10 great family weekends

Photo credit: © John Snelling

Taking the family away by train is a great way to spend time with the kids and gives you the freedom to relax. And, with a Family and Friends Railcard, Advance tickets and Off-Peak tickets it’ll cost even less.

For families with sunseekers

Location: Weymouth

There’s a delightful, old-fashioned charm to Weymouth with its mixture of Georgian grandeur, golden sand and pretty harbour that made it the perfect backdrop for sailing events in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. You’ll have bucket loads of fun on its Blue Flag beach whether you’re an avid bucket ’n’ spader or just want to sit back, relax and take in the beautiful surroundings with some fish and chips.

Weymouth harbour

Where to stay

£ BhP Budget Accommodation is right by the train station and offers inexpensive shared rooms and dormitories.

££ There are lots of slightly old-fashioned hotels along the front – each with its own sparkling history. The Crown Hotel is a great place to start.

£££ The Somerset House Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel directly opposite the railway station.

Our nearest station: Weymouth

For families with grandparents

Location: Windsor

Combining a big slice of British history with some breathtaking buildings and amazing parks, a weekend away in Windsor is always a winner with the kids. From Windsor Castle itself, through to the astonishing Windsor Great Park that surrounds it and the ‘Long Walk’ that forges through them, you’ll be wowed by the power and awed by the grandeur.

Don’t forget to pay a visit to St George’s Chapel, location of many Royal Weddings including Prince Harry and Meghan’s. And, at 11:00 every day in the summer the guard at Windsor Castle changes in a ceremony well worth watching. Find out more in our blog a family weekend in Windsor.

Where to stay

£ There’s a Travelodge right in the centre of town.

££ Central Windsor Apartments offer a self-catering, fully-equipped apartment option.

£££ The Sir Christopher Wren is a luxury hotel with spa, located centrally, on the river.

Our nearest station: Windsor and Eton Riverside

For families with young kids

Location: Sandown, Isle of Wight

Take the kids on a jaw-dropping Jurassic weekend on the Isle of Wight. Sandown offers the amazing Dinosaur Isle museum, jam-packed with Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Pliocene exhibits, as well as the nearby Yaverland beach with its great fossil-hunting possibilities (see our special blog on fossil-hunting all across our region). The beach is definitely best visited after the spring or winter high tides, so check before embarking on your adventure.

Where to stay

£ The Marina Bay Hotel is inexpensive, but well reviewed, and in a great location.

££ Rest up at The Wight, which has all the entertainment you could need even on a rainy day

£££ Haven Hall offers glorious views and accommodation to match.

Our nearest station: Sandown

For families with youngsters and grandparents

Location: London

Start your culture vulture weekend at the Tate Modern with its ever-changing exhibitions. The remodelled Turbine Hall hosts large scale sculptures and art installations that turns it into an adventure playground, and the staff are relaxed about kids enjoying themselves. Take in a show in London’s West End that needn’t cost the earth either – download the TodayTix app for cheap theatre tickets or enter their front row lottery on selected shows.

Sunday is a great day for visiting the British Museum, with its staggering collection of the world’s wonders from mummified cats to the Rosetta Stone.

Tate Modern and One Blackfriars London

Where to stay

£ London Waterloo Travelodge has reasonable rates.

££ The Park Plaza on Westminster Bridge is child-friendly, highly-rated and super modern.

£££ The Savoy is a quintessential London experience.

Our nearest station: London Waterloo

For energetic families

Location: New Forest

Take your bike to the leafy New Forest and head off on an adventure. No need to worry if you don't have your own as there's a hire shop right in Brockenhurst station.

With 27 cycle trails, this area of preserved natural beauty has plenty for you to see and do. It’s all pretty flat and the glorious green canopy provides you with natural shade, so the miles will fly by as you pick out your favourite little villages and views. You can even get down to the coast for a day and explore the North Solent National Nature Reserve.

Where to stay

£ Camping at the Ashurst campsite makes this a budget weekend away.

££ The Forest Gate Lodge is right by the station in Ashurst and offers comfortable, reasonably-priced accommodation.

£££ Forest Park is a luxurious country Hotel & Inn in Brockenhurst.

Our nearest stations: AshurstBrockenhurst

For families with a thirst for the sea

Location: Portsmouth

Explore Britain’s naval past in the amazing Portsmouth Historic Dockyards. Strut along HMS Victory’s deck like an officer as you are absorbed into the fascinating world of pirates, privateers, swashbucklers and scurvy as you discover the history of the Royal Navy. Visit Henry VIII’s flagship – The Mary Rose – and relive the incredible story of her resurrection from the deep. Then experience the incredible heroic story of the D-Day Landings in Portsmouth's award-winning museum.

And if you can find the time, be whisked to the top of the Spinnaker Tower and have all this amazing history laid out in front of you as you take in the spectacular views. Find out more in our blog, a family weekend in Portsmouth.

Where to stay

£ The Premier Inn Portsmouth North Harbour has been recently refurbished.

££ The Portsmouth Marriott is close to the attractions.

£££ The Florence House Boutique Hotel is very highly regarded.

Our nearest station: Portsmouth Harbour

For families with arty teens

Location: Bristol

Bristol is home to one of the most fascinating street art cultures in the world, one that has spawned giants of the genre such as Cheo, Inkie and, of course, Banksy. Download the Banksy Bristol tour app and follow his work around the city.

While you’re here have a go at a graffiti street art workshop before exploring Stoke’s Croft, Bristol’s artistic and cultural centre, to see fresh street art or sample its incredible variety of restaurants. Finish with a visit to the Arnolfini, a leading centre for contemporary arts, or the free M Shed museum down on Bristol’s Harbourside.

Where to stay

£ The Premier Inn Bristol City Centre (Finzels Reach) is ideally located.

££ The Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel has had a Bristol street art makeover with over 500 pieces by local street artists decorating the rooms.

£££ Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa is modern and luxurious.

Our nearest station: Bristol Temple Meads

For families with big appetites

Location: Winchester

There’s nothing quite like a weekend away in the foodie haven of Winchester. A walk along the picturesque ancient water meadows takes you to the Hospital of St Cross where you can claim your ‘Wayfarer’s Dole’ that’s been handed out to travellers for more than 900 years. And with over 100 stalls, Winchester is home to the UK’s biggest farmer’s market that is definitely local – all the produce on sale must be grown in Hampshire or within 10 miles of the border.

Winchester is also home to a dizzying variety of great restaurants, we like the Gurkha’s Inn for exotic curries, and the Chesil Rectory – set in a 600-year-old medieval house – for fine dining. Your weekend wouldn’t be complete without a visit to nearby Alresford and a ride on a Watercress Line steam train to see waterlogged beds of watercress being farmed as it has for centuries.

Where to stay

£ The Premier Inn Winchester is relatively new and just over a mile from the station.

££ The Wykeham Arms is right in the centre of the city and has great rooms, lovely ales and, appropriately, delicious food. It was ‘Town Pub of the Year 2018’.

£££ Lainston House Hotel is in the countryside three miles from the station and has been the benchmark for local luxury for years. It’s too upmarket to have its own website.

Our nearest station: Winchester

For families with dogs

Location: Surrey Hills

Whether you’re beginners or seasoned pros, for some of the finest walking in the country you need look no further than the Surrey Hills. Easily accessible from GuildfordDorking or Box Hill stations, this area of outstanding natural beauty is simply stuffed with incredible views, amazing buildings and – above all – plenty of hills for walking. You don’t need expensive hiking boots and gear so jump on a train and experience these magnificent landscapes.

Where to stay

£ The Travelodge Guildford is great value.

££ If you prefer a pub, The White Horse Hotel in Dorking fits the bill perfectly.

£££ Barnett Hill Country House Hotel is right on the edge of the Surrey Hills.

Our nearest stations: Guildford, DorkingBox Hill and Westhumble

For families who like to shop

Location: Bath

The World Heritage City of Bath welcomes visitors with open arms, as it has done for centuries. Discovered by The Romans and made world famous by the Georgians, this city offers as many pleasures as ever, from the tourist delights of the Roman Baths and the Royal Crescent to the wealth of shopping opportunities. Start at the bottom of town near the station for big-brand heaven in Southgate and work your way upwards to haute-couture and indie shopping around New Bond Street and along Walcot Street. After all that, grab a coffee at the award-winning coffee shop Colonna & Small’s.

Pulteney Bridge Bath at sunset

Where to stay

£ The central Travelodge is well located.

££ With its prestigious Great Pulteney Street address, Dukes Boutique Guest House will make your stay feel extra special.

£££ The Royal Crescent Hotel is a highly-civilized oasis at which to rest your feet after all that sightseeing.

Our nearest station: Bath Spa