A new year and time to start thinking about where you want to travel your family in 2016.
People have asked me to sum up what I’d recommend from my family travel experiences in the past year and I’m happy to share what stood out and worked for us.
Being a family travel writer 2015 has been a busy year, especially with the new arrival of Mr Baby in March joining the ranks of Mr Toddler. Now we have two under two to attempt to take travelling with us. Daunting? Yes. I was utterly terrified of taking them anywhere, but I was more terrified of being permanently stuck at home scared to go anywhere, so we bit the bullet and got going. So out of a year of adventures, misadventures, nappies and sleepless nights here’s a summary of my top recommendations, at home and away, to inspire you for the year ahead.
Home, for me, is Scotland. And my ‘at home’ recommendation for 2016 is the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. We decided to visit in May 2015 when Mr Baby was two months old. Bit crazy I know. We didn’t want to go abroad when he was this young but travelling to Lewis is an adventure all on its own. Firstly you have to drive to the ferry terminal in the town of Ullapool on the west coast of Scotland and catch the ferry to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. Take it from me, children LOVE ferries – they’re huge, floating entertainment systems so this part of the journey was an easy pleasure and it’s always lovely to sail into your holiday destination.
Once on Lewis your biggest decision is which breathtaking beach to visit first. Luskentyre, a drive south to Harris, is the most renowned stunner, but we were equally blown away by the beaches at Coll and Port of Ness, especially when the sun was splitting the sky. I’d like to say Mr Toddler could run around a lot but often there was the genuine threat he would be blown away but he somehow enjoyed himself anyway.
Another recommendation is the globally recognized stone circle of Callanish – it’s atmospheric, historic and wild. The traditional black houses at Carloway give insight into how locals lived in days gone by and whalebone arches pay tribute to the fishing communities that once worked the seas. And Harris is of course home to Harris tweed, so beautiful textiles and shopping opportunities are at hand. Overall on Lewis time stands still, it’s the kind of place you abandon your smart phone and leave the laptop behind, often you have no reception anyway. Its landscape, wildlife and seascapes will capture your imagination, inspire your children, and create family memories that are truly special. This island is a photographer’s dream – to see a photo journal that captures some of my favourite images of Lewis and Harris please click here.
My recommendation abroad is the Loire-Atlantique region of France. We had no preconceived ideas of this area but when we flew into Nantes we were surprised by the magical child friendly experiences available. Mr Toddler was utterly mesmerised by the mechanical offering at the Ile des Machines – a gigantic moving elephant spraying water at the crowds is the centrepiece. My face lit up watching how transfixed he was by this unique experience.
A day trip to the picturesque market town of Vannes is recommended on market day, as is a visit to its aquarium and butterfly park. I had no notion of how much toddlers love aquariums till I dashed around following Mr Toddler to his shrieks of Wow, Wow, Wow!
Lastly if the sun is shining I can highly recommend a trip to Pornichet – miles of sandy beaches with a shallow incline into the sea made it a perfect playground for little dippers and older dippers like me. Stopping for lunch at a beachside cafe for a crepe, then heading back into the sea is unbeatable. Then we’d head home to the gite we’d rented for the week to sort out dinner and open a bottle of wine. Click here for more inspiration on the Loire-Atlantique.
So that’s Tots2Travel’s summary of the our best travel experiences from 2015 – they’re a little off the beaten track but it’s not my job to regurgitate the predictable and downright obvious so I hope these destinations give a little food for thought. To look at all our experiences from the past year please visit www.tots2travel.wordpress.com.