Finally the day was here – holiday time! Now, this year was our first real holiday with both children and the first proper holiday we’ve been away for in years, so we were pretty determined to make it memorable. Not feeling brave enough to fly with the kids again yet we instead went for a UK holiday and after seeing so many rave reviews online we opted to stay at Coombe Mill in Cornwall.
If you’ve not heard of Coombe Mill, let me set the scene. Imagine a small farm, run by a family, where children are at the centre of the holiday. The whole site is set up so that they have an absolute ball, making the parents’ holiday run smoothly too. Happy children = happy parents. I’ve met Fiona at a few blogging events now, and so many blogging friends have stayed there that I was pretty sure it would suit our two well. There’s only one drawback with Coombe Mill as far as I’m concerned and that’s the fact that Cornwall is such a long long way from where we live!
According to our SatNav, it’s a journey of about 266 miles and should take just over 4 and a half hours to get there. The SatNav doesn’t know all about August traffic in the South West though. Needless to say we left our house in St Albans at 8.50am and finally got to Coombe around 6.30 that evening. Yikes. We’d stopped off at a couple of National Trust places, details in a moment, but a large amount of that time was spent either driving (slowly) or stuck in traffic. We certainly learnt a lot about entertaining small children on long car journeys.
The main thing that we did was something we’d learnt through previous experience – planning our stops well. I’ve blogged before about our love of the National Trust and in my mind long car journeys and National Trust membership are a perfect combination. Whenever we’re doing a long journey I always pull out our annual NT handbook and have a look and see which of their properties are on our journey. They always make great stopping off points – somewhere for the kids to run around, a bit of history or culture for Mr C and myself, good clean toilet and nappy changing facilities and somewhere for lunch and a nice cup of tea. The beauty of being an NT member is that all of this (apart from the tea) is free! It doesn’t matter if you stop off there for 4 hours or just 20 minutes if you’re a member.
On our way down to Coombe Mill we planned a stop off at Tyntesfield and although we didn’t have time to go into the house itself, we enjoyed exploring the gardens and the grounds and also making the most of their lovely restaurant for lunch. The children especially enjoyed being able to run around after several hours in the back of the car.
The grounds at Tyntesfield were lovely and I think we happened to be very fortunate with the weather whilst we were there.
Within seconds of us all getting back into the car this was the scene outside! A sudden monsoon and thunderstorm hit and I’m only glad we weren’t outside when it did.
But, if you ever wanted proof of how well the National Trust look after their tea drinking visitors then this has to be it. Spotted parked up on the far side of the house – perfect for anyone who decides the need a cuppa, but can’t be bothered to walk all the way back to the cafe. If that’s not reason to be a member then I don’t know what is!
We hadn’t really planned a second stop in much detail, but traffic on the M5 was so bad that we ended up pulling in to Killerton quite close to closing time. All we needed was a pit stop, somewhere for the kids to let of a bit of steam and refreshments for the rest of the journey. I think we found the perfect place for our two little dragons!
There’s also one other big plus when it comes to National Trust properties for me – the fact that loads of them now have second hand bookshops. I set off to Cornwall without any Ladybird books and this is what I’d found before we’d even got there. And I paid no more than 60p for any of them. It certainly brightened up my journey.
Anyway – so on to Coombe Mill we went and I have to say it was a wonderful feeling to finally get there and get a lovely welcoming hug from Fiona. There is so much to say about our stay that I won’t try to squeeze everything in here – I plan to blog about the rest of our holiday day-by-day, but there will be a whole post devoted to the magic of Coombe itself. How could there not be?
There was one new experience left for us that day though – getting the kids to sleep in a shared bedroom for the first time in well over a year. How did I not realise just how difficult this was going to be? Finally at about 11.15 that night exhaustion finally overcame them. A shame Mr C and I were ready to drop about a hour earlier, but then again I suppose when you’re on holiday on a farm for the first time it’s all rather exciting when you’re little!