think it could have been otherwise.  There were a few traffic jams at the indoor enclosures but with a little patience, we got good views of the animals who had retreated inside.  I think I first realised how quiet the Zoo probably was when we decided to take advantage of the free boat trip in the Islands section.  We walked through the ‘queue area’ past signs which read encouraging things like ’45 minutes from here!’ right onto a boat.  Okay, we didn’t get to see much as most of the animals were inside (see above, above above!) but we did see an Orangutan braving the weather and it was an amusing diversion, better because it was totally free and we had to queue for approximately zero minutes to enjoy it.

Boat Ride Chester Zoo

Eli with Komodo Dragon

Elephants at Chester Zoo

Giant lollipop chester zoo

One of the major things which I simply hadn’t appreciated before we visited was how big the Zoo actually is.  I’m pretty sure we didn’t make it around the entire thing because there was simply so much to see and do.  I almost wish the Zoo offered two day passes as there would definitely be a market for it.  Especially as you can find yourself spending quite a lot of time with one or two animals if they are being funny or interesting.  We saw several examples of this from a chatterbox lion to a baby Orang who was acting the little daredevil right through to a monkey making music with a stick he had discovered.  We spent a good deal of time in each one of these enclosures which limited what we saw in other places.  The Zoo covers 125 acres in total which is a fairly big distance to cover in one day!

Penguin under water chester zoo

Little Orangutan Chester Zoo

Jaguar Chester Zoo

Itchy Giraffe Chester Zoo

So, overall what did we think?

There were some animals outside and a possibility to see more in their indoor enclosures.  The animals probably weren’t as active as they might have been had the weather been clearer but the Zoo was much more accessible than I imagine it would be on a sunny day.  We barely had to queue or wait for anything, great when you have smaller kids who have no concept of waiting for anything.  We used the monorail when the torrential downpours got too much, and I was pleased for the investment of a large Chester Zoo umbrella.  If you don’t mind perhaps not seeing all of the 21,000 animals who call the Zoo their home and you don’t mind wearing waterproofs and wellies then I think you can still have an enjoyable day out despite the weather.  Yes the price tag is high but I’d rather take a puddle or two over a massive queue to see a tiger!

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You wouldn’t believe the number of times I have sat down to try and write this post over the last few weeks but every time I did, I felt as though I wasn’t quite doing our recent trip to Northumberland with Ross Holiday Cottages justice. I wanted to try and capture the many mini adventures we had, and what a beautiful part of the country it is.  Without just giving you a long list of reasons why you should visit!

Northumberland is a part of the UK which none of us had been to before and when Ross Holiday Cottages got in touch to offer us a stay in one of their converted Coastguard Cottages we immediately took them up on it.  It was just over three hours drive from us but involved an epic journey of passing through the Lake District and winding through the Pennines; picturesque locations for sure but not a straight road in sight so we were very happy when we finally made it to our home for four days.

Originally we had hoped this break away would offer us the opportunity to relax a little, but if you are a regular reader here then you’ll know we don’t do anything by halves so we immediately hit the ground running.  The cottages at Ross are situated just a 15 minute walk from the beach and a short drive from some of the area’s best attractions, and we planned to make the most of our time.  We were staying in the East Coastguard Cottage; a two bedroom which sleeps four and has all the amenities you would expect from 4 star self-catering accommodation plus a few cheeky extras like an enclosed garden with stunning views, and a jacuzzi bath which was a personal highlight for Eli who asked for a bath every single day: morning, noon and night!

Getting to the cottage was straightforward; we were given a code to access the key and then we were met by the caretaker, David, who brought us a complimentary bottle of wine and a branded corkscrew which was a very nice touch.  He talked us through some of the facilities offered by the cottages such as access to a Pelican Canoe and BBQ and we chatted through some suggestions with him on how to spend our time.  A friendly face is always welcome when you are new to an area and David made us feel right at home.

east coastguard cottage private garden

east coastguard cottage ross garden

stairway east coastguard cottage

Master bedroom east coastguard cottage ross

During our stay we were offered complimentary visits to a number of attractions, and I’m sorry that we didn’t have time to visit and fully explore them all.  I will try and write a separate post on the many things for families in the area as there is absolutely stacks to do, and it was really tricky narrowing down which we had time for during our stay.

Before we headed to the cottage on our first day, we stopped off to visit Bamburgh Castle and the beach.  It was a glorious day with blue skies and sunshine and Bamburgh Castle offers some fantastic views as well as a wealth of history.  There was a trail for the kids to follow inside the Castle, lots of open space for them to run around outside and although there was a chill to the North Sea on the beach, there was a long stretch of golden sands for the kids to build sandcastles and play.  The village of Bamburgh is also home to the Grace Darling museum which I would have liked to have explored but we just didn’t have the time.

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Beach

In the sea at Bamburgh Beach

For avid Harry Potter fans like ourselves, no trip to this area would be complete without stopping at Alnwick Castle; the location used in a number of the movies.  Even if you aren’t fans of the wizarding world, this is a top family attraction with plenty going on.  We had a lot of fun in the medieval Artisans Courtyard where you can dress up and enjoy some traditional games and crafts.  It was unfortunate that we visited on a school day and there were a number of class trips so we weren’t able to join in the crafts (something it would be good for the Castle to address actually; we weren’t the only family left with disappointed children!) but both Meg and Eli (and James!) enjoyed dressing up and the staff all really got into character too which was great.  There is also the Dragon’s Quest in the Artisans Courtyard which is highly recommended.  It is a short interactive experience and we happened to be the only ones on our tour around, I’m not sure if that made it better or worse as there was nowhere to hide!  And of course, for Harry Potter fans I can’t fail to mention the broomstick flying lessons which take place on the huge green.  We found ours to be absolutely hilarious; again the staff really got into character which made it so much fun.  There is no additional charge for this once you are in the castle but it is a ticketed event and very popular so I’d suggest heading to the Courtyard to book your time slot on arrival.

During our visit there was also a wild bird display and of course the Castle itself which is interesting.  They have plenty of events taking place throughout the year so it’s always worth having a look on their website to see what is taking place if you are planning a trip in the near future.

Directly adjacent to the Castle is The Alnwick Garden which requires separate tickets but again, is very much worth a visit.  They are so much bigger than I expected with lots of different themed gardens.  There is a Giant Adventure for children to enjoy and Eli in particular, was fascinated by the Poison Garden.  I love attractions like this where you feel as though there is something waiting around every corner.

At The Alnwick Garden there is a Treetop Restaurant which we had a quick peek around; it was closed for a wedding but I imagine that would be a very cool place to dine if you had the opportunity too.

in the stocks alnwick castle

Calling broomsticks alnwick castle

Alnwick broomstick training

Poison Garden Alnwick

Soldier Alnwick Gardens

We also managed to squeeze in a couple of trips to the nearby Lindisfarne Nature Reserve which is a 15 minute walk from the cottages and well worth the walk.  It’s a little bit further than you might think at first with the rolling dunes and you do pass through land which is occupied by livestock, which may give you a fright if you aren’t expecting it.  I’m not saying that happened to anyone during our trip but a sheep suddenly appearing out of nowhere is pretty startling…

From the beach you can see both Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island and although we didn’t stray too far, we pretty much had the beach to ourselves.  The whole coastline which runs alongside the cottages has been classes as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it really is a beautiful spot to talk a walk.

If you fancy staying closer to home, the Pelican Canoe available for us for cottage guests which James and the kids ventured out in a couple of times too.  You can stay nearby and paddle through Ross Low or head out into Budle Bay.  On arrival David warned us about keeping an eye on the tide times if we planned to head out into the Bay and these were printed in a folder in the cottage too.  It is definitely important to keep an eye on these otherwise you will get caught out.

Finally, I want to round off this post by talking about our trip to Barter Books.  Barter Books is the second biggest used bookstore in the UK and on discovering that it was in nearby Alnwick, just 20 minutes drive away, I knew where we would be spending some of our time!  We actually spent the whole of Sunday morning at Barter Books.  They offer a service where you can bring in some books and they give you store credit to use against other books which I obviously had to take advantage of, although I seemed to end up with more books that I dropped off.  Strange that.  There is also a cafe, stacks and stacks of books and even a children’s area.  It is housed in the old Alnwick railway station and often times there is a miniature train running around the top of the bookshelves which is a very unique touch!

view from east coastguard cottage ross window

Ross Sands Beach

lost in the stacks barter books

Barter Books

I think that just about covers it but truly, I think Northumberland is a place which we will definitely look to return to in the future as there is just so much we didn’t get to explore.  Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle in particular along with the Northumberland National Park, a trip to the Farne Islands to see seals and puffins and maybe we could even manage some horse riding or cycling…again a full itinerary if we decided to go for round two.  A huge thank you to Ross Holiday Cottages for inviting us and allowing us to explore just a smidgen of this beautiful part of the UK.

We were offered a complimentary stay in Ross Cottages in exchange for this post.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.
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Imagine an island which has stunning scenery as far as the eye can see, rugged clifftops and long stretches of sandy beach at almost every turn and you’ve just about summed Guernsey up in a nutshell.  When we were invited to visit the Channel Islands by Condor Ferries, we genuinely didn’t know what to expect.  The Channel Islands weren’t somewhere we would necessarily have considered visiting before; if you’d invited me to take a ferry trip I’d automatically think of visiting France.  I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel like this but having been and experienced the delights of Guernsey, I can honestly recommend it as a place worth visiting.

Leaving the Port of Poole behind on a grey and cloudy June morning, we set sail aboard the Condor Liberation; Condor’s flagship ferry.  It takes 3 hours to reach Guernsey and the boat follows a route which goes from Poole to St Malo via Guernsey and Jersey, and then back again.  Boarding was an absolute breeze with our e-tickets and we had pre-booked seats in Ocean Plus which was accessed through use of a code given to us on arrival.  There are wide windows everywhere you look in the Ocean Plus lounge and I imagine on a less foggy day the views would be panoramic and breathtaking.  As it was, we could see very little until we began to reach the islands and the sky cleared.  Both Meg and Eli preferred to be out on deck, despite the brisk weather, so I got to enjoy the peace and quiet of the lounge whilst James braved the elements with the children.  Our journey was relatively stress-free although Eli suffered with seasickness on the way out.  I have to say thank you to the member of staff who came back to check on us when I was stuck in the toilets with him, and to the two ladies who were very concerned that I not be there for the three hours!  Luckily, we picked up some wristbands from the on-board duty free which we used to coax him out of his toilet cubicle and we used these on the way back as well, meaning we had no trouble at all on our return.

Condor Liberation

First view of St Peter's Port

Seasick episode aside, the three hours flew by and when we began to dock at St Peter’s Port we were greeted with sunshine and beautiful blue skies.  We had definitely left the miserable English weather behind!  This was our first introduction to life in the Channel Islands; on every corner you see a unique combination of Franglaise culture and it began for us with the sudden turn in the weather.  St Peter’s Port is a bustling and busy part of the island and is considered one of the prettiest harbour towns in Europe.  With its cobbled streets and picturesque marina, it’s not difficult to see why.

We had just over two days to spend exploring Guernsey, from our arrival at midday on Friday until our ferry back to England at 2pm on Sunday and we planned to make the most of it.  Determined to hit the ground running, as much as we would have loved to hang around and explore the Port our first stop once we alighted was to check into our hotel which was located on the north side of the island in Vale.

We were staying in The Peninsula Hotel in a family room.  The room was light and bright with sufficient space for a family of four.  I have to admit that when we travel we don’t usually stay in hotels; we prefer accommodation which offers a separate living and bedroom area so that we can chill at the end of the evening, whilst Meg and Eli sleep and I was initially worried about the problems with getting the kids to sleep whilst James and I were pottering about but we were all so exhausted each night that we tended to crash as soon as we made it back to our room, so this really wasn’t an issue.

Peninsula Hotel Guernsey

After check-in, we decided to spend an hour exploring the area immediately surrounding the Peninsula.  The hotel is just a short walk from the Rousse Headland so that is where we headed, indulging in some real Guernsey ice cream along the way.  Rousse Headland is on the north-west of the island and is home to a Napoleonic loop-holed tower, a kiosk selling drinks, snacks, and most importantly ice cream!, a beach and a small harbour area.  There weren’t many people about during our visit but we did pass a number of walkers.  A little playing on the pebbled beach here and a quick scout of the nearby Rousse Tower was sufficient and we made our way back to the hotel to enjoy the rest of the sunshine by making use of the Peninsula’s outdoor pool.  Our weather app (reliably it turned out) informed us that our first afternoon in Guernsey was going to be the only day with any sunshine so we really wanted to make the most of the sun’s rays whilst we had the chance.

A few hours wearing the kids out in the pool and then it was off to Cobo Beach; our most recommended destination.  We were told by several people we know, and a number of people on the ferry, that watching the sun set on Cobo Beach was an absolute must.  And I would have to agree!  Parking was something of an issue as it was very busy, with the outdoor area of the nearby Cobo Bay Hotel absolutely rammed with people; we ended up parking a 5 minute walk from the beach.  We also had to queue for quite a while to get food from Cobo Fish Bar (although it was totally worth it; I have been ruined for chips and gravy ever since!) but we had the beach almost entirely to ourselves and it was wholly worthwhile to relax on the golden sands and watch the sun go down.  It may have only been our first night but watching the kids play happy and carefree, silhouetted against the beautiful backdrop of the shoreline was definitely a highlight of the trip for us.

rousse tower cannon guernsey

Rousse Headland

Sunset Cobo Beach Guernsey

sun set on cobo beach

giggling cobo beach

The island of Guernsey is perhaps best known for its German occupation in the Second World War (and especially thanks to the popularity of one of my FAVOURITE books which is now a movie) and there is evidence of this occupation almost everywhere you go.  But there is also an older history to the island if you want to go back even further.  On Saturday we headed to the south of the island towards the Pleinmont Headland and Table des Pions, otherwise known as the ‘Fairy Ring’ which hails back to the 1830s when it was used as a dugout picnic bench (kind of…) by officials who were inspecting coastal defences.

One of the things which struck us most during our trip was the fact that there was plenty to see and do, no matter what the weather was up to. You could be active, or take it easy, enjoy some sight-seeing or just keep the kids entertained for an hour or two.  And being on such a small island meant that you were never more than 20 minutes drive from anything.  It’s probably a good time to leave a small note on the roads in Guernsey; we decided to drive rather than use public transport, and it’s worth bearing in mind that they have slightly different road rules to the UK.  There is an interesting ‘give-way’ system which is called a ‘filter in turn’ system; at these junctions all vehicles have the same priority.  A large number of the roads we went on were also only about a lane and a half wide and we regularly had to mount the pavement to pass on-coming traffic.  It’s generally okay if you take it slow, but I’m glad James was there to do the driving as I don’t think it would be for the hesitant motorist!

Parking is also rather quaint; all public parking in Guernsey is free.  However there are various zones known as ‘disc zones’ around the island and drivers have to use a parking clock to indicate time of arrival.  There are different time limits in different zones and these are clearly marked, from 1 hour through to 15+ hours.

Portelet Beach Guernsey

Looking over Portelet Beach

lighthouse portelet beach

We squeezed in visits to the German occupation museum, the Guernsey Aquarium, The Little Chapel, Cornet Castle and Pirate Bay Adventure Golf as well as a return visit to Cobo Beach.  I could go into so much detail about each and every place we went to but there has to be a limit to my word count somewhere!  On Sunday morning we explored the bunting-strewn streets of St Peter’s Port: each Sunday in the summer months they have a themed market.  On the Sunday we were there the theme was ‘Arts’ and although the weather was against us it was lovely to see some local talent on display.  Even reading that list makes me feel like we managed a lot and yet we left feeling as though we had only scratched the surface of everything this wonderful little island has to offer.  If we were lucky enough to return then I would definitely want to explore some of the picturesque gardens or book a guided bike tour with Donkey Tours; we enquired about booking a tour but there was no availability for our dates.  I can’t say cycling in the mist would have been the best way to see the island but on a clear day I imagine it would be a fantastic and fun way to experience Guernsey through the eyes of a local.

Eli looking into fish tank Guernsey Aquarium

Little Chapel Guernsey

Castle Cornet Cannon

With soldier castle cornet

Pirate Bay Adventure Golf Guernsey

Pirate Bay Adventure Golf Stocks

St Peter's Port Market Summer

St Peter's Port flag street

Then of course I can’t finish talking about our short break without mentioning the food.  Guernsey is a seafood lovers heaven.  As I mentioned above, we ate at Cobo Fish Bar the first night but two other places I wanted to specifically mention are the Terrace Garden Café which has impressive views over St Peter’s Port as well as delicious Thai food, and Crabby Jack’s which is a real must for families, although be sure to book a table in advance.  We ate here on Saturday evening and it was absolutely packed to the rafters.  We ended up being seated outside which we actually didn’t mind because the play area is outside but if you want to be indoors then you should bear this in mind.  And of course you have to sample real Guernsey ice cream; it certainly got the seal of approval from Meg and Eli, who couldn’t even stop themselves from eating whilst we captured it on camera!

Pizza at Crabby Jack's

Terrace Garden Cafe Guernsey

The final thought I want to leave you with, was the friendliness of the people.  I was struck by how welcoming and chatty everyone was.  The whole island has an almost ‘small village’ feel to it and it creates a relaxed and ambient vibe which permeates through everything.  From being stopped on the street by someone who wanted to know where James’ coat was from to having people engage with the kids when we were visiting tourist attractions or just buying our lunch, there’s such a friendly atmosphere and it really brought an added element of enjoyment to our visit.

I am certain this won’t be our last visit to the Channel Islands and a huge thank you to Condor Ferries for inviting us along, organising our trip and inspiring such a fun adventure for us all.

We were provided with a short break to Guernsey by Condor Ferries for the purpose of this post.  However all thoughts and opinions are our own.
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Summer is the time of year when people begin to think about taking long road trips; maybe to go and visit family and friends or to travel somewhere new.  In fact, we have just returned from a long driving trip ourselves so I am speaking from personal experience!

This is a sponsored post…read on for more tips:-

When you’ve invested time and money in planning a trip, organised and packed up your stuff up and even got to the stage of starting to feel excited about your break away (albeit perhaps not at the thought of long hours spent in the car with the kids!) the last thing you want to be faced with is pulling over at the side of the road, watching the other cars speed by, all because you forgot to do a little maintenance before setting off.  All of the tips I will include in my list are so simple to do, and yet it’s often our cars which fall to the bottom of the ‘to-do’ list when planning out trips.  It’s something I can understand: who wants to worry about fluid levels when they could be dreaming of the beach?  And yet, it’s so important.  We are lucky in that we’ve never yet been in that situation but I wanted to create this post in case it prompts you to run a few checks before your next trip, and potentially save any heartache.

Not only that but hopefully these tips will potentially save you money down the line, because you will be keeping your car in good condition and ensuring that everything is working as it should all year round.

1. Check oil levels

I will hold my hand up here and say this is one of those car maintenance jobs which I just don’t do as often as I know I should, but not refilling oil can have a serious impact on your car.  In fact, I know of someone who had to get a new car after they failed to top up their oil because of the damage done to their engine.  Definitely not something you want to be facing as you set off on holiday!  So it 100% pays to ensure that you are regularly checking oil levels and topping up oil as and when needed.

2. Check radiator and coolant levels

According to statistics, overheating is one of the main causes of car breakdowns over the summer so this is another tip which is vital if you are planning on taking your car for a long drive.  It can feel like something of a faff as you should only check your coolant levels when the engine is cold but this is something which you should do on a regular basis.  If you are having to repeatedly top up your coolant levels then you might have a leak.  Check what type of coolant you should be using in your car as well.

3. Test the brakes

It’s possible I should have popped this one closer to the top as having an issue with your brakes could be incredibly serious if you are driving.  Now I am no car expert but even I know that if you have squeaky brakes, or brakes which grind then you should get your brakes looked at, as it could be a sign that you need your brake fluid topping up, or your brake pads changed.  If your brakes are slow to respond then this could be a sign they are worn down and need replacing.  If you drive the car fairly regularly then this is something to keep an eye out for.  It’s unlikely to catch you by surprise but is something you should keep at the forefront of your mind as you prepare for your road trip.

4. Inspect the tyres

Before setting off on any driving trip, give your tyres a good looking over to ensure that none of them need replacing.  Look closely at the tread (there are loads of guides and handy videos online if this is something you are unsure of) to make sure none of them are worn down, and check tyre pressure.  Good tyre pressure is not only essential for safety but it can save you money on fuel as well, a definite win when you are thinking about travelling long distances.  If your tyres do need replacing then make sure you get it sorted as soon as possible; there are tyres available in all sizes and for cheap prices from Jet Wheel Tyre.

5. Make sure lights are working

My final tip, although there are a good deal more I could have mentioned including air-conditioning, power steering, batteries and so on, is to give the exterior of your car a once over and make sure all your lights are working.  Test your brake lights, your indicators, your tail lights and your headlights.  It is a pretty cheap and easy job to get the lights changed in your car so is definitely something to sort out before you set off, rather than discovering your lights aren’t working on the road.

Hopefully these tips will come in useful this summer and will prompt you to make some safety checks before setting off on your road trip.  The being trapped in the car with children for the duration of your journey I can’t help with…other than to say that being prepared is key.  That, and a good pair of ear-plugs!

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