Zoos that have inspired Hollywood movies, pony rides along golden beaches and some of the best ice-cream shops across the land, our wild isles aren’t just for those in search of remote mountains and quiet woodland trails. For families the upcoming half term and summer holidays are sure to be filled with eye-widening adventures and raucous giggles. Children come first in this month’s edition of the Unique Homestays travel guide.

The Cotswolds

Winstone’s ice cream

An award-winning, family-run ice cream parlour sat on the edge of the National Trust’s Rodborough Common. Flavours range from strawberries and cream to rhubarb crumble and Biscoff, with some dairy-free options thrown in for good measure. A not-to-be-missed pit stop for families hiking through the Cotswolds’ rolling hills.

Walk with the animals

Two popular animal parks, one filled with zebras and lions, the other with some more familiar farm animals, will be sure to draw the attention of little people. The Cotswold Wildlife Park, located just a few miles from Burford encourages visitors to take part in feeding the penguins (to be booked in advance), meet the giraffes and, of course, ride the narrow-gauge railway. Meanwhile, the Cotswold Farm Park near Cheltenham is fit to burst with wildlife walks, a mud kitchen and the all-important animal barn.  

Gloucestershire-Warwickshire steam railway

What child doesn’t like a steam engine? Climb aboard the Gloucestershire to Warwickshire Railway, taking in the 28 mile round trip through some of the Cotswold’s most spectacular scenery.


If there are any young literary enthusiasts in the family, then Stratford’s link to William Shakespeare will excite and delight. Visit the house that Shakespeare grew up in (with guides in authentic Tudor dress for added entertainment), ride the hop-on hop-off bus or visit the home of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden, at her farm. Aside from this, the unusual MAD Museum and butterfly farm are excellent days out of their own accord.


Animal encounters

Any day trip out with the littles that involves animals is sure to be a winner for everyone. In and around Plymouth and south Devon, Pennywell Farm, Dartmoor Zoological Park and the National Marine Aquarium offer up opportunities to cuddle piglets and pet wallabies while, across Dartmoor on the north coast, Exmoor Zoo and The Big Sheep invite the brave for rollercoaster rides and snake handling.

Ride the cliff railway at Lynton

On the lip of Exmoor National Park, where the coast and moors collide, the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth precariously cling to the tumbling valley of two tectonic cliffs. For a thrilling ride, hop on the water-powered funicular railway which rises 300 metres from the sea to the summit; once at the top, pocket money will easily fritter away in any of the souvenir shops.


Wherever you’re staying in Devon, there’s always a golden-sanded beach within easy distance. On the south coast, Mothecombe and Noss Mayo offer serene stand up paddleboarding and secret beaches and caves to explore, while Bigbury’s sea tractor trundling over to Burgh Island at high tide will excite children of all ages. Further north, Saunton’s sand dunes provide a playground for rolling and rollicking, or there's surf lessons on offer come rain or shine at Woolacombe, Ilfracombe and Croyde Bay. If travelling with your four-legged friends, be sure to check out which beaches are dog friendly!

Wild swimming on Dartmoor

Dartmoor may not always be the obvious choice for days out with children in tow, but its waterfalls and safe wild swimming pools make a great alternative to the county’s often busy coastline, along with being a great spot to cool off for those dogs. Between North Bovey and Drewsteignton, Shilley Pool’s series of shallow pools and rapids provide hours of entertainment for the whole family. Spitchwick Common near Ashburton, Holne Pool and Salmon Leaps are all firm favourite wild swimming spots across the southern regions of the National Park.


Eden Project

As far as activities with the children go, the Eden Project tops the list for any trip to Cornwall. An indoor rainforest, regular live music in the Med biome, giant insect sculptures and delicious snack outlets en masse; here is a day out that will stick in memories for years to come.

Rogue Theatre

Just above the coastal village of Portreath, a magical woodland with an immersive theatre experience awaits. Tales of fairies, mermaids, pirates and goblins come to life through music, dance and imaginative costume; attendees are encouraged to dress up and there’s a bar for the grownups.  

Surf’s up

Think of Cornwall and one’s mind usually wanders to big sets crashing on beaches, golden sands and sun-drenched bars overlooking the sea. Getting involed in the county's surf culture is a must when holidaying in this coastal county. Children will love spending an afternoon (or three, or four) enrolled in a family-friendly surf school. Head to Holywell Bay, St Ives, Bude or Perranporth or Falmouth for some top-notch tuition (along with some nearby bars for grownups to enjoy some time out).

Tour the county’s castles

From a castle atop an island in the sea to hilltop forts and coastal palaces, Cornwall is teeming with castles that will allow little one’s imaginations to soar. Tintagel Castle has to be the most famous of them all, but there are many scattered across the county; Carn Brae, Launceston, St Michael’s Mount, Fowey and St Mawes to name just a few…



You don’t have to board a boat to discover Wales’ diverse marine life (although that option comes highly recommended!). Along the entirety of the Welsh coast, beaches (Cardigan and Anglesey being the very best of an exceptional bunch) are festooned with rockpools brimming with crabs and starfish, clams and anemones. Grab a net, a bucket, some sturdy shoes and see what discoveries can be made.

Go fairy hunting

For children with their heads firmly in fairytale land, go searching for fairies in North Wales. Fairy Glen, or Ffos Anoddun in Snowdonia National Park, is brimming with magical sunbeams glittering on the water. Imagine mythical creatures dancing by moonlight, dip your toes in the stream and forget all there is to know about the real world beyond the realms of the glen.

Zip World

Ziplines, underground trampolines, rollercoasters, go-karts, sky swings and so, so much more. If your family is looking for adrenaline in North Wales, this is it.

Brecon Mountain Railway

Is there anything greater for a toddler than a train? The Brecon Mountain Railway, a steam locomotive that trundles its way through the mountains, allows visitors to pop into a workshop to watch repairs being made, play in a mountain top play park and explore to their heart’s desire at the midway return stop around a lake or through the hills. Pre-booking is advised.



Dorset is synonymous with fossils and any trip to the county’s beaches, particularly Lyme Regis and Charmouth on the Jurassic Coast. From ammonites to sea urchins to the scattered bones of Ichythyosaurs, be sure to keep eyes peeled on Dorset’s stony shores when travelling with any dinosaur enthusiasts in tow. 

Dorset Adventure Park

Overlooking Corfe Castle and spread across two lakes, the inflatable water assault course here, aimed at older children and adults, includes a flip bag, trampoline, half pipe and amongst many other obstacles. Within the woods, a mud trail of over 2km encourages all from the age of four and up to slide into puddles of mud, squeeze through quagmire and balance over sticky swamps.

Hip, hip hooray for Superworm!

Minibeasts, birdsong and a children’s favourite book character combine at Moors Valley Country Park and Forest. Pick up a trail pack (complete with mask, stickers, activity sheet and insect fact cards) and wander the trail in search of Superworm and friends. The park also includes an adventure play park, GoApe and Segways for older children.


Whether your children are into ancient Egyptian history, dinosaurs or airplanes; there’s a museum to satiate almost every interest here. Wander Dorset’s Teddy Bear Museum in Dorchester (perfect for photo opportunities), explore Wimborne Minster’s Model Town, marvel at the Tutankhamun Exhibition or get up close and personal to the world’s largest giants at the Dinosaur Museum.

To find the perfect luxury self-catering home for your summer break, browse the full Family Friendly collection.