A few weeks ago I was looking for the perfect English getaway for myself, Craig and little man. With the traumatic birth, sleepless nights, and Craig’s return to work, we needed some time to regroup as a family and start making memories for Dexter.
I browsed lots of regional websites and signed up to their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages hoping to be inspired by the pictures. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted; a rural or city break, countryside or by the sea, hotel or cottage… I just wanted somewhere family friendly, welcoming, with good food, and lots to do. When I stumbled on a Theme Park Adventure Break courtesy of Go Leicestershire, I got excited. Even better, there was a Facebook competition! I duly entered and prepared to lose. The very next day, I was shocked to discover we’d actually done it and won a night away with two family tickets to two tourist attractions (Drayton Manor Theme Park, and Twinlakes or Wheelgate Family Theme Park).
True to their word, Go Leicestershire called me and the arrangements were made; we were going on Dexter’s first ever mini-break!
The day arrived and we woke early to pack up the car. It’s amazing how much ‘stuff’ you bring ‘just-in-case’ with a baby! I must admit we were apprehensive; Would the hotel be quiet enough for Dexter to sleep? Would they allow him in the hotel restaurant? Would there be enough for him to do at the attractions? Would we get a chance to relax??? With all these questions and more, we set off for Leicestershire.
First stop: Twinlakes. Twinlakes Family Theme Park is a fantastic all-weather family theme park. It certainly lived up to its claims as the heavens opened and a massive thunderstorm struck just as we arrived. As Dexter loves the sound of the rain on his pushchair cover, we were undeterred and went to explore. What a fantastic day out! Twinlakes has a farm with live shows (lamb feeding, falconry and ferret racing!), lots of indoor play areas with rides and adventure play equipment for the older children, soft play areas for the littler ones, even a ‘scare house’ with live actors jumping out at you in the dark. Couple this with outside playgrounds, a swimming pool with safe slides for kids, picnic areas, and beautiful boating lakes to explore, and you can see why Twinlakes really does offer things for the whole family. We saw loads of other babies (grandparents too) so we needn’t have worried about Dexter’s age; we just picked and chose the things he could do, and there were plenty of those.
Then to the hotel, The Sketchley Grange Hotel and Spa… how spoilt were we?!!! It was lovely and really pretty! In fact, it seemed a firm favourite for weddings as there were two when we were there. Even with these two events there was plenty of space and quiet areas for us, we weren’t disturbed in the evening, and the staff (despite being busy) were welcoming and happy to help us. Our family room was huge with two king-size beds so Dex was overjoyed to get one all to himself, it was also recently refurbed so the decor was clean and pleasant. Our view over the gardens and rolling hills was uninterrupted so it felt like a real escape too.
We needn’t have worried about dinner either. The hotel restaurant assured us that Dexter was welcome at dinner and we weren’t to worry if he cried. The restaurant offered up cosmopolitan luxury food with a subtle french twist and fantastic views over the gardens. All ingredients were locally sourced and the menu options catered to our tastes perfectly. Given I’m more of a wine fan than food fan, I can also testify this was superb and surprisingly great value.
After dinner as the Olympics was in full swing and Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah were in finals that evening, we went to the bar and watched them romp to victory. Dexter was allowed to sit in with us so promptly fell asleep in his car seat under the table. There was a nice gentle atmosphere in the bar and the staff joined in with the celebrations which was good to see in a 4* star hotel; nothing was stuffy, it was just right.
Finally, we went to Drayton Manor Theme Park. This needs no introduction really – it’s been a firm family favourite for years. Dexter got to enjoy Thomas the Tank Engine World and took his first miniature railway ride around the park with daddy. There were also a few rides that allowed me to hold him so he wasn’t left out of the fun and games.
To be honest, the rides were secondary to us, this little break was all about Dexter and we were really shocked how much there was for him (and us) to do. The zoo was much improved since my last visit and was packed with exotic animals including Sumatran Tigers, an assortment of monkeys, an alligator and (everyone’s favourites) meerkats aplenty. There were also plenty of shops and fair-style stalls to win him teddy and toys. Dexter came home with Thomas the Tank Engine books, a stuffed toy and loads of memories – a perfect day out.
Although my experience was free, you could bag the whole break for just £159 at Go Leicestershire here. We made this to be a ridiculous saving of over £100. The hotel alone was £160, whilst Twinlakes and Drayton Park Manor were around £35 and £75 respectively (for two adults and two children). This really does represent excellent value for money and we’d recommend wholeheartedly for both the die-hard rollercoaster fans and the small slightly nervous family too!
Thanks Go Leicestershire for such a lovely prize!
Note: all the views above are my own. I was not paid nor rewarded for this article. This write-up is complimentary purely because we had such an excellent time and we feel the break should be recognised as a fantastic value-for-money getaway.