Katy Holland: Half-term? Bring it on

Are we there yet? My top five stress-free mini-breaks for families this half-term
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The Independent Travel

If you're still emptying the sand out of your shoes from summer, the thought of having to entertain your little bundles of joy once more may get you tearing your hair out – half-term is nearly here.

But there's no need to panic, dear readers, because I've done the planning for you. And in the process, I've compiled my top five stress-free mini-breaks for families this half-term.

First on my list is Fowey Hall in Cornwall (01726 833866; foweyhallhotel .co.uk), because they really know how to look after energetic little 'uns and their exhausted parents. Special half-term activities include chocolate hunts, nature trails and clay modelling, leaving you time to catch your breath in the spa. Book for the full week and get a discount on room rates, with B&B in a double down to £185 per night for two sharing.

For a sedate Scottish sojourn, the Inch Hotel in Loch Ness (01456 450900; inchhotel.com) offers a lovely country escape, with guided autumn walks, castle visits and plenty of monster hunts, as well as hot chocolate and storytelling by the fire.

This family retreat, which overlooks the famous loch, is offering three nights for the price of two during half-term, a total of £200 for a family of four sharing. Children go free until the end of October.

At the other end of the UK, the Isle of Wight has lots to get excited about, including magic shows and train rides during Wizard Week on the Steam Railway (01983 882204; iwsteamrailway.co.uk). Stay at the Brunswick Hotel (01983 863245; brunswick-hotel .co.uk), with its indoor and outdoor pools, and take advantage of a special offer exclusive to the half-term holidays: a full-board three-night break for a family of four, including car ferry crossings, will cost you less than £600.

For a taste of truly rural life, you'll need to head for the Yorkshire Dales for a few nights in an eco-chic lodge with Natural Retreats (0161-242 2970; naturalretreats .com). Join in a family adventure day, with orienteering and treasure hunts, and take the kids on a wilderness survival workshop, where youngsters can make like Bear Grylls in the woods, with lessons in bonfire-building, shelter-making and the toasting of marshmallows. The self-catering accommodation costs from £126 per night for a family of six.

But if you want to eschew all that country air and fancy a day out in London, don't miss the Mad Hatter's Tea Parties at the Dorchester Hotel (020-7629 8888 thedorchester .com). They cost £47.50 for adults and £30 for children and run from Monday 26 October to Sunday 1 November.

Afternoon tea will be served with pirouettes, pliés, and petits sautés as young dancers from the English National Ballet, dressed as characters from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, will serve afternoon tea. Slices of cake and cucumber sandwiches are on the menu, and there's even a glass of champagne or two for the adults.

Half-term? Bring it on.