Q&A: So, is Bohinj really better than Bled?

The Independent Parent: Your Questions Answered
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Q. We have three daughters, aged 13, 12 and nine. Next year we would like to try somewhere new for our summer holiday, perhaps Slovenia. We enjoy fairly active holidays – walking and cycling – and also want easy access to swimming. Would Slovenia be a good choice, and if so where? (We have been told that Bohinj might be better than Bled.) Are there self-catering options as well as hotels? And finally, how easy would it be to include two to three days in Ljubljana?

Q. We have three daughters, aged 13, 12 and nine. Next year we would like to try somewhere new for our summer holiday, perhaps Slovenia. We enjoy fairly active holidays – walking and cycling – and also want easy access to swimming. Would Slovenia be a good choice, and if so where? (We have been told that Bohinj might be better than Bled.) Are there self-catering options as well as hotels? And finally, how easy would it be to include two to three days in Ljubljana?

Sue Catchpole, London

A. Slovenia is regularly referred to as "Europe in miniature" for the diverse geography it contains, within its modest 20,000 square km (roughly the size of Wales). The former Yugoslav republic is the perfect destination for what you have in mind. Bordering Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia's small borders encompass everything from snow-covered mountains to sunny beaches, thick pine forests and vineyards. Activities include hiking, climbing and skiing, and Slovenia's alpine national parks contain more than 7,000km of marked trails. Hang-gliding and paragliding are very popular, along with water-sports, cycling, caving, and horse-riding.

Bled, with its emerald-green lake, postcard-perfect church on a central islet, and medieval castle, is Slovenia's most popular, and most developed, resort. It is a stunning location and comes equipped with plenty of facilities. Biking or walking in the woods around the 6km circumference of the lake is a must (check with the local tourist office, next to the Park Hotel, for numerous bike rental agencies), as is boating and swimming in the lake itself, which rises to a comparatively warm 23C during summer months. With stables, tennis courts, a golf course and a programme of outside concerts all within the town limits, there should be plenty to keep you entertained.

If you want something a little quieter – with more self-catering and rural farm-stay options – head for Bohinj (pronounced Bor-hin). Also set on a glacial lake, 26km east of Bled, Bohinj is a less developed town overlooked by Slovenia's highest mountain, Triglav (2,864m) and a short trek from its most eulogised waterfalls, the Savica, one of the most visited spots in the Julian Alps National Park. Climbing Triglav is possible (in fact in Slovenia you're not considered a true Slovenian until you've have made the ascent), with routes to suit all abilities.

Trips to the capital, Ljubljana (under two hours drive away) or coastal towns such as Piran (about two and a half hours away) are easy. Public buses (clean and cheap) serve most destinations from Bled and Bohinj but car hire might be a more effective way of exploring Slovenia at leisure. All the major European companies are represented: Hertz (08708 484848) and Budget (00 38 645 780 320) have offices in Ljubljana and Bled. Expect to pay about £450 for one week's rental of a family-sized car.

The Slovenian Tourist Office (020-7287 7133, www.slovenia-tourism.si) is an excellent source of information, and although it can't book rooms for you, it will recommend places to suit your needs and provide booking information. Tailor-made tours can be booked with Slovenia specialist Slovenia Pursuits (0870 220 0201, www.sloveniapursuits.co.uk). For example, a 10-day holiday in August, staying seven nights at the Triglav Apartments (in a two-bedroom self-catering apartment) in Bohinj, two nights in Ljubljana, b&b at the Pension Liebe, private transfers between all destinations and return flights would cost £398 per adult and £350 per child.

Q. Having read the review of Bruern Stable Cottages (Independent on Sunday, 7 October), we are keen to try a similar holiday with our children, aged eight, six and one. However, we would like to be within walking distance of a sandy beach. Where would you recommend?

Helen and John Neilson, Norfolk

A. Bruern Stable Cottages (Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire) is just one of an increasing number of child-friendly properties springing up across the UK. These cottages-cum-hotels aim to provide adults with stylish service, while remaining a home away from home for children. Like Bruern, many offer optional hotel-like services (catering, nanny, and maid service) but retain the informal and flexible advantages that self-catering affords. A good source of information is Take the Kids Travelling, by Helen Truszkowski (Cadogan, £14.99), which includes lots of general advice for family travel as well as reviews of hotels and self-catering properties throughout Britain. Alternatively, visit www. family-travel.co.uk, a new website with extensive practical information on destinations and tour operators all over the world.

For some of the country's best beaches head for Cornwall, and one of the nine self-catering cottages in various locations close to Bedruthan Steps (01637 860555, www.bedruthanstepshotel.co.uk, e-mail office@bedruthan.com), a family resort hotel located on the north Cornish coastline. All bookings for these cottages include use of the hotel's sports and leisure facilities, including swimming pools, tennis, squash, children's play areas and evening entertainment. The two Captain's Apartments have views over Mawgan Porth beach, and sleep four people each. The hotel and the beach are a few minutes' walk away and prices range from £395-£992 per week depending on the season.

Rural Retreats (01386 701177, www. ruralretreats.co.uk) is a luxury cottage and hotel tour operator with some excellent properties for families. Westfield, in Newton Ferrers, Devon, is a house sleeping five, within walking distance of the estuary of the River Yealm. Prices range from £415 to £1,045 depending on the season.

If you want more "hotel" and less self-catering, under the Luxury Family Hotels umbrella (01225 860150, www.luxuryfamilyhotels.com), Moonfleet Manor (01305 786948) in West Dorset is worth considering. The hotel comprises of a group of cottages around a Georgian manor house, with views over Chesil Beach and Lyme Bay. Use of all facilities and a crèche are included in the price. Deluxe family rooms sleeping two adults, two children and a baby start from £185 per night, including dinner, bed and breakfast for two adults.

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