How to enjoy a traditional family holiday in the Gower Peninsula

This is a collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for details

We spent the first week of the summer holidays exploring the Gower Peninsula in South Wales with Visit Swansea Bay last week. I will be completely honest when I say that I very much expected this to be a working holiday for me. Summer is one of my busiest times of year and I imagined myself working with my laptop in the evenings as Steve and the kids played. It didn't quite turn out like that though.......

As we were driving down to Wales I decided to check out a few Tripadvisor reviews for The King's Head in Gower where we were going to be spending most of our trip. Nearly all of the reviews were singing their praises and my excitement built. But then I read one comment - there is no phone signal and limited WiFi. Oh no! It honestly did not even occur to me to check that there would be decent WiFi. I kind of just expected it as a given. Suddenly any plans I had to keep up with work went out of the window. 

We checked into The King's Head after our LONG drive from Northumberland. I was immediately impressed with how welcoming the staff were as they personally showed us to our room - less impressed that the receptionist had no idea where Northumberland was though - I think Visit Northumberland perhaps have some work to do in Wales. 

After we'd settled in we headed down to the sunny beer garden and first thing's first, I checked my phone signal - no service. I then tried to log onto the WiFi in the beer garden and struggled to connect. I will admit that my heart sank. It's important in my job to stay connected and I had not turned my out of office on my email! I started to worry.

I soon realised though that a few days without internet access was not going to be the tragedy I imagined and it turns out that being forced to disconnect from the internet actually did me the world of good as it forced me to re-focus and fully appreciate the time we were spending together. Phone signal is pretty limited throughout the Gower Peninsula but I did realise that I could connect to the pub's WiFi if I sneaked into the main building at 7:30am before everyone else was awake and would start hogging the connection. These 30 minutes every morning were pretty much my only chance to complete my day's work but I managed it and for the rest of the day I actually felt free because  I physically could not connect to cyber space. 

So......with no phones or laptops to distract us, I was determined to make the most of our time together and decided we'd try and enjoy as much traditional family fun together as possible. The Swansea Bay area is honestly perfect if you are looking for this kind of holiday. Here are a few ways we managed to unplug from the real world and enjoy some proper family time together in South Wales:

1 - Traditional Family Fun at The Gower Heritage Centre

The Gower Heritage Centre is a rather tired but rather sweet little place to spend half a day with the family. There are a range of activities available and we enjoyed taking part in a traditional duck race as well as sneaking into Wales' smallest cinema to watch Spongebob Squarepants. Happy days! 

2 - Playing Board Games in a Beer Garden

Swansea Bay is full of gorgeous country pubs - The King's Head where we were staying and The King Arthur pub are both superb. We bought a selection of board games from a charity shop in Mumbles and honestly had the best afternoon just playing together. It's not often we get the chance to do things like this but we've vowed to try and do it more often. The sun was shining, us grown ups had a nice cold beer and we had so much fun playing Pictionary together. I think we'll remember Jack's interpretation of a bear for many years to come!

When the weather wasn't so good (let's face it - this is the UK, it's always going to rain at some point), we headed indoors to play Pool or to our room to read our new books (also picked up from the charity shop when we realised there'd be no browsing of the internet on this holiday). It was nice being able to truly relax like this. 

3 - Beach Days

Swansea Bay is home to some of the most breathtaking beaches in the UK. Rhossili Bay has been voted as the 4th best beach in the whole of Britain by Tripadvisor and I have to agree, it's stunning. Spending the day at the beach with the family really is one of the best ways you can switch off and unwind. We enjoyed the views and the climb down (climb back up not so much but let's just say it was character building) and spent the afternoon making sand castles and bases. We even stumbled upon a real ship wreck and felt like real explorers. 

4 - Crafting and Exploring Together 

I am not a crafty parent. I am firmly in the camp that crafting is for school or something the kids do themselves. However, during our trip to Oystermouth Castle in Mumbles they were offering craft activities for a small fee and with no phone signal or anything to distract us, Steve and I decided to join the kids and create our own finger puppets. Colouring in is actually very relaxing and we were proud of our efforts. 

5 - Enjoying Life's Simple Pleasures

Usually when I drink my coffee I am also either watching TV, working on my laptop or scrolling my phone. With no internet to distract us, it allowed us the chance to really savour the simple pleasures in life, including a cafetiere of fresh coffee which was offered to us every morning at The King's Head as part of breakfast. It was bliss! I used to sneak mine outside if it was an especially sunny morning. 

6 - Noticing and enjoying our surroundings 

I am really guilty of having my head in my phone. So when this option is taken away, it's really easy to notice and enjoy your surroundings a lot more. I seemed to take so much more in without my phone being constantly in my hand from these gorgeous chairs in Bistot Pierre to the sheep that toddled past our pub every night. Not having any distractions was a blessing in disguise.

Reading this you might think I'm a little obsessed with the internet and if the truth be told, I am. I can cope with planned breaks (and actually really enjoy a planned digital detox) but this unplanned break kind of threw me. It all turned out for the best though and I actually felt like I had a proper holiday and spent some real quality time with Steve and the kids rather than snippets here and there in between working. If you're looking for a UK holiday destination where you really can relax and unwind and enjoy some traditional fun with the family, I really cannot recommend a trip to Swansea Bay enough.
You can find out more via the Visit Swansea Bay website here. 


Popsa - An app for people who are too busy to create photo books

*This is a collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for full details

I am often asked to try out a variety of photo books. I made the mistake of saying yes once but gave up after 45 minutes as it was taking too long and I ended up frustrated that I couldn't get it right. I do love the concept of photo books and really want to make the effort to physically print out more photos - I think we all do. Browsing an old album on Facebook is definitely not the same as flicking through a proper printed photo album. The other week we were looking through our first born Harry's old photos and Heidi and Jack asked where their photo books were. I felt sad that I didn't have many physical photos I could show them from their baby years - I was always just too busy to get around to printing any out when they were babies and I also had a toddler in tow. In fact I don't have a single printed photograph of Jack at all. Talk about mum guilt! 

So when Popsa got in touch and claimed I could make a photo book in less than 5 minutes using their app directly from my iPhone or iPad, my interest was certainly piqued and I agreed to give it a go. I can easily spare 5 minutes from my day. 45 minutes, not so much. I downloaded the Popsa app from the app store onto my iPad and created 2 albums - one soft cover featuring special family memories from our summer so far and another hard cover from our glamping trip to Edinburgh. I have honestly been blown away with how easy it is to create a photo book using Popsa and yes, it took less than 5 minutes. I'm impressed!

Video Demonstration - How to use Popsa

Popsa Unlimited 

You can order soft or hard cover photo books through the app individually (from £6.99 plus delivery) or what I really love is that you can purchase a Popsa Unlimited voucher and print as many photo books as you like. Popsa Unlimited vouchers are currently priced at £9.99 for one month, £29.99 for 3 months, £99 for 12 months or £149 for 24 months.

Once you've purchased your voucher you can order as many 16 page A5 soft cover albums as you like and will only need to pay £2.99 postage per book. I think this would make a wonderful gift for new parents who would like to record memories but feel like they don't have the time. I am confident that new parents could even create a photo book using Popsa during the time it takes their baby to feed if they needed to. A Popsa Unlimited voucher would also a fantastic gift for christenings, weddings and family celebrations or if you like taking photos like I do but never have the time to print them out, it's a nice little treat for yourself too. I'll be using my voucher to record lots of our family memories and day trips this simmer.

If you buy a Popsa Unlimited voucher you'll also receive a 50% discount on A5 hard cover photo books too. 

10 Reasons I love Popsa

  • Intuitive and easy to use. My 6 year old and parents can both use the app with ease
  • It takes less than 5 minutes to create and order a book
  • Photo books are an inexpensive way to print more photos
  • Popsa Unlimited is a low-cost way to create lots of photo books - perfect for gifts and recording family memories
  • Popsa automatically links to your Facebook albums and iPad/iPhone camera roll and photos are imported with a simple click
  • Delivery of soft cover photo books is usually within a week, hardcover books will take a little longer
  • Popsa does the hard work for you and automatically designs a photo book for you
  • You can easily edit colours, page designs and photos at the touch of a button
  • You can deliver Popsa photo books to several countries including the UK, United States, Germany, France and more.....

Try Popsa for yourself with our exclusive discount code

I have been so impressed with Popsa and for me, it's an app that is definitely going to encourage me to create more photo books and record our memories. It's lovely having a physical print out of photographs that we can flick through or take to our grandparent's house. The kids have even taken one of our books into school for a special show and tell!

Visit and enter 'NE50' at check out to receive 50% off up to 2 photo books of your choice. 

I obviously had to include this photo of us on a Pirate Ship in our summer memory photo book. The lady's face behind us will always crack me up. She looks exactly how I felt at the time! 

I have signed up to an unlimited subscription with Popsa and I've made it my mission to print our summer memories. I generally upload most of our photographs to Facebook anyway and being able to create a photo book at the touch of a button from here is just fantastic.

Let me know if you give Popsa a try. I promise you won't regret it! 


How to get involved with Girls' Football Week - Euro Celebrations

*This is a collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for details

Girls' Football Week - Euro Celebrations runs from Sunday 16 July - 6th August 2017. I know, it's longer than a week but it has been designed to maximise the impact of the Lionesses European Campaign this summer. If you've followed our journey so far, you'll know that Heidi has thoroughly enjoyed playing football this summer by taking advantage of some of the free and low-cost activities that have been provided by the FA with the aim of doubling the number of females playing football by 2020. 

4 ways you can get involved with Girls' Football Week

1 - Sign up to a Girls' Football Week Open Session

There are 16 open sessions taking place across the North East throughout Girls' Football Week (and over 150 nationwide). If you are not sure if football is going to be for your daughter, this is an ideal way to give it a go. There is no pressure or commitment required and the aim is to have a go. We tried another session at Killingworth Wildcats and the staff and volunteers here are super welcoming. You will have the chance to learn new skills, make friends, improve fitness and have fun in a special 2 hour session. 

Search for a local session and sign up here.

We loved visiting Killingworth and can definitely personally recommend this team, however there are also sessions at Newcastle United Foundation, FA Skills Northumberland, Ponteland United, Wallsend Boys Club (perhaps they need to change their name now), Tyne Met College, Whitley Bay Hawks and more......

2 - Watch UEFA Women's Euro 2017 on TV

Show your support for the Lionesses' and watch them play at home with a little football party. Grab some snacks and show your support. You can check out the full TV schedule here, England Women are next playing TONIGHT at 7:45pm on Channel 4. We'll be tuning in. You can follow along and join in with the community on Twitter by using #GirlsFootballWeek and #Lionesses. We're letting Heidi stay up as a special treat and hope she'll be even more inspired by her idols. The final will be played on Sunday 6th August at 4pm on channel 4. Fingers crossed ladies! 

3 - Take a football out with you

Heidi bought her own football after we watched the Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley and it now comes everywhere with us. It comes to the park, the beach, the street.....everywhere. It's just a small foam ball and Heidi loves that it. I think the more girls that are visibly playing football outside and can be seen, the better. It's lovely watching Heidi have a kick about with her friends at the park. 

4 - Watch a live Women's Football match

If you are impressed watching women's football on TV this week, it is honestly nothing when compared to watching a game live in front of your eyes. The atmosphere is family friendly, supportive and inspiring to both boys and girls. You can follow Newcastle United's Women's Football team on Facebook here (next match 20th August) and Sunderland Ladies here. Tickets are inexpensive and watching a match live is a lovely alternative family day out. 

Getting involved with Girls' Football Week - Euro Celebrations is low cost or free, inspires the next generation with real role models and is lots of fun. Let me know if you'll be getting involved and showing your support. 


Kynren & 11Arches Park 2021 | Tips & Advice for Visiting with Kids

*Post originally published in 2017 and last updated in April 2021. I have worked with Kynren in the past, this post has not been paid for.

Kynren is back and bigger and better than ever before. We have watched the show several times now and would 100% recommend to anyone interesting in English History, Local History or just wants an evening of spectacular entertainment which will blow your socks off. 

I recommend the show for children aged 5+, simply because it is on fairly late, can get chilly and there are loud bangs and fireworks but if your younger children are fine with these things, there's no reason why they can't visit too. The show is anything but boring. 

This year, the wider 11Arches Park opens which by the looks of it, is suitable for the whole family and all ages to enjoy. 

What's New for 2021

Kynren is now just part of a wider 11Arches park. You can buy a ticket to Kynren (the evening show) only or 11Arches Park (the afternoon/early evening entertainment) only or buy a ticket to both and make a day of it. There are several options for add-ons too. 

New 11Arches Park 

Expect thrilling shows, immersive experiences, relaxing escapes, places to play, explore, eat and drink. Experiences include: 

  • The Maze of Fame - an immersive outdoor walk-through attraction featuring familiar characters from history. 
  • Fina and the Golden Cape (4pm show) - a 50 minute show featuring heroes, villains, bravery, magic, chariot racing, jousting, trick riding and more.
  • A Viking Village - walk through a replica Viking Village and rub shoulders with traditional craftspeople.
  • Kids Viking Lair - A Viking themed adventure playground for kids with water play and a willow ship
  • Dancing waters - watch the lake come to life as it dances to the classics
  • The Animal Croft - meet the animals who star in Kynren 
  • Georgian Shop - discover unique gifts and souvenirs 
  • Rose Walkway - enjoy this striking and beautiful walkway

11Arches Park - Need to Know 

  • 11 Arches Park will be open every Saturday from 7 August - 11 September with plans to open fully in 2022. 

  • The Fina and the Golden Cape show is always at 4pm, a schedule of other timings will be published 2 weeks prior to the event. 

  • Tickets go on general sale from 5pm on 30 April. If you purchase a ticket before 28 May, tickets to 11Arches are just £10 per person. The discount is automatically added at checkout.  
  • Under 3s go free - they will be required to sit on an adults knee during the performances. If you would like to book them a seat, they will need a ticket. 

  • Please note, tickets to 11Arches Park do not include admission to Kynren but you do receive a discount if you choose to buy tickets to both. 

  • Find out more and buy tickets online (from 5pm 30 April) here. 

There are a range of food and drink options available at 11Arches Park including: 
  • A food court by the lake serving a range of food to go
  • Hot and cold drinks from the central bar 
  • Family meals in the family grotto which is close to the Vikings Lair play area
  • Enjoy cream tea in the secret rose garden tearoom 

What to do between 11Arches and Kynren

If you buy tickets to both the 11 Arches Park and the evening show Kyren, there are a few ways to keep yourselves entertained on-site. Including: 

  • Food court, Family Grotto and Secret Rose Garden will remain open for dining
  • Book an elite 3 course dinner in Arches Hall situated at the heart of the venue adjacent the lake and away from the main hustle and bustle of the park.

Kynren 2021 

In 2021, Kynren will take place on the following dates: 

  • Sat 7th Aug - 9pm-10:30pm 
  • Sat 14 August - 8:30pm-10pm
  • Sat 21 August - 8:30pm-10pm 
  • Sat 28 August - 8:30pm-10pm
  • Sat 4 Sept - 8pm-9:30pm 
  • Sat 11 Sept - 8pm-9:30pm 
Tickets range from to £26 (adult) /£16 child to  £60 (adult) / £50 child and can be purchased online now here.  I have sat in the standard seats right at end, the VIP seats and everything in between. If I was buying my own tickets, I would probably buy standard tickets as there are 5 of us and it can work out to be expensive. If it was just Steve and I, I would spend a bit more as you do get a better view if you are seated centrally. VIP is nice for a treat if you don't mind splashing the cash/ it is a special occasion. 

You won't miss anything wherever you sit and will still have a brilliant experience. Bring cushions if you sit in anything other than VIP though as the seats can be hard. 

Sometimes Kynren do bring out ticket offers if sales need a bit of a boost - in the past there have been family deals and kids go free. If you can be flexible with dates, it might be worth holding out to see if any offers are released. Do keep an eye on availability so you don't miss out though. 

Ticket T&Cs: 

  • While it is impossible to predict what government guidance will be in effect at the time of your visit next year in August, it is fair to assume social distancing may still be in place. As a result, seating capacity has been reduced until further notice and it is therefore important you book early to guarantee access to next Summer’s performances.
  • Ticket prices stated in the booking process include booking fees of £1 per ticket.
  • We are implementing current government guidance on bookings.
  • You can select up to 6 tickets in one transaction and a maximum of 9 tickets in multiple orders. Multiple bookings that exceed this limit shall be cancelled without notification.
  • If your party is larger than 6, and all members of your party belong to the same family bubble and/or support bubble, we recommend you book your tickets in separate orders and email us to ask your orders to be linked together to assist the seat allocation process. Click here for details.
  • For bookings of 10 or more, please click here for details.
  • It is the responsibility of the purchaser to ensure your party composition of each booking adheres to government guidelines.
  • In order to adhere to government guidance in effect at the time of your visit, we will allocate seats nearer to the performance dates. 
  • Seats will be allocated on a first booked, first allocated basis.
  • We aim to issue your tickets with seating allocations by email at least two weeks prior to your chosen performance date.

Kynren - Previous Reviews and Tips 

This section of the post includes some of our photos, tips and experiences from previous years. Things may be a little different this year so please keep this in mind but hopefully it will give you an idea of what to expect. 

Expect everything from the Knights of the round table to Boudica, WW1 and the monks of Lindisfarne to be re-told in front of your eyes like never before. 

We first visited Kynren when our children are aged 6, 8 and 10 and all thoroughly enjoyed Kynren (and Jack didn't moan once which is very unusual). I think age 5 is probably the youngest I would take due to it being quite loud in places and it's a late night.

Arrival at Kynren | Parking & Shuttle Bus

I would definitely recommend pre-booking a car parking spot and shuttle bus ticket. This is very well organised and despite there being a large volume of people leaving Kynren all at the same time we were on the road within 30 minutes of Kynren ending thanks to such fantastic organisation.

It's around a 20 minute walk from the main site to the car parks which is downhill on the way there but uphill and in the dark on the way back so for this reason, definitely not recommended with kids.

Tip - Pre-book a car parking spot and shuttle pass

Kynren - where to sit with kids

There are various ticket options. In these photos we are in a mid-price seat and was perfectly adequate.

Tip - Take your own cushion to sit on as the seats are quite hard. You need to carry them in a CLEAR plastic bag (these can be provided when you board the shuttle bus if needed). 

Jack and Heidi are quite short but were both able to see. Jack had an adult sitting in front of him but could still see through the gaps and Heidi spent a lot of the time on Steve's knee.

There was an empty stand next to us and a fair few people moved over to these seats when the show started to get a better view. We were in row W which offered a good view. Cushions will help boost little ones up a little. 

Kynren - Accommodation

Kynren started at 9pm on the evening of our performance. The show lasts for 90 minutes. It begins at sunset at ends in darkness with a spectacular firework finale. This is a late night and I didn't fancy the 90 minute drive home in the dark so we opted to stay in a local hotel.

There are lots of local options over on the This is durham website and staying over really added to the sense of occasion for us. We stayed in a family suite at the Park Head Hotel and were very happy with our stay. There is an on-site bar and restaurant, a kids play area and breakfast was canny too. 

Tip - it's a late night! Book into local accommodation or change your kids into their PJs for the drive home. Plan for a lazy morning the following day. 

Kynren - A review of the show

Kynren is performed by 1500 volunteers and features over 29 different scenes from England's past. The show is super fast moving and my three were not bored at any stage.

There was always something new to look at and they watched in awe at everything that was going on. I also feel slightly smug that I can class Kynren as an 'educational' trip and the kids really reconciled some of their learning and recalled a few things they'd learned in school (Heidi especially enjoyed telling me all about the history of Roman's and Harry the Anglo Saxons).

Please check out my video from the show which will show you a few of our highlights: 

The whole show was spectaular with stunning special effects that I just hadn't witnessed before from the cast walking on water to galloping horses, Viking ships rising from the bottom of the lake and a particular moving scene where the Durham miners headed down the pit for the very last time. 

There is a whole section of the show dedicated to Shakespeare with mini versions of some of his best loved plays and it's really quite immersive as I started waving my flag as Queen Victoria's parade travelled past I almost forgot where I was for a second. It all seemed so real!

Some of the scenes were really quite poignant and a real tribute to our past including an emotional tribute to WW1 which honestly almost brought me to tears.

The show features a cast of live animals too and it was the horses that really impressed me but the kids loved the geese and sheep and really enjoyed it when they were featured in scenes. They say never work with children and animals but everything seemed to go pretty smoothly so Kynren must be doing something right.

Although Kynren is based around a history of England, there is a heavy North East influence with many references to how the North East has shaped the country we live in today. You leave feeling uplifted and really proud of our North East heritage.

The finale is absolutely stunning. The arena is filled with the whole cast and there are lots of fireworks and music. You can check out this Facebook live video if you'd like to see for yourself.

I have not heard one single person say they've regretted watching Kynren. If you are on the fence about going, just do it. I promise you won't be disappointed. 

I really want to give a special mention to all of the volunteer stewards and helpers. Every single person we encountered was super friendly and cheery. I swear they must attend the Disney school of customer service or something. Each and every volunteer we encountered was a real credit to the Kynren team.

Kynren receives a massive 10/10 from all of us here at North East Family Fun. I'm not sure how anything is going to top this for us over summer. We all absolutely loved the show and would definitely recommend to families with children aged 5+ who don't mind a late night and aren't scared of fireworks. 

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