Find the best bank holiday getaways with SWR

10 great family weekend breaks

In this article, you'll learn the following:

Taking the family away by train is a great way to enjoy a weekend away with the kids and gives you the freedom to relax.

From the activity-packed Isle of Wight to bustling and vibrant London, the south west offers plenty to do for families of all ages. And, with a Family and Friends Railcard, GroupSaveAdvance tickets and Off-Peak tickets, your family weekend getaway will cost even less.

For families with sunseekers


Weymouth harbour

There’s a delightful, old-fashioned charm to Weymouth, so why not spend a weekend here? with its 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 bucketloads of fun on its Blue Flag beach whether you’re an avid bucket-and-spader or just want to sit back, relax and take in the beautiful surroundings with some fish and chips.

Where to stay

£ Twin Palms Guesthouses is right by the train station and offers inexpensive rooms.

££ There are lots of great places to stay along the sea front - we recommend the Channel View Bed & Breakfast - one of our 2020 Small Business award winners.

£££ No 98 Boutique Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel overlooking the expansive seafront.

Our nearest station: Weymouth

For families with grandparents


A view down the Long Walk to Windsor Castle on a summer's day

A cheap family holiday destination that combines a big slice of British history with breathtaking buildings and amazing parks, Windsor is always a winner with the kids. From Windsor Castle itself to the surrounding Windsor Great Park and the ‘Long Walk’ that forges through them, you’ll be wowed by the power and grandeur.

Don’t forget to visit St George’s Chapel, the 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.

££ For a handy base to explore that's close to the station, the Crown & Cushion offer 3* accommodation at reasonable prices.

£££ 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

Sandown, Isle of Wight

Sandown beach

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

Where to stay

£ The OYO Marina Hotel is inexpensive but has excellent reviews and a great location. Perfect for a budget family holiday.

££ 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


Tate Modern and One Blackfriars 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 transform it into an adventure playground, and the staff are relaxed about kids enjoying themselves. Enjoy a show in London’s West End that needn’t cost the earth – head to SWR Rewards for discounts off a range of popular London shows. Alternatively, visit London’s South Bank, where you’ll find lots to do for the whole family.

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. Or head to Battersea Power Station for shopping, dining, movie-watching and much more.

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 offers a quintessential London experience.

Our nearest station: London Waterloo

For energetic families

New Forest

Wild ponies in New Forest

Hop on a South Western Railway train with your bike to the leafy New Forest where your adventure awaits. No need to worry if you don't have your own – 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 fairly flat and the glorious green canopy provides natural shade, so the miles will fly by as you pick out your favourite charming 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


View of the Spinnaker Tower from the water

Explore Britain’s naval history in the amazing Portsmouth Historic Dockyards. Strut along HMS Victory’s deck like an officer and immerse yourself in the fascinating world of pirates, privateers, swashbucklers and scurvy. Visit Henry VIII’s flagship – The Mary Rose – and relive the incredible story of her resurrection from the deep.

Then experience the heroic story of the D-Day Landings in Portsmouth's award-winning museum Afterwards, head to The D-Day Story to hear renditions told by survivors themselves. Your visit includes access on board the impressive 59-metre LCT 7074 boat, and you can enjoy a 20% discount with SWR Rewards.

It’s only right to end your day with a trip to the top of the Spinnaker Tower, where you can see all of Portsmouth’s history laid out below as you take in the spectacular views.

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 stations: Portsmouth Harbour, Portsmouth & Southsea

For families with arty teens


Salisbury town

Over the years, Salisbury has developed a strong tradition of arts and culture, making it a fantastic place to visit for the creatively attuned.

While you’re here, visit the Milford Street Bridge Project and examine the imaginative mural, before exploring Salisbury Arts Centre, Salisbury’s vibrant arts club located in a striking church. Next, head to Fisherton Mill, the largest independent gallery in the South West located in a Victorian grain mill. Bag 10% off your entry with SWR Rewards, and enjoy a buy one get one free coffee and cake at the Mill’s café. Finish with a visit to Arundells and admire its architectural beauty, or head to the stunning Mompesson House on Salisbury’s Cathedral Close.

Salisbury Playhouse also presents fantastic arts throughout the year, and the best time to visit is during Salisbury International Arts Festival.

Where to stay

£ The Premier Inn Salisbury North Bishopdown is ideally located.

££ The Mercure Salisbury White Hart Hotel is a family-friendly hotel in a central location.

£££ Burcombe Manor is a grand, peaceful retreat just a 20-minute bus journey from the town centre.

Our nearest station: Salisbury

For families with big appetites


Carrots at Winchester Farmers Market

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 featuring over 100 stalls, Winchester is home to the UK’s biggest farmer’s market that is definitely local – all the produce on sale is grown in Hampshire or within 10 miles of the border.

Winchester also boasts 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. Ride on a Watercress Line steam train to see waterlogged beds of watercress being farmed as they have been 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 delicious food.

£££ Lainston House Hotel is in the countryside, three miles from the station, and has been the benchmark for local luxury for years.

Our nearest station: Winchester

For families with dogs

Surrey Hills

Views from the top of Box Hill
View from the peak of Box Hill

Whether you’re hiking beginners or seasoned pros, look no further than the Surrey Hills for some of the finest walking in the country. Easily accessible from GuildfordDorking or Box Hill stations, this area of outstanding natural beauty is stuffed with incredible views, impressive 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


Entrance to the Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter

Exeter is a great place to visit with kids, particularly if you like to treat yourself to the occasional shopping spree. This city offers as many pleasures as ever, from the tourist delights of Exeter Cathedral and the spooky underground passages to the wealth of shopping opportunities.

Start at Fore Street in the West Quarter, where you’ll find a mix of independent shops, eateries and arcades. Then head to Princesshay, a true shopper’s paradise with over 70 stores selling everything from designer goods to high street bargains. The Guildhall shopping centre is another shopaholic’s favourite, with a range of retailers to choose from. Alternatively, walk to Sidwell St, where you’ll find a huge John Lewis containing everything from home furnishings & accessories, to fashion & beauty.

Where to stay

£ The central Premier Inn is well located.

££ Housed in a grand Victorian building, Mercure Exeter Rougemont Hotel will make your stay feel extra special.

£££ Southernhay House Hotel is a highly civilized oasis to rest your feet after all that sightseeing.

Our nearest station: Exeter Central

Travel with ease with SWR and save some extra cash!

Visit SWR Rewards to get amazing offers on food and drink across London, And don’t forget to book cheap train tickets to your chosen destination by going off-peak, or buy a Railcard to save even more. If you travel often with teammates, you may benefit from GroupSave or a Family and Friends Railcard.

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