Here we’ve scoured the Devon, Scotland, Northern Island, the west country and Isle of Wight for the most scenic, stunning places for you to explore — and unearthed a host of exciting things to see and do on your bargain breaks.
STEP into the Stone Age at Kents Cavern Prehistoric Caves in Torquay. The oldest human settlement in northwestern Europe, these 500,000-year-old caverns are the perfect attraction for a wet and windy day.
Join an entertaining guide for the story of the 15-year Victorian excavation which uncovered the caves’ secrets, including inscriptions and examples of the earliest tools ever found in Britain, along with bones and teeth of ancient Ice Age animals. See kents-cavern.co.uk.
The South Devon Chilli Farm near Kingsbridge is one hotspot you won’t want to miss. See how chillies are grown in the stunning South Devon countryside, then find out how hot you dare to go while tasting the free samples — a permanent fixture in the shop, which also has deli-style food.
The café serves lunches from 11.30am to 3pm for lovers of chilli and other things too.
For youngsters, there is a play tractor, a super-size twisty swing and activities such as quiz sheets, stamp collecting and colouring. See southdevonchillifarm.co.uk.
For the kids
WHAT more unusual holiday activity could there be than cuddling miniature pigs?
Pennywell Farm near Buckfastleigh in South Devon offers hugs with the little oinkers all day, every day.
And with pig racing at 2.30pm daily, your little ones will be well entertained.
Every child gets an activity stamp card on which they can collect stamps after each activity to earn a free return visit. See pennywellfarm.co.uk.
Or if cuddling piglets is a little too tame for your youngsters, then head to Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park in Ilfracombe. Nestling in a valley, it’s Devon’s very own prehistoric park. Visitors can enjoy natural cascading streams and waterfalls, while lurking behind the bamboo, tropical trees and plants are life-size animatronic dinosaurs.
The park is also home to a variety of exotic animals including African lions, baboons, gibbons, capybara, lemurs and rare Hudson Bay wolves — one of only two packs in the UK.
Don’t forget to take a ride on the Dino Express or venture into the park’s underground Egyptian tomb. See cmwdp.co.uk.
DEVON’S top beauty spot, Becky Falls Woodland Park, is a magical place set within a spectacular ancient valley. The Falls, near Bovey Tracey, have been attracting visitors for more than 100 years for a value-packed day out.
Choose the Blue Trail for a children’s letterboxing activity (with a small prize for every child), tackle the Red Trail for a more challenging walk or to visit the Main Falls, while for those with a real sense of adventure, try the Purple Trail and Lower Falls. See beckyfalls.com.
One of the most picturesque villages on the Jurassic Coast is Branscombe. With its streets that sweep down through a valley towards the sea, it is the UK’s longest village.
Branscombe has National Trust buildings such as The Old Bakery and Forge, while the countryside and coastline surrounding it is a walker’s delight, with the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at its doorstep and the South West Coast Path stretching out either side of the village. See nationaltrust.org.uk.
OUR HOL FROM £9.50
Jean, 63, said: “We had such a fantastic experience there, we couldn’t wait to go again.”
WHY not grab a beer in Beer? The fishing village has some lovely pubs and restaurants.
Try The Smugglers Kitchen for an ever-changing menu of fresh West Country fare and an extensive wine list. See thesmugglerskitchen.co.uk. Or for a family and dog-friendly lunch with a view, don’t miss The Hideaway at the far end of the prom, serving local and organic food and coffee by the sea.
A La Ronde in Exmouth is one of the National Trust’s quirkiest houses. The 16-sided building was built for cousins Jane and Mary Parminter, on their return from a grand tour of Europe in the late 18th century. The kooky interior houses mementoes such as a room encrusted in 25,000 shells. See nationaltrust.org.uk.
Ride a steam train along rugged coastline with the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. The non-profit organisation offers train rides at Woody Bay in Exmoor National Park, with the aim of fully restoring one of the country’s most picturesque railways.
Journeys are taken in reconstructed carriages, with parts dating from 1897. See lynton-rail.co.uk.
- Haven Devon Cliffs holiday park is a great base to visit Branscombe, The Smugglers Kitchen, The Hideaway and A La Ronde. Or try the three Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks, Golden Coast, Woolacombe Bay and Twitchen House. Stay in one and get access to amenities in all three.
HOW TO BOOK YOUR HOLIDAYS FOR £9.50
All you need to do is collect TEN Sun Savers codes or TEN tokens or codewords printed in The Sun. The next round starts in 2019 – between Saturday, January 5 and Tuesday, January 29.If you’re collecting Sun Savers codes: ENTER YOUR CODES HERE
If you’re collecting tokens or codewords use the booking form or book online at thesun.co.uk/holidays
- Price per person based on four sharing. Subject to availability. Terms and conditions and date restrictions apply. For full T&Cs see thesun.co.uk/holidays.
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HANTS, SOMERSET, DORSET
Exmoor marks the spot for nature lovers
STRETCHING from coast to coast across the centre of the South West, the counties of Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire are hugely popular for holidays – with everything from the natural beauty of Exmoor and the New Forest to the traditional seaside delights of Bournemouth and Minehead.
Portsmouth will be the centre of the 75th Anniversary D-Day commemorations in June, to mark the Normandy Landings that turned the tide of the Second World War.
The D-Day Story museum has undergone a major redevelopment ahead of the anniversary and has a year of special events planned. See theddaystory.com. Also worth a visit are Southwick House (home to the original D-Day Map) and Southwick Village, which will host a D-Day Revival from June 8-9. See visit-hampshire.co.uk.
It is also the 70th anniversary of the opening of the Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hants, this year and there are events planned including a celebration in July, the month it first opened. See jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk. Jane Austen Regency Week also returns to Alton and Chawton from June 22-30 – expect Regency-style music, dining, drama, singing, talks and guided tours as well as the Regency Ball.
See janeaustenregency week.co.uk.
Be sure to check out The Watercress Line and the new traditional wooden-framed carriages currently being restored to their former glory. It is hoped they will be in service on the steam railway by mid-2019, along with a refurbished Ropley Station with an interactive centre to explain how steam locomotives work and are restored. See canpac.watercressline.
Over in Dorset, Sherborne Castle is celebrating the life and legacy of Sir Walter Raleigh, one of the best-known characters of the Elizabethan era. A favourite of Queen Elizabeth, Raleigh was a poet, historian and explorer, and built the castle in 1594. A new exhibition here will tell his remarkable story. See sherbornecastle.com.
Take snaps in Bournemouth and Poole at the Selfie Wall trail along the seafront. Eleven murals by local artists are the perfect backdrop for those all-important Instagram pictures. Follow the trail on foot, by bike or aboard its land trains.
In Somerset, check out the Festival of Nature at Bristol and Bath from June 1-9, featuring hundreds of free events, including lectures, tours and films on science, nature and the environment. See bnhc.org.uk/festival-of-nature.
Celebrating its 21st year open to the public, the beautiful Snowdrop Valley, Exmoor, will be in flower through February and into March. This year Cutcombe Parish Council will operate a park-and-ride service allowing visitors easy access to the valley. With short walks, to a three-hour trek, visitors have a choice of routes and time to visit the Snowdrop Cafe or local businesses. See visit-exmoor.co.uk.
Come May, bluebells bloom across Somerset. Head to Fyne Court in the Quantock Hills, home of the Crosse family who lived there until the house was destroyed by fire in 1894. Take the red route, past the boathouse, over the stream and through the beech woodland, carpeted with bluebells. See visitsomerset.co.uk.
ISLE OF WIGHT
Always the Wight time for a family holiday
LAUNCHING at Easter for adrenaline junkies is a new high-ropes course and zip rail in Sandown.
Thrill-seekers taking on Sandwich Sky Trail, at Sandham Gardens, will have to navigate a technical course 13 metres up, overlooking the beachfront. See heritagegb.co.uk.
The Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary between Shanklin and Ventnor is a fun, year-round attraction for all the family. Don’t feel bad for riding the animals up and down the beach – they are very well looked after. Other seasonal events include a dog show and open days with stalls and games to enjoy. See iowdonkey sanctuary.org.
Godshill Model Village is a retro must-see. With beautiful models of Godshill and Shanklin as they were in the Twenties and Thirties, it is open from March to October. See modelvillagegodshill.co.uk.
Don’t miss Steephill Cove in Ventnor for its old-fashioned English seaside charm. Explore rock pools at low tide, then visit The Boathouse for freshly caught crab or lobster, and The Crab Shed for crab pasties. See visitisleofwight.co.uk.
The oldest amusement park in the UK, Blackgang Chine, has been open since 1843. The park and gardens are filled with all sorts of wild and wacky fantasy attractions. Kids can play in Cowboy Town, Pirate Cove, Fairyland or Dinosaurland. Still owned by the original family, this attraction, with its stunning sea views, is a fun day out for the entire gang. For details, see blackgangchine.com.
- Parkdean Resorts Lower Hyde is a short trip from the Donkey Sanctuary, Goshill Model Village, The Crab Shed and Blackgang Chine.
Distilled pleasure in land of delights
TREAT the family to a mind-bending day out at Camera Obscura World of Illusions in Edinburgh. It is five floors of interactive hands-on optical illusions, tricks and fun things to do including a vortex tunnel, a mirror maze and a shrinking room. See camera-obscura.co.uk.
Also in Edinburgh, board the Queen’s former floating palace, Britannia. Learn about how the royal yacht played host to state banquets and official receptions, while being the home to the Royal family and crew of 220 royal yachtsmen.
Overlooking the city, Edinburgh Castle is hard to miss but do pop in for a visit.
Dominating the skyline from castle rock, it’s as impressive inside. From the imposing Great Hall to the UK’s oldest crown jewels and the daily firing of the one o’clock gun, there’s plenty of fascinating history to soak up. See edinburghcastle.scot.
A must-visit for adventure seekers is Ice Factor in Kinlochleven. It houses the world’s biggest indoor ice climbing wall, rock climbing and a new aerial outdoor adventure course. There’s a free children’s play area, cafe, bar/restaurant, sauna and steam room. See ice-factor.co.uk.
Glasgow’s award-winning Riverside Museum has 3,000 objects, from skateboards to locomotives, paintings, prams, cars . . . and a stormtrooper. Get hands-on with interactive displays as you walk through Glasgow streets and visit the shops, bar and subway. Climb aboard a train, tram or bus then discover the city’s rich shipbuilding history. See glasgowlife.org.uk.
The David Welch Winter Gardens glass house complex at Duthie Park in Dundee provides a year round attraction no matter the weather. A peaceful place to wander, it’s home to many exotic plants including one of the largest collections of cacti in Britain. See aberdeencity.gov.uk.
Any holiday in Scotland needs a tour, or at least a tasting, at a whisky distillery. Oban Distillery, in the port town in western Scotland, is one of the smallest in the country. Nestled beneath the steep cliff that overlooks the town, it offers some of Scotland’s top-rated tours and tastings.
While you’re visiting Glasgow, why not try the Clydeside Distillery, with its modern visitor experience, cafe and shop. See theclydeside.com.
Or in Edinburgh there’s The Scotch Whisky Experience with a vault containing the world’s largest collection of Scotch. Find details at scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk.
For adrenaline junkies, canyoning with Vertical Descents is the ultimate outdoor adventure, where the Highlands are transformed into your very own all-natural water park.
Jump from cliffs into deep water pools before slipping and sliding down a natural water flume. Located in Fort William, with its towering mountains, deep glens and fast flowing waterfalls this is the perfect place to try canyoning. Find out more at verticaldescents.com.
- Try Haven Craig Tara for the toddlers’ play village, crazy golf and climbing wall, opening this summer. For Camera Obscura World of Illusions, the Queen’s floating former palace and Edinburgh, Haven Seton Sands is ideal.
Game on for trek to Seven Kingdoms
WITH much of Game of Thrones filmed in Northern Ireland, what better place to delve into the art and artistry behind the Sky1 show? Opening at TEC Belfast from April 11, Game Of Thrones: The Touring Exhibition will drop fans into the Seven Kingdoms for an up-close and personal look at authentic props, costumes and set decorations from the show. To find out more, see gameofthronestours.com.
Also in the capital, don’t miss Titanic Belfast. Explore nine interactive galleries at its Titanic Experience, discover the symbolism of the building with The Discovery Tour or dine in Bistro 401.
Walk the decks of the SS Nomadic – the last remaining vessel of the White Star shipping company – and immerse yourself in the historic Slipways as you uncover the legend of the Titanic in the city where its tragic story began. See titanicbelfast.com.
At Giant’s Causeway, walk among the 40,000 basalt stone columns left by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago. Explore the UNESCO Heritage Site on way-marked trails and enjoy spectacular coastal scenery accompanied by an audio guide. See nationaltrust.org.uk.
For a fun day out with the kids, Rosepark Farm in Ballymoney has plenty to enjoy. From playparks to ziplines, two miles of beautiful walkways, petting areas and play areas, the family attraction has it all. See roseparkfarm.co.uk.
Or for the big kids, take a tour of the oldest licensed distillery in the world.
Tours and tasting sessions at Bushmills, which opened in 1608, in the village of Bushmills, County Antrim, take place daily. See bushmills.com.
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