|Why is the great British family holiday tradition so important?|
25/05/2009 06:53 (1661 Day 01:00 minutes ago)
The FINANCIAL -- Family Travel Expert Jane Anderson’s guide to the best family seaside towns.
Check out the marvellous sandy beaches of Nairn along the Moray Firth – some of the most child friendly in Scotland. This is an excellent base for exploring the Scottish Highlands. Twelve of the Highlands top-twenty visitor attractions are within an hour's drive of Nairn. Nearby is Culloden Battlefield, Clava Cairns, Fort George, Cawdor Castle, Brodie Castle, Inverness, Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness or enjoy the scenic splendour of the Cairngorm mountains.
Newcastle and environs
Having spent a good part of my youth in Tynemouth and Whitley Bay, I’m now overwhelmed by the beauty of the north east coast and what a fabulously easy family holiday it makes. I now have two children under 6 and my parents house in Whitley Bay has now transformed from what I felt was a parochial backwater to a fabulous holiday spot. The current redevelopment of the Playhouse and Spanish City is in full flow. Just down the coast, Tynemouth is home to the spectacular Long Sands and sheltered King Edward’s Bay. It also has a historic Priory, pretty boating lake and views of the mouth of Tyne – which often sees a Tall Ships regatta. Even the once down at heel Blyth is undergoing a £800,000 restoration project with vamped up beach chalets and promenade harking back to its heyday in the 1950s. You don’t have to head far north into Northumberland to come across Alnwick - a recognisable film location from Harry Potter and Elizabeth, to Becket and Blackadder. Alnwick Gardens are a family must with its memorable treehouse. Nearby Alnmouth is a beach worth shouting about, as is Bamburgh and Druridge Bay with its three-mile beach and heady sand dunes, as well as a 100-acre lake surrounded by woodland and meadows.
Blackpool once shone brightly with Coco Chanel reputedly landing her seaplane on the beach and Laurence Olivier striding along the prom. Once a bastion of old fashioned seaside delights with its whelk stalls and stripy deckchairs, it still has a flavour of the kiss me quick about it with many a stag and hen do hitting its shores, but there’s also the new South Beach promenade and an ongoing series of ‘Admission All Classes’ weekends of magic, circus, music hall, fairground and other forms of mass entertainment that flourished between 1850 and 1950. You’re now as likely to see a half hour puppet show of the Iliad, as you are Punch and Judy.
The Norfolk Broads are a well loved family holiday destination, but head north and you’ll find the sought after town of Burnham Market and the incredible Holkham Bay with its seven miles of beach across Norfolk’s unspoilt north coast. The beach is so photogenic; it was used as a backdrop to the film Shakespeare in Love. Holkham is the largest nature reserve in Britain incorporating salt marshes backed by pines and teeming with bird life. Another must visit attraction for families with young children is BeWILDerwood, a magical treehouse adventure park near the cathedral town of Norwich.
Folkestone is one to watch. This fading seaside town with its beautiful white stucco houses has local billionaire Roger de Haan on its side. Having sold off the family business, Saga, he has bought the port, seafront and old town. A university campus and City academy are already in place, but his vision is to transform Folkestone into a creatively vibrant coastal town. Studios will be offered in a refurbished ‘artists quarter’ for £20 a week and artists like Tracey Emin have been commissioned to make street installations.
Camden by the sea or is Camden now Brighton in land? Now well known for its cosmopolitan city-by-the-sea vibe, Brighton is more vibrant than ever. Made increasingly cool by residents like Zoe Ball and husband Norman Cook, it has four major festivals including England’s leading arts festival, Brighton Festival. This summer (2009) there’s the Beachdown Festival (28-31 August), a summer beachfront festival headed up by Fatboy Slim and for the first time this year an extreme sports festival, White Air (18-20 September). There are galleries galore, outdoor art installations, not to mention old favourites like Brighton Pier, Volks Railway, Brighton Pavilion and The Lanes from some quirky shopping. With over 400 restaurants, bars and cafes it’s regarded as the UK’s second most culinary city. Brighton is also a favourite with film buffs visiting locations of films such as Quadrophenia.
Isle of Wight
Aside from its beaches, the Isle of Wight feeds the family demand for great days out. From historical encounters to screaming on a cliff-top roller coaster there’s something for everyone. Isle of Wight Zoo is home to TV’s Tiger Island. This wildlife centre supports the largest collection of tigers in the UK and specialises in taking care of endangered big cat and lemur species. Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s favourite retreat, has become more popular following the release of ‘The Young Victoria’. Families love the gardens designed by Capability Brown which stretch all the way down to the sea. Then there’s Bembridge Windmill, the Blackgang Chine theme park and the Needles Park. Don’t miss a ride in the chairlift with spectacular views of the multi-coloured sand cliffs of Alum Bay and the famous stone monoliths. Within the park there’s plenty for families including teacup rides, Jurassic Golf and a sweet factory.
Bournemouth’s twin set and pearls image is fading fast as this historic seaside town attracts a younger, groovier set. For a start it’s now home to Europe’s first artificial reef on Boscombe Beach, where the waves are pushed upwards doubling their size and thus increasing the number of surfing days. Boscombe itself is undergoing a £9m makeover, with a new surfing school, shop and glass-fronted restaurant. There will be ‘super beach huts’ in the Overstrand complex. Dorset is full of incredible places from Poole to Lyme Regis and the wonderful Jurassic Coast. Head inland just a little way and you come to fabulous market towns like Bridport, in the throws of mini renaissances of their own.
How many of you look back fondly at memories of rock pooling and donkey rides on the beach, eating fish and chips on a windy pier, building endless sandcastles behind a windbreak and generally having a thoroughly good time beside the British seaside? Think Blackpool illuminations, Brighton Rock, Scarborough Fair. Yet according to a Premier Inn survey it appears that 92% of young children have never ridden a donkey by the seaside and 59% have never built a sandcastle on a British beach. What is the world coming to?