Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Our Mini Break In Hampshire

Last week, myself and the boys headed off to spend a couple of nights in Winchester courtesy of Hampshire's Top Attractions.

The Southampton area is somewhere we're quite familiar with as we always sail out of Southampton docks on our cruise holidays, and we've also visited Paultons Park a couple of times in the past too. But although we'd been so close to Winchester so many times, we'd never paid it a visit before.

It's the kind of city that I've always intended to visit but just never quite got around to, and so I was pretty excited to finally be able to go.

We stayed in the Holiday Inn Winchester which was the perfect base for us. The lobby of the hotel was beautiful and really set the tone, while our room was comfortable and spacious with every amenity we needed during our stay.
 I have to admit, I'm not really one for overly fancy hotels when we're visiting with the boys as I just can't relax in them knowing that there are expensive things everywhere and that other guests have paid a small fortune to stay - it sets my anxiety off if my boys are taking a while to settle down to sleep incase somebody complains!

So a family-friendly, mid range hotel like Holiday Inn is perfect for our needs. I loved that they're currently offering free childrens meals for every adult meal purchased too - this is such a great money saver for families and I think offering things like this is so valuable as we all know that family breaks like this don't come cheap, especially when you have 3 or more children!

We travelled from Devon on the Sunday and were due to visit Chawton House - famous for being referenced by Jane Austen as the Great Hall, the home of her brother while she & her mother lived just down the road in a modest cottage. Unfortunately we ran into a lot of traffic so we arrived with only an hour to see the house before it closed...we managed to see everything in that time and the weather was really awful that day anyway, so we wouldn't have been able to enjoy the gardens regardless.

I found Chawton House a charming place to visit, and I really enjoyed looking around - standing at the upstairs window to look out over the grounds and imagining how Jane herself may have stood in that very spot, dreaming up timeless characters such as Mr Darcy and, my personal favourite, Emma Woodhouse.

I also found it fascinating to see a lock of Charlotte Bronte's hair on display - I find things like that so interesting, and I could have spent much longer reading through all of the visitor information but obviously with 3 little boys in tow you tend to have to move quite quickly through a stately home for fear of them breaking something valuable!

They were very well behaved though, and we enjoyed our time at the house very much. I would certainly like to return one day to have a proper look around the gardens and the nearby church where Jane's mother and sister are buried.

The following day, we were up and out bright and early after a delicious breakfast at the Holiday Inn to visit Paultons Park - home to Peppa Pig World!

We've visited her 3 or 4 times previously but not since Sailor was a baby, and so it was his first time as far as he was concerned...and he was SO excited!

We headed to the Peppa Pig World section first of all and to our delight we found that the queues weren't anywhere as bad as we had anticipated considering it was the first week of the summer holidays! Some of the queues for the newer rides were around 30 minutes long and so we decided against them as the boys weren't too fussed, and instead we made sure we took advantage of the rides with shorter queues such as Grandad Dogs Boat Ride and Grandpa Pigs Train.

The boys favourite thing to do at ANY theme park we go to is always to play in the park areas and so they spent a lot of time running about there as the play area in the Peppa section is really lovely.

We decided against queueing to meet Peppa & George as we've done it plenty of times in the past, so instead we just said a quick hello during one of their appearances...which is where they stand outside the schoolhouse giving high 5s rather than posing for individual photos with people. Its much quicker than waiting for photos and lets face it, all the children want to do is meet the pigs! The photos are more for the adults than for them anyway!

We did spot Zoe Zebra walking around so we nabbed a quick photo with her too, and the boys were delighted to get to give her a cuddle as we'd never met her before!

After spending a couple of hours in the Peppa section, our 5 year old was very keen to move on to "The big boys stuff!" as he has decided he's far too old for Peppa Pig now and was less than impressed at spending time on the "baby rides" as he called them! (Sniff...I remember when he absolutely loved those rides, why do they grow up so quickly?!)

So we headed off to the Lost Kingdom area which is home to dinosaur themed rides a plenty including some pretty big roller coasters! Tyne was in his element here...he is a real daredevil so he and his Dad had a great time riding the Flight Of The Pterosaur and The Velociraptor a good few times each while I watched on in awe!

We rode the dinosaur safari jeeps together as a family as well as the viking boat rides in the main park which was nice as there's not usually many rides in theme parks that you can do together as a family of 5, so it's always nice when there are some.

We also managed to catch the live Dinosaur shows where the ranger talked us through the real life dinosaurs on display and gave the children to opportunity to pet them - terrifying but super exciting!

All in all, we had a lovely family day out at Paultons Park - we've never had a bad experience there, it's always a fail safe day out that each and every one of us enjoys providing plenty to do without the feel of hustle bustle that most theme parks have.

After a good nights sleep at our hotel, our finals day adventure was at the Winchester Science Centre which was literally right next door to our hotel - just a few footsteps away!

We were booked in to watch the 10.30 Planetarium show which was what they call a "Chatterbox" showing designed for younger children - the show was about 20 minutes long and was perfect for the boys ages, it kept them engaged throughout and was just about the right length as they'd just started to get wriggly when it ended! If you're visiting Winchester Science Centre, I highly recommend seeing a show at the Planetarium while you're there - it really was very good!

We then spent the next four hours exploring the centre itself. I wasn't really sure how much time we'd spend there as I wasn't entirely sure that the boys would enjoy it but I was totally wrong. There were over 100 hands on experiments for them to try out and they absolutely loved getting stuck in to them!

Tyne, our eldest, probably got the most out of it as he's really interested in learning about things like gravity at the moment so there was absolutely tons to keep him interested but even Noah and Sailor at 3 and 2 years old found tons to keep them entertained.

They loved being able to get really hands on with things as I usually spend all of my time in museums telling them not to touch things! So to be able to run wild and get stuck in was perfect for them!

Our favourite areas were the racetrack which timed us racing against each other, the periscope and the cyclone creator...and downstairs was a Space exhibit which was really immersive and engaging, all 5 of us really enjoyed it and we spent a good hour in that section alone.

We had a great afternoon at Winchester Science Centre, if you're heading to the area then I highly recommend a visit.

And that was the end of our planned activities with Hampshire Top Days Out, but as we were in the area - I decided to make one quick stop off before heading home.

I'm a huge fan of Downton Abbey and I'd read online that the house they'd used for filming, Highclere Castle, was only half an hour away from where we'd stayed and was open to the public so we headed over there for a little look around.

We decided against going inside as it was quite expensive and I don't think I would have been able to relax and enjoy it with the boys there, so we just paid the £7 per adult for entry to the gardens only and this was ample for what we wanted.

It gave me the chance to see the house (which was all I wanted!) and take photos outside it, have a cup of tea and a slice of cake while admiring the view, and then wander around the vast and beautiful gardens for an hour or so in the sunshine before the long drive home.

The movie version of The Secret Garden was also filmed at Highclere so we had a lot of fun going off on a hunt to find that very Secret Garden, which was beautiful!, and looking for fairies and elves along the way.

It was the perfect end to a lovely couple of days of quality family time together.

If you're looking to explore more of the UK then you won't be disappointed in Hampshire - there is SO much to do there, we could honestly have easily filled a week!

To get an idea of what's on offer, just visit

*With thanks to Hampshire's Top Days Out for hosting us on this visit, our accommodation and entry into the attractions (with the exception of Highclere Castle) were compensated however all thoughts, words and opinions are my own.

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