Real Family Holidays – Slapton [Review]
The Field Studies Council (FSC) run what they call Real Family Holidays in their centres across Britain. The idea behind real family holidays is to get back to enjoying nature and being outdoors. It certainly works for our family.
There are several FSC centres that offer real family holidays around Britain. We went to Slapton in Devon, where they have two locations in close proximity. There are some in Wales, the Lake District and in Scotland.
Real Family Holidays
Real Family Holidays have a back to nature, organic recycling feel to it, although no hand knitted cardigans or sandals. The idea is very much around sustainability and people interacting with each other and with nature.
Real Family Activities
The thing that sold us on the Real Family Holidays experience were the activities. So far we’ve done the low ropes and the team games. We’ve been for a woodland walk to explore an ancient woodland in the Slapton nature reserve. Tomorrow we’re going on a minibeast hunt followed by rock pooling and on Friday a seashore safari, looking for things living in the foreshore.
Every day that you stay has one free set of activities in the morning. These are pretty relaxed and there’s no compulsion to join in, but why would you book a Real Family Holiday if you didn’t want to do this sort of stuff?
There are trained people leading the activities. They talk you through it and make sure you know how to keep yourself safe while having fun, and they provide all the kit you need for the activity. It’s a bit like what I’m used to from scouting, but here I’m just another parent rather than a leader. The activities are all great for the primary age kids, but aimed at all ages. The only issue with the almost teenage kids is that they’ve possibly done it before and pretend to be bored when you are watching. However they slide off and do it again when they think that you aren’t paying attention.
The centres are youth hostel style, but with rooms allocated to a family unit. There are shared toilets and individual shower cubicles that you can get washed in. For early bookers some of the rooms have en suite facilities. For the three of us we had a ground floor room with three sets of bunk beds in it, with space for hanging up some clothes, a desk and chair, and a side table. Each room has a specific door code, which means that you don’t need to worry about keys. Also, the kids can get things out of the room without adult help, if they’re able to remember the code. It’s suited us very well.
Food and Drink
The centres provide full board, with a catered breakfast and dinner and pack your own lunch materials provided as part of the charge. There are also snacks and drinks set out 24/7 with fruit as an alternative to the home made cakes and biscuits. The facilities include fridges, freezer, microwave and kettles so you can also bring your own food and drink if you want to.
The food is all cooked on site, with generous portions and plenty of salad and veg to go with the main courses. There is always a veggie option alongside the meat option (two veggie options last night). If you don’t fancy any of the options on the menu then you can ask for an alternative, with plain pasta and baked potatoes as standing options. The food is the sort of comfort food that you would enjoy. We’ve had pasta bake, chicken supreme, beef lasagne and the veggie options were sheperdess pie, stuffed peppers and cauliflower cheese.
Dinner is a communal affair, it’s served at 1730 (and breakfast at 0800), in the dining area. There are fewer tables than families, so you need to sit with other people. This leads to conversations, which is a big part of the experience. Also as the week progresses the children have started to split off into little groups of friends. This leaves the grown ups on other tables.
The site has a garden with low ropes, which the kids have loved playing on. Some of the adults have had some fun on it too! We’ve also had some activities in the centre, including some getting to know each other team games. This has involved all the adults as well as the children. We’ve got a mix of children from about two to nearly fifteen, but most of them seem to be in early primary school. Big enough to do things, but small enough to be interested. Lucy has found a group of about five girls within a year or so of her age and they’ve run around together playing. Within 24 hours she abandoned us to sit with the girls at dinner.
In the centre there’s a common room, which has a stock of board games. There are some slightly too comfortable sofas, and a fair amount of floor space. It can clearly double as a classroom with carpet space when they have school groups in, there’s a classroom style electronic whiteboard in one corner. It’s also the only part of the site where the wifi works reliably. This is a good thing because it stops the almost teenager from hiding with his phone.
Real Family Holidays – the Verdict
Both my children (6 & 12) have enjoyed the holiday. They’ve met other children and got on well instantly. They’ve spent loads of time out in the fresh air, without any real prompting, and they’ve got loads of exercise. They’ve also been engaged by the activities, and I’ve been involved with those too. It’s definitely lived up to the tagline of being a real family holiday. We’re already planning our next trip.
Book your Real Family Holiday
Real Family Holidays are somewhat unknown, a bit of a hidden secret. However I’ve had so much fun this week that I want to share the secret with you all. The more people that book the more sustainable Real Family Holidays become and the more options we all have to experience them for ourselves.
So you can find Real Family Holidays in a number of places.