Monthly Archives: June 2012

Family holidays in Wales

So here’s the dilemma. I’m trying to choose a family-holiday escape suitable for my two girls aged two and six.

I’m looking for something with a back-to-basics feel and a close-to-home destination. I don’t want Disney. I want to bring the girls closer to nature, dip out of the daily grind and spend undivided time with them to build cherished childhood memories.

Tricky decisions

The destination bit is the easy bit. Wales, obviously, for its good value for money, simplicity, the friendly people and the natural beauty.

But what to do and where to stay? Now that’s the problem. I’m looking at the Family Holidays section of the Visit Wales web site but I’m confused.

There’s too much going on but not enough sense of insider knowledge. I want a shopping list for groceries but, for a once-a-summer family break, I want to feel an expert is sharing their personal insider knowledge with me.

I also want to know what other families are doing and for them to share their top tips with the forum.

And, on a practical level, I want to navigate my way around the site easily, accessing material from a central page, not having to follow an endless stream of links around labyrinthine sub-directories.

A new look

So how to improve it? Personally, I would make the following suggestions:

  1. Make it more personal. A weekly blog to be written by an expert voice, highlighting a great thing to do that week.
  2. Give it a face. I want to know who the expert is and why they’re qualified to advise me on where to take my children.
  3. Human interaction. Stop using pictures of people with their backs to the camera. If you’re on holiday in Wales, wouldn’t you be smiling?
  4. Work with the medium, not against it. No more chunky text but a clearer writing style better suited to reading on mobile and tablet formats.
  5. More multimedia. Use of image galleries, short video clips and audioboos to make it less static.
  6. Use social media. Push content through Twitter then harvest comments, tips and other user-generated content to compile lists of tips, or provide follow-up story ideas.
  7. Cross link. Bring new material to a wider audience by promoting it on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and other platforms where Visit Wales already has a presence.
  8. Make it a good read. The tone needs to be inspiring and fun as well as informative. You need good, updated information but it needs to hold your attention too.
  9. Keep it fresh. It needs to be relevant to what’s happening now – half term, St David’s Day, Easter egg trails etc.
  10. Simplify navigation. One page for family holidays with a lead story and a menu of links, plus a column of social media. People read differently online, so lead the eye naturally.

Well, that’s what I’d do. Maybe you have other suggestions – if so, post them below.

Booking confirmed

And as for our summer hols? Well, in the end I chose a holiday based on a recommendation from a friend in Cardiff.

Maya, Olivia and I are going to spend a few nights at Cae Mabon near Llanberis, staying in one of the lodges. We’ll be joining in the bushcraft and listening to owner Eric Madden’s story time each evening.

The girls are excited. We check in August 13.



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Filed under Online writing, Travel writing, Wales

Behind the scenes: Holland cheese trail

Hit the North has a thing about cheese. In fact, the more potent, smelly and ripe the better.

I’ve been trying for ages to get an idea off the ground about Dutch cheese. Not the plastic-tasting Edam from my local supermarket but real, artisan Dutch cheese, the likes of which would give the French a run for their roquefort.

This week, I finally made it, following an unofficial cheese trail from Gouda to Friesland with the help of guide Kees Kaldenbach.

I was trying to get an angle on the way cheese making keeps the rural traditions of Holland alive – something we often miss amongst the cliched images of clogs and windmills.

It’s about trying to find a new way to look at a familiar destination, something I hope makes some of my stories stand apart.

My time in North Holland this week also led to think about how Holland is not seen as a food destination. Yet surely there are some interesting chefs and restaurateurs out there?

Maybe, like the cheese makers, people keeping alive the village recipes and farming favourites? I’d love to know if anyone has any suggestions or links.

My story will run in the Daily Express in a few weeks time. Meanwhile, here are some images from the trip.

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Filed under Travel, Travel writing