What a year 2017 has been!
It has been a year of anticipation as I booked our dream holiday to Santa’s Lapland all the way back at the end of 2015 and have had to keep it a secret for over a year, which was not easy.
But let’s go back to the beginning of the year where we started our travels with a week in Scotland.
We stayed in a delightful cottage with Newton Farm Holidays in Angus and had an amazing week, exploring as much of the country as we could.
Our holiday cottage was a short drive from Dundee, which surprised me with lots of fun places for the kids to explore, including Verdant Works and Captain Scott’s famous RSS Discovery . We thoroughly enjoyed exploring Dundee’s murky past with Dark Dundee.
When we arrived in Scotland we did see snow, although it wasn’t really settling where we were staying, so we took the short drive to Glen Doll, which is home to Corrie Fee, a truly dramatic, massive bowl scooped out by a glacier, which was covered in lovely thick snow, perfect for snowball fights and building snowmen.
We visited Edinburgh, not once, but twice during our stay and fell in love with the beautiful city. We were very impressed with Dynamic Earth and the National Museum of Scotland, where we took in great views of Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat.
Of course I then got a bee in my bonnet as I wanted to climb Arthur’s Seat!,
Our private tour of Glamis Castle was a real treat as we got to see where the Queen Mother lived.
The real highlight of our visit was our Scottish road trip which took in Arbroath Abbey, Lunan Bay, the spectacular Dunnottar Castle through the pine forests to Balmoral and back down along the A93 through the Cairngorms where we got to see more snow.
In fact, I wish I had watched Netflix’s The Crown sooner, as I love spotting places that we saw in the program.
2017 also saw us re-visit a very old friend – The Isle of Wight. Despite living just across the water it is somewhere we had not visited for over a decade, but we more than made up for it with two visits this year. The first to Blackgang Chine – the worlds oldest theme park and the second to Robin Hill Country Park. We fell back in love with the island and are heading back later this year to spend more time exploring.
In April we headed north for a Stay, Play, Explore break in Leicester which included tickets to local attractions including Twycross Zoo and the National Space Centre.
Keen to explore some of England’s history, we also visited Kenilworth Castle and Bolsover Castle, where the kids were excited to learn that they have links with the Scottish Castles we visited earlier in the year.
April also saw Isaac’s birthday and he requested a visit to Legoland to celebrate. Sadly, as his birthday fell over the Easter holidays, the Legoland Hotel was far too expensive, so we booked Bel and the Dragon bed and breakfast in Odiham. We were absolutely blown away by the hospitality and food at the Grade II-listed former inn. With features dating as far back as 1540, it had been brought right up to date and had plenty of features to keep the kids happy during our stay.
In May, Hubby and I headed to Birmingham for a short break to go and see Ed Sheeran at the Barclaycard arena and later in the month we stayed at AndrewShayes Holiday Park whilst we visited my dad in Axminster, Devon.
Living in Dorset, we explore a lot of what our county has to offer, so it was nice visiting some of East Devon’s attractions including Pecorama, Wildwood Escot and Axe Valley Wildlife Park.
Abbey celebrates her birthday at the beginning of June and this year we headed to Bluestone in Wales, celebrating her actual day whizzing around on fairground rides at Folly Farm. This was our second visit to Bluestone and it is even better in the springtime, as the good weather gave us the opportunity to explore more of the activities on offer.
July is always a month we look forward to as not only do the kids break up from school, but it is Camp Bestival month!! This year however was a Camp Bestival like we have never experienced before, it rained! It wasn’t just a light shower, but torrential rain and high winds for three days and surviving a wet festival was a real learning curve.
It was at Camp Bestival I was tipped off about an opportunity to go to Walt Disney World with Mumsnet and I applied, in the pouring rain, not believing we had a chance of being picked.
Just days after getting home from Camp Bestival we headed to the Lake District for a walking holiday with HF Holidays.
We loved exploring the Lake District and went on both planned walks and enjoyed a day out to explore on our own.
It was here I got the phone call to say we were going to Walt Disney World and we literally got home and re-packed our cases and headed to the airport.
It was probably the most amazing, full-on holiday we have ever experienced! We stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation Hotel which was perfect for my Cars loving Sebastian.
Walt Disney World has something to offer everyone and whilst Eliza loved the Magic Kingdom and wanted to meet every single Princess she could, the boys were more than content with everything Star Wars at Hollywood Studios, especially the Jedi Training Academy.
I do wish we had, had slightly longer to prepare as there were things I wish I had known before we visited Walt Disney World, however we were all issued “1st time visitor” badges so the staff really looked after us and gave us lots of advice during our stay.
I highly recommend you take full advantage of the fast pass system and the memory maker photo app if you visit as we have some fabulous memories of our visit now. Eliza’s favourite ride had to be the Frozen Ever After at Epcot, we all adored the safari at the Harambi Wildlife Reserve, but it was Pandora, World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom that stole the show.
The kids went back to school with lots of tales to tell their friends and teachers.
September was a month of days out at weekends and we finished the month with a glorious visit to the Cotswolds with Manor Cottages. In fact, I was slightly disappointed it was so warm as was itching to light the log burner, but we were pleased of the sunshine during our visits to Cotswold Wildlife Park and Bourton-on-the-Water.
We fell in love with cruising during 2016 and our voyage aboard the Carnival Vista, so I was really excited to be invited onboard the MSC Preziosa, even if it was only for a few hours whilst it was docked in Southampton.
November saw us heading back to Birmingham, only this time with the kids in tow, to see Disney on Ice and Brick Live, which they loved. In fact, Sebastian was over the moon that Donald Duck remembered him and waved just to him.
And finally, the time had arrived!
After months of keeping it secret, we got to the airport and announced to the kids we were heading to Lapland to see Father Christmas.
Flying over the snow-covered ground was exciting enough, but to land on a snowy runway and exit the plane to find a reindeer for you was almost overwhelming.
We arrived at the Saariselkä Inn and got settled as quickly as we could as the kids couldn’t wait to put on their snowsuits and get outside in the snow. The quickly found their favourite mode of transport for the holiday too – the toboggan.
It was the Search for Santa day that was the most magical. With a husky dog sled ride, super fast snowmobile rides, slow and steady reindeer rides plus lots more activities to keep us amused, it really was the most amazing day.
Of course, we got to meet the big guy himself too!
We finished the day with a Northern Light Safari, although the lights stubbornly refused to shine for us, we thoroughly enjoyed the chance to drive the snowmobiles in the darkness.
We finished the holiday with fun on the longest toboggan run in Northern Europe at 1.2 kilometers long and a vertical drop of 130 meters, before picking up some souvenirs to bring home with us to help us remember our stay.
It is safe to say that 2017 has been full of fun and interesting places to visit and I cannot wait to see what 2018 brings!
Where have you travelled to this year?