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Getting off the beaten track can be a welcome change, these are the best places to do so

But when I was given the opportunity to visit a holiday park in Darwin Forest in the Peak District with my two children, Grace and Violet, I was determined to do just that, so an iPad ban was put in place and on went my “out of office”.

Thanks to the stunning scenery, the journey to the site, which is near Matlock in Derbyshire, was relatively free from calls of “are we nearly there yet?”

And when we got there, checking in to the Landal GreenParks site was quick and easy.

Driving round to our log cabin, there was a real sense of seclusion, and this park felt more personal and rustic than others we’ve been to.

Landal has sites in Belgium, Holland and Germany, and you can tell how popular they are abroad by the amount of foreign cars around.

Landal Belgium

Landal has locations all over Europe, such as Belgium, Holland and Germany

There was a real sense of seclusion, and this park felt more personal and rustic

In fact, everyone we spoke to had visited a Landal site before and come back year after year.

Our cabin had two parking spaces, was a good distance from the neighbours and inside was clean, modern and filled with mod cons and essentials including tea towels, an iron and ironing board, a fire, towels and board games.

Some of the cabins have hot tubs and can sleep up to eight. The clean theme runs outside, too – not a piece of litter in sight.

The following morning, the weather wasn’t great, but it didn’t put a dampener on our stay – there’s lots to do come rain or shine.

Donning waterproofs and figuring the trees would act as umbrellas, we hired bikes and helmets – so much easier than lugging our own along.

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The holiday had lots to do come rain or shine

And thanks to a tag-along on my bike, the three-year-old was in on the action, too. We had lots of laughs as we explored the forest paths, stopping to marvel at the wildlife.

Other activities available include Waterwalkerz (rolling around on top of the water in a huge inflatable ball), Body Zorbing (inside a similar inflatable ball on dry land, 

with your legs free to run around) and Sea Scooters, and there’s also a pool, play centre, gym, orienteering, mini golf, fencing and tennis. Grace and I were the only people in 

our archery lesson, so we definitely got our money’s worth.

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Darwin forest provides a real sense of seclusion

There are informal restaurants/cafés on site, as well as the more traditional Foresters restaurant.

Or hire a barbecue and cook local produce purchased from the site shop on your decking.

The town of Bakewell is close by – make sure you sample the famous tart, while Chatsworth House, a short drive away, is well worth a visit, too. You’ll soon see why Mr 

Darcy fell in love with this beautiful part of the country. 

Jennifer Omoerah

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Suffolk 

There’s something quintessentially British about the county of Suffolk with its rolling greenery, elegant seaside destinations and Georgian market towns.

Our base for exploring the area was The Granary at Belle Grove Farm in Halesworth, booked through Premier Cottages, nine miles from the holiday hub of Southwold. So top of our list was a trip to the seaside.

After my four-year-old son had enjoyed a bracing paddle, we explored the pier, making a beeline for the quirky Under The Pier Show with its weird, wonderful and inventive amusement arcade games and simulator rides.

Afterwards we headed uphill into the town to potter around genteel independent shops, including clothing boutique Collen & Clare and the well-stocked Southwold Books.

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The Granary provided a great base for exploring Suffolk

Best of all, Belle Grove comes with free access to one of Southwold’s coveted beach huts so when the wind started to bite, we retreated there to eat top-notch fish and chips from the Little Fish and Chip Shop, washed down with local Adnams brewery ales.

The next day we drove to Beccles and took a trip on the Big Dog Ferry. Setting off from the Beccles Lido pontoon, we enjoyed a serene 40-minute ride down the river Waveney.

Disembarking at Geldeston Locks, we spent a relaxing afternoon in The Locks Inn’s scenic beer garden. We gorged on scampi followed by homemade cake before the ferry’s skipper picked us up to sail back to Beccles.

Next stop was historic Bungay, which feels untouched by the 21st century with its lovely  leisurely pace and picturesque high street.

Bungay is worth a visit for the Earsham Street Delicatessen alone. Feeling like kids in a sweet shop, we ordered handmade sandwiches and pickles, freshly baked cakes and organic biscuits, taking our picnic to the grassy grounds of Bungay Castle.

Beach huts

Access to beach huts was a godsend for the chilly weather

Built by the Normans in 1165, it has naturally seen better days. But it was perfect for a pit stop and gives children a chance to run around and let off some steam.

We also visited Earsham Hall, three miles from Belle Grove – a sprawling Aladdin’s cave specialising in solid pine furniture and which takes bespoke orders.

Parts of Earsham Hall date back to the 15th century and with its smart Queen Anne exterior, I couldn’t help daydreaming about being lady of the manor.

Tired out from sightseeing, we were happy to get back to Belle Grove Farm, a complex of six secluded and modernised barns.

With its deep red interiors and Eastern-influenced accessories, our cottage, The Granary, had an atmospheric, cosy ambience but with all mod cons from a wood-burning stove to underfloor heating, making it an ideal location for a visit whatever the weather.

As you relax in its secluded garden, the only sound you hear is the mooing of the farm’s cows. A restive rustic bolthole. 

Charlotte Heathcote

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Golden cap

Dorset is a good place to come off the beaten track

Golden Cap, Dorset 

There are two ways to know you are heading in the right direction for Oak Cottage, well off the beaten track midway between Lyme Regis and Bridport.

The first is to look out for Felicity’s Farm Shop on the A35 from Charmouth and make a right shortly afterwards. The other is to turn at the lane Reginald Perrin takes when heading to the Jurassic Coast to fake his own death.

You’ll soon discover why the National Trust, which owns the thatched 18th-century farmhouse, advise you to arrive in daylight.

Muddyford Lane quickly becomes a rough, bumpy track which brings you two and a half miles from the main road – well beyond street lights, mobile phone signal and Wi-Fi connection – to what was once the hamlet of Stanton St Gabriel.

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The sweeping landscape of the Jurassic coast will blow you away

It’s the sort of location that takes “getting away from it all” to the next level. 

The farmhouse has been converted into four cottages, with a communal walled garden whose inhabitants captivated Freddie, our 20 month old.

We would wake early (what family with a toddler doesn’t?) to watch baby rabbits playing on the lawn and green woodpeckers swooping in and out of gnarled apple trees. It certainly made a change from watching the lorries and buses on the A-road outside our house.

With its wood-burning stove and snug living room, Oak Cottage is ideal for whiling away dark winter evenings, but we visited in the height of summer to make the most of the long days and sea air.

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Oak Cottage allowed a peaceful and nature filled getaway, a stark change from modern business

There was so much to explore, but being limited to activities that would thrill a small boy we hunted fossils and explored rock pools on Charmouth Beach, rode the miniature railway at Pecorama in Beer, navigated a world of bird droppings at Abbotsbury Swannery (the world’s only managed colony of nesting mute swans) and made friends with the donkeys and chickens at the neighbouring Children’s Farm.

Staying on the Golden Cap Estate meant we were a stone’s throw from the highest point on the South Coast.

On our final evening, with Freddie securely strapped into a baby carrier, we headed up the steep path to the peak, passing the partial remains of a medieval chapel recorded in the Doomsday Book.

Within half an hour we were taking in a panoramic sunset over the Jurassic Coast, Britain’s only natural World Heritage Site – and still managed to make it back to the bottom for a small boy’s bedtime. 

Amy Packer


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