Cae Mabon: the verdict

* Two final posts before this blog moves to a new platform. This was written late summer as a pitch for a major family travel contract. I didn’t get it. Maybe you can tell me why below.

David Atkinson wanted some family-bonding time with an eco theme. But would his daughters swop pink for green?

So we’re back from another family holiday in Wales. Snowdonia this time – since you ask. A little eco-retreat village near Llanberis called Cae Mabon.

Run by the storyteller and children’s author Eric Maddern, it comprises a group of cabins in the forest, built around a central roundhouse, and boasts a back-to-nature feel.

Every August it offers an open week for families.

Watch a video of Cae Mabon here.

But why here? Simple. This year it was just me, Maya (aged six) and Olivia (aged two), so I wanted no airport queues, other kids to play with and, overall, a get-away-from-it-all feel.

I definitely didn’t want Disney.

I guess I was also following the call of my own hireath by heading for North Wales. I wanted to introduce the girls to the nature, culture and landscape that formed part of my own childhood.

After all, they’ve served me well.

Exploring the options

Wales has lots of options for a go-green break without overdosing on the mung bean curry. Before making my decision, I checked out the following:

  • Bluestone, South Wales. Wales’ answer to Center Parcs has all the family bases covered and a greener take on short breaks
  • The Centre for Alternative Technology, mid Wales.  Courses, activities and simple accommodation, all with a truly green ethos
  • Anglesey Farm Stays, North Wales. A group of farmstead guesthouses around the island for a back-to-nature break

But, in the end, I chose Cae Mabon for the ease of access (a 90-minute drive from home), the back-to-nature feel and the promise of family-friendly activities to keep the girls busy.

The verdict

Overall, the girls really enjoyed the break and I appreciated the back-to-basics approach to a holiday that Wales does so well.

I thought the best things about Cae Mabon are:

  • Lots of playmates. Maya loved playing with the other children, while I swopped parenting tales with the other dads
  • No cooking. It’s fully catered and all healthy vegetarian food. There’s also juice, fruit and hot drinks available all day.
  • Joining in. Both Maya and Olivia loved the songs and storytelling session around the fire. The session on building a fairy den was also a hit.

But I thought the following would improve the experience for families:

  • Eat early. Timings are a bit late for kids, especially young children – 7.30pm is too late for Olivia’s dinner. Serve up early and the kids will be happier.
  • Think terrible twos. The majority of activities are geared to slightly older children – it’s perfect for ages 7-11. But little ones can feel a bit left out. Cae Mabon needs to widen its age appeal.
  • Spell it out. Nobody was there to show us our cabin when we arrived, or explain things. Thankfully, when I was struggling downhill with two children and four bags, the chef came to my help. I’m not expecting room service but a bit of thought goes a long way.

Have your say

Have you taken your family to Cae Mabon? Or do you have a favourite green escape in Wales, one where kids are welcome?

Post your tips below.

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Filed under Travel writing, Wales

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