How to improve holidays with children
Hey Mum, let's go on holiday with the gang
What was your social life like at the age of seven? Perhaps my memory is playing tricks on me, but I don't remember having one. Stanley, on the other hand, finds it hard to keep up with the social whirl that takes up all of his spare time. There are birthday bonanzas, Christmas blow-outs, end-of-term balls, disco dos, and parties just for the hell of it. He's sat in stretch limos, jumped aboard pirate ships, twisted ankles on ice rinks, and stayed up all night at sleepovers... In fact, Stan's already done pretty much everything there is to do, and I often find myself deferring to his superior worldly knowledge. My main concern is that he needs to save some things for when he's a grown up or he'll be bored stiff.
But there's one party he hasn't been to yet. I've invented a new theme: a holiday party - mainly because this is the kind adults can come to too. You get together a gang of friends and their kids (preferably ones you get along with), book some palatial accommodation somewhere gorgeous and, hey presto, you can party all week without having to leave the house.
There are several companies that specialise in accommodating large groups on holiday. Top of the list is the Big Domain (01326 240028; thebig domain.com). I've got my eye on La Finca del Niño in Andalucia, which sleeps up to 24. This hacienda is divided into four separate villas, so it's nice and flexible for several families holidaying together. You can book a Spanish cook to prepare your meals, and, if you're in full party mood, they'll even organise your do for you, with a flamenco group thrown in.
The house has its own art studio with a kiln and pottery wheel (it can be booked as a painting or pottery holiday too, which includes tuition), there's a swimming pool and a toddler pool, and acres of fruit trees to gorge yourselves on when the jelly and ice cream run out.
For a party Italian style, To Tuscany (020-7193 7782; totuscany.com) is well worth a look. You could have a ball (literally) at the Villa Mucellena, Siena, for example, which sleeps up to 30 people. Huge grounds, a large pool, a cook and 12 bathrooms are just a few of its attractions.
One of my favourite party spots is in Provence. Domaine Des Anges (0033 490619085; domainedes anges.com) holds a special place in my heart, because we stayed there with four other families when the kids were tiny. This cluster of farmhouses on a huge vineyard sleeps up to 22 people. It is remote, beautiful and peaceful (once the kids are asleep); the owners are friendly, and it has the added bonus of a wine cellar that kept us in party swing all week.
For some stunning larger properties in Britain, try the Landmark Trust (01628 825925; land marktrust.org) or Classic Cottages (01326 555555; classic.co.uk). One of their best offerings is Widecombe Manor, in the middle of Dartmoor National Park, an imposing 19th-century home with its own solar-powered swimming pool, a fishing river, a deer park, two lakes and a resident estate manager to advise on everything from fishing to riding in the grounds.
Perhaps even Stanley would find this acceptable for his next social gathering. I've got his eighth birthday coming up soon...
Katy's top tip
Visit cottagesforgroups.com, a new website from Coastal Cottages of Pembrokeshire, which specialises in properties for eight or more.
Katy Holland ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is acting editor of 'Pregnancy and birth' magazine
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