From Glamping to the Harry Potter Studios

A couple of years ago I didn’t have a blog so couldn’t write about our family trip, Glamping at Warwick Castle and visiting the Harry Potter Studios. So, I thought I’d share our experience now. Better late than never!

Warwick Castle & Glamping

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The first stop was Warwick Castle, for a day exploring the castle and its grounds, and a night of glamping. When we entered we didn’t realise that Horrible Histories would be there, so that was a nice surprise. The actors were brilliant and it’s a great way of learning about history whilst keeping the children interested.

At the entrance was Queen Elizabeth, with a tea party/fancy dress area which showcased makeup of that era. She was very loud and I felt a little nervous to approach the area in case she shouted at me!

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Moving on, there was a lovely cafe and surrounding gardens to enjoy. We then went over to see the birds of prey, which was actually interesting. My partner is a big fan of birds, so this stop was more for him than anyone else. As well as telling you about the birds you get to see them flying in from different areas, and some of them are a lot bigger than expected.

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Heading towards the school you get to experience a Victorian classroom and as Horrible Histories were there, there was obviously a teacher present. As well as teaching you about the era the actor also gets you involved, just don’t answer a question wrong otherwise you’ll have to wear the dunce hat whilst everyone sings and points at you.

Once out of the school area we were greeted by the Stewards, Tudors, Vikings and probably some more but I don’t remember them. Honestly, the stewards seemed the grubbiest and I’m very happy I wasn’t alive then.

The Vikings were interesting with a long outline of a ship they were teaching the audience how to row whilst telling everyone about their hygiene and adventures.

My favourite was a Robin Hood type fellow who taught everyone about the unrealistic movie characters who die instantly when hit with an arrow. He was extremely funny and made some adult jokes whilst not being too rude in front of the children. He also explained why we use our middle finger as a swear word.

After exploring the grounds we then entered the castle itself, we walked around the turrets and along the walls. The castle itself is large and in good condition. There was so much going on including princess’s story times for the young girls, the Dungeons, some sort of dragon tower and much more. One thing is for sure it’s definitely worth a visit and there’s something for everyone, especially when Horrible Histories is there.

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Once we’d finished walking around we headed to the glamping site. Now, I’m not one for camping so this was a troubling time for me and I can say that glamping is not for me either – I just don’t like using communal toilets.

The glamping tents were brilliant and again it ended up being a great experience and one I’m happy we had. During the evening we had, what they called a medieval banquet – which was just a buffet. I was disappointed by this as I was expecting a king and queen, jester and much more and the food wasn’t great either.

Outside there were many activities taking place, mainly learning to be a jester, which was fun. If you wanted something a little more peaceful one of the tents located just off the main area would be better as you can enjoy the view of the castle and stream whilst relaxing.

Sleeping was a bit difficult due to the noise from other tents, but that’s only an issue if you have noisy neighbours. The young children next door to us woke up un the night for the toilet and entered our tent instead of their own -this was funny and they laughed for ages -we could hear everything.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

Once we left the castle it was a one and a half hour drive to Leavesden where we were staying in a Premier Inn – with our own toilet and shower! The studio was only 15 minutes from the hotel and was very easy to get to.

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We had pre-booked our tickets, so I didn’t think we’d have to wait – but we did and for quite some time. Eventually, after passing some of the props, we got to a room where we were shown a video. Then we entered another room which was like a cinema, where we sat down and watched the cast discuss their time at the studios. Once the video had finished the theme tune came on, the screen rolled up and the Great Hall doors were there.

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Once the doors were opened we all walked in to take a look around. The hall was smaller than I was expecting but it was still good to see. The people who worked there told us how the effects were added to the room on camera.

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Leaving the hall we saw many of the props and green screens. I found this very interesting but my son – not so much. He was more interested in the house, bridge, costumes and the shop at the end.

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Throughout the experience, you can take part in some activities including, green screens of you on a broom, the family in a car, wand lessons and much more. All of us enjoyed this experience.

My favourite area was Diagon Alley, which was smaller than I expected but never the less interesting to see. Again, we were told how the sky was added as an effect and the street was made to look longer.

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Outside we saw the Dudley’s house on Privet Drive, the double decker bus and much more.

At the end, the shop was great we bought a chocolate frog (that didn’t hop), a wand, and some tops. I wanted to buy a robe but it’s quite expensive and I didn’t even buy my own graduation cap and gown so  I wasn’t buying a movie replica.

There’s a lot to see here but it’s mostly props and design work so I don’t really want to go into too much detail. This year I would have liked to have gone back, for the dark forest, train and maybe even Halloween but maybe another time as I have a wedding to pay for.

This Christmas I’m heading to a Harry Potter themed Christmas party at Ruthin Castle, and then one day Florida Universal Studios!

Our Weekend at Thorpe Park

As someone who regularly visits Alton Towers and Legoland, I thought I’d give another Merlin attraction a go.  So for my brother’s 16th birthday, we headed down South to visit Thorpe Park.

After oversleeping we left at 5:00 am and the weather was awful, so we packed ready for winter. At 9:30 we got to Thorpe Park and it was evident the dreary weather from North Wales had not followed us there, we were very hot and had no suncream.

When we got to the park I was happy to see so much security, everyone’s bags were checked before entering and although this was a long process I was pleased it was happening.

Once I had been embarrassed by my Dad complaining about having to pay to park we were ready to enter. To be honest, I do think it’s appalling that we’re expected to pay for parking when we pay £51.50 per adult to enter, and a child’s ticket isn’t much cheaper. Never the less I wasn’t going to say anything to the guy sitting in the booth selling the tickets.

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When we eventually entered the park my son was excited as he could see the roller coasters. The good thing about getting to the theme park early is that you can beat the long queues and get on the rides within 5 minutes.

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The first ride we went on was Tidal Wave, which was really good. I have never been on a water ride that gets you so wet, we were drenched – so it was a good thing that the sun was shining. If we were to go again I’d probably go on this ride at midday, when the weather’s at its hottest but whilst you’ve still got time to dry off. Although the queue to this ride did reach 50 minutes by midday and I wouldn’t have waited in that.

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Just around the corner is Angry Birds land and as soon as we saw the large angry birds there was no stopping my son, we had to visit that area next. We went to watch the Angry Birds 4D experience – mainly to get out of the sun for a little while, and it was really good, all of us enjoyed watching the short film and would definitely watch it again. There were also some bumper cars that my son and Dad went whilst the rest of us went on Stealth.

Stealth at Thorpe Park

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Located in the Amity area of the resort this rollercoaster looks very pleasing to thrill seekers. The coaster takes you from 0-80mph to 205ft in under 2 seconds and it’s a great experience, for those who love roller coasters. We liked this one so much that we went on it twice. Compared to the queues we’re used to standing in at Alton Towers this was very quick to get on.

Nemesis Inferno at Thorpe Park

We then headed to Nemesis Inferno, which in my opinion isn’t as good as Nemesis but it’s still fun. Opening in 2003 this rollercoaster has been part of the park for over 10 years and was originally modelled on the Alton Towers version. The ride is themed around a volcano but feels quite squashed amongst its surroundings. Again we walked straight onto this ride as the monitor said it was unavailable – but it wasn’t.

After stopping for a bite to eat we then ventured over to the river rapids, which my dad who is terrified of rides went on! To be honest, the ride wasn’t very long and there weren’t many areas where you could get wet, I prefer the rapids at LegoLand!

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As we were venturing over to Old Town we stopped near the surrounding lake where there were people doing watersports. It was here we decided to have some lunch when the local ducks came over! I didn’t realise that Thorpe Park was on an island and its location is actually very picturesque. Although I’d imagine this makes any expansion very difficult. Due to this, the park is nowhere near the size of Alton Towers and you can easily get around in a day – if t there are no queues.

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One area that I thought was both practical and fun was the beach where adults with smaller children can chill whilst those who love rides can enjoy themselves – everyone’s a winner. On the beach there ae some beach huts that you can rent out. There’s also water rides that you can enjoy without having to wear a swimming costume.

Heading over to Saw the ride you will find Colossus, which I found hurt my head as it seems a little older than the other rollercoasters.

Colossus at Thorpe Park

This was the park’s first large attraction and you can tell as I said it’s not that comfy!

Next to Colossus is Saw the Ride, which by the time we got to it had a long wait so we gave it a miss. Although it did look like it’d be a good ride

Near these rides was a chocolate fountain so I have marshmallows and strawberries – perhaps the favourite part of my day

Heading back towards the entrance we went on the water rides and some of the smaller fair ground like rides. Which were perfect for my son who isn’t 1.4m yet, which is the height restriction on the larger coasters.

The Swarm at Thorpe Park

Finally we went on The Swarm. Surrounded by a plane crash scene and sounds of the emergency services this area really sets the scene. Plus there are planes from Heathrow flying over head.

The Swarm was my favourite ride on the park and looks the best, in my opinion. Although it didn’t feel very fast and didn’t last for as long as I expected. One good thing about this ride is that we didn’t have to queue for long due to the monitor displaying that it was unavailable – which was not accurate bit again cut the queing time right down.

The only ride that I haven’t mentioned that stood out was Darren Brown’s ghost train. I don’t like ghost trains so we didn’t experience this, although it looks good and the building it’s set in looks good too.

All in all it’s definitely worth a trip if you like that kind of thing.

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Sophie x.

Heading to North Wales?

Growing up and going on caravan holidays to Greenacres in Black Rock Sands I used to feel hard done to! All my friends would go abroad and I was stuck in the UK.

Of course, at that moment in time, I did not realise how much it actually costs to buy and keep a static caravan on a Haven site. Initially, when I found out the cost I used to think ‘why not save that money for a trip to Florida every couple of years?’

Now I have grown up and I have my son things have completely changed. Having a place to escape to every month is worth every penny, even if you only travel for an hour. I definitely want to see the world but if you can’t have it both ways it’s a choice between multiple trips a year and one 2 week holiday. Even though I choose the second option, as I think it’s more of an experience, I’m not completely against the idea of having a place to escape to on the weekends and here’s why…

There are many places in the UK you could choose to visit but for me, North Wales has all my family needs for a peaceful weekend retreat. It may be on my doorstep but the beaches along the Llyn Peninsula and Cardigan Bay are glorious and if the sun is shining they’re perfect.

Morfa Nefyn

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A beautiful beach, that for many years was relatively unknown and therefore was a peaceful and tranquil place. Nowadays more people know about the area but it is still a wonderful place. Situated just beneath a golf course the sea is blue and the sands are golden when the sun is shining it’s like being in France.

There is a small pub on the edge of the beach that serves food and drink and there’s a shop on the road leading down. From the golf course perched on the green cliffs, there is an unspoilt view of the sea and sky – making it the perfect spot to relax.

As Morfa Nefyn can be a little confusing to get to, due to the small lanes I don’t get the opportunity to go very often but it’s definitely worth the journey. When I was a child my mum and dad found the beach by accident when they got lost going somewhere else – but everything happens for a reason and now this is one of my favourite places.

Abersoch

Probably in my top 5 beaches, this is a vibrant beach – the atmosphere is more youthful and the beach attracts those who love watersports. Rather than being relaxing and tranquil like Morfa Nefyn, I would come to this beach if I fancied a more eventful experience.

The village of Abersoch is worth a walk round too, with quaint shops and a local harbour it’s a lovely place to visit.

Llanbedrgoch

Another beach my parents found by accident! The first time I explored this beach as a child, I thought I was abroad. The vibrant beach huts and it’s hidden off road spot make this beach unique and special, growing up I thought it was the beach from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – for some reason! Never the less this made it all the more intriguing to me.

North Wales isn’t just home to some lovely beaches but also some scenic and adventurous walks. I use the word ‘adventurous’ because as a child my dad would tell use the myths and legends as we wondered explored the area, and sometimes we’d even act them out!

Beddgelert

A place of myths and legends, Beddgelert is home to one of the most popular Welsh legends. The legend of Gelert is taught is almost every school in North Wales and for some reason, it’s a story I have never forgotten.

As a small girl, my dad would enjoy taking us to see Gelerts grave, before walking along the stream and through its footpath. We would then enjoy a picnic in the field before taking a walk into the hills, where you’d see Celtic ruins (well that’s what we thought they were) and be reminded of Welsh history.

Once the walk was over we’d visit the local shop (not sure if it’s still there) where Rupert Bear would be in the window – as this is where the illustrator Mr. Alfred Edmeades Bestall M.B.E. was from. We’d then enjoy an ice cream in the from the ice cream shop.

Snowdonia

Perhaps one of, if not the most well-known place in North Wales the walk up Snowdonia can be tiring, so we would generally take the train or walk until we were tired. I personally don’t like taking the train as it goes very slow and I’m worried it’ll give in at any minute and roll back down!

The view on a clear day is well worth the walk and there’s a shop along the way. More recently than when I was a youngster, there’s also Surf Snowdonia which I haven’t had the pleasure in visiting just yet – but it’s on my summer list.

Criccieth

Porthmadog’s neighbouring town that can be reached by simply walking across the beach, when the tied in out. Although the beach is made up of many pebbles it is a lovely place to take in the scenery and enjoy an ice cream – and when I say ice cream I mean the best ice cream I have ever tasted. Still, I visit Criccieth every summer just to have an ice cream!

Overlooking the beach on the hillside is the castle which makes for picture perfect scenery. There’s also a cafe and shop just off the beach.

Llangollen

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During the summertimeI regularly take to this part of North Wales for a walk along the river. Along this path, there’s a playground – where I remember stopping in the rain and eating fish and chips as a girl! There’s also water sporting activities for you to enjoy, I have only ever taken part in white water rafting which was really fun.

Llangollen also has a canal which is a peaceful walk because fewer people seem to go to this area. You will see lots of barges along here which makes me want to experience a canal holiday.

Other than walking and visiting the beautiful beaches lining the coast there are also some attractions for you to visit.

Ffestiniog

Back in the day, Ffestiniog used to be a slate caverns and as a child, I used to visit the caverns and go underground. Now the underground mines are home to Zip World Bounce Below, which is soooooo much fun! Underground trampolines make you feel suspended in the air which is both fun and terrifying at the same time.

Portmeirion

A multi-coloured world took straight from a TV show – not that the colour really made that much difference back then! There are lovely shops, cafes and even a hotel. The views near the lighthouse are amazing, overlooking the bay.

A family holiday to North Wales wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a castle, and there are plenty to choose from. Here are some of my favourites.

Bodelwyddan Castle

A beautiful Jacobean castle in North Wales that provides a fantastic day out. In the grounds the castle has a play area, maze and a chess board – don’t know why I love this so much, but I do.

There are even a few resident pets and a bird watching area. There is something for everyone here but it’s not situated on the Llyn Peninsula instead it is just off the A550 in Denbighshire.

Chirk Castle

My favourite castle, the grounds are perfectly manicured and if I had the cash to marry here I would. Built in 1295 it is steeped in history whilst also being quite modern. There are several events held here each year the last one I went to was the WRC.

The courtyard is spectacular and leads to many areas of the castle. Surrounding the castle, just below the hill are woodland walks, picnic areas and a few shops. Again, this castle isn’t located in the Llyn peninsula but is near Wrexham.

Caernarfon Castle

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A very large castle located next to a harbour, this area is picturesque, especially on a sunny day. Across the water, you can see Anglesey and the scenery are even better from the top of the castle walls.

This whole area brings back happy memories from my childhood, spending time with my cousins, friends and family friends.

The Enchanted Village -Alton Towers

Every year I visit Alton Towers at least twice for Halloween, Bonfire Night, my son’s birthday or a summer trip. And at least once a year we stay in one of the hotels. This year we decided on The Enchanted Village or as my son called it the Shire.

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In the past we have stayed in the Splash Landings hotel and  it hasn’t lived up to our expectations. The walls are thin and you can hear everything happening in the hall and room next door. For the amount of money you pay for 1 night here I expect better.

After seeing the Enchanted Village I had to stay there just to see what it was all about. It was fantastic as soon as you enter there is music playing, games for the children and a wonderful atmosphere. We stayed in one of the lodges as the large tree houses were a little out of our price range.

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Taking a walk around the village was lovely and getting to it from the park wasn’t too bad either – just take the monorail. If you haven’t been to the park before this is located near Splash Landings. If you’re visiting the waterpark I would stay in the village and not Splash Landings- which we usually do in March for my son’s birthday as the park is closed. The waterpark is amazing and I would suggest you take a trip. My son was only 6 when he first went and could touch the floor nearly everywhere – even I can touch the floor and I’m only 5ft!

After a long day at the park we didn’t want to sit down in a busy restaurant so we decided to get a take out. We asked at reception and the prices were ridiculous so we went on just eat and ordered pizza from a place nearby. Even though Alton Towers seems to be in a remote location the take out came quicker than a Dominos at home! They even brought it to the Enchanted Village and just called us when they were there.

In the night time the village really lights up and it does feel like the Shire.

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Breakfast in the Crooked Spoon is fine, a buffet style and a good selection for all – even the fussy children and adults.

I’d love to hear about your experience so please leave a comment!