I’ve often been asked if it’s easier to go travelling with a baby or with a toddler. Both throw up different problems from what to pack and bring, to how to keep them entertained on flights or long journeys. But the simple answer is, toddlers are harder work because they can move – and fast – and can express themselves in a much more forthright way than any baby can. Toddlers’ attention spans are short at best, and their explorative natures are heightened. With this in mind, I’ve pulled my resources to compile an epic round-up of the Best Toddler-Friendly Holidays in the UK – from those in the know…
Toddler-Friendly Holidays in the UK
It can be a minefield when it comes to choosing toddler-friendly holidays. But for those who live in the UK, there is a myriad of toddler-friendly options from accommodation, destinations, resorts and attractions that are great for the whole family. And without the added stress of taking a trip abroad, it’s easier to plan, organise and feel less worried, because you can essentially throw everything in the car. Just don’t forget the travel games!
The Best UK Holidays For Toddlers
So I, along with some of the UK’s top family travel bloggers have rounded up what we think are the highlights and must-sees for toddler-friendly holidays in the UK, from toddler-friendly hotels to specific destinations, attractions and resorts across the country. And hopefully, this comprehensive guide will give you some inspiration to where to find your next favourite family holiday or short break in the UK.
Top Tip: To use The Best Toddler-Friendly Holidays in the UK guide click on the links within the post for more information about each area or recommendation
On a recent long weekend in Bristol, we were blown away by the multitude of family-friendly activities, family-friendly restaurants and things to do in the city. And with young kid and toddler in tow, we really did manage to fit a lot in – with much of the city flat, pedestrianised and very easy to get about. Bristol is a perfect city for a weekend break or even longer. Voted the best place to live in the UK a staggering three times, it is a city with a big heart and shaped by centuries of history. Full to the brim with artists and creatives, independent shops, restaurants, cafes and bars – it’s a hive of activity where old sits in harmony with the new. We really enjoyed walking along the harbour front and along the river, exploring all the great street art, as well as HMS Britain – Brunel’s historic passenger ship.
Cornwall has been a favourite toddler-friendly holiday destination for us over the years. From wonderful beaches and harbour towns to farm stays, as well as so much to discover and explore – you really can’t go wrong with visiting Cornwall.
Cathy from Mummy Travels agrees but it’s also about finding the right toddler-friendly accommodation and she found the perfect one when visited Newquay.
We’ve been visiting the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire for many years and it’s a wonderful region for toddler-friendly holidays. Quite simply, there is as much or as little to see and do – from exploring the Cotswold Water Park to eating cream teas and ice-creams in pretty historic villages, feeding penguins and getting to see lots of cool motorcars.
We have stayed in self-catering properties in the Cotswolds, as well as luxury family-friendly hotels including Cowley Manor – which really welcomed our kids and gives ample opportunity to explore Cheltenham nearby.
The choice of family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds is extensive as there are hundreds of family-friendly hotels in the area and Karen from Travel Mad Mum shares her experience of Calcot Manor:
“There are plenty of hotels to choose from in the Cotswolds but when it comes to travelling with kids, we stumbled across probably the most family-friendly hotel in the UK! There is a wealth of family-friendly activities and sites on offer and Calcot Manor Hotel and Spa strikes the perfect balance between a family-friendly hotel and true luxury. They are fully geared up to cater for kids, offering a range of services including an onsite Ofsted registered creche, a childcare centre, afternoon family pool hours and child-friendly high tea. For the adults, they have a beautiful hot tub, disk-golf and more! Ten minutes down the road from the Manor is Westonbirt Arboretum with its TreeTop Walkway and Gruffalo walk, the perfect place for little ones to burn off some steam.”
Some of the best beaches in the UK can be found in Devon and many of them are extremely toddler-friendly. Even in the rain, there are plenty of attractions and fun things to do with toddlers and kids, as we discovered when we spent a week near Ilfracombe. But one of the best toddler-friendly areas in Devon is Dartmoor National Park, says local resident Claire from Tin Box Traveller, and is full to the brim with beautiful landscapes and amazingly child-friendly activities.
“With its rugged tors and outstanding scenery, Dartmoor National Park in Devon is a haven for walking families. It’s also a place steeped in history and it inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, so budding storytellers will thrill at the atmosphere. But aside from myth, legend and landscapes, what’s there to do on Dartmoor with toddlers? Plenty – so check out this post for more, including an otter sanctuary and castle.”
Dorset and the Jurrasic Coast
With over 95 miles of coastline, the Jurassic Coast Dorset stretches from Exmouth in Devon all the way to Studland Bay in Dorset and spans a staggering 185 million years of geological history. Not only is there the promise of fossil hunting and dinosaurs, but beautiful family-friendly beach resorts, attractions and breathtaking landscapes. We took a road trip along the Jurassic Coast and discovered many of the fantastic sights along the way – all the while, basing ourselves in a great, toddler-friendly holiday park which was also reasonably priced. Highlights for us included eating ice cream in Lyme Regis and seeing Durdle’s Door on a misty day.
After spending a week exploring the North East and Durham, we were spellbound by the area. Not only in how much there was to see and do as a family, and the friendly welcome we received, but the sheer beauty of the region. From stargazing in the Pennines to learning about how we lived in the past at the highly recommended Beamish Museum, we even got to explore castles and walk with alpacas. Meanwhile, we ended our toddler-friendly holiday by staying a luxury family-friendly spa hotel Rockliffe Hall, which really knows how to put families first from a fantastical playground to splash park.
If you’re looking from a break from the norm, and one where you’re at one with nature then perhaps a Forest Holiday might be what you’re after. We spent a glorious break at Blackwood Forest in Hampshire, riding bikes, building dens and going on bug hunts. There is so much for toddlers and young children to do, and they’ll particularly like the spaces of the cabins – some of which, even have hot tubs. Imagine a home away from home but under a canopy of trees.
Isles of Scilly
Situated just off the coast of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly is a small, unspoiled haven which is perfect for young families and toddler-friendly holidays in the UK, as Katy from Otis and Us explains:
“We wanted to visit the Isles of Scilly for so long and I am so pleased we decided to wait and visit with our three children. It is such a beautiful place and I would even say it is one of my favourite places that we have visited over the last couple of years. The Isles of Scilly is around 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall and consists of a large number of uninhabited islands, and five inhabited islands: St Mary’s, Tresco, Bryher, St Agnes, and St Martin’s. All so different, yet equally spectacular. We stayed at Karma Resort on St Martin’s. With its laid back way of life, beautiful beaches, clear turquoise waters, and incredible sunsets it is a place that stole our hearts. The islands are so family friendly and the people welcoming. From St Martin’s we hopped on a boat to Tresco where we hired bikes and a bike seat and spent the day exploring the island, stumbling across honesty stalls, play parks and the beautiful Abbey Gardens. The girls still talk about seal spotting and kayaking! I would return in a heartbeat.”
The fact that the Lake District has been awarded UNESCO Heritage status isn’t the only reason why the Lake District is a must-visit destination for a family holiday in the UK. I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the natural surroundings which comprises of epic lakes, mountains, national parks and picture-perfect villages and towns. It truly is a sight to behold and there really is so much to do even with toddler or baby in tow. Highlights for us include taking a steamboat gondola on Lake Coniston and exploring the different National Trust sights which included waterfalls and mountain passes.
It may not be the most elegant resort in the world, but if you are looking for a cheap and cheerful break with your toddlers then Morecambe delivers in spades for toddler-friendly holidays in the UK. This small town in Lancashire is located on a stunning bay and offers simple, free pleasures like making sandcastles on the beach. The prom hosts some great annual events like the Catch the Wind Kite Festival and Vintage by The Sea. Brucciani’s has been making ice cream since 1939 – pop in and enjoy the old fashioned vibe. For a luxury art deco experience, have tea in the refurbished Midland Hotel. There are loads of things to wear the kids out before bed; bounce an hour away at Jump Rush, follow the bird art trail along the prom, go bowling and eat pizza at Soul Bowl and Vista Italian Kitchen and sing Bring Me Sunshine in front of the statue of Eric. For more ideas see The Family Adventure Project’s post on 30 family friendly things to do in Morecambe.
Staffordshire Peak District
Penny from The Mayfield Hideaway recommends the Peak District as a fantastic toddler-friendly holiday in the UK.
“We recently moved to the Staffordshire Peak District and regularly host toddlers in our self-catering places at Mayfield Hideaway. Nearby National Trust Ilam Park and Dovedale are great for mini-adventures, you play pooh sticks, walk along the tree stump trail, roll down hills, paddle, cross the famous stepping stones and make the most of the flat and pushchair friendly walk to Dovedale. Meanwhile, Alton Towers, including C Beebies Land, is under 10 miles away. Matlock Bath has Gulliver’s Kingdom, another toddler-sized theme park.
Peak Wildlife Park is the perfect size for little ones to get close to animals from meerkats to penguins. RSPB reserve Coombe Valley was recently voted a Hidden Gem by Visit Britain, it has dens, fairy villages, tree walkways and pond dipping to break the walking up.
The Tissington and Manifold Trails, beginning in Ashbourne and Waterhouses, are excellent traffic-free cycle tracks, both with family bike hire, including trailers. For rainy days head to one of the Peak District’s four caves and caverns, to Sudbury Museum of Childhood.
Nell from The Pigeon Pair and Me also agrees that the Peak District makes for a fantastic family-friendly UK break:
“Landal Green Parks Darwin Forest, in England’s scenic Peak District, really is a treat for families who want to enjoy a peaceful, natural environment. All 120 of its wooden cabin-style lodges are made locally, in the town of Bakewell. Some even come with their own hot tubs. We really made the most of ours. From delicious morning soaks to quiet evening sessions under the stars, we might have broken the record for the number of hot tub dips a family can have in 48 hours. The cabin as well comes fully equipped – which is what you need when you have a toddler.
Darwin Forest’s 47 acres of mixed woodland is managed, with trails for walking or cycling – hire bikes which have seats for toddlers, too. But it doesn’t feel overly manicured. We spotted a fair number of the highly poisonous fly agaric mushrooms, which we warned the kids not to touch. But they looked just like fairy toadstools. My daughter called it ‘the Magic Forest’, and we really did have an enchanting long weekend there, searching for fairy doors at the bottom of trees, enjoying lazy breakfasts on our terrace, and doing a spot of water zorbing in the resort swimming pool. It was just what our London family needed, to get rid of the stresses of city life.”
Center Parcs has long since been a staple when it comes to providing families with toddler-friendly holidays in the UK. Lisa from Travel Loving Family loves them and in a particular, a stay at Elveden Forest in Suffolk.
“My husband and I have always been huge fans of Center Parcs, even more so since becoming parents. We’ve been taking our boys to Center Parcs since they were babies and we’ve always had a brilliant time. For toddlers, the parks work really well because everything is just so convenient. Within a few minutes walk/cycle you can be in the village centre where you can go swimming, dine at a child-friendly restaurant, let them burn off some energy in the playgrounds, pop into the shops, have fun on the arcades or simply just enjoy a drink at Starbucks or a bar. One of the features we particularly love for toddlers at CenterParcs is
the soft play areas in the restaurants. It just takes the stress out of trying to keep a wriggly toddler at a table whilst waiting for food to arrive. There are plenty of activities for toddlers too including kids clubs, Teddy Bear picnics, balance bikes, sports and art classes. All of these activities cost extra so a word of warning for parents, there are also many free activities so only book one or two and save your money!”
Because Sussex is close to our home, we often take short breaks and day trips to the county. Not only has it got miles of coastline and award-winning beaches from Brighton, Lewes, Littlehampton, Eastbourne and Camber Sands, but tons of attractions for the whole family. Some of our favourite spots include Seven Sisters Country Park and West Wittering Beach. I believe it is a great destination for toddler holidays in the UK.
You’re also spoiled for choice in terms of accommodation options including family-friendly camping sites – but we particularly loved our stay at Bailiffscourt Court in Climping. From a welcome basket for the kids to a treasure hunt around the hotel, it really caters for children of all ages. Plus the beach is just a short stroll away…
With Alton Towers being one of the main attractions in Staffordshire, the theme park isn’t the only big draw in the region. When we were last there, we had a great time exploring Tamworth and its historic castle. Meanwhile, there is much to see and do in Stoke-on-Trent, including discovering all there is to know about the pottery industry as well as the stunning Trentham Estate – which Chloe from Picture-Taker Memory-Maker tells us about:
“Trentham Gardens is a fantastic day out for the whole family and there is plenty to do for toddlers, in particular, come rain or shine. In fact, it might be tricky to know where to go first! You could head off on an adventure around the mile-long lake: completing the treasure trail along the way to find all sixteen beautiful fairies and various impressive wooden sculptures; hopping onto the Trentham Fern miniature train to save tired little legs; and maybe even enjoying a leisurely ride aboard the Miss Elizabeth ferry to see the lake from a different perspective. Or you could choose to make your way to the energising Barefoot Walk, the challenging Maze, the delightful Sensory Gardens, the thrilling adventure playground and the nautically-themed sandpits before devouring a delicious Snugbury’s ice-cream or a hot chocolate in the cafe. It’s a tough decision. It really is an action-packed and fun-filled day out that you’ll want to head back to time and time again.”
Elizabeth from Wander Mum wants to give a shout out to toddler-friendly hotel Woolley Grange in Wiltshire.
“Woolley Grange is a hotel which understands families – inside and out. The Jacobean manor on the end of the Cotswolds can give you a perfect family break in the UK. We went for three nights with our 6-year-old daughter and two-year-old toddler. The pair happily ran into the creche (you get two hours of free childcare) while we enjoyed some time together, got treatment at the spa and relaxed in front of its roaring fires. The cosy hotel has shelves filled with children’s books and games to play. It also has indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools and 14 acres of gardens to explore. Spot the giant Connect Four, trampoline and sheep statues placed throughout the grounds. There’s no shortage of kids activities and their mealtimes are catered for at appropriate times. The kid’s cinema club was also a hit. In the evenings they have a listening service so you can enjoy a meal as a couple while the little ones sleep. Located close to the village of Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire, it’s a short journey to the city Bath but, really, there’s no reason to leave.”
Family-Friendly UK Breaks and Attractions
I hope that our suggestions for toddler holidays in the UK have given you inspiration on where you can visit with your little ones. However, you may not have the time to travel too far, or might just be looking for a fun family day out or weekend break? Here is a list of some brilliant toddler-friendly attractions around the UK, as well.
Drayton Manor Park
The one thing that my toddler wanted to desperately was “Thomas the Tank Engine!” and a weekend visit to Drayton Manor Park was just the ticket! Thomas Land is pretty epic in the eyes of a two-three-year-old, and put that together with a large theme park with numerous rides, a zoo and even a dinosaur park, as well as a themed hotel, it makes for a great toddler-friendly break. You can read all about our visit to Drayton Manor in this post.
Diggerland is a kids’ paradise with big boys’ toys such as tractors, cranes, racing cars and the like! The benefit of visiting Diggerland apart from the obvious is that there it is fairly small – so perfect for toddler’s legs. You can read all about our visit to Diggerland here.
Howletts Wild Animal Park
Carrie from Flying with a Baby has fond memories of her time at Howletts Wild Animal Park and suggests it’s a great extension for any toddler-friendly holidays in the UK:
Legoland Windsor Resort
What child, big or small, wouldn’t love Legoland Windsor? For those who live far away from Windsor in Berkshire, visitors can make a real weekend break of it, the theme park is certainly big enough to explore over several days. With hotel breaks, there is much to enjoy with over 55 interactive rides, as well as shows throughout the day. It really is a child’s paradise. You can read all about Legoland Windsor here.
Longleat Safari Park
Get up close and personal with a wide range of exotic animals from tigers, lions and monkeys in the UK’s first-ever drive-through safari park located in Wiltshire. With over 500 creatures there is much to discover, as well as train rides, Postman Pat Village, a Jungle Cruise, huge outdoor play areas and much more – a great day out for toddlers and kids. You can read all about Longleat here.
Peppa Pig World
As any parent who has toddlers will know all too well, Peppa Pig and her family will be an integral part of life. So a trip to Peppa Pig World in Paultons Park in Hampshire will be inevitable. Like a moth to a flame, toddlers just love Peppa Pig World – after all, their favourite characters are brought to life through a mini-kingdom that is pink and colourful. And there are many places to stay nearby including the New Forest and Southampton. You can read all about Peppa Pig World here.
* Do you have any other suggestions for toddler-friendly holidays in the UK – I’d love to hear them?