It’s almost that time of the year again, Easter. Every year without fail we find ourselves at a National Trust Easter Egg hunt which are all brilliant, and well organised. This year we fancied a change. But where to go?
Easter Egg hunts are starting around now, the start of April. Most run for a few weeks, but please check the links provided for more information.
The National Trust Easter Egg hunt are great. They work with Cadbury’s, and usually have some kind of trail around the place you’re visiting. I’ve spotted easy ones for younger children and slightly more complicated ones for the slightly cockier over 7’s (read : H). They’re suitable for all and perfect for glorious sunny days. The eggs are pretty good too!
You can find more information here. There is usually a cost involved on top of your National Trust membership.
[We pay for National Trust membership every year]
Historic Royal Palaces have some trails on as well. We’re probably going to do Hampton Court Palace this year, who are doing their trail in conjunction with Lindt. I’m actually wondering if adults can do it too… It is Hampton Court’s first ever Easter trail. I love Hampton Court, and the Magic Garden has reopened for the season as of yesterday (1st April). I can’t think of a better reason to go! The Easter Egg trail is included in your admission price.
[We get free entry to Hampton Court as it is part of the CSSC scheme]
Hever Castle has an easter egg hunt, another Lindt one. I don’t think we’ll have time to do this one this year, but having had a day at Hever recently, it would be a wonderful place to wander around in the sun, especially knowing there is Lindt chocolate involved at the end. The Lindt Gold Bunny hunt is free, and they have additional activities available at a cost. Worth looking into anyway!
[We have Historic Houses Association Membership so can enter Hever Castle for free]
English Heritage also have some Easter Activities on – with all sorts of activities. They look pretty awesome, and don’t mention chocolate… Not all English Heritage places are doing it, so please check this link for more information. They also fall around the Easter weekend, rather than the start of April.
[We are English Heritage members via CSSC and the above link is an affiliate link]
We’re pretty organised when it comes to having memberships and passes for various places. It makes life easier when you can turn up somewhere having already paid. So I thought I’d go through our current ones.
National Trust. We’re still National Trust members. As far as membership and passes go, this is the one we’ve had the longest at six years now. We make our money back each year and there’s a neverending supply of places to visit. It costs us about £100 a year.
English Heritage. We’ve had this for over a year now as part of Shaun’s CSSC membership. The Civil Service has corporate membership which gives you a discount in the gift shops. We’ve used this a lot and visited some fantastic places. We enjoyed Tintagel in Cornwall when we stayed nearby. This costs us £4 a month.
Merlin Passes. We’re coming to the end of our second year of Merlin Passes. We were planning on going to Chessington or Legoland for Christmas this year. But Merlin have doubled the price making it and it’s expensive. It’s not worth it. We have enjoyed visiting places like the London Dungeon, London Eye, Chessington and Thorpe Park as well as SeaLife in Weymouth. With the price hikes and paying extra we won’t be renewing these ones next year. They were fun but we can get discounts via Shaun’s CSSC membership if we choose to visit a Merlin attraction. We still have one last trip to Alton Towers to go this year, another surprise for H! This costs us £360 a year.
Historic Royal Palaces. We took out this one on a whim and it has been brilliant. We’ve visited Hampton Court so many times this year. The best part is that you can visit the majority of the palaces in any weather, and there’s plenty to do. We’ve loved the Magic Garden at Hampton Court. I want to go back to Kensington Palace now I’ve been watching ‘Victoria’ on ITV every Sunday! Having this membership has made history so interesting for us. This cost us £90.
NUS Extra. I’ve signed up to do a course in writing a children’s book which is going slowly. I have my idea and it’s written, but I need to make the time to complete the course. The course means I’m eligible for NUS Extra membership, and it has been brilliant so far. I get 10% off in Superdrug and the Co-Op, and some excellent discounts at Pizza Express too. There is an option to add Gourmet Society membership to it but I didn’t. Then again, Shaun gets it with his CSSC membership so we’re covered if we ever need it. This cost £12.
Historic Houses Association. This is one of the memberships and passes I’m considering for next year. It would cost around £100 for the three of us but has a lot of properties around the country. We’re staying in Cornwall, we visit York too, and of course nearby there is Painshill Park.
So this is all at the moment. I think it’s a pretty good variety of places to visit and things to do. On the horizon I’m looking at Disneyland Paris passes. They make it worth it if you visit for five days and also offer some good perks and discounts. I also like their FastPass system as everyone can use it.
Do you have any memberships or passes you use that we haven’t covered? Come and suggest them in the comments below.
So we had a week in Cornwall last week, and had to watch our money – and typically a few things happened which meant we had to be even stricter with our pennies – Shaun broke a tooth (which will cost over £500 to fix). Car insurance was due, and our National Trust membership. Luckily we’d booked our holiday back in February or March and paid in full at the time!
The good thing about Cornwall is how much you can do being a member of an organisation, so you really only end up buying food and mementoes.
On our journey down we stopped at Moto Service Stations – with a Merlin Pass you get a discount at some stores – it all helps!
The National Trust own several beaches and properties – and you can save a lot of money on car parking this way. The two beaches we visited were Kynance Cove and Gunwalloe Church Cove and both were wonderful. Kynance Cove has a busy cafe, and plenty of areas for kids to explore, plus great tides for bodyboarding. Gunwalloe is an open beach, perfect for flying a kite and again great for bodyboarding. There’s a cash-only cafe there.
Cash – now there’s something. I’m used to paying by card and carrying minimal cash with me, but found in Cornwall you need to carry some cash with you, as you will get caught out. Our nearest cashpoint was often in Helston (a good 10 miles away) so I made sure to have some handy, mainly to pay for car parking – as don’t expect an app to work on your phone to pay it, there’s no phone signal around a lot of the beaches!
We also have English Heritage membership via Shaun’s CSSC card, and found we also got a discount in their stores – a good excuse to buy a bit more! This covered Pendennis Castle near Falmouth, which was a good morning out – try to get there for midday as they fire a gun out towards the sea, which H enjoyed. We didn’t make it to Tintagel Castle which I want to visit, so that’ll be one for next time.
The night before we were due to check in to our caravan, we decided to stay in a wooden wigwam near Chepstow – it was well placed for the M5 and an early start. We beat the bad traffic, but be aware there are long-term roadworks near Bodmin, which delayed things by 40 minutes. I got a Wowcher deal, and it was warm, comfortable and quiet – bedding was included too. There was a good cafe there too, very child-friendly. We paid £50.
As well as the beaches, the National Trust have several properties around the area we stayed – we visited Trellisick Garden as we had arrived in Cornwall four hours before our check-in time. It was good to stretch our legs and discover a new area – plus the weather was gloriously sunny! We also visited Glendurgan (which had a fabulous maze and beach you could skim pebbles on), and of course St Michael’s Mount.
St Michael’s Mount is National Trust owned, but your parking costs extra. It’s an easy walk over (as long as the tide is out) – a lot of the causeway was swept away with the bad storms, so is being rebuilt – so they ask that you get back before the tide comes in. They’re obviously not going to stop you walking over it when the sea covers it, but I guess if everyone did there’d be a problem. It was a good 4-5 hours of wandering around the rock, listening to storytellers and H had a special trail to follow which she enjoyed and got a medal at the end for completing. The views too – and the glorious weather! If you don’t make it back before the tide, you can still get back by boat which costs a reasonable amount. There are food places on the rock, but expect queues. We went to the Sail Loft which had good priced food. Be aware, while everywhere takes cards, the boat rides back don’t – so make sure you have cash! The National Trust gift shop offers cashback as long as you spend £5 – there are no cashpoints there.
We didn’t just have glorious weather though, the rain really made its presence known. We headed out to the Seal Sanctuary in Gweek on one of those days, assuming there’d be cover – but it’s all outdoors. Fortunately we were wrapped up well so didn’t feel it (it was a warm but wet day), and gained free entry with our Merlin Passes as it’s a Sea Life Attraction. It’s a wonderful day out – a place where all the sick seals go – and they have the freedom to move around in large areas, some of them likely to live the rest of their life there. Each area has a story about its inhabitants and where they came from, and it’s fascinating. H really enjoyed it, and again, they had a trail which she completed and got a medal. There’s a Lego City quiz on at the moment which she enjoyed doing, you get a nice folder with stickers and things inside. There were areas you could shelter from the rain, so when it got really bad we stopped for food, expect to spend a good 3-4 hours there – there’s lots of walking to do!
We popped into Roskilly’s Ice Cream Parlour on more than one occasion. We also stopped by the area where the cows are milked – having read a lot about it lately, it was reassuring to see the cows graze on pastures which are farmed in a sustainable way on their organic farm. While I still feel uncomfortable seeing cows milked (it’s the being taken away from their babies bit I don’t like), it was interesting for H to see.
We visited other beaches too – Poldhu was great, and we found had lost all its sand in one of the severe storms over the last few years. Fortunately it came back after another severe storm, and was a good place to pitch our chairs and relax (and for H to bodyboard of course). The Poldhu Beach Cafe sells lots of t-shirts and essentials – slightly more expensive for the beach essentials but a good cafe nonetheless.
On our first night we went to Praa Sands, unfortunately just as the tide was coming in but it was good to be by the sea again – a place I always feel calm. There’s cafe’s there as well, and shops too. We also visited Gunwalloe – be aware, this is different to Gunwalloe Church Cove. Pebbles! It’s the fishing side of the bay, although I did get a laugh when a giant wave completely soaked H – I probably laughed a bit too much….
A trip to that part of Cornwall (Helston) isn’t complete without a trip to St Ives – at less than ten miles away, we used the shuttle bus service, going into the main village and wandering around the shops before heading towards the Tate and getting the shuttle bus back. It cost £5 to park our car, and a £5 return for the three of us. Wandering around the shops was great, and I finally got into a branch of Seasalt where I treated myself to a new skirt in their sale! I’d been looking for a book of Cornish stories for H after she heard ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ at St Michael’s Mount – and found the perfect book in the St Ives Bookseller – it’s a small independent bookshop and has a great selection in there. We ate at the Seafood Cafe which caters for vegetarians and was really reasonably priced too.
Our journey home involved a stop at the Eden Project, which had so much to do we need to go back to get it done – there’ll be a more in-depth review to follow. We bought tickets heavily discounted with the CSSC membership.
At the very end of our break we made the most of a trip to Stonehenge, the half-way mark on the way home – and free of course as we’re English Heritage AND National Trust members. Phew!
Sunday 16th August. We went to St Michael’s Mount – somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, so really pleased we did it. H was a bit worried as the tide was getting close to the causeway on the way back, and we had no money as there are no cashpoints there (but the shops do cashback) – but we made it back in time! A lovely afternoon, and I had completely forgotten the story of Jack the Giant Killer was based there!
Monday 17th August. One of the biggest benefits of being National Trust members in Cornwall is the free parking – as we found when we went to tons of places and didn’t have to pay a penny. So we spent plenty in the cafe’s instead! We visited Kynance Cove and were so impressed – a beautiful beach. We bumped into friends too, and by the end of the day H had a body board (bought in Poldhu just up the road!).
Tuesday August 18th. We knew this would be our last day of good sun, with possible appearances on Friday so headed for the beach again, this time to Gunwalloe Church Cove, another National Trust beach which was quiet, big enough to make a boat in the sand, and empty enough we bumped into our friends again and hung out with them for the day – with H getting more confident on a body board too!
Wednesday August 19th. Making the most of our Merlin Passes we went to the SeaLife Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, where there was a Lego trail, plus additional questions which H enjoyed doing. It’s all outdoors, so not many places to shelter from the rain, but the rain wasn’t so bad. Our plans of doing two things in the same day were delayed by the rain, however. The Seal Sanctuary was wonderful – seeing how old seals are kept there, and seals are rescued and looked after until they’re ready to go back out to the wild was a real reassurance when you might have concerns about the SeaLife Aquariums (which I’m sure a lot of people do). A truly lovely place. This is H looking for Humboldt Penguins.
Thursday 20th August. This picture could have been SO much better – if only I’d remembered my camera battery. Foolish things to forget when going on holiday, your charger. So I had to rely on my phone. Which takes photos like this.
but also takes photos like this, as after we’d been to Pendennis Castle (using our English Heritage Membership), we went to Glendurgan Gardens (using our National Trust membership) – the maze was excellent!
Friday 21st August. Shaun’s birthday! So we went to St. Ives, which was lovely. I loved walking around, I loved going into a Seasalt shop, and I loved spending money on so many things which will be memories of our day there. I want to go back. I also don’t want to do the park and ride and get the bus down the hill, as a fiver is a right rip off, when you see what a short distance you go!
A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on
Saturday 22nd August. We left Helston, and went to The Eden Project – a wonderful day out. Again, relying on camera photos, and a full review to come – probably with awful photos. We’ll just have to go again 🙂
We lived in New Cross for years, and travelled through Eltham many times, but never went to Eltham Palace. Shaun has English Heritage membership for the family via his work, so we got to visit today – and what a glorious day!
Eltham Palace sounds very out of place. Eltham isn’t the kind of place you’d imagine a palace (sorry Eltham residents, I can only go on the few times I’ve been there) but it’s hidden away and has an interesting quirkiness to it. The house has been restored back to the 1930’s, when the Courthald’s lived there- Stephen and Ginny. You can wander around several rooms and get a feel of the place – and indeed, one room, the map room has recently restored maps which would have been used by them to plot their travels.
Eltham Palace has a much longer older history which is touched upon, but most of what’s on offer dates back to the 1930s, and two parts which H loved the most. Both involve dressing up – of course.
The main hall has the more regal costumes (and the court jester hat) – H enjoyed trying them on, though some people laughed at how cute she looked which made her feel a bit conscious of herself. Although on saying that, once she wore her princess gear she happily paraded around!
In the basement there’s much more dedicated to the war – as this was the area the family would shelter, as Eltham suffered badly when London was bombed. Down there are many uniforms and hats to try, as well as the original billiards table you could probably have a go on – it’s all set up!
H finds information about the war interesting, and indeed has decided history is her favourite subject at school so this appealed a lot. We probably spent the longest in the basement, though a lot could be to do with dressing up!
Eltham Palace has a little map for over 3’s, where you spot things in each room (usually an animal) and get a stamp, with a letter on each stamp, to work out a clue. H cracked the code pretty easily and got two chocolate gold coins and a sticker which pleased her a lot! It’s free, and definitely worth doing to keep your child interested.
The gardens are good for a wander around and sit down too – on a Sunday at the moment there’s jazz on until 4pm too – so it was quite busy as we got there, but glorious weather.
As well as Eltham Palace and Gardens, the area you park your car, where the shops and cafe are, also has a fabulous play area. H spent a lot of time there trying to master the climbing rails there – and coming out with blisters. Whoops! The nice lady in the restaurant gave us a couple of plasters as she was quite upset. But she had a brilliant time – I think she was so fixated on being able to do it she worked through the pain until it blistered! At least it shows she’s determined!
What I liked the best about Eltham Palace, is that it stays open until 6pm on a Sunday. Proper non-Sunday-like opening hours – and on a day like today it was just right – wandering around and having a fun time. I’d highly recommend a visit to Eltham Palace if you’re in the area anyway.
The English Heritage site is here. Eltham Palace reopened in April 2015 with five new rooms to explore. We had a brilliant time!