This summer I discovered Mango (mangoholidays.co.uk), who specialise in group holidays for single-parent families. For me, there are several bonuses to this kind of break – the main one being that we don’t have to sit in a dining room surrounded by happy families, with Joe looking at them and wishing his dad was with us and me feeling that I’ve failed him miserably. There are also playmates on tap from the moment he opens his eyes until bedtime – with a single but very sociable child, that’s priceless.
Mango’s outdoor-activity holiday in Wales, with the lure of climbing, horse-riding and kayaking, sounded like the perfect opportunity for some quality bonding time with seven-year-old Joe. So spirits high, car packed with an assortment of outdoor kit and footwear, we set off for the Brecon Beacons. I had hoped we might be blessed with some decent weather, but just over the Severn Bridge, heavy rain set in for the rest of the day – and most of the week, in fact. I was grateful our destination was a cottage and not some quagmire of a campsite…
[Editor's note: Mango no longer runs this Brecon Beacons trip; a similar, single-parent-friendly holiday in the area is available with Acorn Family Holidays (acornfamilyholidays.co.uk).]
Cilwych Farm Cottages, Bwlch, is set on a working farm estate that lies along the banks of the River Usk. Steve, our genial Mango host and co-ordinator, settled us into ours, which had a simple rustic charm and great views. We shared with a lady called Andrea and her son, and Joe took an instant shine to Peter and his game of Jenga.
The rest of the group (nine adults and 13 children) were a very friendly bunch who we joined for communal dinners each night. The children bonded in no time, and there was so much space and freedom, the adults could relax knowing that they were safe. One night we dined out at the nearby Star Inn, which boasts a great selection of real ales and good food.
Steve had activities planned for us daily, but the rain was so persistent it wasn’t possible to do the waterfall-walk or kayaking. This was a disappointment, but there were many other local attractions to keep us occupied, including the memorable Big Pit: National Mining Museum of Wales, where we got kitted up with helmets and cap-lamps and taken 90 metres down the mineshaft in the pit cage for an amazing tour by a former miner.
We also had great fun at the Llangorse Multi Activity Centre, with us all encouraging one another as we clambered white-knuckled along ropebridges, scaled climbing walls and hurtled along zipwires. Its horse-riding centre provides riding for all ages and abilities in the pretty countryside overlooking the Llangorse lake. Accommodation and camping is also available.
At the National Show Caves Centre for Wales at Dan-yr-Ogof, we all marvelled at amazing rock formations in Cathedral cave. The site also includes a dinosaur park and shire horse centre, and a popular indoor play-barn. Lastly, to the south of Monmouth is the magnificent remains of Raglan Castle, which we all agreed was well worth visiting.
In the nick of time, the sun came out on our last day – and we managed to play games in the field and have a barbecue, with the children running around until the sun began to set over the Beacons. It was the perfect end to an enjoyable holiday.
Check out our tips for single-parent holidays.