Some of my fondest childhood memories are of seaside family holidays in the UK, rock pooling with long handled nets, crabbing, buckets and spades for building sand castles, sticky rock and picnics on the beach, even with sand in my sandwiches. But my most endearing memory is from the time we rented a brightly coloured beach hut, which was basically a painted shed with some chairs and a kettle; but in my mind, it was like a palace on the beach and I still remember being so disappointed that I couldn’t sleep in it all night.
So, although I love travelling and discovering new places and we’re lucky enough to go on several holidays during the year across Europe and beyond it just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t manage to fit in our week’s family holiday in the UK every year.
As Grandparents we started going to Croyde in North Devon for our family holiday with G, Mr G and Grandson no 1 (F) nearly 10 years ago, and we’ve been going every year since; and from 5 we’ve grown to 7 over the years with the addition of Grandsons no 2 and 3.
Croyde Bay is on the West coast of North Devon around 10 miles from Barnstaple and is popular with families and surfers; and is rated as one of the best surfing beaches in the world. The mix of families and surfers lends a vibrant buzzy atmosphere to the village which we love.
We always follow the same route down taking the A303 past Stonehenge, the “Pretty Route” as we refer to it after the scene in The Comic Strip’s The Supergrass:
Harvey (Peter Richardson) – “Where are you going?”
Dennis (Adrian Edmondson) – “A303 it’s the pretty route”
Harvey – “Why?”
Dennis – “If I go on the motorway I usually tend to nod off and crash”
Harvey – “Go the pretty route”
I love the final stretch of the journey and that familiar feeling as we round the bend on the road from Saunton Sands and glimpse the first sight of the Bay.
We’ve now been going so often that everything is comfortingly familiar as soon as we arrive, and we don’t need time to settle in and get to know the place as you do when you visit new holiday locations. We’ve fallen into a bit of a routine and once we’ve unpacked and had a stroll on the beach it’s time for a Friday fish and chip supper at The Blue Groove or takeaway from Squires in Braunton.
Self-catering gives us more flexibility although we tend to eat out 3 or 4 times during the week as there’s so many options with The Blue Groove, The Thatch, Croyde Stores, The Kings Arms and The Rock, all within a short distance and serving great food.
There’s also been a real surge in street food in the village over the past couple of years with pop ups, shacks and vans including Lola’s Wings and Stoned travelling pizzeria which sets up just outside Croyde Stores and cooks take away pizzas in its mobile wood fired oven; and they’re delicious.
Holidaying in the UK can be a bit hit and miss weather wise but with so much to do in around Croyde we’ve never been stuck for things to do. We always hire a large house so there’s plenty of room for everyone and if it’s a rainy day and no one wants to go out we can always put a film on or the boys can play on their Xbox. There’s always the option of the indoor Tropical Pool at the Ruda holiday park which is great for escaping the rain if it’s bad, but we do tend to be very lucky when we go and I’m sure Croyde has its own special micro climate– hope I haven’t jinxed it for this year.
As the Grandkids have grown up over the years what we do during the week has also changed. Now that they are older we tend to spend more time at the beach swimming, surfing, playing beach ball games and rock pooling and less time at the local theme parks. Although, we always make time for a visit to eccentric Watermouth Castle, full of eclectic treasures, nostalgic displays and a dungeon labyrinth leading to the theme park which set in beautifully landscaped gardens. The boys especially love the water balloon catapult and soft ball cannons – boys being boys.
There are plenty of other family theme parks in the area and when the boys were younger their favourites were Combe Martyn Wildlife & Dinosaur Park and The Big Sheep, they’re definitely worth a visit if you have young children.
Last year Grandson no 1 started having surf lessons with the wonderful Croyde Surf Academy who had him up and surfing during his first lesson, and now he’s totally hooked. Grandson no 2 wants to try out Coasteering with them this year. So now as long as the boys have their wetsuits they’ll happily spend all day at the beach.
There is an RNLI Lifeguard service on the beach from May to September throughout Easter weekend all October weekends and October Half Term so it’s safe for the kids, you just need to keep an eye on the flags.
There are also lots of other great beaches in the area within easy traveling distance and here are a couple of our favourites:
- Saunton Sands – huge beach good for surfing and kite flying; and they have “Beach Huts”
- Putsborough Sands – just on the other side of Croyde, another long expanse of sandy beach with occasional rock pools. The waves here are better for surfing beginners and the clean water makes it a perfect for both swimmers and paddlers alike. Great for spectacular sunsets.
Although the boys love spending time at the beach they obviously want to do other things so one of our holiday rules now is that before we go everyone makes a list of what they would like to do (including parent and grandparents) so we make sure we fit it all in. On the boys wish list, apart from surfing and time at the beach, there’s usually:
- A hack with Roylands Riding Stables – family run stables, BHS approved they do Tiny Treks from age 5
- A trip to the Deck Chair Cinema – in the village hall, this is a must for kids and adults with homemade popcorn for sale, deckchairs for seats (and even double deckchairs if you get there early!)
- A daily visit to Croyde Ice Cream Parlour – their mission “To transfer our passion in the ways of the scoop, into the mouths of the needy, via a selection of cones.” And they do serve thoroughly delicious ice cream which this Thoroughly Modern Grandma loves (that one’s on my Wishlist too).
- A few hours in the Skate Park – on Hobbs’ Hill, near the village car park, two quarter pipes and a volcano ramp in the middle.
- Family garden / beach game Olympics which runs throughout the week with the boys organising various games including French Cricket, Beach Boules etc with a running score total, with a winner announced at the end of the week. This one never fails to cause a few disagreements!
- A milk shake or two at The Blue Groove
This is just a short taster of what we enjoy about Croyde and its perfect destination as a family holiday and I haven’t even had time to tell you about all the great things there are for Grown ups to do; but that’s for another time / Blog. I will just say it will definitely include a run down on the best Cream Teas and I’ve included some pictures to whet your appetite.
Top Tip – if you’re a National Trust member don’t forget your membership cards as you get free parking in the Baggy Point National Trust car park which is close to the beach and Sandleigh Tea Rooms.
Hope you enjoyed reading and I’d love to hear what your favourite childhood holiday memories are or where you love going on family holidays.