Seven weeks of summer holidays this year is a long haul for parents across the nation. It's not hard to spot our exasperated faces at swimming pools, play-parks and the like throughout the long summer. The difficulty many of us face is that any activity in which the youngest child can fully participate is childish and boring in the eyes of the oldest - making family days out potential times of tension as much as joy. Inevitably the lack of the focused discipline of the school day plays its part in unsettling them too.
We've found that the one of the most successful things with our kids has been the little green card that we were given in the Spring which gives us access to all the National Trust properties in the UK. This has meant free parking in beauty spots like The Hermitage or parts of Glen Coe, as well as access to a variety of historic sites, and places of interest, mansions, gardens, castles and coastal paths.
Last week, one such garden (pictured above) kept Boris, Norris and Doris happily occupied for an afternoon, running through rose gardens, hiding behind bushes, chasing each other across lawns, admiring views of distant hills and enjoying the inevitable cafe when sheltering from the equally inevitable rain!
Now I know that National Trust shops are to be avoided at all costs. They all stink of lavender pot pourri, contain wildly priced NT chocolates, and are typically staffed by older ladies who have been specially trained to look disparagingly at anyone who they suspect may not have been to a suitable Independent school. However, bypass the tweed and green-wellies and the NT holds many a fine opportunity for summer fun and learning too. A Historic Scotland membership card affords many similar treats as well.
One of the many advantages of living in Scotland is that membership of the National Trust for Scotland is cheaper than the English equivalent - even though their reciprocal arrangement facilitates access to each other's properties. I know of at least one family in England who have realised this and have joined the NTS as a result!