With 2 children under 5 I have frequented most of the soft play places around our local area on more than one occasion. Love them or loathe them there’s no denying that kids like them and they can be a lifesaver on rainy days. So I thought I would share a little bit of info about the soft play in our local area to help other mums finding their way in the world of soft play.
We love sacrewell farm and the play barn is brilliant. It is cleaner than many a soft play I’ve seen and the kids adore it. There are different areas for different ages and it really is great. The entry cost is high because you get entrance to the farm too. We were given membership as a Christmas present last year and have definitely made the most of it in th play barn alone, let alone visiting the rest of the farm, so it is worth considering if you have little ones. Food:
There is a kiosk in the soft play that is open at weekends or holidays and a café in the main farm entrance building. Food is reasonably priced but you can also bring your own food. There are a lot of picnic tables in the play barn and no problem whatsoever having a picnic inside or out. Parking:
Loads of free parking outside the farm.
A classic soft play this, a huge building with all sorts inside, big guns that shoot soft balls, a race track, tunnel slides, ball pits and a bouncy castle. They have recently redone the younger kids area which is now fantastic. The rest of the centre could do with some attention though as some of the aforementioned guns don’t work and the carpets are pretty filthy. Fairly expensive and I’m not a fan of having to pay for adults to come in when obviously adults are only there to accompany and supervise children. It’s not like a theme park after all. Food:
There is a canteen serving some pretty basic but acceptable food and I’ve also never had any problem taking my own food for the kids. Parking:
A fair bit of parking round the back however I would imagine it would be completely full at half terms and weekends (I’ve only been during term time). It is on the number 1 bus route though.
Similar to Big Sky in that is a purpose built soft play. Could definitely do with some attention though as some areas really are filthy. It is fairly pricy and also charges for adults like Big Sky does. They do however give you a discounted reentry if you return after 7 days with your receipt. It is also huge and the kids love it. Food:
There is a canteen which serves a limited amount of food. You cannot take your own food in and I have a friend who was even charged for tap water for her child. Parking:
There is a good amount of parking, I’ve never had trouble getting space even during half term though it does get extremely busy.
Much smaller than the likes of the above but still a decent sized soft play with a smaller area for babies. Only charges for children which is a plus and is in better condition than Big Sky or Activity World. Food:
You aren’t allowed to take your own for food in. The food they serve is yummy though and not too expensive. Parking:
The parking here is limited unfortunately and I have had to park on adjacent streets a few times as there are only a few spaces in the adjacent car park.
Much smaller than any of the above and not soft play in terms of slides or ball pits but this is a very lovely cafe with a large indoor play area attached to Calmababy. There is also an outdoor play area for in the summer but quite a lot to entertain little ones in the playarea indoors while you have some cake and a natter. No entry charge. Food:
Lovely food and reasonably priced. It’s primarily a café so you can’t take your own food in. Parking:
Quite a lot of parking in the car park, it can get busy at peak times as it is for Calmababy swimming pool too.
As with the above, a bit of a lose link to soft play. It is a play area in the cafe of Kiddicare. It has a soft floor and loads of toys for little ones to play with while you have a cuppa. Some weekday mornings childminders pay a visit so it can get a bit full. Free to use and not bad when your kids are little but not much good for older kids. Sort of a pre-soft play play area I guess! Food:
Being free to use and attached to the cafe it is frowned upon to bring your own food and the food there isn’t too bad. Parking:
Plenty of free parking
Slightly odd one but there is a soft play attached to the Brewers Fayre in Hampton. There is a fee to use but it is not very much. It’s a bit dingy and tired but the kids enjoy it and there is an area for little ones as well as older ones. The opening times are linked with the restaurant so are a bit unusual but I believe it opens earlier one morning a week for a coffee morning. Call them for more information. Food:
It is attached to the restaurant so I think that generally the assumption is that you will have eaten there first or will be eating there. But I have fed the kids snacks at the tables near the soft play without a problem. Parking:
Shared with the restaurant and Premier Inn so it can get quite full. Don’t park in the McDonald’s opposite as you could be fined if you haven’t bought anything in McDonald’s.
Quite a nice sized soft play that both my kids have always enjoyed. An area for younger ones with big soft bricks to stack, a ball pool and a decent slide. There’s also an outdoor play area and entry to the soft play is not at all expensive Food:
You can’t take your own food as it is part of the cafe. Some of the food is a bit pricy in my opinion, though if you order early (before 11.30) and can get breakfast beans on toast is quite reasonable. Parking:
Ample parking at the garden centre.
There is a fairly small soft play area in the garden centre cafe, in a families area that has its own counter. It is small and quite dark but the kids had fun in there. Ok for while you are waiting for food but not great for a long visit I wouldn’t say. Food:
You can’t take your own food as it is part of the cafe. They serve a few things from the counter in the family area or you can get things from the main cafe too. Parking:
So there you have it, a bit of a run down of I think most of the soft play and stay and play cafes in the area. Please let me know if you know of any I have missed, there is one in Whittlesey but I was unable to go in the one time I tried as it was busy and I haven’t gotten round to returning but it is supposed to be pretty good.
All of the above information is correct to the best of my knowledge and based on my most recent visit. I haven’t included entry prices as these are obviously subject to change. This is all based on my own personal experiences and I haven’t received any payment for sharing this post.
Last weekend we were headed to the Peak District to celebrate my aunt’s 70th. As it is a fair old distance for the kids in the car we decided to do our usual and break the journey at a National Trust place along the way. We chose Sudbury Hall because I heard it had a great play area and also because we thought that the kids may enjoy the museum of childhood if the weather turned sour.
I love being a member of the National Trust and love a good family day out at a National Trust property. We’ve visited quite a few now but my favourite has to be Belton House. I remember visiting as a kid so there are lots of great memories associated with it, but it is even better now if anything. It’s just a stunning place to go, whatever the time of year, and there’s always so much for the kids too.
I’ve been itching to go again so this half term my Mum and I took the kids for the day and had an amazing time. As we got close to Grantham up the A1 on the way there a heavy fog descended and it was decidedly grey and chilly when we arrived so we popped to the fantastic stay and play cafe for some tea and cake first.
Our gorgeous girl turned 2 on Saturday and I think it is safe to say she had a lovely birthday… even though I’m pretty sure she didn’t really get what was going on!
We started off with presents on our bed. The lighting for these shots is terrible and we’re obviously all very sleepy but I love the happiness nonetheless. There were some lovely siblings moments where Monkey helped LM open her presents (and play with them haha) and she was definitely very excited by them.
I’m a bit late joining in with the fab Me and Mine linky this month. In fact I wasn’t planning on joining up at all as the only shot I have of us as a family this month is one on our bikes, which isn’t the best.
But then today, after a slightly odd morning with ratty kiddies who are coming down with colds (and therefore slightly ratty parents too) we decided to get out and get some fresh air on a little autumnal walk. We found the most conkers I’ve ever seen in my life and had a good old nature hunt in general.
Then during a little game of family hide and seek we managed to grab a few very happy family selfies.
We had a lovely walk and as always a bit of fresh air did us all the world of good. So this is us, at the beginning of October, enjoying autumn.
My parents are both from South West London and when I was growing up we spent a lot of time there visiting my grandparents and aunt and uncle. As such it holds a special place in my heart and there are lots of memories based there. My lovely Auntie Maggie still lives there and as we hadn’t been down for about a year we decided to take a few days down there.
We met Maggie at National Trust Claremont Gardens. Somewhere I had apparently been as a child though I don’t remember. (My memory for specifics is pretty awful!) It was a stunning place to explore and we had a lovely lovely day.
Then it was back to Maggie’s and after the kids’ tea we took a walk over to the common. Cannon Hill Common is somewhere that will always hold a lot of memories. My grandparents lived on one side and my aunt and uncle on the other. We often walked between the two, went to see the ducks on the lake and to play on the play park. It was really nice to share it with hubs and the kids and we had such a nice evening walk. The kids particularly loved having a good climb on some fallen tree trunks as the sun went down.
The next morning we decided to visit Deen City Farm which wasn’t too far away. A lovely little farm which is free to enter and has numerous lovely animals to see including pigs, chickens, cows, goats and even an Alpaca! You can cuddle some Guinea pigs, bunnies or ferrets for a couple of pound and there is a nice play area too. Unfortunately we had a pair of incredibly cranky kids that morning so we didn’t stay too long, but it was lovely!
We decided to have a slightly chilled afternoon and our Little Madam really needed a nap (having gone about 3 days without one) so hung out at Maggie’s for a while. We did some drawing and tries to teach the kids to play boules in the garden.
Monkey had a snuggle on the sofa with daddy while LM thankfully had a nap which she really needed. On our trip to the common the previous day we had seen lots of blackberries and had promised Monkey we would return to do some picking, so when LM had woken up a bit we headed back to the common. We got a fab haul and Monkey and LM had such a lovely sibling moment together, walking through the woods holding hands.
We aimed for the play park on the common and were pleasantly surprised to find the paddling pools there filled, both with water and with children! We were totally unprepared but it was so hot there was no keeping LM out of there, and Monkey soon followed. Honestly it was the happiest I had seen the kids in days being able to cool off in the water, even fully clothed haha.
That evening we had a bit of a disaster. While showering the kids (as Maggie doesn’t have a bath) Hubs unfortunately managed to pull a bit of the shower off the wall, sending water everywhere. He got it back together and we thought that was the end of it until water began pouring through the ceiling! Nightmare! After a bit of panic initially we had a glass or 2 of wine and had dinner and waited for a plumber to come out. He helped put our minds at ease that it was back together properly and there would be no more leaks. Turns out there was a screw missing which is why it came off so easily so it wasn’t entirely hubs fault!
The next morning I went for a lovely run across the common while the kids had some scrumpy boiled eggs for breakfast. Then it was back to the common for a visit to the play area before packing up and heading home after lunch.
We had such a lovely few days, albeit with some difficult moments with some cranky children. But that’s normal really, especially when we were so busy and it was so hot and sunny! I thought Maggie would be glad of the peace once we left but apparently it is very quiet without us. We will just have to go again soon won’t we!
Well we are home from our holiday, are up to date on laundry and life is getting back to normal. It is nice to be back in our own bed and to have more space for the kids. The cottage we were staying in is gorgeous and quaint and we are so grateful to our friend letting us stay while he is out of the country… But it is also very cosy to contain 2 children and not that child safe for our crazy climbing LM.
We were lucky with the weather though and got out and about loads, as you may have seen on my previous posts, and we really did have a wonderful time as a family.
Of course it wasn’t without its challenges and ups and downs though. Hubs was reading an article about something business related and in it contained this great quote.
“Becoming a parent is a wonderful thing, but it robs you of a certain freedom. That is: the freedom to do nothing. To sit around, to lounge, to waste time, with no responsibilities or duties tugging at your sleeve, no endless mental to-do list to tick off.
Last week, my wife and I took our two-year-old son on holiday. We had a lovely time. But, as every parent knows, a holiday with a toddler isn’t a holiday. It’s a job.
That job, beginning at dawn each day or earlier, is to entertain, or at least contain, an insatiably restless two-foot whirlwind of wants and demands. It’s fun. But there isn’t a moment of silence or solitude.
You spend six months looking forward to your holiday, so that you can take a break from work; then you spend your holiday looking forward to your return to work, so that you can take a break from childcare.”
It’s so true as holidays before kids are so different to holidays after kids. I imagine they continue to change and as they grow that you can have relaxing times. But when they are little it is a full time job keeping them entertained, regardless of where you are!
For hubs this was a working holiday and we are hugely lucky that he can basically work from anywhere with an Internet connection and can do some work out of business hours, which meant he was able to spend a few hours each day with us exploring Dorset and having fun with us. This made my life much easier than it is at home as obviously I am normally on my own with the kids all day when he is at the office.
There were challenges though as there always are with kids, especially with kids at different ages with different ability levels. Sometimes I really struggle to do something that makes both of them happy at the same time. One afternoon I got out the paddling pool thinking they would love it. Monkey refused to get in and LM lasted about 30s with constant attention then got bored. Sometimes I wonder why I bother as they are happier plonked in front of peppa pig or paw patrol!
They did enjoy our days out though and the beach was a real winner this year. On our holiday last September LM hated the sand so the beach was a stressful trip. It is lovely now as she adores the sand! Monkey is still very nervous of the water but he did go in the sea, and LM hates the waves in the sea.. But they both love the sand and we were lucky with some lovely warm pools created by the tide going out which LM really loved. Its not a relaxing day as they do like us to be involved at all times but they were so happy so at least it wasn’t too stressful!
By completely random coincidence some very good friends of our happened to be on holiday in Dorset at the same as we were. Jo and I met travelling in Argentina of all places about 9 years ago and we have stayed good friends but with living 2 1/2 hours away we don’t see each other more than a couple of times a year. Especially now there are kids to think about. Its pretty amazing though as our eldest 2 are 6 mths apart in age and our youngest about 5 mths apart and they all get on so so well.
We saw them more in the last 2 weeks than in the previous few years and it was so so wonderful. We had a couple of beach days together which were fantastic and made it a bit more relaxing as at least we could take it in turns a bit to be with the kids and the kids entertained each other a lot more which was wonderful.
They also came for a play at our cottage one day, and brilliantly, when their relatives joined them for the second week and we’re able to babysit they came over one evening for a glass of wine and a natter without children interrupting us. It was so so lovely.
Some of our other very good friends from home were also down in Dorset for a weekend at the end of their family holiday to Devon so the kids adored meeting up with them too for a day out at Monkey World. Again it helped having other kids for our kids to play with, and other adults for us to natter with. It also helped having a bit of solidarity when our little madam threw an almighty tantrum at lunchtime… And vice versa when their son didn’t want to eat his dinner. Much less embarrassing when you can talk about it with your friends rather than just have everyone in the place staring at you while you try and deal with it. They still stare of course but it definitely helped having company.
Because our little lady really has tested us while we were away. If anything her behaviour has improved towards the end and now we are home but she was a nightmare at times and when she goes oh my goodness she is so loud. As one of the friends we met up with put it “she certainly has a voice!” and she most definitely does. She really struggled to settle for the first couple of days at the cottage and the tiredness from bad nights sleep and lack of naps really affected her so we were hugely relieved when she got used to her surroundings and started sleeping better.
Most of the other tantrums we had with her were around food… We had an absolutely disastrous meal at Prezzo one evening which was just a stressfest of her screaming and us scoffing as quickly as we could while paying £45 for the privilege. We had a couple of other lunches out which were better… mainly because they were places that served baked beans, and because I had a dairylea dunker ready as back up as I knew she’d at least eat some cheese if she decided they weren’t the right baked beans. (I never do this at home but sometimes avoiding the stress in a restaurant is so worth it). Hubs is adamant that we are having no more meals out until she is a bit older though as it just isn’t enjoyable!
On the whole Monkey was a really good boy while we’re away but he did get tired as the time went on “I’m so tired from all the days and days” which made him tired and fractious at times.
I’m not trying to paint a negative picture of our holiday, just a realistic one. Its easy with all the smiles and golden sunny images for it to appear perfect, which of course it wasn’t. We had so much fun on the beach, with friends and on days out. There was lovely times at the cottage and on the play area. But when you have 2 children under 5 nothing is without its challenges, and even holidays can be hard work. So much as I loved it and in many ways I am sad that it is over… I am glad to be home. The kids were so excited when they came back to all of their toys and everything that is familiar. I am not terrified every second that LM is climbing on something or reaching something that she shouldn’t. She can go outside without tripping on a step and scraping her legs (almost a daily occurance while we were away).. Oh and at home we have a dishwasher (yippee) and the ceilings are high enough for hubs to stand up straight without banging his head haha. So it is good to be home.
Do you find holidays with kids hard work or is it just us?
You may have seen that we have been having a rather lovely holiday in Dorset. I wrote a post about some of the many fun things you can do with little ones while you are here, but I also wanted to share a few of our other adventures while we’ve been away. You see I love the countryside and I like to get away from the beaten track sometimes. I like the peace and am always on the hunt for stunning views. This can take us to some slightly crazy places, and well, because we are a little bit loony, we’ve come up with a song about these adventures.
(to the tune of Andy’s prehistoric adventures)
“Mummy’s crazy countryside adventures, come join the crew!
Come into the countryside but watch out for that poo!
Yeah mind the poo!
Mummy’s crazy countryside adventures, Mummy’s crazy countryside adventures! ”
Cheesy but it amused us! Anyway sometimes these adventures are wonderful.. Other times a little less so.
Our first adventure on this holiday was to see the NT site of Eggardon Hill, the site of an Iron Age Hill Fort. Parking was a layby on a “roman road” opposite a footpath. We headed down the extremely overgrown, bumpy and long footpath and I know at times like these my hubs seriously doubts my sanity.
But it was worth it when we arrived. It was so windy but oh the views! We were up and down the terraces of the Fort like mountain goats (or something like that) and well the kids loved the adventure of it all.
I love seeing the kids run around and have fun amongst the long grass and wild flowers. We didn’t stay too long but we got some fresh air in our lungs to blast away the cobwebs and had a good run around.
Our next adventure was another NT site, to see the chalk giant of Cerne Abbas. Monkey was hugely excited at the prospect of seeing a giant and when we got to the viewpoint he loved pointing out his legs, his willy and his nipples haha as you can imagine any 4yr old would!
I wasn’t sure if you could actually get to the giant and I’m afraid we didn’t manage it. We did set off but on this occasion had the buggy with us. We got part way up the hillside tracks until the path considerably narrowed and became heavily overgrown and you had to start crossing stiles. Much to Monkey disappointment we gave up, then turned into the village itself for a lovely wander past a stream and found a play park! Always a good find with little ones so all was not lost .
Another adventure on our holiday, and by far the least successful one, was our trip to Maiden Castle, the largest Iron Age Fort in Europe apparently and an English heritage site. (All of these places are free to visit though). It was at the end of 2 horribly wet days, and we were all a bit stir crazy from being indoors. (The cottage we were housesitting in is lovely but very small to contain an adventurous LM who won’t sit still for 5 mins). The weather had dried and sun come out so we headed off. Unfortunately though as we arrived the clouds and misty rolled back in.
Unperturbed we put on our waterproofs and headed up the hill. To say it was windy was an understatement and LM hated it. She screamed her little head off and seemed terrified she was going to lose one of us as she kept going between the two of us and wasn’t happy in either of our arms for more than a few seconds at a time.
We reached the top and in a small bit of shelter had a drink and she did cheer up a little so we went for an explore.
Unfortunately though she just became more and more upset so we really didn’t stay long at all, which was a shame as Monkey was enjoying himself, and so were we, even though there was no chance of views. The screaming was awful though so we headed back down the hill, trying to avoid the sheep poo which was everywhere! This adventure definitely goes down as a fail as I have rarely heard LM quite so unhappy!
We got back and the kids had a great run around in the puddle by the cottage so at least the outing had a happy ending (until Monkey face planted the puddle and cut his hand, ouch!)
Mummy’s crazy countryside adventures may have there ups and downs but on the whole I love them just as much as I love the more traditional touristy days out, and look forward to many more adventures with my little ones as they grow. (At least for as long as they put up with them haha).
Thanks to our lovely friend who lets us housesit for a couple of weeks in the summer while they are out of the country, we are getting to know Dorset pretty well and have had some wonderful days out with the kiddies. So I thought rather than loads of posts about each place, I would compile a list of where to go on holiday in Dorset with toddlers, based on our experience. Now of course this list isn’t exhaustive and there are probably lots of other wonderful places to visit too.. But these are our favourites so far.
Places to see Animals
Weymouth Sealife Centre
We do love a good aquarium or sea life centre, and the one in Weymouth is a particularly good one as there is so much to see and do. Animals wise, there are so many fish, sharks, rays, jelly fish and all sorts of different habitats to have a look at. There are rock pools where you can stroke starfish and try not to get nipped by some lovely big crabs. There are also some other wonderful animals there too, with seals, penguins, frogs, turtles and otters in addition to the more traditional aquarium animals. The kids adored looking at them all.
It’s not just about the animals though as there also some great fun rides to go on, including a log flume, and they have a fantastic splash zone. I recommend taking swimwear for the kiddies as the paddling pool with slide and water fountains are really great fun. There is also a normal play area which the kids loved too.
Before you go: It is definitely worth booking tickets online before you go as they are much cheaper than on the day. Everywhere is very accessible for pushchairs for little ones and there are loads of places to sit and enjoy a picnic. We ate from the cafe there and the kids enjoyed it but it was bit pricey and there wasn’t a huge amount of choice so if we went again i would definitely take food with us.
Monkey World, Wareham
Monkey world near Wareham is a really lovely place housing primates which have been rescued from less savoury zoos or from the pet trade. It is a lovely site, with nice big enclosures for the monkeys and lots of viewing points s you can see them swinging around happily or having a rest. There are all sorts there, with Lemurs, Orangutans, Chimps, Capuchin Monkeys and Spider Monkeys to name but a few and the kids loved looking around.
There are also some really great playparks for your little Monkeys to clamber about on, with some dotted around the park and a particularly brilliant big one at the end which the kids adored.
Before you go:Monkey World is really accessible with paths suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs, they even have swings which can be used with wheelchairs. We ate there and while there wasn’t a huge amount of choice in the cafe we chose, the food was simple sandwiches and was all we really wanted anyway. There are a few cafes throughout the park, as well as snack stops and lots of places to sit if you would prefer to take a picnic. Toilets are also dotted about and easy to find and on the whole we were impressed, places were clean and food wasn’t too expensive.
Abbotsury is a small village to the west of Weymouth which houses a few great tourist attractions. A childs farm, tropical gardens and a swannery. You can buy access to all 3 for £17 for an adult which makes it very reasonable, however we have only seen the swannery so far. The swannery is such a beautiful place, very peaceful and we found it really lovely to go somewhere a bit different. The swans are all so well cared for and the kids adored seeing the signets. Monkey was also thrilled to be able to take part in the feeding of the hundreds of swans. They are well practiced at this to make sure that everyone who wants a go can have a go and it was great fun.
The kids loved exploring across the site and they particularly loved the giant maze in the shape of a swan. Monkey loves a maze and the great thing about this one was all the percussion instruments dotted about. There is also a quiz you can complete if you find all of the points throughout the maze which Monkey really enjoyed. I was glad to have the map they gave us at the entrance as it helped us get out quickly when LM got tired and hungry for her lunch!
Before you go: Everywhere is accessible for pushchairs or wheelchairs, and I would recommend taking a pushchair for little legs as it is quite a walk from the entrance to the swans. There is a playpark by the entrance and a lovely cafe with a great menu, but this is also by the entrance so we decided to take a picnic to avoid having to walk back at lunchtime. There are plenty of lovely spots for a picnic including a nice shady area for sunny days, or benches to sit and watch the swans. Feeding the swans is at 12:00 everyday and well worth joining in with.
Many of the beaches around the South and West of Dorset are shale, or stony, beaches, which can be lovely but lets face it, the best beach days out with toddlers are sandy ones where lots of sandcastles can be built. To that end, here are favourite sandy beaches in Dorset.
The area to the east of Weymouth, near the sea life centre, has a long and stony beach, however the beach at the centre of Weymouth itself is a very lovely sandy beach, perfect for taking the kids to.
Before you go: The beach was clean and the sea wasn’t too cold, even though we were there on an overcast day. There are public toilets, lots of places to buy ice creams and buckets and spades, and to hire deck chairs from. There are a couple of options for parking within easy walking distance, you could park near the pavilion and Jurassic Skyline, which is quite close to the beach, or as we did, park at the Swannery car park, which is very easy to get to and also only a short walk to the sea front.
Middle Beach, Studland
In East Dorset, in an area known as the Isle of Purbeck, we found a truly lovely, lovely beach at Studland bay. It’s just one of those lovely lovely places you don’t want to leave and can’t wait to get back to! The bay is huge so there is plenty of space and we opted for Middle Beach, so I’m not sure what the other areas are like. There is supposedly a naturist area on the beach but this is apparently well signposted and we didn’t come across it.
We loved this beach because the sand was clean and perfect for digging and building castles. We arrived when the tide was fairly high and it went out throughout the day. This is the perfect beach for paddling as the water is very shallow and you can walk out really far without it ever going over your knees. This also means the water is a lovely temperature and gets steadily warmer throughout the day, it is also incredibly clear so no nasty surprises. Our littlest lady isn’t a fan of the noise of waves but she loves exploring the pools created by the receding tide, and we even found som nature to explore in them.
There are gorgeous views from the beach, you can see over to Poole and Bournemouth to the north, or looking straight ahead you can even make out the Isle of Wight! To the south of the bay are Old Harry’s Rocks.
Before you go:Maintained by the National Trust, parking is free for NT members. Access from the car park to the beach isn’t too far but it is down a fairly steep and uneven path through and behind a lot of beach huts, so I wouldn’t recommend taking a pushchair down, though I did see someone manage it. There are toilet facilities and a cafe which were very nice though we took a picnic with us. The beach is dog friendly so be aware of that, dogs are supposed to be kept on the lead however many owners flouted this rule, though we only had one instance of dogs running through our things, as most were well behaved and looked after.
The Durdle Door
The Durdle Door tops many a “must see” list for places to visit while in Dorset, but it is not the most accessible place, especially if you have small children. You can read more information about how not to do it from my post last year, which includes a map of the route to get to the beach itself.
The Durdle Door is a stunning rock formation of an archway in a simply stunning spot on the south Dorset coastline, honestly you would think you were in the mediterranean or something with the clear blue waters and it is definitely worth a visit, though it is not without it’s challenges. It is the one beach I am mentioning here which is a stony beach, because the views are worth it but no sandcastles are being built here.
Before you go: The access from the car park to the Durdle Door and beach is incredibly long, steep and includes a lot of incredibly steep steps. I would definitely not recommend taking a pushchair and advise you to travel light. It is stoney beach so no point taking buckets and spades, and when we were there the waves were pretty rough so the kids would not go near the sea. There are no toilets and the only facilities are an ice cream van about halfway down so take plenty of drink and some snacks if not a picnic. For more information, read this post.
The beach at Swanage is also said to be very lovely and sandy however we are yet to visit so I can’t say more than that really!
South of Weymouth is the island of Portland which has places to visit too. We found out too late about a pirate graveyard which Monkey would have enjoyed, but we did manage to visit a couple of places on the island.
Portland Bill Lighthouse.
At the southern tip of the island there is a lovely lighthouse called portland bill. It is a stunning place to visit with the ocean all around and the remains of a quarry of Portland stone perfect for scrambling over. There is a visitors centre you can pay to look around and older children and adults can pay to go up the lighthouse however as we wouldn’t all have been able to go, we were content just exploring the outside.
Before you go: there is a great big car park there and a lovely little restaurant nearby, which was child friendly although the child meals were quite pricey in my opinion.
For the lighthouse itself it is approx. £3 to go in the visitor centre or £7 to also climb the lighthouse. But, be aware that babies and small children cannot be carried up. Children must be over I think 1.1m tall and able to get up under their own steam.
Portland Castle is run by English heritage and we found it to be a great little Fort, actually about the perfect size for a short trip with our little ones. Under 5s are free and it is just under £6 per adult to get in. The kids loved exploring the ramparts and seeing the cannons. They also really really enjoyed the dressing up area, as you can see below!
Before you go: we did take the buggy but had to abandon it a couple of times as it isn’t really accessible as tou would expect from such an old Castle. There is facilities and a nice cafe on site though sadly they didn’t seem to serve ice creams when we were there.
Other places to visit
Swanage railway and Corfe castle
One of our highlights from our holiday last year was our trip on the Swanage Steam Railway to visit Corfe Castle. The railway runs between Swanage and Norden, just to the north of Corfe Castle. You don’t have to visit the castle on your trip, and you can visit the castle without riding the railway but it does make for a nice day out to combine the two. We chose to drive to Swanage and take the train to the castle where we loved having a good explore (we do love a good castle) then return to Swanage to drive home. You could however park at the castle and take the train to swanage too.
Kids love trains so our two definitely enjoyed a ride on the train and the staff were great with stamping tickets etc. The Castle itself is simply stunning with the ruins perched atop a hill with amazing views of the surrounding countryside.
Before you go:There is no car park at the station in Swanage, just a co-op with a short stay, however there is a large car park just 5-10 minutes walk away. The journey between Swanage and the castle is about 20 minutes so we had a picnic on the train, however there are some cafes at Corfe Castle which are lovely too.
On arrival at the castle we were advised not to take our pushchair up as the ground was very uneven, however we did see others pushing buggies around so I think that is up to you really. the National Trust do have some baby carriers you can borrow. It is very hilly and steep so may be tricky to navigate for some little legs. LM wasn’t walking when we went last year so she was carried around by us.
Dorchester Dinosaur Museum
There are a few museums in Dorchester but we have only visited the Dinosaur Museum so far. We went on a particular wet and rainy day on our holiday last year. It is a lovely little museum with lots of Dinosaur information and some great model Dinosaurs.
It isn’t very big however so on a wet day it can get incredibly busy and quite warm as a result. There are stairs inside so we were asked to park our buggy near the entrance.
Before you go: Don’t plan to stay too long and be aware that you may not be able to take a pushchair with you and if you do it will make getting around quite tricky.
Munchkins Cafe Dorchester
A really great find for a rainy day is this stay and play cafe, possibly the best of its kind I have seen. With over half of the cafe, and much of the garden, dedicated to toys and play areas, the kids absolutely adored it. there is a slide which goes down the set of stairs in the cafe and just so much for the kids to play with. Outside is a sand pit and some water toys for hot days too.
Add to that the food we had was delicious and there is free wifi, perfect for blogging or surfing while the kids play.
Before you go: There is a charge for playing at the cafe, however this is discounted for siblings and one charge lasts for 7 days which makes it incredibly good value. They have fantastic facilities for baby changing, even providing nappy bags and hand sanitiser free of charge. There is a breastfeeding room should you wish for some privacy and just about anything you can think of that your little ones would like. Because it is great, weekends and rainy days can get busy, however on a dreary week day when the kids needed a quiet day we found it to be perfect and it wasn’t too busy. The nearest parking is on Trinity Street and is £1 for a couple of hours.
So there we have it. Some of our favourite places in this neck of the woods. No doubt there are lots of other wonderful places but hopefully I will have given you some ideas for where to go on holiday in Dorset with toddlers.
One of LM’s favourite ever foods, is strawberries. I honestly believe she would eat them all day every day if she could. So being strawberry season when my Mum and I were trying to think of something different to do with the kids one day I thought we should go strawberry picking!
We are really fortunate that literally a couple of minutes away from us in the car is a really great pick your own farm. Hill Farm does a variety of pick your own crops throughout the year but I normally miss the strawberries and by the time I get round to visiting it is plum and blackberry season. This year, despite the wet weather we have been having I was determined we would get to pick some strawberries.
After a dry day Tuesday, Wednesday was unfortunately was grey and a bit wet. We headed off nonetheless clad in waterproofs and wellies, expecting hill farm to be wet and muddy, which it was!
One of the things the kids love most about this farm is the play area. My little climbers adore exploring and sliding and climbing… And on a day like today, splashing in huge muddy puddles haha.
After a bit of a play it was off to find some strawberries. I really love that minutes away from the suburbia where we live is countryside and views like this.
Monkey loved picking strawberries and they had so so many yummy juicy ones. He even tried one which was good as he only likes eating dried strawberries (eye roll).
Whereas LM basically just wanted to eat them haha. Hardly a surprise
Nanny was addicted to picking and we soon had so many strawberries I joked they were coming out of our ears.
We decided to head back when out tub was full so we could stop LM from eating basically every strawberry left in the field. She then got really mardy and bless her I think she was hot and grumpy. It was so humid and I was hot in my waterproofs so no doubt she was too. So I stripped them off and we had some cake which cheered her up. Thank goodness as she was screaming the place down by then!
They have birds of prey on display at the farm that have been raised in captivity and rescued and they are building a more permanent site for them at the farm too. They are so beautiful and the kids loved looking at them. LM was waving hello and giggling and they had a baby kestrel who was so cute and fluffy.
Of course the kids wanted another play on the play area so LM was straight back in the puddles and got a bit soggy, despite my best efforts! One of the lovely friendly farm dogs also came out for a play. We had planned on staying for a picnic but it started raining so then it was time to head home.
We had such a lovely time though and the strawberries were so delicious that no doubt we will be back again soon. Do you like pick your own farms?