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Thorpeness, Suffolk
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The best family breaks in the UK

Looking for an actually good family-friendly break in the UK? We’ve rounded up the best quirky, kid-friendly stays in the country

Ellie Walker-Arnott
Written by
Jimi Famurewa
Contributor
Ellie Walker-Arnott
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Travelling when you’ve got kids isn’t quite as simple as it was before you had them. The cliché about bringing everything but the kitchen sink? Well, turns out it’s a cliché for a reason. But family-friendly doesn’t have to equal a soulless holiday park or drab rental cottage without a breakages deposit. You can go on holiday as a family and still book some of the coolest, quirkiest and most amazing places to stay in the UK. 

The UK itself is the sort of tourist destination that makes youngsters out of adults, thanks to its abundance of history, nostalgic seaside towns and lush national parks to run around in. It’s as family-friendly as it gets. And now, thanks to our pick of the best family breaks in the UK, you can all stay overnight in some actually really cool hotels, cabins and campsites, too.

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Best family breaks in the UK

Off-grid living and futuristic design collide in the form of these appealing geodesic domes, perched on farmland in distractingly pretty north-west Devon. Yes, there’s a compost toilet and a rustic surfer vibe (the dude-approved swells of Woolacombe are just an hour away), but the nine pods also feature kitchens, wood fires, modernist furniture, cool indoor tipis and the odd projector for atmospheric movie nights. If you do crave a touch more civilisation, Hartland’s time-warp village shops and welcoming coastal pubs are a short walk away.

Best for: Surf-crazy older kids.

The Farm at Avebury, Wiltshire
Photograph: Airbnb

The Farm at Avebury, Wiltshire

You’re never too young to be captivated by Wiltshire’s magical and mysterious neolithic landscapes. Stonehenge, of course, is the rock star. But a little way to the north, the whole family can get up close and mystical with the stone circle at Avebury: a cryptic ancient monument that’s so big that it contains a whole village (complete with pub).

Both of these Stone Age marvels are easily reached from The Farm at Avebury, a smart little farm stay housed in six converted stables – we stayed in Windmill Hill. Slightly older kids will love the ladders up to the mezzanine bedrooms, while younger ones will appreciate the communal courtyard with its array of ride-along plastic tractors – perfect for using up that last burst of energy after a big day out.

Best for: Any kid yet to reach the ‘it’s just a bunch of rocks’ phase.

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Okay, the showcaves themselves are an incredible experience for all the family, but we’re going to jump straight to the dinosaurs. Yes, dinosaurs. The National Showcaves Centre for Wales (located in Brecon Beacons National Park) is home to one of the largest dinosaur parks in the world, where the coolest of all prehistoric beasts roam the land in search of salvation. Well, they stand around, but there aren't many things cooler than an excellent dinosaur park. All kids love dinosaurs too, that is a fact. The centre also has camping and caravan options for staying over.

Best for: dino-lovers of all ages

  • Attractions
  • Wildlife centres
  • London

Ah, Kent. Oast houses, windswept beaches and, erm, inquisitive tigers peering in your hotel window. Yes, at this conservation-minded safari park – one of the Aspinall Foundation’s two Kentish facilities – you can (safely) spend the night a few furry footsteps away from bears, rhinos, big cats and more. Rooms run the gamut from swish, savannah-ready tents to lavish treehouse suites (complete with private golf buggy). Recover from feeding the giraffes by heading to nearby Hythe to catch a dinky steam train bound for the atmospheric shinglescape in Dungeness.

Best for: Critter-crazy pre-school tykes.

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If you’ve ever found yourself in a city farm, idly fantasising about a hot tub and an industrial-strength gin and tonic, this huddle of nine Suffolk cottages may be the place for you. Set within a former agricultural site, Gladwins marries eco-consciousness (an indoor pool is heated by a wood chip boiler) and child-friendly animal interaction (kids can collect chicken eggs) with swanky, parent-pleasing touches (a micro-spa and hot tubs). Bonus: Colchester Zoo is only 30 minutes away if you fancy something more exotic than the farmyard regulars.

Best for: Old MacDonald-loving toddlers.

A stay on a houseboat? Frankly, that’s amateur hour compared to this rugged, custom-built cabin floating near Essex’s newly ritzy Blackwater Estuary. A labour of love for the owners of the adjacent Chigborough Farm, it’s a two-storey lodge that can snugly fit four and brims with inspired touches: a removable floor panel for a view of the lake, a separate hot tub accessible by rowing boat, a vintage telescope. Whether or not you catch dinner in the trout-filled water, it’s practically compulsory to stroll to the waterside Tiptree Tea Room for some cake.

Best for: Outdoorsy adolescents.

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It may look like a crashed, balloon-free version of the house from ‘Up’, but this 1920s water tower – cunningly disguised by an architect as a floating abode – is actually a uniquely kooky bit of family accommodation. Spread out over five floors, it comfortably hosts two or three sharing families and the top floor games room gives you sweeping views of Suffolk during your fierce ping pong battles. Plus, thanks to the influence of one-time Thorpeness regular JM Barrie, there’s a kid-pleasing ‘Peter Pan’ theme (and lurking model crocodile) at the neighbouring boating lake. 

Best for: Curious tweens with a taste for heights.

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • West Midlands

Budding knights (and their ‘Game of Thrones’-obsessed parents) will get a huge kick from staying at this medieval-themed camping village near Coventry. Thankfully, plague-ridden historical accuracy is abandoned in favour of plush double beds and in-tent WiFi, while all manner of thrilling Dark Ages activities (sword training, archery, fiery night-time weapons displays) will keep even jaded teenagers amused. You’re close to Stratford-upon-Avon’s Shakespearean diversions, but the resort has so many attractions – including a terrific new Horrible Histories maze outside the castle – that you won’t need to stray.

Best for: High-octane history boys and girls.

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It’s easy to see why securing a summer booking at this boutique campsite can be a little like getting your hands on a Glastonbury ticket. But while the Instagrammable woodland plots are a draw, it’s the highly coveted unusual lodgings – which range from a converted Routemaster and a grounded 1960s helicopter to a ‘curvy cabin’ and a pair of twisted, Disney-worthy treehouses – that will get your brood grinning. Activity-wise, a schlep or cycle up Ditchling Beacon offers the reward of a striking Sussex panorama, while The Jolly Sportsman pub does a nice line in attentively cooked Sunday roasts.

Best for: Hardy, transport-mad youngsters.

Seaside huts – even when they’re glorified cupboards – always have huge waiting lists and spark an oddly intense desire in people who don’t live near a beach. So you can expect a few envious glances if you manage to snag one of these new overnight lodges, right on the sand in Bournemouth. There’s just about room for six across each of the 15 slick, cleverly adaptable cabins, while wheelchair accessible and dog-friendly options are available. Plus you can use an electric barbecue for sundown grilling. Alternatively, once you’ve worked up an appetite by stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking, pick up an expertly-blistered pizza along the promenade at The Wood Oven.

Best for: Watersports-loving junior beach bums.

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