The beauty of having a little one is that you can go on holiday out of season. And we fully intend to get the most out of the few years we have before Eric goes to school to go on lots of trips, visits to friends and family and holidays.
Although we have been away with him already, it has always been with other people. We had never actually been on our own little family holiday before. Until one evening a couple of months ago. Ryan and I were discussing the fact and I just decided to go for it and book something.
So back in May we packed up the (rental) car and headed up the motorway to our little haven - Clapham in Yorkshire.
Unlike previous visits this time we tried to put a bit more of a plan together of what we wanted to do over the four days we were away. Taking the train over the Ribblehead Viaduct and on to Appleby was firmly on the list, as were the Ingleton Falls and a visit back to Settle. We tried to slot something in to a morning or afternoon, leaving the rest of the day free so that Eric could play or nap, or just have some time out of the pushchair.
Going back to Yorkshire with our son was a surreal experience and in a way it felt like the start of a brand new tradition. The first time we visited it was just the two of us and we were building up to getting married. The second time was on our mini-moon and now we were here with Eric and it just made me feel so happy inside.
Clapham is one of the most idyllic places you will ever come across. And whereas we knew about its beauty, on this trip we really got an appreciation for how perfect it is for little ones.
Just a short walk from Brookhouse B&B (our home for the week) was a large play space for the children of the village. and it was immaculate. There was a big grassy area with football goals, picnic benches, a sandpit and a playground with slides, swings, and several wooden playhouses. We took Eric there nearly everyday and it was ideal for him to totter around in.
Continue further up the road and you will discover a picturesque walk that takes you under canopies of trees into landscape that wouldn't look out of place in a Tolkien novel. We did the walk on a previous visit and it would be pushchair friendly enough but I think it would work out better if Eric was a fully confident walker so we gave it a miss this time round.
We spent the week exploring the surrounding areas and ticking off our 'to do' list. There are some extremely pretty villages in that part of Lancashire / Yorkshire and as the week went on I found myself looking forward to heading home less and less. It is just such a calming place to be. You can't help but be in a good mood being surrounded by hills and dales with nothing but birdsong and babbling water from rivers and streams around you.
We also learnt a good few lessons about travelling with a toddler. Eric was teething badly when we went and this meant most nights he would wake up screaming or crying. And when you're staying in a small B&B you can't help but feel a little embarassed and stressed when you're baby kicks off at 2am.
Packing Eric's clothes by outfit worked a treat this time (read all about how I organised his holiday wardrobe here). He wore nearly everything we took and nothing really went to waste. Taking a portable high chair booster seat was a godsend too as he could be level with us during meals at the B&B and didn't miss out on being a part of the conversation or interacting with us and fellow diners.
We also discovered that everything we did needed to have Eric at the centre. I found myself looking up soft play areas, local swimming pools and family-friendly activities just so that we could have a back up plan. I don't think we would have enjoyed our trip half as much if we hadn't had an arsenal of things to do that were exciting for Eric too.
Places that really stood out and ones I would highly recommend a visit are Dent (which is the most gorgeous little cobbled stone village), Giggleswick (which again is incredibly pretty, with streets line with shops, a beautiful church and a lovely little walk that leads you to a beauty spot that's perfect for photos or as a place to stop and get lost in your own thoughts for a bit), Ye Olde Naked Man Cafe in Settle (ideal for a spot of lunch and with the most delicious cakes you've ever tasted) and The Game Cock Inn in Austwick.
Even though Clapham is barely two hours up the road it felt like we were on another planet for the week. It is worlds apart from Liverpool and being there I felt all my stress and feelings of anxiousness melt away.
Eric got so much out of it too. It was so nice not to be telling him 'no' or 'stop' so much. He laughed, giggled and smiled so much and it was wonderful taking a step back and seeing him and Ryan have some father-son bonding time.
If you are looking for somewhere new to go for some much needed escapism then I can't recommend Clapham - or in fact that whole area - enough, especially at this time of year. It is just beautiful and so relaxing. There's so much to do for walkers, train lovers, couples, friends and those with young families that you will never be bored. And with lots of local pubs and cafes about there is always somewhere to stop off for an ice cream or cold pint on a hot day.
Where is your favourite place to holiday?