Youngsters are voracious when it comes to exploring and soaking up new experiences, no matter how old they are. Life is all about making memories that last forever. How we spend time with our children will have a real impact on they go on to liaise with their own so not only is it a big responsibility, it should be a fun one. A journey that bonds you by sharing adventures and stepping outside the norm.
Before getting bogged down and semi-depressed over the thought of being a grandparent one day, let us look towards taking the family vacation off the beaten track and enjoying some of the more unusual sights and sounds that Europe has to offer. Along with thousands of years of history, Europe also offers some mad places to stay. If you are looking for inspiration, sites like https://www.travelsphere.co.uk/ can be a great place to start. Never mind the Eiffel tower, these locations provide an eyeful of an entirely different kind!
Striking 300° cliff-edge views, as well as an abundance of wildlife, flora and fauna, is what you get from Loop Head Lightkeeper’s House, a gorgeous 19th-century lighthouse cottage in County Clare, on Ireland's rugged west coast. You may wish to have older children here due to the location and the fact the cottage offers no mains water supply. Saying that it sleeps five, so plenty of room to bring along a spare pair of eyes in the form of a doting and astute grandparent! It is a dramatic and remote holiday and perfect if you are looking to get away from it all.
If you want to travel back in time, I mean REALLY back, say yabadabadoo and choose to stay at the prehistoric troglodyte caves known as Cuevas Pedro Antonio De Alarcón. Situated near Grenada, the caves have been modernised splendidly. No need to invent the wheel, all the caves have mod-cons, some even feature Jacuzzis. No matter the size of your tribe, there is various sized accommodation, and the site also has an outdoor pool and a laundry as well as being able to grab a Pterodactyl leg or two in the restaurant. Ok, so maybe I made that last bit up, but I'm sure they will do their best to accommodate!
40km from Amsterdam lies the Controversy Tram Hotel. Although the name sounds a little disconcerting, it's nothing more than a touch eccentric. It's off track, literally, as the B&B accommodations are housed within either small trams or an old train compartment. The fact farm animals surround you gives the kids a chance at experiencing a real Old MacDonald experience. E.I.E.I. Oh yes, it does!
Self confessed as ‘Sweden’s most primitive hotel’, Kolarbyn Eco-lodge lies 2hrs from Stockholm. The hotel and I use the term somewhat reluctantly for its sheer antithesis of what we imagine a hotel to be, offers small forest huts, covered on all sides in grass, set deep in the woodland. Once enclosed in the woods, you can set off on the adventure of a lifetime, embarking on moose safaris or even try your hand at a wolf-howling trip. There are minimum age limits on these excursions, so it's best to check if you are interested in getting back to nature in such a way. (The younger groups could instead set off on a forest hike, part of their Troll Family Adventure, which culminates in fairytales at the fireside)
Only open between November and April the incredibly beautiful Snow Hotel is indeed a sight to behold. You can almost expect Elsa and Olaf to make an appearance as you take in the otherworldly atmosphere that awaits you. Of course, the downside is it's cold. It's not just an apt name. Some rooms have up to five beds, and all are adorned with very thick sleeping bags. You may think it's not a place for children but trust me when I say kids are treated incredibly here with a full itinerary of events catering just for them as well as a snow tube slide and merry-go-round. I'm pretty sure they won't be short of an ice cube or two for your drinks either.
Almost something out of a gothic novel, Kalnoky Castle, is the 16th-century ancestral home of Count Tibor Kalnoky, that's right, a real-life Transylvanian Count (check his teeth!), who returned to his homeland after being exiled Transylvania after his family’s exile. The ecological retreat has also gleaned some somewhat unique Royal support in the form of Prince Charles, who happens to own one of the cottages. Set in a breathtaking expanse nestled at the foot of the brooding Carpathian Mountains, guests are brought to the estate by horse and cart. Almost in the footsteps of Mister Harker himself (sans the lunacy and bug eating fetish!).