Rice Lake Ontario, With Kids

I’m going to hold my hands up here and admit that I didn’t do my research so well when I stumbled upon Rice Lake as a place to stay while in Ontario. My friend who lives in Canada had suggested the Kawartha Lakes as being an ideal place to visit that is not too far from Toronto and Guelph (where they live) and somehow Southview Cottages on Rice Lake stood out as being much more reasonably priced than many of the other cottage resorts. Turns out Rice Lake isn’t technically a Kawartha Lake, but it’s more ‘in the region’. Whoops!

Thankfully for us we haven’t seen any of Ontario’s other lakes so we had nothing to compare it against and we thought it was stunning. It’s just an hour and a half from Toronto and was ideally placed for us visiting some of the surrounding area during our week there.

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We stayed at the Southview Cottage Resort which I genuinely couldn’t fault. No, I lie, we arrived in the middle of a crazy heat wave and the cottage’s air con system was pretty old and not so effective so we may have melted into puddles in the first couple of days. That aside though, the cottage was spacious, clean and equipped with everything we needed for the week (including gas BBQ hooked up to the cottage’s gas supply). The resort also upgraded us from a Lakeview cottage to a Lakeside one free of charge on arrival and we couldn’t have been better placed to take in the stunning views of the lake.

On site was a heated pool and toddler wading pool,  a brand new play park, a lovely selection of nature walks AND you have free use of the canoes and pedalos as well as the option to hire a boat for the day too.

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Unfortunately you need to have a boating license so we didn’t think we would be able to properly go out on the lake. Luckily though, we met a lovely Canadian couple who were licensed to drive a boat so we had a great day out fishing with them and their two children. And T caught a fish all by himself. I’m not exaggerating when I say that moment was the highlight of his entire holiday.

Explore

I don’t think the kids would have been bored if we had stayed in the resort for the entire week as they just loved being in the pool and swimming in the lake. But us adults did want to see what else the area had to offer.

Peterborough

Our first full day on Rice Lake fell on Canada day and we heard the nearest large town would be holding various celebrations so we headed over to check it out and got to watch their Canada Day parade.

We also took some time to wander around Millennium Park which sits on the Otonabee River in downtown Peterborough. The Park features a landscaped walking path with sculptures, flower beds, the Butterfly Garden, grassy areas and benches.

Bewdley

The community of Bewdley (population of about 650 people) was around a 15 minute drive from our resort and we took ourselves out there for lunch and an explore one afternoon. It sits on the western side of Rice Lake and has a great play park right in front of the lake so the kids can play while you take in the beautiful views.

We had lunch in Rhinos Roadhouse, a great traditional Canadian restaurant which sits on the main road and had a lovely outside area for you to take in the view.

Cobourg

Around a 40 minute drive away is the town of Cobourg, a fantastic beach town on the banks of Lake Ontario. We enjoyed a few hours at and by the beach building sand castles, swimming, playing at the parks and in the splash park, checking out the boats in the marina and grabbing ice creams. I’d definitely recommend it for a proper beach day if you’re in the area.

 

Muddy’s Pit BBQ

Muddy’s Pit BBQ just deserves a section of its own. We would never have known about it was it not for a lovely local recommending it. Situated in a little town called Keene, only the locals seem to know about it (which I love). The food is served at the counter like in a deli and you sit on picnic benches to tuck in. We had the carnivore sampler with baked beans and mac n cheese. No frills but AMAZING tasting food, great beer and live music, and it’s so relaxed that the kids can run around freely without bothering people. If you’re in the area you MUST give it a visit.

We had a fantastic week exploring Rice Lake and the surrounding area and could easily have stayed longer. Have you visited this area of Ontario before? What would you recommend?

Cx

 

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Kids go racing with Musselburgh Racecourse

I’ve never been horse racing before and to be honest it’s not something that would have crossed my mind to do, especially as a family day out. So when the lovely team at Musselburgh Racecourse invited us all along to their Family Fun Day we were a lil excited to try something new.

And what a great day out we had. We arrived in time for the doors opening and took the handy little shuttle bus from the car park to the door. (Great start when you have a 2 year-old who doesn’t want to walk anywhere.)

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Once inside we were shown to our own picnic table, which just happened to be right beside the racecourse. The views were amazing!

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We were gifted a beautiful picnic lunch each which contained so many treats we had to bring half of it home with us. After our lunch we set off to explore the grounds.

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The team at Musselburgh Racecourse had gone out of their way to make sure that the children were well entertained with a whole host of great kids rides, face painting and Luca’s ice cream, all provided FREE of charge. And FYI all kids entry tickets were FREE too with a paying adult so it really is fantastic value. The kids can go on the rides as many times as they like so are easily entertained for the entire afternoon. The only slight disappointment for us was that the queue for face painting was so long that the kids didn’t manage to get theirs done. Face painting is always going to be super popular though and we probably should have gone straight there on arrival before it got too busy. And they were easily distracted by the free ice cream and the other rides that it didn’t matter too much.

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If all that wasn’t enough entertainment, there was of course the reason we were all there….the races themselves. We popped a little flutter on the first race and actually won (I never win anything so this was most exciting to me)! The kids were so excited to see the horses so close up, as were us grown ups to be honest.

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photo credit: Laura from The Breasest News

As I said, horse racing isn’t something I had really considered as a day out, but we had such a fab time we know we’ll definitely be returning next year. Thanks to all the team at Musselburgh Racecourse for inviting us and putting on such a great day out for the whole family.

Cx

*This was a collaborative post but all views and opinions are entirely my own.

Toronto With Kids

I have to admit I was a bit nervous about doing a city break with the kids, having never done anything like this with them before. But since we were flying into Toronto from Edinburgh we couldn’t very well pass up a chance to see at least a little of this beautiful city on the first stop of our break in Ontario.

Thankfully Toronto is an incredibly child-friendly city with so much going on for the whole family that there was really nothing to worry about (apart from the searing heat, which really affected all our energy levels).

I’ve detailed below some of the things we got up to that will hopefully provide a lil inspiration if you’re thinking about visiting with your kids.

CN Tower Restaurant

The CN Tower used to be the highest free-standing structure in the world (at 1815 feet) until the Burj Khalifa overtook it in 2008. The prospect of going to the top of a ridiculously tall building is pretty exciting for kids (our eldest at least) so we didn’t want to leave without doing this.

We opted to make a reservation at the restaurant for lunch as it means skipping the queues (which can apparently be up to 2 hours long) and, although a bit pricey for food, removing the stress of trying to entertain two children in a huge queue…well that’s priceless isn’t it!

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To access the Tower itself costs 38 CAD (ages 13-64) and 28 CAD (ages 4-12) so for 65 CAD per adult and 12 CAD per child to eat AND access the glass floor afterwards doesn’t make the cost seem so eye-watering. The restaurant itself sits on a revolving floor so no matter where you’re seated, you’re guaranteed to see every view! All in the comfort of your own space with no crowds surrounding you and, if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy it all with a large glass of wine in your hand. The restaurant itself is really child-friendly. They get their own menu, special cups to drink from and some colouring in to do if, like our youngest, they’re not interested in watching planes land at Billy Bishop airport just across the lake or attempting to spot ant-like people walking in the streets below.

After our lunch we were escorted down to the next level to check out the view again and then the next floor down for the glass floor. To be honest, after experiencing the view from the restaurant, we didn’t feel like this had the same level of excitement for us. However T enjoyed chilling out on the glass floor for a bit.

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To plan your experience check out their website here.

Toronto Railway Museum

Conveniently located just across the road from the CN Tower and with a really low entrance fee (5 CAD for over 14s and 3 CAD for under 14s), this was a perfect way to while away an afternoon. There’s a fab train simulator so you can have a go yourself at being a train driver, plus you can explore some of the real carriages.

Note that if the kids want to go on the miniature train ride outside this is an extra cost (3.50 CAD for over 14s and 2.50 CAD for under 14s).

The museum is also conveniently located just beside the Steam Whistle Brewery, so you can grab one of Canada’s premium Pilsners and enjoy the views before heading on your way.

You can find out more about the Railway Museum here.

Centre Island

A perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and it’s only a 10 minute ferry journey (which in itself is an adventure for kids, well ours at least), you can easily visit Centre Island over a couple of days as there is just so much to see and do.

And why rush it? Take a picnic and check out the beautiful fountains, gardens, maze, Franklin Children’s Garden, beach, park and splash pad.

If that’s not enough for you, go along to Centreville Amusement Park for that carnival fun of times gone-by. Great for younger children, no scary rollercoasters, just great fun rides, including a Ferris Wheel with amazing views of the Toronto skyline, log flume, twirling teacups and pony rides. You can also pop along to the Far Away Farm petting zoo which is completely free.

For opening hours of both and prices for Centreville check out their website here.

If you have the time, and the funds allow, I would take a day to explore the Island and then pop back for another day just for Centreville and Far Away Farm.

You can get the Centre Island Ferry schedule and up to date pricing here.

Ontario Science Centre

We had THE best day out here. There is an entire floor of the Ontario Science Centre dedicated to children’s exploration and fun. There is genuinely too many activities to note. Our two didn’t even do everything there was on offer but they did have a chance to find out a little more about space, play with bubbles, water, torches and balls, help build some walls, play in the supermarket, play in the ‘vegetable patch’ and read books. And this is just some of the fun we had.

It’s a bit of a drive out of the city centre, but well worth a visit. There’s even an IMAX cinema!

For prices and opening hours and up to date info about what’s on, check out their website.

Chinatown

Head to Chinatown for dinner and let the kids explore the market stalls and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurants. We chose a fabulous low-key restaurant and were surprised at how child-friendly it was. We got great advice on the right kinds of dishes for the kids in terms of spice and portion size and they barely blinked at the mess and noise we created, and not just by the kids. I managed to drop a scalding bowl of soup and wontons were flying ALL over the place! Needless to stay, we didn’t stay too long after this. Also, after some of the expenses of the previous days we couldn’t believe our entire meal came to less than 50 CAD.

Harbour

We happened upon the harbour a little by chance as we had some time to kill before our lunch at the CN Tower and we could have easily made an afternoon of our visit. There’s a man-man beach with Muskoka chairs to chill in while watching the planes landing at Billy Bishop Airport just across the lake, or to take in the amazing view of the CN Tower.

Streetcars

The Toronto Streetcars are not only a fabulous way to get around the city, for children they are pretty darn exciting to hop on and off. The routes and pricing are really easy to get the hang of so don’t be afraid of trying them out. We loved this guide to the Streetcars when we were doing our research ‘How to Take a Streetcar in Toronto’ so do check it out.

There’s obviously soo many other things to do in Toronto with kids…Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium, Hockey Hall of Fame and Riverdale Farm but we didn’t want to feel as thought we’d rushed around simply to tick things off a list. We had so much fun doing the things we did that we left the city feeling like we would happily visit again and again and always find something new to do.

Have you visited Toronto with your children? What are your recommendations?

Cx

Cuddle Fairy
Wanderlust Kids

Unleashing our Wild at Wildhood

Wildhood oh Wildhood.

How we fell in love with your laid back ethos and nature loving vibes. We explored, we got lost, we found ourselves, we laughed, we reconnected – we did everything you said we would on the posters and more. You were our first family festival and you gave us the bug.

Wildhood was billed as a ‘weekend of escapism, excitement and adventure’ where you were encouraged to step away from technology and enjoy quality family time in fairytale surroundings and the team rose to the challenge.

My Fife for Kids partner in crime Jess (aka That Crafty Mother) and I were just a lil over-excited to be invited along with our families to experience the magic for ourselves, and oh how magical it was.

The sun shone, the castle moat sparkled and the smiles said it all.

Jess: ‘I’ll be honest, it did take us an hour or so to find our rhythm and work out our day plan. We really wanted the dudes to lead the way and being social introverts this wasn’t an easy task! However animals masks made, a forest trail hiked, a maze lost in, a free banana, a good nosey about plus a picnic later and they were ready.

Fuelled with excitement, cake and an itinerary of adventure, we set foot into the real world of Wildhood serenaded by the Ukulele Orchestra of Sunny Leith.

The dudes discovered sticklebacks and tadpoles in the pond, crafted hedgehogs and built micro stick rafts. Carved stones, played hide and seek, attempted slacklining, ran through long grass fields, graffitied in the woods and made up stories of a magical rainbow kitty. They even had a poem composed especially for them, a perfect souvenir.

Sun kissed, giggling and exhausted we fell back in to the car and headed home to reality. Magic was had that day and it won’t be forgotten in a long time.’

Claire: ‘We arrived on site just as Circus Alba were setting up some equipment for the kids to try out and that was it, the kids were hooked! We spent the rest of the morning learning how to hula-hoop and spin plates and it took A LOT of persuasion to move from the tent to see what else was on offer.

Our exploration took us as far as the beautiful storytelling tree where we found ourselves with two entranced littles who again had to be coaxed on to another area. After a picnic lunch we did manage to have some fun pond-dipping, slacklining, playing drums in the woods, exploring the maze and trying out Rugby Tots (which little L adored) before it was back to Circus Alba for one last go at learning new skills before enjoying a hot dog in the last of the sunshine as the day came to an end.

The kids had an absolute blast and though we missed so much of what was programmed, it was perfect to have a day out led (mainly) by what they wanted to do and not once were they bored. We could certainly see that camping and coming for the entire weekend was the ideal way to be able to experience all of what Wildhood had to offer. Here’s hoping that the weekend was such a success that the team are already busy planning year 2.’

*This review was a collaboration between myself and Jess of That Crafty Mother/Fife for Kids. We were gifted free tickets in return for a fair and honest review of our experience. You can follow Fife for Kids on Facebook here.

How to do Vienna in 2 Days…and not break the bank

If you read my post How to Do Budapest in 2 Days you might have been wondering what we did with the rest of our trip. Nope, we weren’t stuck in customs attempting to bring home copious amounts of Hungarian sausage and wine! We hopped on a train and headed for Vienna….to sample Vienniese wine and sausages instead!

I hadn’t banked (geddit?) on how expensive Vienna would be and what a difference it would be in terms of culture to Budapest. So we had to think a little more carefully about what we would spend our money on while in the city.

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We stayed in the beautiful Appartment-Hotel an der Riemergasse which is a cross between a hotel and an apartment. With all the services you’d expect from a hotel (including the option to have breakfast brought to your room) but with the feeling of being in your own flat.

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The rooms all have their own little kitchen area if you need it. The hotel is extremely central and meant that we were just minutes from all the main sights. As we were visiting in Spring and not during peak time we were able to get a good deal on our accommodation and obviously being centrally located meant we didn’t have to spend any money on transport while we were in the city.

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We opted not to go into some of the main sights so that we didn’t have to budget so much on eating out. It’s all about the food and drink for us.

We ate at 3 Hacken Magazin on our first night and, though not cheap, the food, wine and service were faultless. Not a great choice if you’re a vegetarian as it is predominantly traditional Viennese food, ie meat. Fabulous if you’re looking for Bratwurst and strudle and we had a great waiter who helped us pick a Viennese wine within our price range and to match our preferences. It was absolutely delicious and worth every penny.

Fro breakfast on our first morning we tried Café Englaender, and found ourselves in what you would have expected The Ritz to look like 50 years ago. Grand, in an old fashioned way. We had a prosecco breakfast, with eggs, breads, yoghurt, continental meat and cheese, and fruit.

It was a bit of an extravagance but hey, when in Vienna…

Dinner this evening was street food as had stumbled upon a wine festival.

Yes indeed our luck was in…

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When wandering around checking out the architecture we genuinely just stumbled upon the Steiermark Frühling Festival situated right in front of the magnificent Rathaus building. If you can time your visit for this one, DO IT . A whole weekend of Lederhosen, fabulous food and drink from the Styrian region. And best of all, it’s free! Giving you extra spends for all the wine. Hurrah! Grab a seat on the grass, or indeed on a hay-bale, and just soak it all in. We had the best time of our entire visit here!

Vienna is another of those cities that is dripping with beautiful architecture so don’t feel like you have to go inside all the main attractions if you don’t want you. You can easily spend a day being awed by the buildings from the outside. Which is exactly what we did.

The only attraction we spent money to visit was the Jewish Museum, 12 Euros, but this allows you entry into both of their museums within a 4 day period so it’s a really good value for money.

As much as the architecture is stunning, and exactly what you would expect when you think of Vienna, if you’d like to see another side of the city, head down to the Danube to check out the street art. We spent an afternoon drinking coffee and people watching and it was great to experience a completely different vibe to that of the city centre.

Finally, if you do happen to stumble upon a wine festival and do happen to have a slightly sore head the next morning then Stadtpark is the place to go to relax, read a book and clear your head. It’s the biggest park in the city centre. You’ll find lots of monuments of famous Austrians, the most famous being Johann Strauss, as well as an abundance of picnic spots, a benches to rest weary legs. Once again, it won’t cost you a dime (unless you grab a coffee, which, if you did happen to visit the wine festival…is a must!)

Vienna isn’t the cheapest of cities but don’t let this put you off. It’s relatively easy to spend a few days here and not spend the earth. Hopefully this has helped you with some ideas of how to do it.

Have you been to Vienna? What would you recommend?

Cx

 

 

 

 

Why You Should Travel Without Children

I realise this topic is going to be controversial but let me start by making it clear I’m not saying NEVER TAKE YOUR KIDS AWAY WITH YOU. If you read my blog or follow me on social media you’ll see that I love going on adventures, near and far, as a family.

We’ve been away the four of us, with friends, with extended family and, shock horror….either just the two of us or each with our own friends.

All the trips we’ve been on have been amazing in their own ways.

Aside from work trips I’ve only ever gone away for 1 or 2 nights in the past to go to birthdays, weddings and hen do’s. Until I recently went on a trip with my best friend. A trip for no reason other than we wanted to go away for a few days together.

We planned and saved small amounts for two years. Two whole years. But as the time to go away became closer I had a serious case of the mum-guilt.

How selfish were we to go away and leave our children for 5 days!

It wasn’t a work trip, we didn’t HAVE to go away, it was 100% because we wanted to. And this knowledge did make me feel bad. I found myself pre-empting the judgemental questions and defending myself before anyone had even said anything, explaining that I see the kids more than ever now that I work from home. I also didn’t want to seem like I was ‘too excited’ about going away without the family.

That, coupled with a lot of the conversation being about how dad would ‘cope’ stopped me in my tracks.

It’s interesting that there still seems to be this notion of dads being babysitters, as opposed to joint caregivers. There’s certainly none of the ‘how will you cope’ chat whenever Alan goes on a trip.

I also remembered that I’ve spoken before about mum guilt, how we need to stop beating ourselves up and how society as a whole needs to back off and let parents make their own choices. So there I was, not listening to my own advice.

The last time Alan went away he had said how it was a nice break not have to think about anyone other than himself for a few days. Quite right! And he reminded me of this before I went and said I should do the same. Enjoy being a bit selfish.

So I did!

 

We stayed up late, drank in the middle of the day, read our books, walked and walked and walked without having to stop ten million times with snack bribes…actually finished sentences. Utter bliss!

Taking the children to see new places and experiencing trips with them is of course amazing. I love seeing their little faces when they see something new. And I love being able to relax the rules and let them run around wild.

But likewise, if you’re lucky enough to be given an opportunity to go away for a few days without them, do it. It’s a great chance to let your brain relax, to see sights that you may otherwise miss, eat where and when you want….and to have as much vino as you fancy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a little selfish now and again. It’s self care isn’t it. We all deserve to look after ourselves a little.

So, I’m already planning the next girls trip and I can’t wait.

Cx

 

 

A weekend in Inverness-shire

The Highlands have been on my list of places in Scotland to visit for a while now. I always feel slightly ashamed when I speak to friends from other countries and am asked about the north of Scotland and I have to confess I haven’t seen a whole lot of it. So, I may have put on my persuasive voice when we were deciding on the annual weekend getaway with Alan’s side of the family. The last couple of years we have been to Perthshire, which is so beautiful that we were thinking about visiting again this year. However, it can be difficult to find accommodation for our huge family so we looked farther afield.

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We opted for the Highland Holiday Home and weren’t disappointed. Located in Errogie, on the North East end of Loch Mhòr and just a couple of miles to the East of Loch Ness it’s perfectly rural (whilst being near enough to Inverness for a wee visit).

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Fall In Love With Northumberland

It’s been an intense few months what with the house project getting into full flow and various other bits and bobs going on. So to say we were ready for our annual catch up with some very good friends is a bit of an understatement. I was champing at the bit to get going on Friday and finally, after popping up to the house to take receipt of our new kitchen (exciting) and waiting for the car to be serviced and being told it needed extra repairs (sob), we managed to get on our way.

This is our fourth trip away with these friends and our families have expanded somewhat since the first one, so we’ve leaned more towards booking more spacious cottages so there’s plenty of room for the kids to run about. They are inevitably more expensive but I do think it’s worth it. Especially since we do spend our nights in after being out and about during the day. Also because we go away with another family we do have a bit of freedom to book something a bit nicer than the norm.

So we booked East Bickerton, right in the heart of the Northumbrian countryside.

The cottage is absolutely stunning and Lizzie, the owner, lives right next door which is really handy if there is anything you specifically need. Not that we did need to contact her as she had thought of everything. Apart from on our final morning Alan woke up with a bug and wasn’t able to travel. Lizzie was so gracious in allowing us to stay past the 10am check out, telling us we could stay as long as we wanted. Thank you Lizzie! When we arrived there was milk, biscuits, tea and coffee awaiting us (I love little touches like that). As well as being a stunning home in a stunning location, it was also really family friendly. We were provided with two travel cots and two high chairs, a stair gate and boxes of toys for the kids to play with. One piece of feedback I would give Lizzie is to advertise this as it’s a huge draw for families and saves us packing our own. As if all that wasn’t enough we were able to order a supermarket delivery which she kindly took receipt of for us. All in all East Bickerton gets a massive thumbs up from us.

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Best Lunch Spots in Fife with Kids

After the massive response to my recent post ’10 Hidden Gems in Fife for Kids’ I realised that lots of parents, like me, are looking for something new to do with the kids and it’s often hard to think of somewhere to go or something to do. I know from doing research for that post and for this how hard it is to find information like this in one place. So I’ve decided I’ll do a little series focusing on the Central Belt of Scotland and hopefully some of you will find some new ideas, or, you can share with me some of yours like you did last time.

As you may have noticed last time. I do have a penchant for an afternoon out which involves food! I’m not sure about you but we don’t eat out nearly as often as we’d like (though, it’s often enough that I’m working on my recommendations for those rare date nights….watch this space), and as kids can often be little monkeys in the evenings, we tend to focus our family meals out on lunch. It just works better for us.

When we eat out with the kids it’s important to us to be in an environment that is child friendly so we don’t feel anxious if the kids are a little loud. The food also needs to be good. I know that seems obvious but there are a lot of places that might have one of the above and not the other. It costs a lot to eat out and so I just aint willing to eat bad food. So there! And on the topic of cost, I know how expensive it can be to do ANYTHING with children so all of the below places are very reasonably priced.

With all of this in mind, I have put together my top lunch spots in Fife with kids. So, in no particular order feast (get it?!) your eyes on this lovely lot.

  1. The Peppermill Bothy

I know, I know, this made it on to my list last time. However, it really does tick all the boxes when you want to eat a nice lunch with the kids. There’s a great selection of food for both the adults and children, including soups, sandwiches, Quiche and hot rolls. And the children’s menu is spot on. They can choose from soup, toast with jam or peanut butter, a wee platter, milkshakes and even ice cream floats. And the cakes! Seriously! They are to die for. The family who run the café are really friendly and the kids can get down to some serious fun in the play corner while they’re waiting on their food. There’s also a lovely, fully enclosed courtyard for those sunny days and you can rest assured they are safe while you’re tucking in to the afore-mentioned cake.

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