After having to postpone or cancel several trips over the last 18 months, it was a strange sensation to be boarding a plane at Aberdeen airport again.
Like many others, we had to adjust our plans and start looking at possible destinations in the UK. The price of many domestic options has surged given the unprecedented demand for staycations, but the benefit of the earlier school holidays in Scotland allows us the chance to travel to England in early July when the peak of the summer season has not quite begun.
Since we’d already taken our kids on trips to Northumberland and Cumbria, we set our sights further afield and opted for a family break in Devon.
We flew to Gatwick, and after a short delay we were heading along the M4 towards south-west England.
Our choice of accommodation was Torridge House, located near Great Torrington in North Devon. It offers a choice of nine different cottages, set in spacious gardens and with an outdoor pool and a games rooms for guests to enjoy.
However, its main draw, and why we chose to stay there, is that it allows the opportunity for children to help look after some of the animals.
As our daughter is bunny-mad at the moment, she was delighted to have the chance to feed and cuddle the guinea pigs and rabbits.
The owners of Torridge House are very considerate and patient with younger visitors, even if our skills at rounding up the resident geese and ducks in the evening needed a little bit of practise.
North Devon has a variety of family attractions, with one of its most popular being The Big Sheep theme park. Along with rides aimed at younger kids, it also features sheep racing and live duck trials, which is not something you see at your average theme park. Although some attractions were closed due to the current circumstances, there was still more than enough to keep us all entertained.
Devon shares some characteristics with the north of Scotland, with winding roads and weather that changes in an instant.
Some of the driving can be slow, but the main A30 road which bisects Devon has been upgraded in recent years and meant that we could drive in just over an hour to the Eden Project in neighbouring Cornwall.
The setting is spectacular, with the two huge domes in a former china clay pit.
Although it felt relatively busy compared to some other attractions we visited, the timed entry and other measures put in place meant that even the most popular parts of the site did not feel too crowded.
In addition to visiting the biomes, the Eden Project has sensibly diversified with an adventure centre situated nearby. This allows intrepid visitors to fly over the domes on England’s longest zip-wire, which is almost 700m long, and must be one of the most spectacular adrenaline activity locations anywhere in Europe.
If visitors are in need of something a little more sedate, North Devon has a huge choice of beaches, ranging from popular surf spots such as Westward Ho, to the unique setting of car-free Clovelly.
One of the most popular locations is Ilfracombe, which at first glance seems like a typical sea-side resort, but possesses a few surprises. Damien Hirst’s 20-metre tall sculpture of “Verity” looms over the harbour, where day trips to the Isle of Lundy depart from.
On the other side of the town we visited the unusual Tunnels Beach. This was hand carved in the early 1800s, with the tunnels leading to a sheltered beach as well as one of the UK’s best locations for rock-pooling.
Such is the popularity of the location, one section called “The Gentleman’s Beach” is often booked by couples for weddings, although another part is open every day to visitors.
Although we enjoyed our day trips, the best aspect of our holiday was how much our kids liked staying at Torridge House.
We filled a couple of hours every day watching them play in the grounds and tending to the animals. This, along with the friendliness of people we encountered throughout Devon, made it a thoroughly enjoyable break, and perhaps made me realise that a domestic holiday is something we should consider more often.
- EasyJet operates daily flights from Aberdeen to London Gatwick.
- Price for a week’s stay in Courtyard Cottage at Torridge House is £693 in early July.
- Seven-day hire of a small SUV from Sixt was £270.