I took my two children on an Ullswater Steamer when they were barely old enough to say “hang on, we thought the Lake District's tourist industry was more focused on the grey pound” and they adored it. We snaked along its dog leg turns through utterly stunning scenery, our contemplative silence only broken to remark that we believed Paul McCartney owned a house in the distance and what a shame he had taken up with that younger model. Gloriously looming Helvellyn dominates the head of the lake and whether you're caught in classic Cumbrian mist or lucky enough to get a sunny spell, the views are world-class from these lovely heritage steamers. The route connects to some of the most famous and loveliest hikes in the Lakes. Take afternoon tea in spectacular Glenridding, go bird watching in Jenkins Field or hire a bike along the way.
Stay: Lake Lodges (self-catering) Esthwaite View, Hawkshead, Cumbria
We love a good castle in our family but goodness me, there are good castles and bad castles. We've had the misfortune to visit one or two where we were thrown out of the tea room for laughing too loudly (I am not making this up), spent good money only to find there was almost nothing to do once inside or just found the explanation so dull we had to make up our own more amusing versions for the kids. Leeds, however, does entertainment in spades. This Norman stronghold and home to six medieval queens is fascinating inside (don't miss the Gatehouse exhibition for a full historic run down) and loads of fun outside. We love the Knights Realm and Squires' playgrounds, the seasonal falconry displays and the brilliant eating options (particularly the Lady Baillie afternoon teas!)
Stay: Chilston Park Hotel, Sandway, Lenham, Maidstone
If you've children with a need for speed, Santa Pod raceway is pretty much nirvana. It's hidden away in the little village of Podington on the Beds/Bucks border and is stuffed with men in greasy overalls talking about big ends, young dudes talking about their fastest lap time and kids in mufflers screaming with joy as engines whizz past them at the speed of light. You don't have to have a clue how it all works, just enjoy the insane races (there's everything from motorcross to monster trucks), the hotdogs and the thrill of the race! Look out for training events and festivals, too, where you get to have a go driving yourself. Irresistable.
Stay: Barton Hall Hotel, Barton Rd, Kettering
It doesn't matter how many times I go to Hampton Court Palace, I never get bored. Henry VIII lived there, for goodness sake! There can't be a child alive in Britain who doesn't like dressing up like a Tudor courtier (yes, they have all the clothes there) and marching about the Great Hall (the last and greatest example of a medieval hall) talking about beheadings and feasts. Try the most famous and most visited maze in the world, experience mythical beasts, towers and battlements in the Magic Garden, explore the Tudor kitchens set up as if in their heyday of royal feasting and find out about what Henry was like as a lad in the Young Henry VIII exhibition. Unmissable, educational and loads of fun.
The Petersham Hotel, Richmond, Surrey
Often cited as one of the most beautiful places to be as autumn settles, the dazzling colours and dramatic sunsets in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park are a sight to behold. Just north of Glasgow and 720 miles square, the park is a kaleidoscope of russet reds, golds, yellows and browns which flash through the oak woodlands and pine forests as you stroll along in your woollies and wellies. Take a trip onto the water at Loch Katrine on the SS Walter Scott, departing from Trossachs Pier to Stronachlachar on a daily basis, to take in the area in all its glory. You can also hire bikes and cycle around the loch if the weather's fine – utter bliss.
The Winnock Hotel, The Square, Dryman, Loch Lomond
Everyone loves a trip down to London-by-the-Sea and with many of its attractions so close together, it's a brilliant place to bring the kids. After a turn on the pebbles with some fish and chips and a go on the rides at the end of Palace Pier, steer the little ones northwards a few paces and take them around the glorious Taj Mahal-like Royal Pavilion, John Nash's 19th century masterpiece. With separate audio guides for kids, the tours are excellent (the children love seeing the roly poly Prince Regent's little bed, close to the ground so he can mount it). The kitchens and entertaining rooms make for fascinating viewing and the story of this dissolute king's life is compellingly told.
Stay: The Old Ship Hotel, Kings Road, Brighton
Sign up to our email to receive our most splendid special offers each month!