Archive for the ‘Review 4 star’ Category

  • Fun family day out at ZSL London Zoo, Regents Park, London

    Date: 2010.10.06 | Category: Been there, Places to go, Review 4 star | Response: 0

    If the last time you visited the London Zoo was on a school trip many a year ago, then like me you may not have high expectations of a family trip to  the ZSL London Zoo just off Regents Park in the capital.  However, be prepared for a surprisingly enjoyable time as the zoo has cetainly come a long way since my last visit as a school kid!

    OK, my school memories of the smelly elephants aside, the ZSL London Zoo now has over 720 different species of animaland spread over 36 acres… so what better way to immerse your family and you into the animal kingdom. And much effort has been made to make the zoo more interactive and less of the viewing animals through bars of the zoos of the past.

    In recent years new exhibits, such as Animal Adventure (the new children’s zoo), Giants of the Galapagos, Butterfly Paradise, Meet the Monkeys, Rainforest Life, Gorilla Kingdom and the Blackburn Pavilion, create realistic environments housing some of the world’s most impressive and inspiring animals.  You can also visit the amphitheatre and be prepared for action as flying, leaping and climbing animals show off their skills.

    And, of course, the children loved the non-stop feeding time where they could get up close and personal with some of the animals.  However, there is no doubt that the penguins remained the star of the show for our children.

    The Zoo, is easy to find as it located in the north east corner of London’s Regent’s Park (open every day of the year except Christmas Day) and so it is very reasy to get a tube train to close by.

    As you would expect from a central London attraction it is not the cheapest family day out with adult tickets around £18 in peak season and children tickets at £15.  It is a little cheaper out of peak season and it is definitely worth a late Autum and winter visit when the crowds will be a lot less.  Another great tip is to buy your tickets online which will save you 10% on each ticket.

    Food is available at the café and kiosks, it is prepared with ethically-sourced ingredients and not bad for a tourist attraction but again not the cheapest.  We grabbed something to eat on the way to the zoo to savesome pennies although there were places to sit andeat sandwiches if you were more organised.

    Where to stay


    • Value for money: 4 star
    • Facilities: 4 star
    • All family entertainment: 5 star
    • Overall: 4 star
  • Beautiful Boscastle and Harbour, Cornwall, South West England

    Date: 2010.09.28 | Category: Been there, Places to go, Review 4 star | Response: 0

    When travelling around Cornwall you can become slightly accustomed to the spectacular views and pretty villages but one place well worth a visit is Boscastle. Situated a few miles from popular tourist attraction, Tintagel, Boscombe lies with in a narrow ravine that has been created by the rivers Jordan and Valency.

    You can drive to Boscastle, reaching the bottom of the ravine via some windy roads.  Conveniently a the bottom is a large car park which has public toilets. From the car park you can walk through the village and alongside the river towards the harbour entrance.  There are paths streching either side of the water that give you some spectacular views and a very pleasant circular walk.

    Not only is Boscastle pretty, it is also has some modern history that makes it a fascinatingplace to visit.  In 2004 Boscastle was devastated by a flash flood which destroyed many of the buildings along the riverside.  If you head in to the cafe on the riverside which has since been rebuilt you can see pictures of the devastation and the rebuilding – which included building the roof at an angle to keep with the original look!  Incidentally, the cafe also does a great cream team which was quite simply delicious while eating near the river.

    When you had back to the car park it is also worth checking out the Tourist Information board that provides lots of information on all the work being done to prevent another flash flood.

    Of course this is Thomas Hardy country and if you are interested in finding out more head to the Old Rectory on the road to St Juliot where you can stay in the authors bedroom and roam its extensive grounds.

    Where to stay?

    * Self catering and cottages in Boscastle, Cornwall, South West England
    * Holiday parks in Cornwall, South West England
    * Lodges in Tintagel, Cornwall, South West England
    * B&B’s in Padstow, Cornwall, South West England
    * Hotels in Padstow, Cornwall, South West England


    Boscastle was an enjoyable afternoon, even the children enjoyed the time exploring the harbour area!

    • Suitable for Family: 4 stars
    • Public facilities (toilets): 3 stars
    • Cafe/food: 4 stars
  • Polzeath Beach, Cornwall, South West England

    Date: 2010.09.13 | Category: Been there, Places to go, Review 4 star | Response: 0

    If you are looking for a good beach to learn to surf, improve your skills or to bodyboard and mess around in the waves then why not try out Polzeath Beach in Cornwall. Situated on the Padstow Bay, Polzeath gets good quality and consistent waves making this one of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall.

    We arrived there on a blustery August day and because we arrived later in the day we managed to get parked at the beaches main car park.  However, there are other car parks close by so if you can not get in to this relatively small car park you will not be too far away.

    The beach itself is wide and sandy andwhen the tide is out it is a long way down to the water – so plenty of room for everyone.  During the summer months there are RNLI Lifeguards on duty making it a safe place to be out on the water for all the family.  There are toilets in the car park area but there is not really much in the way of shower facilities like you find at somewhere like Fistral Beach.

    If you are looking for surfing lessons, with equipment and wetsuits included then head straight to the beach car park, where you will find a couple of good BSA approved surf schools.  We took our own bodyboards and summer wetsuits and boarded for a couple of hours quite happily in the patrolled areas.  We were there on a windy day though and the openess of the beach doesn’t provide a great deal of shelter – even our beach tent was struggling to cope – and in that sort of weather , even with the sun out, it was worth wearing your own wetsuit or hiring one.

    There are a few shops relatively close to the beach in Polzeath – including a Spar mini supermarket, a cafe, some stalls and a pub.  So you can grab the odd thing to eat or drink but if you are mkaing a day of it, it’s worth taking a picnic with you.  There was also an ice cream van on the beach – which saved a walk!

    Within walking distance from Polzeath are some other magnificent places to visit including Rock, Daymer Bay, Pentire Point, St Minver and Trebetherick.  All can be reached by the local coastal paths that offer spectacular views over looking Cornwall‘s rugged coast line and out to the Atlantic Ocean.

    Where to stay?


    • Suitable for Family: 4 stars
    • Beach and surf: 5 stars
    • Beach facilities (toilets/showers): 3 stars
    • Cafe/food: 3 stars
    • Safety: 5 stars (RNLI Lifeguards during season)
  • Polperro and Looe – picture postcard Cornwall

    Date: 2010.08.24 | Category: Features, Places to go, Review 4 star | Response: 0

    If you are visiting Cornwall this year then a trip to the towns of Polperro and Looe are a must for anyone wanting to experience the traditional ‘picture postcard’ beauty of the Cornish fishing village.

    Set just a few miles apart these fishing villages can be found on the south coast of Cornwall near Liskeard and Plymouth.


    With a large car park for tourists set on the edge of the town its easy to arrive and set off into Polperro on foot.  The walk gives you plenty of time to look at the pretty streets and marvel at the houses perched all the way up the cliff sides.

    As you wander along you also have time to choose from the great range of Cornish pasties, Cornish ice creams and, of course, the Cornish cream teas… for research purposes, we tried many of these out and confirm that they are worth the effort!

    You can get short boat trips from the harbour so that you can appreciate the great views from the sea.

    While there is not lots for the kids to do, Polperro is a small village that can be easily walked and we found that the choice of ice creams easily distracted the children while we explored.

    Coast walk from Polperro to Looe

    You can follow a great coastal footpath that works its way along the top of the bays.  It is well worth doing to really appreciate the scenery of this rugged coastline and please allow plenty of time for the walk, as the path meanders its way following the coastline, and make sure you take drinks and appropriate clothing. Although you can walk there and back, we walked one way and caught a local bus back…. definitely not one for a pushchair though.


    Either a lovely walk or a short drive takes you from Polperro to the picture postcard Looe.  Again you are welcomed by the sight of cottages perched all the way up the cliffs that surround the town.  Looe has a bigger shopping centre with all the holidays momentoes you could ever want. And, of course there are lots of places to try the pasties, ice creams and cream teas.

    On the practical side, their is a big car park on the way in to Looe – but don’t rely on a quick get away as the car park exit can be a bit busy towards the end of the day!  We also found that Looe had a lot of the UK banks so it was a good place to to top up our cash reserves.

    Day trip details

    • Polperro: 1-2 hours exploring (including time for Pasties etc)
    • Looe: 1-2 hours (including holiday momento shopping)
    • Good for couples and families
    • Overall: 4 stars

    Where to stay

    We stayed in a holiday park in the Newquay area and traveled to Looe and Polperro by car – about a 55 minute drive. However there are plenty of great places to stay closer including:

  • Compton Acres, Bournemouth, Dorset, South West England

    Date: 2010.08.23 | Category: Been there, Latest News, Places to go, Review 4 star | Response: 0

    As a family that has spent so much time holidaying in the Bournemouth area of Dorset it is amazing that it has taken us so long to do one of its largest attractions. Our hesitancy has always been along the familiar lines of… “it will be a nice garden but will we enjoy it while tugging the kids along behind us!”

    This August we finally bit the bullet, bought the £17 family ticket and headed in.

    Compton Acres is one of the finest privately owned gardens in the South of England with a unique series of stunning gardens and a spectacular view of Poole Harbour, Brownsea Iasland and the Purbeck Hills beyond.

    Once inside you follow a circular path route that takes you through the various gardens, from the splendid formal Italian  Gardens, through the sub Tropical link to the wooded pine valley, rock and water gardens and much more.  As you would imagine the gardens are all pretty, well maintained and very peaceful.

    Our favourite was the Japanses garden, which is recognised as one of the best in Britain, with its Tea House draped in Japanese wisteria and the thatched summer house.

    As for the children, well their highlights were the activity area which allowed them to climb and run around a bit – without disturbing other visitors – and the Bog Garden which was a great place to spot wildlife including butterflies, toads and many many dragonflies.  Compton Acres during the summer holidays had also put on a clue trail for the children to follow, which kept them occupied, if only for the promised sweet reward at the end.

    Compton Acres is pathed all the way around and so is accessible for pushchairs and the disabled.

    Most surprising moment was the fantastic view across the harbour from the cafe – up to that point you feel in an enclosed garden and then you suddenly look up and see across the Harbour to Brownsea Island and beyond.  The cafe had a good selection of sandwiches and cakes to accompany tea, but we just sat and appreciated the view.

    We visited Compton Acres in the summer holidays but it is open all year round with colour and scent throughout and regular events held so check the website for more information.

    There is also a Model Railway Exhibition that includes 1000 foot of scenic track attached to Compton Acres, although this does require extra admission (£1.50 for adults, £1 for children).

    Location and accommodation

    Compton Acres is close to Sandbanks, set between Bournemouth and Poole in Dorset.


    • Family fun: 4 stars
    • Lenth of visit: Allow 2 hours

    Find out more

    Visit the Compton Acres website to find out more.

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