6 QUICK TRIPS We pick our top half-term hideaways
Need to get away from it all? These cool bolt holes will make the perfect base for a family foodie week away, from Northumberland’s wild shores to Devon’s new seafood coast, and some cool countryside in between
NORTHUMBERLAND Best for… seaside retreats and superb fish feasts
Food-rich rivers, coast and farmland characterise Northumberland, along with a remoteness that allows kids to be kids with no one scowling at them. As your base choose the seaside village of Alnmouth, whose collage of red, blue and sandstone houses are a distinctive local landmark. In recent years, word has got out about the village’s fine collection of pubs and tea houses.
Central Alnmouth Village Tea Rooms (58 Northumberland St), is perfect after a morning on the beach, with home cooked dishes ranging from ham pie (£5) to fresh crab sandwiches (£6); a whopping afternoon tea (£9) of cake, scones and sandwiches feeds two children. The nearby Red Lion (redlion alnmouth.com) is excellent, serving pork burgers for children (£12), seabass with mushy peas (£15), and Northumberland sirloin steak with mushrooms (£19). Curlew’s Return from the Allendale Brewery is among four local ales to enjoy while overlooking the estuary. Another day, head to Craster and walk the mile to ruined Dunstanburgh Castle before buying smoked haddock from L Robson & Sons (kipper.co.uk), a traditional Northumberland smokery. Where to stay Malcolm Miller House (cottagesin northumberland.co.uk),a converted townhouse, is set right by a white sandy beach and an attractive play park, overlooking the languid Aln estuary and sleeps five people. From £410 per week including special discounts at foodie hotspots across the county. Mark Rowe
HAMPSHIRE Best for… log cabin comfort and forest fun
A stay in a luxury log cabin surrounded by Hampshire’s Blackwood Forest, is something even the outdoors-averse will enjoy. If you manage to pry the kids from the all-weather hot tub, there are myriad woodland activities. Hire bikes and follow cross country trails, involve them in the forgotten art of den building, or try the tutored ranger walks including foodie foraging. Cabin kitchens are well equipped, including barbecues. Breakfast hampers and BBQ meat packs can be pre-ordered, and the central bar/restaurant serves family favourites. Crank the luxury up a few notches with a private chef for the night. A food fairy arrives, indulges you with dishes like home smoked duck and plum salad or fillet of haddock with sumac crumb, then magics everything away. Within a short drive, Winchester is a hive of restaurant activity. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has a River Cottage canteen here (rivercottage.net), and Rick Stein (rickstein.com) chose it as his first location outside Cornwall. Very much a local restaurant, Stein still focuses on his signature super fresh seafood, cooked simply. Where to stay Forest Holidays
( forestholidays.co.uk) was set up by the Forestry Commission to help preserve woodland. Blackwood Forest offers three-night breaks for four during half-term, from £665. Barney Desmazery
SOUTH DEVON Best for… eating “England’s Seafood Coast”
The country’s highest value seafood catch is landed at Brixham, yet less than 10 per cent is eaten locally. Chef Mitch Tonks and local tourism bodies aim to change this, with the
new Seafood Coast initiative to make the English Riviera an international seafood capital. Start with a tour of Brixham Fish Market (Wednesdays, 6am: £15pp, from 14 years; visitbrixham.com), where 40 varieties of fish go up for auction. Then walk along the South West Coast Path (southwestcoast path.org.uk), before lunch at Rockfish (therockfish.co.uk). Mitch Tonks’ restaurant, above the market, serves premium catch of the day, local cockles and crab, and Seafood Coast Ale, the creation of Tonks and Salcombe brewer, Tom Maderious (mains £10-20).
Enjoy crabbing off neighbouring Torquay’s harbour walls (kit £5 from waterfront shops), then check into Park Hill House, a luxurious hilltop retreat with glass walls overlooking the Japanese tiered garden and sweeping coast, plus there’s a cinema room and five en-suite double bedrooms. Make it extra special and local chef Nina Groves will come and cook up a seafood menu to suit all the family, including creative canapés (a favourite with the kids). Five-minutes’ walk away, at No 7 Bistro, you can choose your catch of the day, expertly cooked and served with sea greens and a huge choice of wines, including good local English labels. Next door, book a great-value, one Michelin-star lunch at The Elephant (two courses £16.50; £6.95 for children including a drink; elephantrestaurant.co.uk), where menus feature home-farmed produce and local catch. The Brixham hake with seaweed butter and purple potatoes was delicate perfection; the kids’ pasta with cheese, an accessibly grown-up dish.
Where to stay Park Hill House (bluechipholidays.co.uk) sleeps 10 and costs from £1,401 for three nights in October. Sarah Barrell
SHROPSHIRE Best for…. cool cabins and country walks
Hills, remote pubs and landmarks, such as the Long Mynd, make Shropshire a wonderful place for a family food break, where little ones can stretch their legs and try fine local fare. Stay at Annie’s Cabin, an eye-popping self-catering structure of Douglas fir logs in a meadow outside Ludlow. George Tasker, its genius creator, provides a welcome hamper, including pain au levain from Price & Son’s Bakery ( pricesthebakers.co.uk), fresh asparagus, cherries, raspberries and strawberries from Ludlow Food Centre (ludlowfoodcentre.co.uk), and fresh juices from Appleteme (appleteme.com). The cabin’s wood pellet stove has a small oven ideal for casseroles, while the earth oven will cook pizzas in a flash. Venture west to Bishop’s Castle, a hub of quirky, independent shops (shropshirefoodanddrink.co.uk). Favourites here include Andrew Pugh Butchers (ajpughbutchers. co.uk), on Church Street, where you can buy a Desperate Dan-sized fidget pie (£1.85), a local specialty, with gammon, apple, bacon and thyme, or pick up samosas (£2)
from the Chai Shop (33, High Street). Two outstanding pubs offer fine food: the Castle Hotel (thecastlehotel bishopscastle.co.uk), has a garden with views to enjoy smoked haddock topped with rarebit (£15). Or try, the atmospheric Three Tuns (thethree tunsinn.co.uk) whose taps run with ale from the next-door brewery. Portions are hearty classics such as beer-battered fish (£12).
Where to stay Annie’s Cabin (ludlow ecologcabins.co.uk) sleeps four and costs from £395 per week. Mark Rowe
THE COTSWOLDS Best for… luxury cottages and gourmet treats
Arriving through the fog on a winter’s night, Bruern Cottages lit up in the darkness has a magical feel. This mini hamlet of smart stone cottages tucked away on a four-acre estate in the Cotswold Hills, was once the coach house of Bruern Abbey. From luxury linens and antique furniture, to a basket of wood to feed the open fire, the cottages feel like your very own country manor. The indoor pool was a huge hit with the children (the ideal temperature, apparently), as were the extensive gardens and outdoor play areas; a cool games’ room the hangout for older kids. With a generous welcome basket, you may be tempted to stay put. Breakfast is great, with local sausages, bacon and dairy from the welcome basket. Beautiful blue, brown and white Cracklebean local eggs were a delight for the children; champagne, cider and lemon drizzle cake treats for later on. Just beyond Bruern, Burford Garden Centre has chocolate gifts, homemade ready meals, an array of gin and the chance to stock up on those Cracklebean eggs. Feeling more outdoorsy? You can ‘catch your own’ at Bibury Trout Farm. Worth a visit for the setting alone. Gourmet pubs abound in the local stone villages (cotswolds.com/food-and-drink). The Plough (thekinghamplough. co.uk), 10 minutes’ away in Kingham, is family friendly, with classic children’s offerings (mains £6) and a menu replete with local lamb and cheeses (mains £18-23). Where to stay Bruern Cottages (bruern-holiday-cottages.co.uk) sleep 2-10; a two-bedroom costs from £540 per week. Jilly Topping
NORTH NORFOLK Best for…. beautiful barns and beaches
With some of the country’s best beaches, alluring old market towns, and undulating farmland, North Norfolk makes a great family food break. Six converted barns in North Barnsham, which can be rented together or individually, Barnsham Barns is an ideal base for exploring. It’s selfcatering, but chefs are available to cook family-friendly fare, with drop-off meals available too (three-course dinners from £16.50; £3.75 per child portion). Nearby, farmers’ markets include Creake Abbey and Fakenham, where you should seek out honey, saffron and fresh seafood (sea bass, crabs, lobsters), and local ales from Brancaster Brewery, Norfolk Brewhouse and Yetman’s Brewery.
Gurneys Fish Shop in Burnham Market ( gurneysfishshop.co.uk), has hot smoked salmon pâté, fishcakes and French-style fish soup, plus local catches, at market prices. Gastro pubs, such as Victoria Inn, the Crown Inn, the Wiveton Bell and the White Horse, are the best for sampling local dishes, while the Michelin-starred Morston Hall is great to splash out; the
£75-a-head tasting menu includes courses such as Holkham Hall venison with salt-baked beetroot and cabbage white pepper jus. Walk it all off at nearby Wells-next-the-sea where huge swathes of sand are backed by colourful beach huts and pine forest.
Where to stay Barnsham Barns (barsham barns.co.uk) sleep 4-14 and cost from £425 for three-nights minimum stay. Pat Riddell Assistance for this feature was provided by: For Devon, thebluechipholidays.co.uk and englishriviera.co.uk; for Hampshire, forest holidays.co.uk; for Norfolk, barshambarns. co.uk; for Northumbria, visit northumberland. com and cottagesinnorthumberland.co.uk; for Shropshire, ludlowecologcabins.co.uk and shropshire tourism.co.uk; for the Cotswolds, bruern-holiday-cottages.co.uk
Ludlow Food Centre Annie’s Cabin wood pellet stove Trout fishing at Bibury Trout Farm
Brixham Harbour Rockfish
The White Horse Wells-next-the-sea