We love exploring when we are on holiday, but our trips are always self-guided, so were keen to try something a little more organised.
We have just returned from a fabulous break in the Lake District with HF Holidays who have over 100 years of experience organising guided walking holidays, self guided walking breaks as well as inspiring leisure and activity breaks in the UK, Europe and worldwide.
We stayed at Monk Coniston, a beautiful property, once owned by Beatrix Potter and leased from the National Trust. It is set on the shores of Coniston Water, made famous by the book and film Swallows and Amazons.
Monk Coniston has 32 beautiful bedrooms, and has been furnished with relaxation and a good night’s sleep in mind. Our rooms were stunning, with one overlooking the garden and down towards Coniston Water and the other overlooking the Fells.
The rooms were decorated in keeping with the history of the building, with modern bathrooms complete with a powerful shower, plenty of drawer and wardrobe space and Tea/Coffee facilities, a widescreen TV and a hairdryer.
The kids had a large triple room and we were next door in a smaller double.
The hospitality was out of this world. We were greeted on arrival with a cream tea, had home-cooked meals and breakfast daily and they even provided a packed lunch for us to take out on our walks with a large selection of foods available to choose between.
On family weeks they also provide an activity leader to keep the kids entertained. Clare, our leader, was brilliant with the kids. On the first night she had them making treasure boxes to keep any finds from the walks in and then after dinner we played rounders on the lawn.
The daily walks feature a choice of up to 4 walks each day; The Family Adventure Walk, an Easy, Medium and Hard Walk or you can choose to do your own thing. You are given a full presentation of each walk before hand, complete with distance, height and a map view and photographs of where you are heading, so you can make an informed decision on which one you want to do. Each of the family walks were around 4 miles in length, so ideal for us.
Clare, the activities leader, accompanied us on each walk and made it fun for all the kids with challenges and activities to complete.
In fact, all the walk leaders were brilliant with the kids, encouraging them if they got tired, or pointing out interesting things to see.
Our first walk was to Tarn Hows, a lake surrounded by thick woodland, with views towards Wetherlam, the Helvellyn range and the Langdale Pikes.
During the walk the kids were given investigation pots to see what wildlife they could find. I was expecting them to find a worm or a snail, but no – they found a toad with the help of Cath, our family walk leader for the day.
Because the walks were broken up with different activities, the kids didn’t realise how far they were walking and Isaac (9) and Eliza (6) didn’t complain once.
We stopped to play pooh sticks at every given opportunity, with Sebastian managing to win most of the races.
Isaac learned how to correctly use a compass and the art of orienteering with Will, another of the walk leaders.
Eliza found a huge caterpillar on another walk!
We even found a tree swing to play on, on the Cumbria Trail.
Sebastian also did brilliantly, although at 4 he did need more encouragement and struggled with the last section of the walks, despite being given lots of opportunities to sit down and rest.
In hindsight I do wish we had taken his back carrier with us, but he was only carried a short distance at the end of the walks and we did manage to bribe him to the end with the promise of ice cream!
Once back at the hotel we were given the chance to clean up and have a rest before being given some more activities to do in the barn which included table tennis, hula hooping, piano playing and skittles.
Evening entertainment included a bat walk, where we not only saw bats but also did a bug hunt in the garden. We also had a skittles night (Eliza is a demon at it) and took part in a beetle drive.
There were lots of other kids on the holiday ranging from age 6 and up. The older girls doted on Sebby and Eliza and were soon playing snakes and ladders or twister with them, whilst Isaac headed off with the boys to play table tennis.
I have to admit that I wasn’t sure that a walking holiday would be for us, but we had an amazing time and would do it again in a heartbeat, although may wait a couple of years until Sebastian is 6 and more able to walk a longer distance.
A massive thanks to Clare, Cath and Will, our family walk leaders who have given us lots of ideas on how to make walking with kids more fun and to the other leaders, Tony and Stuart who made the evening entertainment so much fun.
Have you tried a walking holiday with the kids?