Being Northern means many things.
First and foremost, we pronounce words like “last” PROPERLY, and we don’t believe in sharing our feelings in public, or any of that nonsense.
It also means we have some of the country’s most lush green fields and sandy beaches on our doorstep. Granted, much of the lushness comes from the rain that falls on – ooh – about 200 days a year, but you can’t have everything.
What this means is if you’re travelling to the North West this summer, you’ll need some ideas of great family activities no matter what the weather happens to do.
We were recently invited to spend a weekend at Ribby Hall Village in Wrea Green, a small town in Lancashire’s Fylde Coast area.
Now, this place happens to already be a regular haunt of ours since it’s just down the road from where we live, but we have never stayed overnight, so we took the opportunity to have a weekend away with some friends from out of town.
Ribby Hall has a range of holiday accommodation from cottages to lodges and a hotel, and the whole site is geared towards families, with a range of restaurants, a sports and leisure centre complete with two swimming pools, riding lessons, golf, nature trails and even a top-class day spa and spa hotel for adults only.
We stayed in a three-bedroom cottage with one double and two twin rooms. The accommodation was clean and modern, with an en-suite bathroom and family bathroom. What I particularly loved was the French doors that open out into a large green area with lots of trees for kids to explore.
We kicked off our stay on Friday with a nature walks, before heading off to The Restaurant for dinner. It’s quite formal, but very welcoming to children and the food is fresh, with a focus on seasonal ingredients and organic produce, where possible. If you need something less formal, there is also Papa Johns, Starbucks and a family grill restaurant, with nightly entertainment, plus a sports bar for adults.
On Saturday, the girls tried out the on-site climbing wall, which was a big success, and then headed into the pool to try out the water-slides. While they were being energetic, we took the opportunity to try out the Aqua Thermal Journey (£29) at the very luxurious and swish Ribby Hall Day Spa. This package includes an aroma room, aroma steam room, saunarium, Balinese salt inhalation room, herbal sauna, outdoor rustic sauna, Roman pedidarium, Roman tepidarium, outdoor spa pool, hydrotherapy pool and monsoon showers, ice fountain, monsoon showers, and a plunge bucket and rope shower.
Lindy skipped the ice fountain which is optional if, like her, you are not a Proper Northerner who loves the idea of dousing yourself in ice-cold water.
Wrea Green is situated close to both Lytham St Annes and Blackpool, making Ribby an ideal base to visit both resorts. And of course, if the heavens open, you can always make the most of the village’s many indoor activities. There are hundreds to choose from, with everything from archery to segway rides, bowling, and martial arts lessons.
But we only had a few days so, spa treatment complete, we headed off to explore. Here are our top recommendations:
- Lytham has one or two attractions that are designed for rainy days – one of Flea’s favourites is Kaos, which is an indoor high-wire climbing centre.
- Our favourite thing to do in Lytham though, is to be outdoors. Our local park has a skate park, BMX track and several large playgrounds, while Lowther Gardens is a lovely spot on a sunny afternoon and has its own theatre where you can some awesome am-dram, as well as professional shows through the summer. Lytham even has its own proms, and regularly holds outdoor concerts on the Green – catch Heaven 17 here later this summer.
- If you love beaches – which we do – then our top recommendation is St Annes Beach, one of our very favourite beaches in this part of the world. There’s a gorgeous, old-fashioned pier and miles of sand to explore here, along with the usual seaside attractions of fish and chips, trampolines and bouncy castles. We often spend the whole day here in summer, with a picnic – although if you want something fancier, you can hire a beach hut. Very glam.
- There is a fab fish and chip restaurant in St Annes just set back from the pier, and loads of activities on the front just around this part of town – Flea has tried water zorbing, and loves the trampolines. On sunny days, there is often a large inflatable play area on the beach, although on windy days it’s still beautiful and Flea particularly loves exploring the RSPB centre and nature reserve at Fairhaven Lake, then walking through the sand dunes.
- Between St Annes and Blackpool, the beach is open and sandy, and there are opportunities to try kite surfing on the long open sands. This end of the beach is also perfect for kayaking and sailing, with reasonable waves that aren’t too daunting for kids. Just before you reach Blackpool, there’s also a great karting centre.
- And of course, if you’re a fan of the seaside, you’re only a 20 minute drive from Blackpool with all its attractions including the Pleasure Beach and Nickelodeon Land, the Sandcastle Waterpark, Blackpool Tower and Blackpool Zoo.
Disclosure: We were provided with three nights accommodation, complimentary spa treatments and a family meal on one evening during our stay for the purposes of this review. A 3 night weekend break or 4 night weekend break in a Poppy Cottage sleeping 6 at Ribby Hall this summer costs from £605 this summer. Other dates/stays are available from £255 upwards.