Tag Archives: Cheshire

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

AD/Complimentary stay. The Park Royal Hotel in Cheshire is a 4 star hotel and spa. It’s set in 2.5 acres of grounds at the edge of Stretton village, a short drive away from a whole host of family attractions. Over the Easter holidays we took the chance to have a night away as a family, to chill out and have a bit of fun together.

We had just returned from a self catering break; but as the person responsible for most of the catering, packing and organising, by the time we got back I needed a little break to get over the first one. The answer was a night at The Park Royal Hotel. Hotel stays are almost always a massive treat; having someone else cook dinner, do the washing up, make the beds and lay on a really good breakfast in the morning is just blissful.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

We arrived mid-afternoon and as we checked, in the boy was given a treasure trail sheet to do while we were there. There are clues hidden throughout the hotel, find them all and you get a prize. It’s a small but brilliant thing and my son loved exploring.

We spotted two of the clues on our way to our family room –  a lovely comfortable room with everything we needed and really comfortable beds. The room had free WiFi, tea and coffee making facilities, cable TV and 24-hour room service.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

We had a quick coffee in the room, but didn’t stay long as the pool has family swim times and we were all very keen to dive in. The Park Royal Hotel has a modern health club and spa with a high-tech gym. There is a 22-metre indoor swimming pool, with a sauna, steam room and hot tub. They also have a number of spa and beauty treatments available to book. 

My son was desperate to get in the pool and show off his swimming skills. There are family swim times every day, which is great if you’re staying with kids; or if you’re not and you want to avoid children you know when not to go for a swim.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

The pool is great. It’s big and there’s plenty of room for everyone. My husband and I both wanted to spend some quality time using the sauna and steam room, so we took it in turns to swim with the boy. We both loved the herbal steam room which was incredibly relaxing. We all had a brilliant couple of hours by the pool, so brilliant that we decided to go back in again the next day before we checked out.

After our swim we went back to our room to get ready for dinner. The Park Royal Hotel has a formal restaurant and a casual bar and grill; we had plans to go for dinner and then meet friends who live nearby for drinks afterwards.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

We had a delicious meal, I was really pleased that the restaurant had a children’s menu which had a good range of meals to choose from. The boy picked his favourite – fish and chips, which was a really good sized portion which he said was dee-licious. You could tell by his almost empty plate that it was good!

We  both had starters; I had curried vegetable soup which really hit the spot and my husband chose the ham hock terrine, both were beautifully presented and delicious. For our main courses, I chose the veggie butternut squash tart with a side of triple cooked chips; he had the braised beef which fell apart as soon as you touched it.

After a seriously good meal, we retired to the bar to meet our friends. The bar was pretty busy as there was football on, but as soon as the game finished the bar emptied pretty quickly. In an act of impeccable timing we managed to finish the kids treasure trail; so we went to reception and he was given his prize – a really good activity pack and some chocolate. This kept him happy and occupied while we chatted with friends, but he’d had a long and busy day, so I took him back to our room to go to sleep.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

When we got back to our room there was a plate of milk and cookies waiting for him. What a treat! It was so lovely to have a little something for him to nibble on once he’d got his PJs on. We got tucked up in bed and we all had a really long and restful sleep.

Morning came all too soon, but we were ready for breakfast. Despite my husbands determination to just have a light breakfast of fruit and yoghurt, the boy’s breakfast of sausages, eggs and bacon tempted him over to the dark side. I love a good hotel breakfast, there’s something for everyone, whatever they’re in the mood for. From the full English, to continental style pasties, fruit and yoghurt or cheese and salami. Breakfast was a real highlight for me.

A family stay at The Park Royal Hotel, Cheshire

Sadly our time at The Park Royal Hotel was coming to an end. We did have just enough time to pack our bags and grab a quick hour in the pool before we had to check out.

We’d had a fantastic stay. We all left feeling really chilled out. I felt so pampered because I’d had 24 hours of someone else doing the work. We’d all benefited from a good nights sleep and it was a really family friendly place to stay. The staff were all friendly and helpful and they were really engaging and chatty with the boy.

The Park Royal Hotel is a great base to explore Cheshire. It is just 11 miles from Tatton Park and about 15 miles from Chester Zoo. It’s near the Blue Planet Aquarium, Cheshire Oaks, Applejacks Farm and many, many more family attractions. It’s a great choice for families; close enough to all the fun things to do, but not in a noisy city centre where it’s hard to park.

We loved the little touches; like the milk and cookies at bedtime and the treasure trail. His most favourite things were his big breakfast and swimming in the pool. They might also have been my favourite things too. We were sad to leave, but really happy we’d taken some time out as a family to just hang out and have fun together. I wonder where we will end up next?

The Park Royal Hotel is a 4 star hotel and spa in Stretton near Warrington. It’s a great choice for families and you can find out more about the hotel by visiting their website.

Disclosure: We were given dinner, bed and breakfast in exchange for this blog post. All images and opinions are our own.

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire #ExploringCheshire

Living in South Manchester, we are lucky to have the whole of Cheshire virtually on our doorstep. It’s a beautiful, lush green county, with bags of history, acres of natural beauty and more interesting things to do than you could shake a stick at.

When it comes to days out with the family, Cheshire has a diverse range of options and something to suit everyone. I’ve pulled together a list of 10 family friendly days out and things to do in Cheshire which are ideal if you’re visiting for the day, or if you live there and want to explore the county a bit more.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire

Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo is a world famous attraction; famed for its commitment to conservation, the zoo has a large and diverse collection of animals. It’s also got a monorail and each December hosts The Lanterns, a wonderful night time walk where the zoo dazzles with wonderful light displays.

Delamere Forest

Delamere Forest is managed by the Forestry Commission, there are recreational trails, a visitors centre and a cafe. There’s a nearby train station too. Plus there’s a Go Ape there for the more adventurous members of your family.

Ness Botanic Gardens, Neston

Owned by the University of Liverpool, Ness Botanic Gardens is home to a fantastic horticultural collection which includes show gardens, a Victorian-style potager and an Alpine house and cafe.

Jodrell Bank Discover Centre, Macclesfield

Jodrell Bank is owned and run by the University of Manchester and it is the home of the Lovell Telescope, the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. It’s open to the public and has a visitors centre, exhibits and gardens to explore, as well as the chance to have a look at the Lovell Telescope up close.

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire Jodrell Bank

Blue Planet Aquarium, Ellesmere Port

The Blue Planet Aquarium is a marine and freshwater aquarium located by the Cheshire Oaks retail and leisure complex in Ellesmere Port. It’s a fabulous day out, lots of fun and an interesting under-sea adventure for everyone.

Roman Tours, Chester

Take a fascinating walking tour of the ancient city of Chester with an authentic Roman soldier as your guide. Learn all about Roman history in this informative, educational and interactive experience for all ages.

The Ice Cream Farm, Tattenhall

On warmer days, a trip to The Ice Cream Farm in Tattenhall makes a refreshing change, with over 40 flavours of ice-cream to try out, children’s play areas, farm animals and quad bikes, there’s no better place to chill out in the summer.

Just So Festival, Congleton

Now in its 10th year, the award-winning Just So Festival is the most wonderful family festival; with weird and wonderful things around every corner, lots to stimulate young minds (and not so young minds). Just So is the highlight of our summer, go for the day, or camp in the grounds of the wonderful Rode Hall. It’s the perfect way to unplug yourselves and let go for a weekend.

Lymm Historic Transport Day

Each summer, the ancient Cheshire town of Lymm is host to the Lymm Festival. Alongside the main festival, the Lymm Historic Transport Day is a real highlight for transport enthusiasts across Cheshire. With steam engines, vintage vehicles, diggers, bikes and even batmobiles; Lymm Historic Transport Day is a real treat, the Spitfire fly-over last year was a real highlight!

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

Dunham Massey

Cheshire is spoilt for National Trust properties, one of my favourites is Dunham Massey. It’s got long flat footpaths which are great for walking, scooting or cycling on; plus a magnificent hall, beautiful gardens and a deer park. It’s got a fairly new visitors centre and cafes galore. Wrap up for a winter walk, or slap on the sun-cream in the summer. Year round, it’s a great place to visit!

Laurus Homes have created a useful infographic which explores new Cheshire developments, the great things about living in Cheshire and the history of the Cheshire property industry. If you want to take a look, you can click here and download it for yourself.

There’s so much to do in Cheshire; we have friends and family over the border, so we visit often and it’s definitely on our list of places to move to when we retire.  If you’re going on a family friendly day out in Cheshire, where are you planning? I’d love to hear your suggestions, pop them in the comments box below!

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire #ExploringCheshire

This is a collaborative post.

Saying goodbye to Brookside Miniature Railway

Over the past six years or so we’ve been making regular visits to Brookside Miniature Railway with our son. Several months ago we read their announcement on Facebook that after 38 years of service they would be closing.

Brookside Miniature Railway was located at Brookside Garden Centre in Poynton and it seems the new owners of the garden centre gave the railway notice to quit. The last day trains ran on the line was Sunday 2nd September 2018. We visited for one last time to ride the rails and say goodbye to this wonderful little railway.

Saying goodbye to Brookside Miniature Railway

Brookside Miniature Railway opened in 1980 and was a great place to visit if we wanted to do something fun, which needed next to no planning and could be done pretty cheaply. You could buy a ten ride ticket for £12 and the whole family could have a few rides for not much money.

The great thing about Brookside Miniature Railway was that the route was pretty interesting. It went through lots of tunnels, over bridges, alongside streams, around a vintage fun fair and through the grounds of the garden centre itself. There was always something new to look at, and each season through up new and interesting things to admire. The Santa Specials were also legendary, though we never managed to book on one – they really were that popular!

Saying goodbye to Brookside Miniature Railway

We did have my son’s fourth birthday party there, which was probably my favourite of all his birthday parties. Everyone had two rides of the train, party games and table heaving with party food. The kids loved it almost as much as the parents.

We were very lucky on the last day that we arrived later on in the afternoon. There were queues to get on the platform and queues to get on the trains. We had two last rides on the last two remaining trains. Ben and I stopped to watch the very last ride and wave them off; then we were given the chance to ride half way around the track on the Union Pacific Locomotive. We climbed aboard for its final journey to the shed for the night, before it finds a home at another miniature railway.

We got off and my son sobbed “I’m going to miss this place” and he’s not wrong. We’re going to miss it too. It’s been a regular part of our family fun times together. I bet thousands and thousands of people have enjoyed spending time on the greatest little railway in Cheshire these last 38 years.

Saying goodbye to Brookside Miniature Railway

Goodbye Brookside Miniature Railway, we’re missing you already! Thanks for all the wonderful memories.

Watch this video of one of the last trains to run at Brookside Miniature Railway –

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

At the start of the summer, my Facebook timeline was full of memes about how we only get 18 summers with our children and how we need to make the most of them. This is summer number 8 for us, and the annual highlight of our “making the most of our time together” is always the Just So Festival. It’s three days away together, entirely unplugged; learning, exploring, enjoying and just loving everything the festival has to offer.

The Just So Festival 2018 has had a tiny shake up. All the old favourites were there, but just enough things had changed to keep it fresh for the families like us who come year after year.

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

Back in July we went to the Timber Festival, run by the people behind Just So, but aimed at a slightly older crowd with more of an ecological bent. There were some really fabulous things at Timber which thankfully made their way to Just So too. Things like The Lost Words, The Moth Hotel, Hammer and Chisel and the Coppice Maze.

A couple of the areas had been jigged about, the (fabulous) Flamingo Lounge was up near the Village Green and seemed more popular than ever. Hurrah for the Pirate King was a surprising but wonderful opera-ballet-pirate mash up with added unicorn. Modern Warrior was a great opportunity for everyone to get involved in a spot of martial arts style dance and The Silent Disco was a particular highlight (do not miss this if it’s on next year).

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

Down by the lake, there was a re-named area called Roll up! Roll up! which had more of a circus theme. There were circus skills workshops running throughout, trapeze artists, a custard catwalk, the amazing Band at the End of the World and the incredible Bullzini Family running high-wire workshops and putting on a spectacular performance.

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

I really enjoyed the Idlewood area this year, the Woodland Library had moved in and there were lots of colourful hammocks lashed to the trees where you could recline and relax with a good book. There were also theatre performances, Tai Chi and a chance to meet the Fairy Queen.

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

The highlight for me, was as always the Spellbound Forest. Tucked away in the woods, perched on a log around the campfire, listening to ancient stories told by Ian Douglas, watching Mr Foppletwig and Professor Pumpernickel variously perform amazing magic tricks and scientific experiments and campfire songs with Ian Mackintosh. It’s so comfortable around that campfire, it often feels like hard work to tear yourself away and explore what else is going on.

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

And there is so much going on. There are three packed Just So days and it’s almost impossible to get round to everything you want to see and do. I always end up having Just So regrets about things I have missed. Things people tell you about after they’ve happened. You make a mental note of it for next year and hope for the best.

Just So is such a remarkably safe space for families. It’s safe in a way that you can send a pair of 8 year olds off into the woods to do a Barefoot Walk for 10 minutes and know that they will come back filthy, with damp socks and full of the spirit of independence. It’s safe in the way that you know that everything they see and do will enrich them in some way. It is safe, because it just is.

Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018

We sang, we danced, we ate, we laughed, I might have had a little cry of loveliness too. We had late nights, early mornings. We were filthy, we were covered in sand, custard and feathers, but we were happy and we were free. Just So is three wonderful, magical days a year which we remember incredibly fondly and look forward to above and beyond anything else.

See you round the campfire next year?

To grab your tickets for next year’s Just So Festival, visit www.justsofestival.org.uk.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

Over the weekend we went to the Lymm Historic Transport Day. The Lymm Historic Transport Day has been an annual fixture in the Cheshire town for a number of years and attracts thousands of people.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

We arrived in Lymm just before noon, we had missed the drive-in parade of vehicles, which was a shame. We parked in one of the park and ride fields and a vintage bus picked us up and dropped us off near the main event field. As we walked up the lane to the field we were tempted into the LEGO Expo in Scout HQ. It was a large room full of wonderful LEGO creations which had taken months to build. The boy was in his element, it was excellent.

Weighed down with several bags of LEGO, we headed to the Lymm Historic Transport Day main event field. There was so much to see and do, you could happily have spent the day exploring everything there was to offer. Row upon row of classic vehicles of all kinds; cockpits, cars from movies (Ghostbusters, Jurassic World, Lightening McQueen from Cars and the Batmobile were all there). There was a vintage ambulance and fire engine, modern-day fire bikes and all kinds of bicycles and mopeds.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

There was live entertainment in the form of 40s and 50s music; plus an Extreme Mountain Bike Show, the Return of the Lymm Dinosaur, model car racing and the chance to explore all of those classic cars and other vehicles.

Once we’d done a tour of all the vehicles, we grabbed a bite to eat from one of the food stalls and sat in the shade for a while. The Lymm Historic Transport Day had organised a Spitfire fly-past, so it was eyes to the sky waiting for this iconic plane to fly over. We were not disappointed, it flew over twice and we were all in complete awe.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

It was a gloriously sunny day, so we put on more sun-cream and headed off to have a go on the little narrow gauge steam railway. We do love steam trains, so this was well worth queuing up for.

The boys then joined the queue to have a go at driving a digger whilst I had a look around some of the stalls. I got back to the boys just in time to watch the small boy take his turn at driving the digger and trying to find the rubber duck. He did really well and this was probably the highlight of his day.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

We celebrated his digger driving success by having some ice cream in the shade (it was a very sunny day). I wanted to go and see the canal boats and some of the other vehicles scattered about the village, so we left the main event field to explore Lymm. We were glad we did, it’s such a pretty village and we found a yard of full of large steam-powered traction engines which were very interesting.

The small boy loved the canal boats and declared that he wanted to go on a canal boat trip, so I’d better add that to our list of things to do. There was the Historic Sail Past at 4.30pm; a flotilla of canal boats and barges bringing the Lymm Historic Transport Day to a close.

We were starting to flag; the sunshine was getting the better of us, so we bought a bag of chips from the chip shop in Lymm village, sat on a shady bench and watched the world go by for a few minutes before catching the Park and Ride bus back to our car.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

The Lymm Historic Transport Day was a brilliant day out. Tickets Are £5 per adult, £3 per child or £12 for a family of four. It was terrific value, there was definitely a full days worth of things to see and do. It’s so well organised, I couldn’t fault a single thing about the day. Lots to see and do for all of the family, we will definitely be back next year!

Lymm Historic Transport Day is separate to, but happens at the same time as the Lymm Festival. This year, highlights of the Lymm Festival include Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Suchet, the Family Garden Party, Open Gardens event, Martin Edwards (crime writer) and much more. You can find more details on the Lymm Festival website.

For more information about Lymm Historic Transport Day, visit their website.

What’s new at the Just So Festival this year?

Have you got your tickets for the Just So Festival yet? If you haven’t, you’ll be missing out on three days of weird, wonderful and incredibly magical family fun. We went last year and had the best time, it was the absolute highlight of our year. Three days and nights off grid, spending time together with family and friends; walking barefoot in the woods, having insane pillow fights and dressing up as bees (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it). Here’s what’s new and wonderful this year.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

Taking place on 17th – 19th August at the Rode Hall Estate in Cheshire this year’s Just So Festival is packed with familiar old favourites and an array of exciting new things to see, do and experience. Step out of your everyday life and enter a wonderland of world-class literature, arts, theatre, dance, music, comedy and creative pursuits together as a family. Immerse yourselves in a weekend full of magical midnight feasts, curious creatures, raucous pillow fights, hidden retreats, top-notch food, drink and boutique camping options and breathtaking beauty.

What's new at the Just So Festival this year?

Join the Tribal Tournament – the most bonkers competition in the land! Dress up as a fox, owl, stag, frog, fish, bee or a lion and compete to win gold pebbles,. Take part in the glorious Tribal Tournament and the tribe with the highest score wins. Who will lift the Tribal Trophy this year?

New for 2018 there is the intriguing and enthralling Playground of Illusions. This is a new area full of mystery and trickery from Travelling Light Circus – see the world in a new light in this hypnotic fusion of science and art.

Roll Up, Roll Up will be a glorious large-scale area by the lake, dedicated to all things circus and seaside. Expect tumblers, somersaults and aerial mastery from the best performers in the land including a spectacular high wire show Equilibrius and tightrope workshops from The Bullzini Family.

There’s also The Flamingo Lounge, an area filled to the brim with all things dance. Strut your stuff at Silent Discos and summon all strength for Power Ballad Yoga. Whirl, swirl, disco, cancan, jig, jive, rhumba, spin, strut, shimmy, swing, two-step and throw all kinds of shapes in this gloriously kitsch wonderland. When night falls you can boogie the night away here too.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

Step into the extraordinary Spellbound Forest for tales from storyteller extraordinaire Ian Douglas. Enjoy a Barefoot Walk, or nature and bush crafts; den building, tree climbing, campfire tales and bonfire bands and sing songs as dusk falls and the forest really comes to life.

Visit a living Weleda garden to discover more about the amazing healing properties and powers of our native plants. Join the Weleda team for a tea party and sample Weleda’s pure and 100% certified natural products. Enjoy some grown-up relaxation time with complimentary Weleda Skin Food hand massages.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

The Just So Festival is set in woodland clearings; with rolling parkland, arboreal amphitheatres and lakeside spots in the Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire; one of the most stunning landscapes in the UK. Families choosing to camp at the festival can experience the stunning boutique camping area in Landpods, yurts, bell tents, tipis and vintage tents; or bring your own tent or camper van.

If you’re planning to come to Just So 2018 you are advised to buy tickets earlier than usual this year. Tickets selling at a record rate for this limited capacity event.

For information and tickets visit www.justsofestival.org.uk.

Winter in Abney Hall. PLUS Save Abney Cafe!

Abney Hall in Cheadle is one of my favourite places to visit. It’s a little gem, tucked away and hidden from those not in the know. It is popular with families and dog walkers and I’ve been going there since I was a baby. It’s one of our most lovely green spaces locally, it’s a wildlife haven, it’s fabulous for families and dog walkers, and is home to a little gem – The Abney Cafe.

Winter in Abney Hall. PLUS Save Abney Cafe!

I grew up pond dipping and climbing trees there. I swam in the stream, played pooh-sticks on the bridge, and my son does the same things I did and he loves it there too. I’ve visited the pet cemetery and wondered about the lives of the horses, dogs and cats buried there, obviously adored by their owners who lived in Abney Hall years ago. I think Abney Hall is now offices, but it’s still a beautiful building in equally lovely grounds.

Winter in Abney Hall. PLUS Save Abney Cafe!

We visit Abney Hall regularly. I sometimes slip in and take the long route home after I’ve been in Cheadle. If I’m by myself I’ll stop for a brew and a bite to eat. If we’re walking the dog we’ll stop at the cafe for some refreshment. It’s the only cafe in a park I’ve ever been to where the dogs have a whole exciting field to run about on while you drink your coffee and have a sit down.

It is a great cafe. It’s an oasis and a community hub for locals in search of a hot cuppa. The welcome is warm and everyone is friendly. A stop at Abney Cafe is something I look forward to on our walks there. It’s the warm, welcoming heart of the park and Abney Hall will be much poorer if it loses the cafe.

Winter in Abney Hall. PLUS Save Abney Cafe!

Sadly it seems this small community cafe is one of the smaller victims of Carillion going bust. The cafe owners were renegotiating their lease when the firm went bust; left in limbo Stockport Council called time on their lease and they have until 1st March to clear out.

When I visited earlier today, Steve the owner was prepared for the fight. I chatted to him over a coffee and a steady stream of visitors came in for a coffee and to talk to him about what could be done to save Abney Cafe.

If you want to help save Abney Cafe and this important community hub, please email Councillor Sheila Bailey.

You can also give the Cafe Facebook page a like and keep up to date with cafe news there. There will be a gathering of support at 11am on Sunday 18th February. Bring along the whole family and your dogs to show your support!

Winter in Abney Hall. PLUS Save Abney Cafe!

Thank you for reading!

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

We were invited guests of Christmas at Dunham Massey. All images and opinions are our own.

Our nearest National Trust property is Dunham Massey. We are regular visitors to Dunham, we love the long (but flat and well-paved) walks they have. The gardens are lovely whatever time of year you visit and the house is full of upstairs-downstairs history. On 1st December we went along to the launch of ‘Christmas at Dunham Massey’ a magical, after-dark, illuminated trail which was jam-packed with Christmas magic.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

This year, for the first time ever, Dunham Massey has transformed into a winter wonderland. It’s taken six months of planning and hard work (and probably millions of light-bulbs) to create a wonderful Christmas experience for families to enjoy.

The walk from the visitors centre to the courtyard gives you a little taste of what’s to come, but as soon as you walk into the courtyard you know you’re in for a real treat. The courtyard is filled with Christmas market style sheds selling hog roast, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and those big sausages you only really see at Christmas markets. There’s also a colourful vintage carousel to enjoy.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

We picked up some snacks and some cups of hot mulled wine and headed off towards the lights, pausing to watch an Elf and Father Christmas welcome us to Christmas at Dunham Massey. Then on to the winter wonderland of the garden.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

The trail is a one mile sparkling path through the gardens. It winds through the historic woodland and has surprises around almost every corner. From a giant (and I mean giant) reindeer, to huge baubles lit in flickering flames in the scented fire garden; not to mention twinkling tunnels, stunning reflections of light on the water and the wonder of Pealight Heaven (named for the 100,000 pealights it’s made from.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

There are lights, there’s beautiful music and there are mulled wine stands at very regular intervals (try the mulled cider, it kept me warm on a cold night). Stop by Pealight Heaven and buy a marshmallow to toast over the fire – an absolute must!

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

It’s such a beautiful, magical way to spend an evening with your family. It’s well thought out and incredibly well stewarded. There are helpful, smiley faces around every corner. Even though the paths are flat and well-made, you can never be too careful walking in the darkness. It felt reassuring to know there were helpful people around if you got stuck.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

It’s an after-dark event, so if you do go, make sure you’re well wrapped up against the cold and you’re wearing good, sensible footwear. You might also want to slip a torch into your pocket just in case. We took a torch but didn’t use it, everywhere was so well lit.

Christmas as Dunham Massey is utterly gorgeous. Our highlights were the giant reindeer, the huge lawn absolutely covered in lights and the scented fire garden. The small Christmas market was excellent too and the food and drink were really good quality. I hope they run this again next year. I can see a visit to Christmas at Dunham Massey turning into a festive tradition!

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Christmas at Dunham Massey runs until 30th December 2017, 4.45pm – 10pm with 9 timeslots each night. You will need to pre-book tickets on the website here.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Tatton Park

If the grey weather is getting you down and you’re feeling a little bit bah-humbug about the onset of the festive period; then I can heartily recommend a visit to Tatton Park in Cheshire. Over the weekend we braved the rain and struck out in search of some serious festive fun. Which we found a short drive from our home in South Manchester.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Tatton Park 2017

Tatton Park have pulled out all the stops and thoroughly decked the halls of their beautiful mansion as well as laying on a whole raft of lovely family festive activities this Christmas. When we visited over the weekend we filled a busy afternoon with Christmassy fun and could have stayed for more if it wasn’t closing!

When we arrived we headed straight for the warmth of the mansion. It’s a stunning building on any day of the week, but it’s been beautifully decorated with fresh foliage and greenery, with a series of grand state rooms and servants’ quarters decorated with a 12 Days of Christmas theme. It’s lavishly done, with turtle doves, gold rings, ladies dancing, maids a milking and so on.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Tatton Park 2017

We entered a room filled with the most beautiful Christmas tree and a choir took their place on the staircase and serenaded us with Christmas carols. It was so lovely. We made our way to the servants’ quarters and discovered a very helpful butler in The Still Room who offered us freshly baked flapjack and some history of the house. There was also seasonal crafts for the children to try as well as a wish tree you could write your Christmas wishes on.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Tatton Park 2017

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Tatton Park 2017

Once we’d finished our tour of the mansion, we wandered into the Christmas craft fair which was on and we managed to pick up a few presents while we were there. We stopped for a quick coffee in The Stableyard cafe and then we wandered down to the farm.

We love the farm at Tatton Park. Whatever time of year you visit there is always something interesting going on in the farmyard. But we weren’t really there to check out the livestock, we were there to meet Father Christmas.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Tatton Park 2017

A visit to Father Christmas at the Farm is something of a tradition for us. We’ve visited Tatton Park a few times before and each year it’s slightly different. This year we were greeted by a brass band heartily playing Christmas carols, which was lovely. We said hello to the donkeys and had a look at the nativity scene. We then wandered past the small fairground attractions and headed straight to say hello to the reindeer, sit in the sleigh and have a look at the two heavy horses in the stable.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Tatton Park 2017

Up the cobbled lane to have a quick look around the Elves Workshop and on to the grotto. It was a cold rainy day, and there was no queue at all, something of a marvellous bonus. We were greeted by a very friendly French plate-spinning elf who entertained us while we had our faces painted.

We were then led down to the grotto to see Father Christmas himself. Ben had a good chat with him about how good he has been this year and what he would like for Christmas. Father Christmas gave him a little present to open on Christmas Day; presumably to save him carrying it on the big night.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Tatton Park 2017

I wanted to show the boys the pigs. We were incredibly lucky to arrive just as Sienna, a Saddleworth sow was giving birth to her piglets. We hung around and watched in awe as the pig gave birth to piglet number 4. It was something incredibly special to watch and a fantastic little biology lesson for the boys.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Tatton Park 2017

By the time we left the farm darkness was creeping in; so we hot-footed it to the car to head home. Tired, cold but absolutely bursting with festive spirit. It was a fabulous way to start this year’s festivities!

Tickets to Father Christmas at the Farm are £7.00 for adults and £6.50 for children (including a gift). Mansion ticket prices are £10 for adults and £6 for children. Parking is £6 per car.

To find out more information about the full range Christmas events at Tatton Park, including carol concerts and other family acitivites, visit their website

We were invited guests of Tatton Park and we were given complimentary tickets in exchange for this review. All images and opinions are our own.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

We’ve been going to the Just So Festival for four years now and each year we throw ourselves into the magic of it all. It is absolutely the highlight of our year. This year was no different, we arrived anticipating good things and we left sad that it was all over for another year. Just So Festival 2017 was an utterly enchanting experience.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

There’s so much going on at the Just So Festival, it’s impossible to fit everything you want to do into a weekend. We’d been quite organised before we arrived and I’d jotted down a timetable of things we’d like to see and do, knowing that we would miss some of what we’d selected, but we’d probably accidentally happen upon some Just So magic along the way.

It’s almost impossible to choose just five outstanding things from the Just So Festival 2017, but after much deliberation we’ve narrowed it down to these weird, wonderful and decidedly enchanting Just So moments –

The Just So Pillow Fight!

Ben took a bit of persuading to get stuck into the pillow fight, but once he could see his friends in there having fun there was no stopping him. The pillow fight is a completely bonkers but wonderful sight. Several hundred people bashing each other with pillows, most of which burst and feathers flew everywhere. The initial fight went on for about half an hour, with proceedings being halted a couple of times to retrieve children lost in the feathery mire. 

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

The fighting went on for several hours, with small skirmishes periodically breaking out. It was the most fun to take part in and almost as much fun to watch. The pillow fight is a definite highlight!

Campfire in the Spellbound Forest

The Spellbound Forest is my absolute favourite area at Just So. We always gather each night around the campfire to listen to storyteller Ian Douglas; marvel at Dieter’s mad science and sing our hearts out with resident Scout Master, Ian Mackintosh. This year something a little different happened in the forest, Ian Douglas got married at Just So and we were all invited to the Wedding Feast around the campfire. It was an evening of storytelling, song, celebration and magic. 

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

The Spellbound Forest is also the place to be for a whole raft of creative and nature based activities. We went on a wonderfully refreshing barefoot walk though the woods. Once again we made clay faces; we toasted marshmallows at campfire cookery; enjoyed the intimate little Theatre for One sessions and met the Wildlife Champions from Chester Zoo. There was no formal den building session this year, but our adventurer and his friends built their own and it was brilliant.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

Peekaboo and the Weleda Tent

With the boy being a strapping six years old, really we have no business being in the Peekaboo area (which is for babies and toddlers really). But this year there was a mud play area which was planted up with bee loving plants. Our little bee couldn’t stay away. He loved digging and discovering more about the plants.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

I also owe a debt of thanks to the Weleda team. I’d booked a free Skin Food Hand Massage which took place in a shed. On my way to the massage I fell over, skinned my knees and made my bottom lip wobble. They were very lovely to me when I arrived at the shed and let me sit down to gather my thoughts and gave me some cream for my knees. The hand massage was also excellent, I felt so relaxed and my hands were treated to some much needed TLC. 

Insect Eating, Wild Food & Foraging at The Social Barn

We all fancied learning more about foraging so off we went to the Social Barn. While we waited for the session to start the boys got stuck into some insect eating (dried mealworms and crickets), they also did some jellybean architecture and tried some wild food before we went off to explore the Rode Hall estate in search of foraged goodies.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

Under the expert guidance of James Wood, professional wild food forager, we learned about how to find and cook elderberries, nettles, chestnuts, acorns and hawthorn berries. All the boys got stuck in, foraging for goodies and we even got to sample some of the wild food. I can say that I’ve eaten an uncooked nettle and it didn’t sting!

Just So Festival 2017: Joining the Bee Tribe

Just So is famous for its Tribal Tournament. Each year families dress up as owls, foxes, frogs, stags, lions, fish or bees. The new tribe this year were the Bees, being from Manchester we just had to be Manchester Worker Bees. There were lots and lots of bees this year, all in sunny yellow, sporting wings and striped socks. We’d been fairly low-key with out costumes, wearing yellow and black tops with bee wings and antennae. 

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

We fully embraced the Tribal Tournament this year, with the boys all buzzing about collecting the golden nuggets to give to the Queen Bee. Alas we didn’t win this year, but we had a good time trying. The foxes won and were a little smug about it. Maybe the bees need to bring them down a peg or two next year!

Just So Festival 2017: The best of the rest…

You could easily spend a week at Just So, but you have to squish it all in to just three days (or one day if you’ve got a day ticket). I couldn’t possibly list all the amazing stuff we did and saw and ate, but honourable mentions to go – The Baghdaddies; Stargazing at The Observatory; The Cautionary Tales of Animalia; How I Hacked My Way Into Space; The Actual reality Arcade; Dancing the Conga; The Forgotten Courtyard; Away with the Fairies and the wonderful wand making workshop; Bollywood dancing at Jitterbug; and the food, ALL the food!

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

It was a wonderful weekend. It filled our hearts up with joy and creativity and adventure. We were happier, better people for our time at the Just So Festival 2017. Roll on next year!

Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2018 (17 – 19 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale from Friday 25 August at www.justsofestival.org.uk at special early bird prices. Under 3s free.