ISN’T it great once the kids are fully grown and the world’s your oyster when it comes to holidays?
No need to worry about finding somewhere they’re all happy with, or bickering about whose turn it is to bring a friend.
Plus, you have so much more money once they’ve all left home.
And then you get a dog — and it’s back to square one.
Worse, even, because air travel is out of the question and, for some obscure reason, more holiday venues choose to ban pets rather than children.
So what a delight it is to discover a place like Cofton Park, near Dawlish in Devon.
Admittedly it does allow children, but let’s not hold that against it. More importantly, it is genuinely dog friendly.
First things first, it’s a huge site, with everything from luxury hot-tub lodges to camping pitches, and all things in between, so there is some-thing to suit virtually any budget.
The fishing lakes are another special attraction and they lure keen anglers back year after year.
From the moment we arrived, checked in smoothly and headed to our hot-tub lodge (I’m way too comfort-seeking to camp under canvas), the holiday had started.
Bubble, our hard-to-impress hound, headed straight for the dog bed to eat his treats and have a nap before we explored the neighbouring dog exercise area.
STAYING THERE: A four-night break in January in one of the new dog-friendly two-bedroom luxury lodges at Cofton Holidays in Devon, with fully-equipped kitchen, is from £500 in total, based on four sharing.
Plus, there is a host of other accommodation to choose from at this popular family site.
For more details on stays see coftonholidays.co.uk or call 01626 890111.
A secure but steeply sloping field, it allowed him to stretch his legs and run around like a mad thing after our five-hour car journey from home in Yorkshire.
Then, as my equally hard-to-impress wife disappeared into the walk-in wardrobe to unpack, I had to make friends with the hot tub and a bottle of red wine — plastic glasses were thoughtfully provided.
We were staying out of peak season so the site was very quiet and, sadly, the chippy was closed.
But the restaurant was open, the bar was open, the well-stocked shop was open and the staff said they could arrange for the fishing tackle shop to be opened for a short period if necessary.
Our lodge neighbour, a privacy-respecting distance away, was a man who had been visiting the site for 14 years, leaving his wife in the hot tub while he went out for hours every day in search of the “big” fish in the lakes we could see from our windows.
Shiraz and soak
He was after one of the new carp introduced in November and weighing in at 30lb 8oz.
When we spoke he’d yet to catch one, but he lived in hope.
There are five well-stocked lakes, each offering different challenges and rewards, with carp, tench, roach, rudd, bream and perch among the species available.
I’m surprised I didn’t see more herons knocking about.
His wife seemed quite relaxed about the arrangements and, I must confess, the appeal of sitting lakeside with the mercury struggling to reach double figures doesn’t hold a candle to an al fresco shiraz and a soak.
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But, hey, it wasn’t all about the bath and booze.
The site is surrounded by great walking country, and our favourite excursion was through the private woodland (currently open to Cofton Park guests) just off site, which eventually leads down to Dawlish Warren and its wonderful beach.
I say “down” advisedly. There is some serious hillage — and don’t forget you have to go back UP to the site.
The park is a great base for exploring delicious Devon.
We drove out to Torbay, home to the lovely towns of Paignton, Basil Fawlty’s Torquay and the old fishing port of Brixham.
The English riviera is a special part of the country. To my mind, it is best enjoyed out of season while there is room to move, time to stop and stare, and no need to queue for your cream tea or a pint.
But my favourite place is virtually on your Cofton Park doorstep.
It’s Dawlish, a quiet, refreshingly different seaside town, with its black swans that scared Bubble, and seafront railway.
Yet it can still provide traditional delights like the best fish and chips we’d had for ages (and we’ve had a lot) and wonderful ice cream, laced with fresh Devon cream.
Add in some not-quite-so-local Cornish scrumpy and I was as happy as a fisherman’s wife in a hot tub.
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