The key for us when we're on holiday is to have fun, but that doesn't come without some organisation, so here are our top picks from our recent holiday to Pembrokeshire for toddler friendly days out.
1. Pembroke Castle. In the centre of Pembroke, close to car parks, shops and a great kids play area you will find this imposing castle. I loved Pembroke Castle, it is so large and a 'proper castle', by this I mean it is rugged, slightly broken but with plenty to explore. The sense of history hit you as soon as you walked in and with plenty of information boards, an interactive app or guided tours you have choices about how you view the castle. Having the little one in tow we went for just having a wander round and reading the boards. He loved the giant map in the centre of the castle grounds, it shows a lot of the main castles in Wales (not all, there are way too many), L loved running round on it and pointing to all the different things. He also found the stairs exciting, the child loves climbing stairs, the more the better, so before we knew it he had made his way up to the top of one of the towers, the only issue being as they were old, brick built, spiral staircases he could not get down them by himself but would he be carried? Heck no! So after wrestling him back down to ground level we decided that stairs weren't for us, had we caught him in a less adventurous mood then it would have been OK, he's just at that very independent stage. There was still so much for us to do though, we explored, we hid, we chased, we read boards, at one point we found a small recess and neatly took all the stones out of it and paced them gently on the grass! I was super impressed with the facilities and despite the incredible heat that day we had a fab time, I just wish I had been able to see more of it!
2. Going to the beach. Ok we went to a lot of beaches during our stay and thoroughly enjoyed each and everyone but I have to say one of our favourites was Tenby, it's quite touristy, which has it's obvious pitfalls as well as benefits. Personally I wouldn't have wanted to go at the height of the season, but on the day we went it was hot, sunny and not too busy. It's really easy to find car parking and the town is full of shops of all varieties. We were able to buy our thank you presents as well as top up on some essentials. We chilled out at Castle Beach which is amazing, golden sand, shallow pools of water for paddling, an island fort, boat trips and ice cream all overlooked by the castle remains at the top of the hill! The baby facilities at the beach were adequate which is always handy and we even managed a walk along the cliff top to the castle with the pushchair relatively easily. We found shade wandering along the medieval town walls, which are seriously impressive and all the streets are just filled with chocolate bx pretty houses. This little town is gorgeous! Followed by a great pub lunch we had an awesome day in Tenby.
3. Castell Henllys Iron Age Fort. A slightly damp and rather grey afternoon saw us make our way to Castell Henllys, a reconstructed Iron Age fort. A pleasant walk alongside the river before heading up the hill to the fort was really nice start to our afternoon, at the top of the hill were these amazing reconstructed village, with fires lit and filled with authentic items to really give you a feel of how each hut would have been used and how the settlement worked together as a whole. L found it completely fascinating and because it was quiet dark inside each hut it made him wary enough to not careering round them, destroying everything in his path, instead he was quite happy just to hold my hand and point out everything to me. He loved the sheep and really enjoyed the walk, mainly though he enjoyed meeting two of the staff tending the herb garden and spent ages jabbering to them as they patiently and kindly answered his incoherent questions and made him feel so welcome he blew them a kiss! There was a little play area which he enjoyed even if it was a little old for him, a cafe I wished we had stopped at and a little gift shop where he picked himself a little wiggly worm that was only a few pounds so I didn't mind one bit! A fab afternoon excursion for a little one, it took just the right amount of time and had plenty to keep him happy.
4. Folly Farm. I have to admit when we first got to the tills at Folly Farm I thought we may have made a huge mistake, there were seemingly hundreds of people, I was asked if L needed a wrist band with my phone number on it in case he got lost (great idea but slightly worrying) and was then told it wasn't going to be that busy today, all I could think was 'man what's it like on a busy day?' Quick nappy change later and L was already in full tantrum flow, we hadn't let him ride in the first toy he saw, nor had I let him run around a crowded room all by himself, empty the pushchair of all it's contents, grab a parrot's tail or hide under a bench. Clearly that warranted the next hour of hell we had to put up with. We tried walking around the zoo, a lot. We tried snacks, a lot. We tried soft play. It actually got to the point when I looked at the husb and informed him screaming or not I wasn't leaving before I'd taken L on the little mini waltzers at the Vintage Funfair, well clearly this should have been what we went to first, he right perked up, there was giggling and smiles and so our day started properly. We rode plenty of rides in the funfair, most of which were only 50p each, we had a good look round the zoo which was amazing! We actually sat down to lunch and ate food. We explored the farm barn, played on a tractor, took a ride on the land train and had a look at all of the outdoor play areas before taking our now exhausted child home. Folly Farm literally has something for every mood of child, plenty of food outlets, huge gift store, indoor play, outdoor play, rides, zoo animals, farm animals, walks and more. There was way more than we could fit into our day and despite the rocky start it turned out to be a pretty darn good day.
5. Walk round Carew Castle. We arrived at Carew Castle after a full day of fun, just at last admissions, so decided that instead of looking round the castle we would enjoy the pushchair friendly, easy 1 mile stroll around the river, by the Water Mill and back round to the Castle. It gives you stunning views of the castle from all sides, which is in many respects more that you would get from inside as you get to see the changes in architecture and how it sits overlooking the river. Down by the mill the river is really wide and there is a long, low bridge across it, with low walls that are perfect walking along height for little for little boys which was a little concerning but he held my hand very nicely and then decided he was better off walking down beside us anyway. It made for a lovely evening stroll which had we found it earlier in our holiday we would have probably done every night, I'm sad that we didn't get to go round the castle and mill but preferred a gentle stroll to feeling rushed to see everything had we gone in, it's a definite must for next time we visit though!
6. Stay on a site with plenty of garden toys! I think it's fair to say that one of L's favourite things about our visit to Pembrokeshire was that Glamping itself, he loved were we staying at Warren Farm. He loved the bell tents, climbing over the sofas, zipping and unzipping the tents, eating outdoors and playing! Man did he play, he loved Minnie the dog, every time she gave him a little kiss he was say 'ta' and grin, there was a big sunken trampoline to bounce on every morning and evening, a swing, a little push along wheeled affair, rocking horse and more. It meant that we always had something to do with him, at no point were we sat in the tent trying to think how we would fill the time after breakfast but before we went out, or the time after we got back but before bed. Staying somewhere like Warren Farm with it's relaxed attitude but well thought out facilities saved us so much stress and made L so very happy, the only downside is, we don;t have a trampoline at home so he is now insisting on using the sofa as a make shift trampoline!!
7. Play peek-a-boo at a Cairn. We would have never found this if it wasn't for Hannah at Warren Farm but the Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber made a truly brilliant and surprising stop. Other than the Standing Stones and Information Board there is very little to see, a quick walk and probably only a 10 minute look around. But this impressive chamber proved to be of much excited to L, we honestly thought we could make 15 minutes out of this stop max, it was more out of our own adult curiosity that we stopped than of thoughts of occupying a toddler but boy am I glad we did. For starters it is impressive, atmospheric and really quite special. Then there was the added benefit of the gentle sloping pasture, sheep and a quick walk that was fenced on both sides, meaning there is no negotiation on direction, as you know negotiating with a toddler never goes well. He loved hiding behind the stones and playing peek-a-boo and after charming the handful of other people visiting and getting them in on the game too we ended up spending about half an hour just playing, enjoying the scenery and enjoying our little boy. Sometimes it the simplest things that are the most fun and how many little boys can say they played peek-a-boo at an ancient monument?!
On our travels we also visited Cardigan Castle just on the Pembrokeshire border and had a lovely hour or so exploring the house and checking out the grounds, not very large and not quite finished yet you don't need long there but it was well worth a visit, from a toddler point of view it will be far better when the children's play area is completed, but we loved the fact the whole place was fully accessible with the pushchair, the superb changing facilities and the lovely views over the river.
We also visited Dan-Yr-Ogof Showcaves in the Brecon Beacons and this also deserves a mention for it's amazing toddler adventure points! Two of the three caves were perfect for a toddling child, with a combo walk and carry we easily made it through the two larger caves and he was fascinated, he loved the lights and the running water and found the displays really interesting, outside the caves you wander through the amazing site surrounded by dinosaurs, it's exciting, well thought out and great fun, there is gold panning, fossil excavating and mining activities for older children, a brilliant cafe that we ate in complete with soft play and if that wasn't enough there is a shire horse centre that had an amazing set up of tunnels and tubes for some chipmunks that had L laughing and giggling for ages, again this part of the centre has some amazing extra activities for older children but there was more than enough for a toddler to do and we were easily there four hours, maybe more, making it great value for money.
Disclosure - we were invited to both Folly Farm and Pembroke Castle by visitpembrokeshire.com in return for our honest review and our stay at Warren Farm was free in return for an honest review also.