I LOVE my children. And I love holidays. But if I’m totally honest, just occasionally the idea of combining the two fills me with dread.
Even a day trip to a local theme park recently had me gasping for a glass of wine and a “long blink” on the sofa afterwards.
Trying to find somewhere that won’t exhaust my two lovely girls — an excitable four-year-old and a smiley 15-month-old — within 20 minutes but will also keep them entertained for a full day is not easy.
There is such a place though. And what’s more, it won’t break the bank, will provide an educational experience cunningly disguised as tremendous fun AND it’s in the UK.
But don’t be misguided by the name — Folly Farm in West Wales is like no other farm you’ve been to.
Home to 750 different animals, including giraffes, lions, rhinos and penguins — as well as a fabulous array of farm animals — it also has Europe’s largest indoor vintage fair.
Add to that NINE adventure play areas, a Formula Two go-kart track, a huge indoor soft play and a petting zoo.
On certain weekends they have visits from TV’s Paw Patrol. And you can feed the lions, giraffes, penguins and rhinos in the Zoo Animal Experiences. Plus milk a goat, of course.
It opened to the public in 1988 with the usual petting attractions, and still features its original farmyard where visitors can get up close to horses, ponies, lambs, goats, rabbits and chicks.
And if the huge petting barn isn’t enough, you can catch a land train around fields home to a piggery, llamas, donkeys, sheep, deer, goats and miniature ponies. My children loved it — and our ten and 13-year-old nieces were bowled over.
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Even before lunch (there are at least seven places to eat – everything from ice cream and cakes to full-on fish and chips) we had packed in a giraffe-feeding experience, rides in the vintage funfair, hung out with the penguins, gawped at the lions and enjoyed the huge sandpit and soft play.
Afterwards, it was off around the African reserve, a saunter past the rhinos, go karts and pedal tractors. Then an ice cream worked wonders consoling my daughter because she was too short for the mini diggers.
Then came my highlight — a lion-feeding experience. Think about the shark cages in South Africa, and then imagine it on land, with lions, and it still doesn’t do it justice.
After an informative talk by one of the lion keepers, we were led into their den, so all that was between us and five lionesses and Hugo the Lion, was a cage wall.
Then with what looked like giant tweezers, we fed them chunks of meat through the bars.
Nothing can prepare you for being that close to a lion, and nothing can prepare you for Hugo starting to get amorous with one of his ladies, just two feet away. Folly Farm is an incredible place, and I’d recommend the Boomerang ticket, which lets you return within seven days for half price.
At the end of our fun-packed day we headed to Folly View — a lovely cottage that sleeps ten, just a few minutes walk from Folly Farm.
By now, the last thing I wanted was to venture into the kitchen – but local rentals FBM Holidays had thought of everything.
It put me in touch with Matthew and Claire Ronowitz, who have set up Qube Catering, providing the best Welsh fare to holidaymakers.
Whether you want a fine-dining experience or just a continental breakfast, they cater for all.
Their newly refurbished restaurant the Qube in Tenby is worth a visit too, and their bar The Cove sells cocktails and gins. My kind of place.
Which brings me to the second star of the show — Tenby itself. With four stunning beaches, boat trips, bucket and spade shops and a maze of little streets offering al fresco dining you could entertain yourself for days.
Whatever the age of your children, it’s all worth a visit. And if all else fails, you can always milk a goat.
GETTING THERE: Entry prices at Folly Farm are: Adult, £13.95; children (three-15 years) £11.95; toddler (two years), £4.95.
STAYING THERE: Folly View sleeps ten and costs from £870 per week. fbmholidays.co.uk/ properties/saundersfoot/begelly/folly-view
MORE INFORMATION: visitpembrokeshire.com