Things to do near Birmingham during the school holidays

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

During the school holidays we were heading to the West Midlands Safari Park near Birmingham for a day out so we thought we’d make a mini break of it as I had a few more days off left.

On route to Birmingham we stopped at Warwick Castle for a few hours.  We had a fabulous time exploring the castle inside and out, the weather really made it.  There is so much to see and do, we saw several of the live demonstrations; The Bowman, Flight of the Eagles, Battling Soldiers and Jousting.  Unfortunately, we missed the Trebuchet Fireball as someone needed the toilet at that precise moment in time.

Days out - Warwick Castle

I’d really recommend a day out at the castle but my only suggestions would be to bring a packed lunch and if you decide to do the Horrible Histories Trail, finding the rats and collecting stamps, don’t wait until the last hour or you will be racing around the site with very tired legs.

Child Friendly Hotels in Birmingham

We stayed in the newly refurbished Jurys Inn in Birmingham, which have teamed up with some of UK’s biggest attractions to offer family packages that won’t break the bank.  They currently have offers with Cadbury’s World, Alton Towers and The New Sealife Centre to name a few.

If I’m honest, when we first approached the hotel from Broad Street and saw it, you can’t miss it really, it looked like a circa 1960s concrete office block.  However, once we made our way around to the car park, as it’s located on a one way street, you have to make your way down one block and then come back on yourself, we were truly impressed with the hotel.  It’s recently benefited from a £4.7 m refurbishment and is very centrally located for exploring Birmingham.

The best part for us is that it is truly child friendly.  In addition, to offering the Safari Park tickets as part of the package, they also have Jurys Little Library Service where you can borrow books for the duration of your stay.   The restaurant ‘The Grill on Broad Street’ has a Healthy Options Kid’s Menu with all the usual suspects; Spaghetti Bolognese, Pizza, and Bangers and Mash but all freshly prepared.

Plus, the adults menu is rather impressive as well, I splurged and ordered a Rib-eye steak, obviously accompanied by a glass of red wine and it was cooked perfectly.  I’m not normally a pudding person but treated myself to a piece of this gorgeous Maple Cheesecake.

Eating at Jurys Inn - Birmingham

And check out this chandelier!  It’s got my name written all over it.

Jurys Inn Birmingham

The package was on a B & B basis so we were able to fuel up with a cooked breakfast before our busy day out.  What I really liked about the hotel is that, as a family, we can still stay somewhere that is classy and a bit more sophisticated but truly welcoming to children.  There is no need to be relegated substandard budget hotels.

I also need to mention that the Hotel Staff were incredibly friendly and helpful throughout our stay.

Midlands Safari Park

Midlands Safari Park

We had a great day out at the Safari Park, which is a 4 mile self-drive route through Mini Africa in Bewdley, Worcestershire, where you will get up close and personal with White Lions, Cheetahs, Giraffes, Elephants, Rhinos and much more.  The nice thing about the park is that you can drive around as many times as you like.  At the end you can also park up and explore Mark O’Shea’s Reptile world, Sea Lion Theatre, Penguin Cove and an African Village you can walk through and see the adorable Lemurs and Meerkats.

Wallet Warning!

There is a Leisure Park with rides at the end of the Safari Park and there is no way you are going to get out of going on a few rides.  I’m not sure why, but I originally thought it was included as well but it’s not.  However, I had already promised my daughter a few rides beforehand, so I bucked up the entry cost, which wasn’t extortionate.  If I’m honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with the Leisure Park, there weren’t a huge amount of rides and they looked tired, but this may have something to do with the fact that we’ve recently been to Thorpe Park and Legoland, so it’s not really fair to compare.  But most importantly my daughter loved it.

Leisure Park Midlands Safari Park

Disclosure:  Our Stay at Jurys and Safari Park Tickets were complimentary for review purposes.  One night’s B&B based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing with tickets to the West Midlands Safari Park from £104.70

Hatfield Farm Park Hatfield House

I was in a bit of a rush to write this up as they are open on Bank Holidays and tomorrow being one.  But for those of you who read this later they’re open Tues through Sunday and Bank Holidays from 10-5.30.

Fun for the whole family!

I’m always on the lookout for family days out, that the whole family can enjoy, not just the kids and this is one of those.  We have been to Hatfield House Farm Park before but had a truly great day out there today.  The weather was in our favour.


One of the reasons that I love it is that it is reasonably priced when you think we spent £20 for hubby and daughter to go to the cinema yesterday.  It’s £4.50 per adult and £2 per child and FREE parking.  As farms go it isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but do remember I’m Canadian and my sister is married to a rancher, with 400 cows and they think it’s hilarious that we pay to go to farms, but the adventure playground is amazing.

Hatfield House Adventure Playground, Herts

It’s set in a dip in the woods, with ample shade and a replica of Hatfield House.  As a St Albian, I’m very jealous of the quality of the playgrounds elsewhere.  I do hope our council takes note as our local playgrounds are lacking.

My top tips:

  • Start at the adventure playground, but send someone to the restaurant to grab coffee.  It’s diagonally across the car park, in the Stable Yard.  You can also get a child-lunch box (£5.50 for 5 items) and have an impromptu picnic, but to save a few pennies, you may want to bring your own lunch.  There is plenty of seating outside the playground.
  • We then did a walk around the farm, some unique breeds but wish we would have bought some animal feed at the entrance.

Hatfield Farm Park, Herts

  • If you decide to ride on the tractor, make sure, when you’re looking at the back of the tractor that you sit on the right or else  you end up looking at the car park and dual carriageway.

Hatfield House, Family Day out, St Albans, Herts

  • Take the time to wander up to the Stable Courtyard after, we weren’t interested in visiting the house or gardens, but plenty to see in the courtyard; Butchers, Toy Store, Sweet Shop, Burstons Garden Centre and a Pimm’s Stand!  Don’t mind if I do!

Miniature Railway, St Albans, Herts

  • Save the train ride till the end of the day when you’re heading for the car.  It’s included in the price of a ticket.

All in all it was great value and I highly recommend it, but do bear in mind the weather as there is not a lot of cover.


Things to do at Thorpe Park if you’re 5

‘Mummy, you know that place we went to on the weekend, I call it the best place ever!’ M age 5

Thorpe Park was originally marketed for 16- 24 year olds, so when I first invited myself along, I was a bit worried that there would not be enough for my 5 year old to do.  I had a quick look on the site and there were a few rides for kids starting from 900mm through to 1.1m.

The first thing I had to work out was how tall she was.  Luckily, she takes after her mum and dad, she’s not freakishly tall but a bit taller than your average 5 year old.  Once I got her to stand still, I worked out that she was 116 cm.  Result!  Plus, we also got her to wear her Heely’s without the wheels which gave her another 3-4 centimetres.

These are all the rides that she was able to go on.  We may have been able to sneak her onto a few of the 1.2m rides but didn’t want to jeopardize her safety.

Thorpe Park for Younger Children

Rides for 5 year olds at Thorpe Park


  • Zodiac – spinning sensation, say good-bye to your lunch
  • Depth Charge – 4 lane super slide
  • Flying Fish – Bonus, the kids could go on without parental supervision!
  • Rumba Rapids – Yes, my bum got very wet!
  • Rocky Express – I can’t believe they went on it 5 times in a row!  I would’ve been sick.
  • Mr. Monkey’s Banana Ride – My daughter’s favourite as it gave her butterflies in her tummy.


  • Logger’s Leap – a classic log flume with two drops
  • X – an indoor rollercoaster with a light and sound show

1.1 m

  • Storm Surge – swirling water ride

As you can see there was more than enough to entertain us for the day and we managed to avoid the Tea Cups.  If you count the Carousel she was able to go on at least 10 rides.

Disclosure:  our tickets were complimentary.





Simply Fish and Camden Lock

I can’t think of a better way to spend the day!

Last weekend, when we had unusually good weather, we went day tripping in Camden.

Walking from Camden Lock to Little Venice

Walk From Camden to Little Venice

The original reason was to review Simply Fish on Inverness Street, but as train fares can be quite pricey we decided to make a day of it.  I don’t know the area very well, so put it out to my twitter mates and they suggested going for a walk along the canal after lunch from Camden Lock to Little Venice as it also goes by the Aviary of London Zoo.

The area around Camden Lock was absolutely heaving, as the sun was out, but it had a fabulous buzz.  Once we worked our way through all the people, it got much quieter and you almost forget that you were in the middle of London.

It was a beautiful walk, it was a couple of miles but being a tow path it was flat so our 5 year old daughter managed it easily.  Once we got to Little Venice, we had a sneaky drink and then hopped on a boat back to Camden Lock.  Perfect!

Simply Fish, Camden

But back to Simply Fish, the original reason we went.  It’s a stone’s throw from Camden Market, tucked away on a side street away from some of the hustle and bustle but still busy enough for a bit of people watching.

Simply Fish, Camden

The inside of the restaurant was reminiscent of Wagamamas to me, simple but with clever designs.

SimplyFish Camden

We initially were sat inside, which wasn’t a problem as the folding windows were fully retracted as it was such a gorgeous day.  However, there was one table outside and I noticed the people who were at it were about to leave so I pounced!

Sitting outside SimplyFish

SimplyFish pride themselves in the fact that the fish is brought in daily from Cornwall and is from sustainable stocks.  The concept is simple:

Simply Fish Concept

To start I had Cornwall Mussels with Coconut & Lemongrass Sauce as you can see, someone else took a liking to them and helped herself.

Mussels with Coconut Milk


For a main, I had Japanese Seared Salmon with Coriander Rice and Miso Sauce.  It was to die for and we are going to try and replicate the recipe at home.


To start Hubby had the Arbroath Smokey Fish Cakes with gribiche and to be honest I have no idea what gribiche is.  We ordered the Marinated Prawns in garlic & chilli for Madame as a starter, I was a bit worried about the heat, but she loved them.  Both of them had the SimplyFish Cod and cut chips with crushed peas & tartar sauce.  Madame is not the best eater, she’s not picky, she just doesn’t eat a lot and there was very little left on her plate.

Fish and Chips, Simply Fish

The service was excellent, this may have something to do with the fact they thought I was from a magazine and if I’m honest, I didn’t correct them.  :-) However, I did notice that others were receiving good service as well.

I would really recommend this as a family day out if you get the weather for it.



My Friday Five: Local Parks (Herts)

With Half-Term looming, remind me to get loads of wine in, I thought I’d share some of our favourite parks to visit.  For the most part they’re free; however there is a chance you’ll be fleeced when you get there.

The weather isn’t looking promising so you’ll need to wrap up!

As the Comedian, Billy Connolly once said

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little’.

In no particular order here are 5 of our favourite Local Parks:

Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton, technically it’s not a park but it’s free to go in there is an amazing outdoor play area, grab a latte in the cafe and watch your kids play, the children’s menu is reasonable and they have seasonal exhibits, currently they have DinoMites, which my daughter really enjoyed but it costs extra.

Cassiobury Park in Watford, parking is a nightmare but they have a fantastic play area, something St Albans should aspire to, there is a Mini Steam Train, hot dog stand and make sure you make the effort to wander down to the canal and see the Locks.

Aldenham County ParkAldenham County Park – one of our all time favourites, it’s free to go in but you have to pay to get out of the car park, if I remember correctly it’s about a fiver and take change.  However, there is a great adventure playground, Winnie the Pooh’s 100 Akre Wood and a few Nature Walks.  Back in the day it was all free but sadly they’ve gone a bit commercial and now you can pay for the Rare Breeds Animal Farm, Pony Rides and Tree Climbing.

Ashridge Estate – Fancy getting the kids outside to blow off some steam?  Then this is for you.  We love it.  There is a cafe where you can get lunch, loads of trees to climb, kick a ball around the foot of the monument or they have organised activities during half-term (Halloween Madness and Skeleton and Skulls).

Knebworth Gardens and Dinsosaur Trail – sadly their Pumpkin Trail is sold out, but it’s a great day out, the Dinosaur Trail, with 72 life sized Dinosaurs, will keep them busy for hours and then you can drive around to the Fort and Playground, we love the slide that goes through the middle of the hill Note:  This one is not free!

As I’ve done most of these, I will be at a loose end myself, so all suggestions (cheap) welcome!