Amanda Morison recommends some family experiences to remember for the May half term:
Medieval merriment in France
A two-hour drive from Le Havre, the picturesque town of Verneuil-sur-Avre hosts its annual Fête des Gueux on 1–2 June, complete with medieval market, colossal banquet and this year, a medieval joust between France and England. Kids and grown-ups alike will enjoy watching history come to life with battle re-enactments, Viking-themed puppet shows, face painting, medieval music, dancing, and other family-friendly games and entertainment. Dressing up optional. Stay at the charming Chateau de la Puisaye, which offers b&b and holiday cottage options.
Desert Delights in Morocco
Located in one of the most beautiful areas of the Moroccan Sahara, Erg Chegada, the Nubia Desert Camp comprises just eight hand-made tents sleeping up to four. Traditional-looking from the outside, inside all is sumptuous with beds made up with Egyptian cotton, and bathrooms with solar-heated water. The desert is there to be explored on foot or by camel – wild camping over a number of days is an option – or ride down the dunes on a sandboard or 4x4 jeep.
From £160 p/p, per night, f/board, £60 for U12s sharing with parents. thebeldicollection.com
Surf’s Up in Portugal
With Powder Byrne’s new ‘Learn Together’ offering you can learn to surf in Portugal, play polo in Spain, sail in Elba or scuba dive in Crete. Editor Emily tried the surf option at Guincho beach on Portugal’s Estoril coast staying at the Penha Longa estate, a short drive from Lisbon. Her children got the hang of it rather better than she did!
7 nights at Penha Longa from £1,320 p/p excluding flights. powderbyrne.com
Shake it Out
Funk it up with Tinie Tempah and Katy Perry’s choreographer at the Chia Laguna Sardinia’s Campioni Dance Academy. While children (aged 5–15) are locking and krumping, parents can head to the pools/stables/Chia Natural Spa/tennis courts/watersports centre (phew) or just flop on the beach. There is also a range of clubs for kids aged 0–17.
Dance Academy costs €400 per child, incl one dance session per day for five days and an exclusive dance kit. chialagunaresort.com +39 070 932393431
Tucked away in 400 acres of Hampshire countryside, Heckfield Place has created quite a stir. The hotel’s Assembly programme includes options for children, including Mud and Guts Kids Adventure, a two-and-a-half hour reconnection with the natural world exploring Heckfield’s giant woodland and building an Eeyore house. Don’t forget to visit Heckfield’s working farm, orchards and flock of chickens.
From £700 per room b&b (with one child sharing). 0118 932 6868 heckfieldplace.com
Kids can learn to play (real) golf, meet a giant tortoise, cook with the local, resident ‘Grandma’ and fish using traditional Mauritian techniques. It’s all on offer at the Shanti Maurice with the launch of Scott Dunn’s first Explorers kids’ club on the island (4mths–11).
10 nights from £8,960 for a family of 4, half board, including flights & transfers. scottdunn.com
Rio Ferdinand has partnered with the Inspiring Travel Co’s Football Escapes programme to provide footie courses in Dubai, Cyprus, Portugal and even Beijing (probably a little far for half term!) led by Premier League stars and UEFA-licenced coaches. Other famous names include Eidur Gudjohnsen, Dimitar Berbatov and Teddy Sheringham. It may be hard to stop Dads joining in the two-hour daily sessions held over a week, but courses are for children aged 5–15 only.
7 nights from £5,799 for a family of 4, b&b at Hotel Quinta Do Lago, including flights & transfers. 01244 355527 inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk
If you don’t want to be organised by anyone else and fancy holing up in the wilderness without car noise, neighbours or the lure of the modern world to disturb, then carry on camping. And with Canopy & Stars we’re talking glamping. The Stargazer Treehouse on Dartmoor has one king-size bed and two single mattresses for kids of 8+ on a mezzanine level (accessed via a ladder), a bath on the deck, and it’s a half-hour walk to a glorious pub. You’ll hear a lot of wildlife rustling and hooting day and night, and a stream is a short stroll from the treehouse where you can fish for sticklebacks. The glorious beaches of Sandymouth and Duckpool are a short drive away. Mobile signal can be iffy, but WiFi is available on request if you can’t quite manage a digital detox.
From £295 per night, plus £15 per child. canopyandstars.co.uk
School in the Sunshine
The family is desperate for a sunny break, but one of the posse has 11+/Common Entrance/GCSEs (etc, etc). Combine sea and sun at the family-run Skiathos Princess on Mamma Mia island with daily online revision sessions with London tutor company, Minerva. Sessions can be booked in advance or at the resort.
Olympic Holidays offers 7 nights at the Skiathos Princess from £1,159 per person, B&B including flights & transfers. olympicholidays.com Lessons are £60 p/h. For more info visit santikoscollection.com