Bikes, boats and animals – full-on adventure days for half-term
Bikes, boats and animals Ã¢Â?Â? full-on adventure days for half-term
THE summer holidays may be over but there's another break just around the corner, so plan an adventure with a difference.
HOP ON: Surfing in Watergate Bay, Cornwall
The wide, dramatic sweep of North Cornwall's Watergate Bay, its expanse of sand bracketed by dark boulders and cliffs, is one of the county's best family (and dog-friendly) beaches. It is home to a Jamie Oliver Fifteen restaurant and to the Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay (01637 860840/extremeacademy.co.uk), which offers lessons in surfi ng, kite-surfing and waveski, a cross between a kayak and a surfboard. ? Two-hour introduction to bodyboarding, Â£25, half-day surfi ng lessons from Â£35.
You might think attending an Arsenal Soccer School (020 7619 5000/playthearsenalway.com) would mean a trek to the Emirates in north London or the training ground in Hertfordshire but the club's programme of teaching wannabe Theo Walcotts or budding Alex Oxlade-Chamberlains the secrets of the top players has spread all over the country. You can choose from a one-day course in Truro for 6-12s, a two-day non-residential course in Paignton (4-6s) and a non-residential four-day course in Woking (4-14s), with other locations and age ranges available. And they are aimed at both boys and girls. ? Two hours from Â£5/four days from Â£69.
Junior petrolheads under 17 who are at least 5ft are able to have an adrenaline-fi lled go at driving a Mercedes saloon, or a 4×4, at the steel-and-glass Mercedes-Benz World (0370 400 4000/ mercedes-benzworld.co.uk) which occupies part of the historic Brooklands race track near Weybridge. It starts with the basics but moves on to the exciting bits in the company of a seasoned pro. You do this on safe, modern surfaces, but the old track itself, now cracked and overgrown, is still hugely evocative: close your eyes and you can hear the distant thrum of Bentleys and Napiers echoing down the years. ? Thirty minutes from Â£45.
WISE UP: Owl fun at Bovey Castle in Devon
GHOSTLY GOINGS ON
Half-term coincides with the build-up to Halloween and many attractions are polishing their skulls and dusting down their broomsticks. During half-term week and until November 1, Warwick Castle (0871 265 2000/warwick-castle.com), which is everything you want from a fantasy castle, with battlements, siege engines and drawbridges, becomes the Haunted Castle with a twilight Fire Joust by ghostly knights, the Witches' Tower (with dressing up and spell writing), a Haunted Hollows spooky trail and a 50-minute walk-through experience of the castle dungeon. ? The castle will stay open until 9pm. From Â£17 per adult, Â£15 per child.
Burn off excess energy with a family "off-piste" mountain bike experience in Wales. Mudtrek (01267 202423/ mudtrek.com), a ski chalet-like biking centre atop Llanllwni Mountain in Carmarthenshire, offers exciting guided rides along the world-class bike trails in Brechfa, switchbacking through the splendid forest. Back at base everything is fully catered, including packed lunches, and at night there are movies or DVDs of your ride to watch in the "Mud Hut". ? Two nights from Â£150, full board. Bike hire Â£40 per day.
"Pop-up" activity/sport day camps aimed at 5-12 year olds are available from October 26-30 in Brighton, Godalming, Staines and Hampstead, run by Kingswood Camps (01603 309300/kingswood.co.uk). On offer are supervised activities such as circus skills, ultimate frisbee, football, tag rugby, netball and much more. ? From Â£40 per day.
The RYA-approved Mylor Sailing School (01326 377633/mylorsailingschool. co.uk), near Falmouth in Cornwall, offers "have a go at sailing" days on October 25 and 27. The days will give an inkling of why speeding over the waves under wind power is so addictive. All equipment, including wetsuits, buoyancy aids and helmets, is provided. Improvers also welcome. ? From Â£16 half day.
AHOY: Sailing school in Cornwall
SPORT FOR ALL
Caythorpe Court in Lincolnshire is a Grade II listed hunting lodge from 1901 that looks as if it belongs in Downton Abbey. It is now an adventure centre that offers families with children from five to 18 a grand total of 23 different activities this October half-term. PGL (0844 371 0101/pgl.co.uk) has taken over the 65 acres of grounds surrounding the Edwardian manor house and it now has two man-made lakes, archery ranges, a challenging "high ropes" course, a tunnel trail and an outdoor sports pitch. ? Four nights from Â£279 per adult, Â£235 per child (sharing a family room), full board, with activities.
SNOW AND ROCKS
The Bowles (01892 665665/bowles.ac) outdoor activity centre near Tunbridge Wells in Kent features a dry ski slope and an impressive outdoor sandstone climbing wall, with easy to challenging climbs. It has a variety of courses for 8-15 year olds including one on October 27 focusing on rock climbing and bushcraft, with other days featuring skiing and snowboarding tuition. ? Half day from Â£30, full day, Â£50.
For those who fancy indulging in a little luxury while the children frolic through the grounds, the recently refurbished Bovey Castle (01647 445000/prideof britainhotels.com) in Devon offers a comprehensive list of outdoor/survival activities. The Bovey Rangers club caters to 7-14 year olds. These include float fishing, raft building, survival skills, archery and hands-on sessions with reptiles and owls. ? Activities from Â£32. Family rooms from Â£368 per night (four sharing), room-only.
FANTASTIC MR FOX
A one-day "Animal Wisdom" course on identifying with and tracking animals is on offer from bushcraft specialists Natural Pathways (01304 842045/naturalpathways. co.uk). Taking place in woodland near Canterbury, Kent, it includes lessons in the "Fox Walk", how to creep silently through a forest and how to increase your observational hunting skills. ? From Â£33, or Â£119 (family of four).
Running until November (weather permitting), North 58Âº Sea (01309 690099/north58. co.uk) uses exciting RIB powerboats to take adults and children alike out to explore the coast and wildlife of Scotland's Moray Firth. The two-hour voyages from Findhorn often encounter seals, porpoises and dolphins, as well as many species of seabirds. Goggles and life jackets provided. ? From Â£27 per adult, Â£22 per child.
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