Tree climbing, ziplining, rafting and hiking, plus many more activities from a flexible menu, make a fun-packed family holiday
Our night at the Vénasque mountain refuge, close to the Spanish border high in the French Pyrenees, was going better than we could have hoped. After a sweaty, three-hour trek up the valley we had cooled off in a mountain lake (much warmer than it had any right to be, given the altitude), then loafed on its banks while cloud swirled over the ridge. It was like a scene from Tolkien without the hobbits. As the light faded, bowls of soup and pasta were served by the refuge warden, and before long my wife and I were making friends with our fellow hikers in the dinner tent while our two boys (aged 10 and 13) thrashed us at cards.
Exploring the pristine rivers running through forested mountains proves a great alternative to the country’s golden coastline for this young family
José Manuel dos Santos, our guide, was looking a little sheepish. “You have to understand,” he said, “the beach isn’t normally like this.” We were sitting on a low bridge below the pretty village of Avô, right in the centre of Portugal, feet dangling above the crystal-clear River Alva, the sun on our backs, rushing water filling our ears. “You need to picture it full of people.”
For locals, the phenomenal success of this driving route means blocked roads, a racetrack mentality and mess, rather than the promised benefits to business
At Bettyhill General Merchants, a convenience store and post office in a remote village on Scotland’s far north coast, perched above the spectacular dunes of Torrisdale Bay, owner Susan Malone is anticipating the summer tourist season with ambivalence.
“There’s a sense among locals that the situation is going to get worse this summer. We’ve already had a much busier April and May than expected: I don’t think anybody realised how popular this [driving route] would become.”
Woodland trails, a river straddled by stepping stones and the ruins of a 12th-century priory make this beautiful swathe of countryside a brilliant adventure playground
This 12,000-hectare (30,000-acre) estate near Skipton, in the Yorkshire Dales, is laced with 80 miles of footpaths that weave their way around the ruins of an ancient Augustinian priory – better known as Bolton Priory – although the real draw is just outside, on the banks of the River Wharfe. There’s a large beach area along this quarter-mile stretch that’s ripe for sandcastle building and the water is shallow enough for toddlers to paddle safely. Older children can swim or tackle the 60 stepping stones that cross the water – once the route of lay workers making their way over to the priory. (If you’d rather not brave it or are with a buggy, there’s a bridge over to dry land).
Wildlife can thrive in city centres, as well as in reserves, wild moors and remote islands; you just need to know what to look out for, say our tipsters
Cuckoos, kingfishers, water voles, marsh harriers, seals and fantastic views from the coffee shop: inside the M25! Take a bow, RainhamRSPB reserve. A two-mile walk around the reserve (which is only a 20-minute stroll from Purfleet station) yields rich rewards, and even spectacular views of Eurostar trains. Spring is particularly noisy, with warblers of all sorts, and winter, with large flocks of lapwings and a gazillion ducks, is spectacular. There are also rare bearded tits, comfortable hides, simple walking, kids’ events and a great coffee shop with a small playground. The Thames views are wonderful: the sun filling the cafeteria, which has huge windows over the reserve and the river with basking seals, makes one forget the nearby big smoke. • rspb.org.uk Dan
Tell us about favourite family days out in Europe (including the UK) at parks that appeal across the generations
Great rides, a lovely setting, imaginative play areas, friendly staff … there are lots of ingredients that go into making a really good theme park. Whether it was high-tech or homespun, educational or adrenalin-pumping, we want to hear about it.
We’d rather hear about smaller, less well-known parks – places perhaps with a historical resonance and a connection to their natural surroundings. But fun is paramount of course.
A section of the wall is falling down, but let’s not be so quick to blame tourists for its crumbling state
Ever in search of moral panic, the Daily Mail has reported that an excess of tourists taking selfies on Hadrian’s Wall has caused a portion of it to collapse. Sadly for this theory, the National Trust, which cares for the stretch of wall in question, says there is no evidence the damage has been caused by selfie-takers.
Erosion, weather and invasive plant species are the most likely culprits, and restoration work will be shortly under way to renovate this section of early-20th-century wall-building. Nevertheless, says the National Trust, please don’t walk on the wall, but alongside it.
Take in all the fun of fairs and festivals, beaches, farms and museums with this pick of family events around the country
The museum is celebrating the launch of Edinburgh’s International Children’s Festival (25 May-2 June) with a family open day. Events are drop-in and free and include performances, pop-up installations and arts for all ages. There’ll be digital music creation as part of interactive sensory environment Soundplay Studio, a wearable jet pack workshop, walkabout dancing with Eggy Ladies, a body-positive performance from Creative Electric, a puppet show called A Wise Owl’s Challenge, and a Unicorn Dance Party. • 25 May, nms.ac.uk