Family,Holidays

Our summer road trip to Devon

Eating an ice cream in Plymouth

Eating an ice cream in Plymouth

We spent a week in Devon at the start of the summer holidays, staying with one of my best friends from school who now lives in Plymouth. It’s a long drive from our home in Yorkshire but worth it to spend time with friends, hang out by the coast and visit some of the beaches nearby. It was also a good base for a few days before we all went glamping at Crealy at the end of the week.

I’m fully aware that it’s autumn now, but I’ve been looking through our summer photos and realised I never got round to sharing these on my blog. Summer was a pretty slow time for blogging!

I’ll be honest, I was dreading the drive down as last time I did it (three years ago) we got stuck in a two-hour traffic jam near Bristol, with a crying one-year-old, melting temperatures and a car jam packed full of stuff.

This year I was prepared; I now have a roof box (a lifesaver for family road trips), Flo is four and much happier in the car (thanks to the DVD player, another lifesaver, and several Barbies), and we split the outward journey into two.

We stayed with a friend in Kenilworth on the way, meaning the journey was just two-and-a-half hours the first day and three-and-a-half the second. Totally manageable and even enjoyable. If the kids are happy in the car, I find driving gives me a bit of headspace and calm, especially if the traffic is ok.

Bodyboarding

Me and Mine on the beach

Joanne and Co

Joanne and Jules at Crealy

The journey home we did in one go, five to six hours of driving with kids and a short lunch break was ok, but the last hour I’d say was pretty testing. Still we did it and loved our road trip adventures.

The highlight for me was being able to get in the sea and do some bodyboarding. Our friends are proper surfer types and fully hardened to the UK waters! Although the weather was changeable, we picked the sunniest day and headed to a smallish local beach called Mothecombe. Tucked away in a cove a short walk down from a small car park, the beach is a lovely spot with soft sand and great views. It was really quiet on the day we went too, not bad for a sunny day in the school holidays. With some of us in wetsuits (everyone apart from Flo and I!) we paddled, jumped waves and tried some boarding, something which made Sam really, really happy. I’d bought him a new wetsuit before we went and he’s been desperate to try it out from the minute he left Yorkshire! Sure it’ll come in handy in Ilkley Lido in the future.

I miss living near the beach but as much as I love the Wirral, it’s very sandy and the water hardly ever comes in. When it does there’s no way I’d fancy bodyboarding in it. There’s nothing quite like some British sun on your skin is there, and at least I can say I made it on the beach in my swimsuit at least once this year!

Flo and Hattie in Plymouth 2017

Plymouth Lido

Plymouth Hoe

My friend Joanne works for a museum so we couldn’t have a trip to see her without visiting at least one. We spent a day at The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, a good call on a rainy day and loads of fun for the kids. It’s the largest aquarium in the UK and we spent a good few hours looking round, seeing the sharks, sea creatures and my personal favourites, the rays – one of which ate a squid as it swam in the tank right over our heads!

This was in the Atlantic Ocean area, a tank which houses a lemon shark, two sand tiger sharks and spotted eagle rays (the only ones in Europe, apparently). We loved walking beneath the tanks staring up at the sea life, it’s really fascinating watching everything swim about and you get a really close-up view.

We also really liked the Plymouth Sound area near the entrance, where you get to see lots of local species in tanks as well as in open pools in the centre of the room.

Another day we spent exploring the city and taking a walk down to Plymouth Hoe. The hoe is a long prom that sits on top of limestone cliffs looking southwards out to sea. We ate ice creams, checked out the lido (it looked freezing) and headed across to the park so the kids could let off some steam. We had planned to go up the lighthouse but unfortunately it was closed due to an event taking place that night. Still, it’s a good sightseeing spot on the coast and we watched quite a few ferries going in and out of the port, which the little ones enjoyed.

Sometimes it’s nice to just have a few easy days with kids isn’t it, I think when we plan too much it all gets a bit tiring for them and in turn for me too. We knew we were heading to Crealy for a few days at the end of the week and didn’t want to exhaust them before then!

Jules and Flo inside the aquarium

Flo and Jules inside the National Marine Aquarium

Another of our highlights was of course the Devon cream tea. Cream first or jam, I’m still not sure (for the record I go jam, and just a tiny bit of cream) we walked up from Joanne’s house to a cafe so we could indulge in the local delicacy and the kids could have an ice cream. Bit of a theme here, right? Entertaining four young children can be so exhausting and there was one day where my friend and I discussed how early we should play the ice cream, card to avoid the most whinging! I reckon if you’re going for a morning ice cream you’re up there as a parent who knows how to win at summer holiday entertaining.

Our trip to Devon, although a few months ago now, was a really fun break and one which the kids are still talking about now. I love taking them away on trips in the UK, much as we love our holidays abroad it’s nice to visit friends and see new places closer to home.

For me, being able to spend a week with other adults as well as just my kids was a real treat as it can be a lonely life as a single parent. I’ve written about this before more than a few times, but having someone there to chat to who gets how tough being a parent is and is having the same struggles is such a godsend. I think it also makes me realise how different family life is for a family with just the one parent and surprisingly it made Sam and Flo feel that too.

They did return eager for me to find a partner, they did spend a lot of time talking about their dad on the way home, and they did see how I can struggle as a lone parent. But we are what we are, and our long drive to the south of England showed me that’s just another thing we can as our little team that I never thought I’d take on.

Next time, it’ll be a breeze!

x Julia

Kids at the National Marine Aquarium

Inside the aquarium

Plymouth Hoe dabbing

Kids jumping off a fence

Mothecombe beach

coffee van

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