Holidaying with two young children can be tricky as we want to make sure we choose somewhere we can all enjoy.
For me, that means staying somewhere pretty, where I feel like we’re getting away from it all. For Stew it means finding new places to see. And for the boys it means having the space to run around and other children to play with.
Glamping ticks all the boxes, so when we were invited to stay in a safari tent at Cuckoo Down Farm in East Devon we jumped at the chance to enjoy a weekend away.
We didn’t have the best start as our littlest boy was unwell, making packing difficult, and the M5 was not our friend, but after five hours on the road we finally arrived at our home for the weekend. And it was well worth the journey. We were directed to the glamping site through two streams – mega exciting for a four-year-old and a two-year-old – and up the field to our safari tent.
The Cuckoo Down Farm site has four safari tents and two yurts, and ours – Primrose – was in the lower right corner of the field. As we unzipped the door and looked inside, our eldest son shouted “are we staying here?!” in excitement. To be honest, I wasn’t far off shouting the same thing. The tent was beautiful – wooden floors, two settees, a dining table with brightly coloured wooden chairs, and bunting strung across the ceiling. At the far end were two doors leading to the bedrooms, one of which had two single beds, and the other with a double. There was a small kitchen area with a proper sink, a gas stove and all the cooking equipment we could need.
There was also a heated shower at the back of our tent (luxury!), and a compost toilet in a little wooden shed. Our eldest loved this, as it didn’t have a flush but we had to throw sawdust down instead … such a novelty for a four-year-old. Needless to say he accompanied us every time we went, so he could be on sawdust duty.
What I noticed straight away was how peaceful the site was. All the other safari tents and yurts had families staying in them, but they were set far enough apart that we couldn’t hear a thing … impressive when there were at least 12 children there! From our decking we could see the whole field, so we were happy for the boys to wander off and make friends with the others without us helicoptering over them, and behind us were acres of woodland to explore.
The first evening was spent settling in, popping out to Sainsbury’s to stock up on food for the weekend, and throwing stones in the river. There was no thought of missing out on TV, the boys didn’t ask to play with our phones, and we didn’t get hung up on getting them to bed on time. Well, the eldest, that is. Our littlest took himself off to bed at a reasonable time and slept for 11 hours … that goes to show how comfortable the beds were!
I hadn’t thought about not having electricity, and once the sun had set we were down to lanterns and fairy lights. Looking out from the decking, we could see the stars above, and the lights twinkling from the other tents. It was so calm and quiet. We’d taken a couple of head torches so we could pop back and fore to the communal area where the fridges are kept, and round to the toilet and shower.
We were up at a reasonable time the next day and had a lovely start with pancakes and birthday presents for the biggest boy. What a treat to spend your fourth birthday in a safari tent!
We then had to make the difficult decision of where to go. The boys would happily have stayed at the farm, and had a whale of a time playing with a new bubble rocket while we made a pot of tea (yes, there was a tea pot in our tent!) and checked out a guide of places to go. Cuckoo Down Farm owners Becky and John had put together an information book that was full of ideas for days out … we were spoiled for choice. The guide included local beaches, animal centres, cafes, restaurants and even plenty of suggestions for rainy day activities. Don’t judge me, but I was a bit disappointed that it was dry and we couldn’t go to the cafe with soft play that apparently does really good cakes!
We decided to go to Seaton for a ride on the tram, which the boys loved. I’ll probably write about that separately as we have lots of photos. We were out for longer than expected, and by the time we got back to the farm the field was lit up with beautiful golden late afternoon sun. The other families were still out, so we went on a bear hunt in the woods. The boys put their wellies on to paddle in the stream while we watched them enjoy such a simple activity together.
As the other children made their way back, a communal game of football was started and it didn’t even matter that there was quite an age range between them. They played so nicely, and were soon following each other in and out of everyone’s tents. They even headed up to the farmhouse en masse out of concern that the resident goat had got its head stuck in the fence!
They played until the sun went down, only breaking in turn to go back to their tents to eat. Some of the others lit fires in the fire pits, but while toasting marshmallows sounded lovely, our littlest boy can’t quite be trusted with an open fire just yet! He did enjoy watching us get the log burner going inside the tent (it was surrounded by a safety guard, which was a relief). The tent got so hot in the daytime, but quickly cooled down at night. With the log fire going, and our snuggly duvets we were lovely and warm – I’d recommend some thick socks and a chunky cardigan just in case you can’t get the fire to stay alight though.
Again, the boys were up a bit later than usual, and when they went to sleep we had a quiet cup of tea and enjoyed the peace. It was just so unbelievably quiet!
Sadly, because of school and work on the Monday we weren’t able to stay Sunday night and had to head back home. At least we had a little birthday party for the boys to look forward to. The glamping site is car-free for the most part, but you can drive up to your tent to unpack and pack up, which is really handy. The boys played with their new friends while we got things sorted, and then we were off. It was a short, but very sweet stay at Cuckoo Down Farm, and somewhere we would definitely recommend to families for a staycation.
*we were invited to Cuckoo Down Farm to review the facilities, but all thoughts are my own