Caroline Mills

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If you're planning family caravan holidays in Britain this summer, don't miss Caroline Mills' guide to exciting children's events and family attractions

There are so many reasons to stay in Britain this summer, you’ll never want to leave. Caroline Mills picks out some great ideas to entertain you and your children during UK-based family caravan holidays.

You may have already planned your family fortnight in the sun for the summer holidays – looking forward to a far-flung Continental campsite and the prospect of a lengthy tow. But statistics from the tourist boards tell us that more people are taking multiple short breaks in Britain in place of one long holiday a year. In which case, you’ll be looking for something to keep the kids amused time and time again over the summer. 

If you’ve already booked a pitch on one of Britain's many excellent campsites, read on to see if my selection of fabulous new family attractions and events are within reach. And, if you’re still ‘umming’ and ‘aahing’ over a morning cuppa as to what to do for a family break while the kids are off school, well these ideas could spur you on to get that campsite booked. Here’s to a lovely summer.

See the Big Friendly Giant film in Cheshire

In the year that celebrates the 100th anniversary since the birth of children’s author Roald Dahl, the highly anticipated cinema release of one of his much-loved stories, The BFG, will take place on 22 July. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Oscar-winner Mark Rylance as The Big Friendly Giant himself, filming for the live action took place across England, so cinema-goers will be able to spot a variety of famous landmarks.

And to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Dahl’s birth, there are numerous events taking place across Britain but most notably at Tatton Park, in Knutsford, Cheshire, one of the most popular attractions to visit during caravan holidays in North West England

In a year jam-packed with surprises at Tatton Park are the most imaginative trails for children. Throughout the summer you’ll be invited to join Danny the Champion of the World in the gardens, Fantastic Mr Fox at the farm and Matilda in the mansion – and out in the parkland, the Enormous Crocodile will be lurking! 

Once you’ve become acquainted with The BFG at cinemas across the country, you can head to the outdoor cinema set up in Tatton’s beautiful parkland with a late summer evening screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring the legendary Gene Wilder. All summer, though, there will be plenty of invitations to settle down and listen in as Roald Dahl’s extraordinary storytelling weaves its way through the park. 

Roald Dahl’s ability to make people imagine is the inspiration for a number of children's interactive and creative sessions taking place at Tatton Park. Make a kite with Danny, conjure up your own magical potions with George or simply get creative and write your own magical tales. Visitors will be able to discover the most glorious treats in Tatton’s Stableyard. Inspired by Roald Dahl, a fun children’s menu includes 'scrummy boodley pods' and 'tasty piggerley porkers'.

And, if it’s Quentin Blake’s iconic accompanying illustrations that you love most, you’ll be able to enjoy many of them in an exhibition at Tatton Park. Cover to Cover: Roald Dahl around the World displays illustrations of Roald Dahl book jackets from across the world and throughout time. 

So, where's the best place to stay when you visit Tatton Park with your children? Elm Cottage Touring Park in Winsford is your place to sit back and chill. It features in Practical Caravan’s Top 100 Sites Guide.

Sliding through London

With all eyes on the Olympic Games in Rio and memories that come flooding back of the London Games 2012, the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide has opened just in time for the summer at the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Olympic Park. Starting at 80 metres high, it will spiral around the iconic tower five times before a final 50-metre route down to the ground. The ride takes about 40 seconds, with transparent sections within the tunnel for visitors to enjoy the view – if you dare to open your eyes!

It’s only a short ride by bus, Tube or rail from the Lee Valley Camping and Caravan Park in Edmonton to central London, including the rail station at Stratford for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Countryfile Live, Oxfordshire

A new outdoor countryside event from BBC Countryfile will be staged at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire from 4 to 7 August. Hosted in partnership with The National Trust, Countryfile Live is set to display the very best of the living countryside. It will bring award-winning elements of the popular TV programme to a live audience, through a series of hands-on activities, talks and unique interactive features.

There are different events taking place every day in the main arena, the National Trust Theatre and The Big Barn in the grounds of Blenheim Palace. You can meet the presenters, or simply enjoy the street food and the Great British Ice Cream Parlour, bringing together 40 of the nation's best ice cream producers and offering a 1,000 different flavours. Consider me already there!

There’s a Caravan Club site within the 2,000-acre grounds of Blenheim Palace but it’s likely to get booked up very quickly. No worries, you could stay at Diamond Caravan Park, just five miles from Blenheim. It’s a family-friendly park that has been in Practical Caravan’s Top 100 Sites Guide in previous years and boasts its own swimming pool.

Solarsphere, Wales

Solarsphere is a brand new event combining the science of astronomy with the backdrop of a music festival. Join in the family-friendly workshops, which include solar observing and astro photography, night sky observing, talks on astronomy and a moon landing debate. Additionally for kids, there’s face painting and a magician, alongside some great live music – and a mobile planetarium. 

Taking place from 12 to 15 August in beautiful Builth Wells, you can camp on site for free.

A water park unlike any other, North Yorkshire

Due to open just in time for the school holidays in Scarborough, one of Britain’s most popular summer destinations, Alpamare is being dubbed as ‘a waterpark unlike anything the UK has ever seen.’ They’re big words but the Alpine-themed water park will feature four water rides, offering up to 2,500 rides per hour on four-person floats, two-person tubes, racing mats and body slides.

The attraction will also boast a 480 square metre indoor wave pool, a luxury spa, a 200 square metre outdoor family pool, a 170 square metre  outdoor iodine infinity pool, together with landscaped gardens and restaurants. It’s planned to be open seven days a week until 10pm at night, so you’re sure to find some time to spend a day there with your children.

News hasn’t yet broken as to an exact opening date but we’ll keep you posted. Naturally, there are lots of campsites within the vicinity but the family-friendly Jasmine Park in Snainton, near Scarborough, scored highly amongst you in Practical Caravan’s Top 100 Sites Guide.

Alice’s Day, Oxfordshire

One golden afternoon on 4 July 1862, Charles Dodgson, an Oxford don, took Alice Liddell and her sisters on a boating picnic up the River Thames from Folly Bridge in Oxford. To amuse the children he told them a story about a little girl, sitting bored by a riverbank, who finds herself tumbling down a rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world called Wonderland. And so his stories became Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865 under the pen name Lewis Carroll. 

To celebrate that first telling, Oxford turns into Wonderland for one magical day every year. You can take a trip down the rabbit hole on 2 July 2016 as Oxford city centre transforms into Wonderland for Alice’s Day. This year the theme of the festival is animals!

Venues across Oxford including The Story Museum, Museum of Natural History, Bodleian Library and Oxford Castle will be hosting Alice-themed events and activities. Visitors to the city will have the opportunity to sing and dance a Lobster Quadrille, join the Caucus Race, take a seat at the Mad Hatter’s tea party and enjoy the amazing Alice-themed street puppetry. 

The Story Museum is encouraging visitors to embrace their inner animal by donning their very best pair of bunny ears to take part in the white rabbit trail – an exciting scavenger hunt across the city. Other events to enjoy include Alice In Wonderland-themed gallery activities at the Ashmolean Museum; Alice guided tours of Christ Church – the home of Lewis Carroll – and an exhibition of some of Carroll’s photography work at Pitt Rivers Museum. Most events are free and full details of the programme will be published on The Story Museum’s website.

Escape to your own idyllic haven at Lincoln Farm Park in nearby Standlake. Children love it as do many of you, who voted for it within Practical Caravan’s Top 100 Sites 2016. And, with its rural location, you’ll be just as likely to see a bunny rabbit here. Whether it’s white and wears a pocket watch is another matter. 

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