Is there anything better than family time off together, away from routine and work and house jobs? I love breaks away with my three favourite people, even if they're just short trips or days out. I love nothing more than just being in their company and exploring new places together and capturing the special moments so that we can always re-live our favourite memories.
Last week we took a midweek short break to Devon. It was just for two nights but it was so lovely all the same. I'd wanted to go and see my blogging friend, Hayley, who writes the blog Sparkles and Stretchmarks, for a while and we'd also been invited to stay at The Moorland Garden Hotel, so we decided to make a little trip out of it and we headed down towards the seaside.
We live in Buckinghamshire, so it was a four hour journey for us with a lunch stop included. If you read my blog often, follow my YouTube channel or follow me on social media, then you'll know that my boys are quite active and so they're not very fond of long car journeys but we recently bought an iPad for long car journeys and that definitely helped! I always think the last hour is the worst. ;)
It was so lovely to finally go down to where Hayley lives, she's minutes away from quite a few beaches and so we took our five boys in total down to the beach and to the park for a while to play. Hayley and I have followed each others blogs since the very beginning when we were both pregnant with our first little boys, now four(!). I feel like we really 'get' each other and we're on the same sort of wave length. She's a great friend and I feel so grateful to have been able to meet her through blogging.
After the beach we all headed over to Las Iguanas for dinner. Taking five (very young) boys out to dinner was brave, but we totally managed it with the help of the Daddies. :) After that we said our goodbyes and headed over to our home for the next two nights - The Moorland Garden Hotel which is located just on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, not far from Plymouth and Tavistock.
We arrived quite late, the boys had fallen asleep in the car and we had to get all of our bags in with two very sleepy boys. Although there was no lift up to our room, the hotel staff offered to bring our bags up to our room for us, which was really nice and helpful of them.
The boys soon woke up when they realised they were staying somewhere new and were running around exploring their new room. The room was great because we actually had two rooms that interconnected, which was perfect for us as a family. The boys stayed in a really spacious twin room which had space for a travel cot for Logan and even had an en-suite, a dressing table, chairs to sit on and lots of floor space.
And we had a double sized bed in another really spacious room with an en-suite with a shower. There were televisions in both rooms and the staff had left out cookies and Disney movies for us all to enjoy. The views from the windows were beautiful, looking out over in to the stunning landscaped gardens below. Despite staying in a hotel, we all felt like we had more than enough space and that we weren't on top of each other at all. It was nice to have our room and for the boys to have theirs, but to still be all together.
Breakfast in the morning was really lovely and it was nice to find a vegetarian cooked breakfast option too. There was also cereal, toast and a selection of other breakfast foods available and so the boys enjoyed cereal and croissants.
After breakfast we headed outside, eager as an outdoor-loving family, to explore the gardens. The gardens are very pretty and it was lovely for the boys to be able to run around for a little while.
After their little run about, we got in to our car and headed over to Plymouth (about 20 minutes away) to visit The National Marine Aquarium. It's home to the UK's largest native exhibition and it also has the UK's largest single-tank viewing panel which was a bit like being at the cinema, except we were watching fish, sharks and sea turtles swim about. It was pretty amazing.
We loved exploring the Aquarium, Ethan especially. At one point I realised he wasn't standing next to me anymore and I looked round to find him standing listening to a member of staff talking to children about the sharks. Ethan very sweetly stood there listening for ages, before jumping in with his own knowledge and asking his own questions. The conversation quickly turned to water-based dinosaurs of course, but the man talking to Ethan was so good with him, bending down listening to him and answering all of his questions.
After completing our explore of the aquarium, we stopped in the cafe for a bite to eat. We'd let Ethan buy some small marine animal figures from the shop at the end and he sat really nicely playing with them and asking us about each animal. He got really in to them and kept asking for a tub of water to make his own little aquarium. He'd got a little otter figure and when we got back at our hotel he was watching videos about them and he even spotted and got excited about an otter in one of the magazines that had been left in our room. It was very sweet. :)
Before we headed back, we had a little explore around the harbour just outside of the aquarium. It was really nice to look at all of the boats and I noticed that there were a few boat rides available for those wanted to go on one.
On the way back we were going to have a drive through Dartmoor National Park, but the boys fell asleep in the back of the car. So Adam and I took the opportunity to park up in a scenic spot and just take a short rest before heading back to our hotel to meet with Sam the lovely PR for Moorland Garden Hotel.
It was really nice to meet Sam, and we spent time chatting about our trip and our thoughts on the hotel and staying there as a family. We said about how lovely it would be if perhaps the hotel would consider setting up a indoor play room for children staying at the hotel or even investing in a playground area in the gardens in the future, just to give families somewhere to take their children when they're at the hotel and they're not out and about exploring the surrounding areas.
I also think another thing that could be added for families is an earlier dining option. We were allowed to eat in the hotels bar from 6pm, but the hotel was quite quiet when we were there and we felt that, with young children, we were perhaps disturbing the older guests. So we waited until 6.30pm when the restaurant opened and then we went and ate in the main restaurant room, which again was very quiet, but was a bit more inviting to us a family. 6.30pm is quite late for us to eat as a family. Our boys usually eat at 5pm, so it would be nice to see an earlier dining time for families in the future. As well as perhaps a younger children's menu, as we felt that the children's menu that was offered to us was tailored more for older children as the portion sizes were quite large.
Asides from that, we found that the hotel was lovely and there seemed to be lots of nice things for families to do in the surrounding area like, Dartmoor National Park, the aquarium that we visited, Dartmoor Zoo, Buckland Abbey (which apparently puts on fun activities for children during the holidays) and much more.
After dinner on our last night we headed up to our room to bath the boys and put them to bed and we just managed to catch the sun setting from our hotel window which was beautiful to watch. We came home the next morning feeling more relaxed, closer as a family and with some really lovely new memories. :)
A little video I made from our time in Devon:
*We were invited to stay at The Moorland Garden Hotel and provided with tickets for The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, but all opinions expressed are, as always, entirely our own.