It’s been almost three months since I last updated this blog and it’s safe to say time is flying! Life with two kids and a three-day working week is always going to be busy. Throw in some much-needed house decorating, planning for the festive season and several bouts of family illness, and keeping up to date online had to drop off the to-do list for a while.
But in that time there have been many memories, magic moments and milestones that I don’t want to forget so I’m hoping to catch up on some of those now.
Back at the start of September we set off on our first family holiday as a foursome, a week in lovely Woolacombe.
It’s a place that holds a special place in my husband’s heart. The last four generations of his family have been regular visitors to this seaside gem in north Devon. I’ve seen old black and white footage of his granny, great granny and my mother-in-law when she was a child enjoying the beach back in the late 1950s. And he spent many a happy summer holiday there with his brothers when he was young.
I, on the other hand, had never been before. This is a bit odd really, given that I spent the first seven years of my life living in Devon! How could my parents have neglected to take me?!
Anyway, Woolacombe it was for our first family road trip. And it really was quite a road trip, with a travel time of around four-and-a-half hours solid driving on a good day. We had a gnarly day with traffic and once we’d factored in toddler-friendly stop gaps along the way, this translated into an eight-and-a-half hour door-to-door journey. With Little Mister being sick just five minutes before we reached our final destination! Thankfully the car seat was largely spared – if you’ve ever had to properly clean one, you’ll appreciate our sense of relief.
Once we’d arrive the little man was back on top form and both children loved exploring our new home for the week – number 6 Sandy Lane Apartments, just minutes from the beach (booked through Woolacombe Cottages).
It was a great base for our week. And, apart from the disappointing shower, had everything we needed, including handy carport parking. There were quite a few steps to negotiate but we managed fine with this, especially since we could leave bulky things like the buggy and beach stuff in the accompanying garage to lessen the load. As you can see from the picture below, the location and view from our windows were pretty impressive.
What I loved about Woolacombe…
It’s all about the beach. A beautiful, three-mile long stretch of sand. It was the winner of the 2015 Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice award for best UK beach. It was also an impressive 4th in the best beaches in Europe category and 13th in the best beaches in the world category. Safe to say, it is a very decent beach!
As well as being very long, it’s also very wide – especially when the tide’s out – and there’s just such a feeling of space. Lots and lots of natural, unspoilt space. We went at the end of the summer season when it was quieter but it would take a huge amount of people to fill this epic stretch of sand.
It’s perfect for little ones. As well as great sand for digging holes and making sandcastles, there are dunes to explore and, my favourite, lots of rock pools to discover. Importantly, it’s also very clean. It is clearly well looked after and dogs are not allowed on the main family area of the beach. They are welcome on the quieter parts a little further along, though. It’s a sensible approach, I think.
You can see above how lovely it is, even on the less sunny days. And that’s only the main beach. To the north of this are two smaller beaches: Barricane (my mother-in-law’s favourite!) and the more secluded Combesgate, which we didn’t see this time.
Also known as Shell Beach, Barricane is quite a small, narrow, bay, surrounded by rocks. It’s also home to a popular beach cafe that in the summer months serves evening curries. It comes highly recommended by my in-laws and we would have loved to have sampled one while watching the sun set. Hopefully next time!
Aside from the beaches, the other thing I really loved about Woolacombe was the feel of the place. Seaside resorts these days all too often have a bit of a tacky, dated feel to them. Not so here. It isn’t overrun with gaudy amusement arcades, shops and general tat. Yes there was the usual colourful array of buckets, spades and other plastic souvenirs on offer but within reason. The place has retained a quaint, village feel. The pace felt slower, quieter and the beach retains its rightful place as the star attraction.
There was a small amusement park a few minutes walk from our flat. It had crazy golf, bumper boats and a few other ride-on things. Just right for our little ones, especially Little Miss. And if you do want more in the way of activities and entertainment – perhaps if you have older children than ours – there are several holiday parks in the area offering more. But, as someone told me on Twitter before we went, “all you really need is the beach my friend”.
Obviously beaches are much better when the weather is half decent and the elements were extremely kind to us. It was wet the week before we left. Wet the week after. Sunny and warm while we were there. Jammy! I even braved a dip in the sea, which was chilly but strangely pleasant, calming (once the initial shock wore off!) and very invigorating (because of the shock!).
We did quickly learn that holidays with two kids are different. Our visions of quality adult time and evenings spent chilling out with a bottle of wine once the kids were asleep were generally replaced with passing out after a single glass of wine once the kids were asleep.
And we became quite acquainted with the medical services of north Devon – having never before needing to see a doctor while away on our own! On the second morning in Little Miss hurt her foot and wouldn’t put any weight on it, meaning a trip to Ilfracombe Hospital’s walk in centre. And poor Little Mister ended the week with a temperature nearing 40 degrees after his cold turned into a sinus infection needing antibiotics and two visits to a lovely lady doctor, a second detour to Ilfracombe (this time the medical centre), who even called us as we were driving home to check he was ok.
But despite the hick-ups, we did have a lovely time. Lots of ice cream was consumed – much to Little Miss’s delight and a first for the little man. Sandcastles were built. Holes were dug. Shells were collected. Crabs were caught (in the rockpools, behave! And put back again). We paddled. Little Miss played on the slot machines! And we enjoyed an epic cream tea in Croyde.
I’ll write a bit more about what we did in and some day trips in a second post (which hopefully won’t take three months to write!).
But Woolacombe, we will be back!
PS: You can check out the other 24 Top UK Beaches here at Trip Advisor.