Visit Wales asked me to go and see what our family could learn there in a weekend. Our trip came in the midst of a chaotic few weeks in March, I had just returned from Tanzania, Mr A was about to go to San Francisco for a week, did we really want to go away again? I think the photo above says it all!
I spent many happy years on family holidays in Harlech. Wales has the perfect mix of everything a child needs for a happy holiday – long sandy beaches, castles full of adventure, beautiful countryside to run wild in and myths and legends galore to fuel those adventures.
Turns out it is amazing what you can learn in Wales in a weekend, and how utterly refreshing a weekend of exploring can be. Fancy a journey into a dragon’s butt?
L learnt about being a confident photographer and film-maker. She got a camera for Christmas but although she has taken it places before, it hadn’t really clicked (scuse the pun) for her, until we got to visit Wales. I know from my own experience that when I have time, space and privacy I take the best pictures and video blogs. Suddenly there was so much space for her to practice shooting. Wales never feels crowded; it was just us and the coastal path, and some sheep, horses and cows – cows especially make amazing subjects.
The photo opportunities just kept coming, her brother, animals, beach, amazing landscapes, castles. I’ve always loved to visit Wales for its dramatic and varied scenery.
It was magical to listen in to her first attempts, completely unprompted by us, at vlogging.
We learnt a lot about planning our time and ensuring the perfect situation using apps. I used the Wales Coastal Path app to find the best family beach and an interesting walk on Anglesey – you can actually walk all the way round Wales via this path which I think is incredible (one day!)
We chose Porth Dafarch via the app, a blue flag beach with a description that included rock pools. It did not disappoint. It is a glorious sheltered cove with rocks to climb, rock pools and sandy beach. I want to go back in Summer. I almost don’t want to tell anyone about it, ssshhh!
App and games developer Mr A, the one with the iPhone, downloaded the two castle apps, the apps are simple to use with clever use of characters in the Denbigh Castle app. I think with older kids who can read confidently, you would get even more fun from letting children use these. More on them both later.
We learnt about our physical limits. For a very physically confident boy like G, who soon exhausts conventional playgrounds, Wales is absolutely perfect.
When he wasn’t climbing rocks he was tearing along the coastal path. Thank goodness for his favourite red hoody from Gone Crabbing, we could always see him!
Or pretending to be a knight in the castle.
The kids learnt that walking can be fun, if there are enough distractions on route
We learnt a lot about what the past might have been like for those living in, defending and attacking the two castles on our trip. Both Conway and Denbigh castle have children’s activity quests that enable kids to access just enough facts to stimulate their own imaginations and play scenarios. You can do them on paper on as an app.
As well as the quests, both have a free leaflet for adults with 6 key points about the castle, again, just enough information to feed a young family while making sure a fearless 5 yo old stays safe while exploring the ruins!
L is (7) and found the trail at Conway challenging but was keen to do it with help. You can download the Conway castle app here.
We really loved the new art installations at Conway and thought they were a very clever way to bring the people, sights and sounds of the past to life. I loved the fireplace projections and sound collage which brings back the past and celebrates the importance of fire.
At Denbigh it was incredible to walk in through the castle entrance and trigger an amazing sound collage of horses, the portcullis and soldiers shouting.
We learnt how important a stimulus is when you want to really push children’s imaginations. Denbigh’s quest is based on 3 characters, centred on 3 objects archaeologists found at the site. The app can be downloaded here.
My trail followed Tom, the kitchen boy who had broken a pot. G was Huw the spy who was trying to hide a key. L was fascinated to find out her character’s story – Eleanor, who owned a hawk – was based on a tiny bell from a hawk’s collar found in the grounds. The staff were really helpful and helped us make the most of learning opportunities.
You can see the little bell, with Huw’s key here
Having seen how Denbigh created stories from the past, my kids were keen to make their own…Back in the car, our imaginations were in overdrive
Are dragons real Daddy? Is this tunnel in the hill a dragon’s butt Daddy? Are we driving inside a dragon? Imaginations gone wild #wales4kids
— Penny Alexander (@Aresidence) March 15, 2014
— Penny Alexander (@Aresidence) March 15, 2014
We learnt how to just be as a family again, a weekend away is the perfect chance to relearn how to enjoy each other’s company after a frantic few weeks.
Did I tell you we learnt how to take our dog on holiday too?
Our activities were provided by Visit Wales for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own. Mr G wears a hoody from Gone Crabbing