UP your staycay game by inviting loads of mates or your whole family along for a memory-making break.
Celtic Manor resort, Newport
This Welsh gem charms columnist Kate Wills, daughter Blake and pals.
THE PAD: Huge and luxuriously modern, the self-catering Hunter Lodges at this enormous Welsh resort are more like mansions.
Set in more than 2,000 acres of parkland in the beautiful Usk Valley, it’s green, green grass as far as the eye can see.
The lodges are of a seriously high spec, with four stylish double en-suite bedrooms (and a further den that sleeps two), five-star-feel bathrooms with Elemis smellies, a fully equipped kitchen and cloud-like sofas.
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Even if the Welsh weather lets you down, you won’t mind staying in and playing board games in this Selling-Sunset-worthy space.
If you luck out weather-wise, there’s a huge outdoor seating area with enormous private hot tub, from which you can watch the pheasants and bunnies hopping past (Celtic-manor.com).
EXPLORE: Calling all golf fans! The resort played host to the 2010 Ryder Cup, and has three championship golf courses to choose from.
Novices can book in for a taster lesson or one-to-one tuition, £35 for half an hour.
There’s also a gym, a Roman-inspired indoor pool with Jacuzzis, crazy golf for kids, laser quest and “forest nets” for anyone over three, which sees you climb up through the woodland canopy and navigate a maze of trampoline-style nets.
You need wheels to get around the resort, but if you don’t fancy driving once you’ve arrived, there’s a free shuttle service.
Or enjoy a soul-energising walk from your lodge.
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REFUEL: There are six resort restaurants, and our pick is family-friendly Rafters, where lunch is a steal at two courses for £18.
Start with Welsh rarebit and leek tart, followed by slow-cooked pork belly, and kids will love the fish and chips, £6.50, and chocolate brownie, £4.25.
There are no shops at the resort, so to cook up a storm in the lodge, pay a visit to Deli Bach in Newport Market, 15 minutes’ drive away.
Stock up on home-made sausage rolls, cakes and fantastic local beers, ciders and spirits (Deli-bach.com).
While you’re in Newport, swing by The Ship Inn, which is perched on the bank of the River Usk.
Enjoy a cosy Welsh welcome and the best hog-roast roll of your life, £13.95, with gravy, stuffing and apple sauce, natch (Theshipcaerleon.com).
DON’T MISS Drink in the view from the hot tub with a glass of wine, surrounded by all your favourite people.
BOOK IT A two-night stay costs from £880 with The Wanderlist (Thewanderlist.uk).
Rose and Court Barns, Suffolk
Writer Charlotte Sweeney taps into nature with friends and family.
THE PAD: Down winding country lanes in deepest Suffolk, the beautiful Rose and Court Barns greet you like a warm hug.
These two separate holiday lets can be booked together comfortably to sleep 10, and include a private courtyard, a tennis court (racquets and balls provided), swimming pool and outdoor games, all set in peaceful grounds.
Inside is geared up for families, with plenty of books and games. Beds are mega comfy, and both barns have a lovely log fire with free wood.
This really is in the middle of nowhere, making it the perfect place to pull on your wellies and enjoy some woodland walks.
EXPLORE: Arrive early to dodge the queues at Jimmy’s Farm, the wildlife park made famous by the TV series following owner Jimmy Doherty (Jamie Oliver’s pal).
It’s home to rare British breeds and exotic animals, from goats to monkeys and camels, and kids can muck in with feeding. The on-site cafe serves great coffee and cakes, or for lunch we loved the turkey pie, £13.95.
Stock up on goodies from the shop, including home-made sausage rolls, fresh pasta and lager brewed on site, before the 20-minute drive home.
Entry costs £12.50 for adults, £10 for under-12s (Jimmysfarm.com).
REFUEL: Looking for the dream cosy pub? Try The Crown in Stoke-by-Nayland, just 10 minutes from the barns by car or a 40-minute walk across fields.
Eat locally caught partridge with crushed new potatoes, £19, while the kids tuck into spaghetti carbonara, £6.
There’s even a doggie menu – yes, really (Crowninn.net).
For more trad pub fare, The Shepherd in Langham does a mean Sunday roast, but book ahead! The roast beef, £15, was huge and delicious, they’ll bring you a mountain of extra roasties for £3, and kids get two courses for £7.95 (Shepherdlangham.co.uk).
DON’T MISS: Watch the sunrise from your bed with a steaming cuppa for a blissful start to the day. Top tip: bagsy Rose Barn’s main bedroom for the best vista.
BOOK IT: A three-night stay costs from £1,236 with Suffolk Hideaways (Suffolkhideaways.co.uk).
Hop House, Sittingbourne
Acting Lifestyle Editor Emma Ledger and her family reunite under one awesome roof.
THE PAD: If you’re from a large family, finding somewhere to stay all together can be tricky. Hop House is a sprawling, stunning converted oast house with seven en-suite bedrooms over two floors, with a huge circular table for raucous family meals, as well as plenty of chill-out spaces to get away from each other.
The lovely garden (which is secure, so no worries with little ones) looks out over lush fields beyond. Knock up your favourite cocktail, relax in the outdoor hot tub – there’s room for seven! – and toast a long-overdue reunion.
EXPLORE: Pack your non-going-out trainers and hit the footpath through the hamlet of Oad Street and on to Munsgore Lane, taking in glorious countryside, including a racehorse training ground.
Or jump in the car for a 15-minute drive to Oare, a picturesque village on the banks of a winding creek dotted with fishing boats and a 176-acre nature reserve. Or a five-minute stroll from Hop House is Oad Street Food & Crafts, for browsing artworks (Oadstreetfoodandcrafts.com).
REFUEL: For a knock-out brunch, Oad Street Food & Crafts is hard to beat. The mushroom toastie, £8.95, will make carnivores wonder if they ever need to eat meat again, while pizzas arrive piled with mozzarella and delish toppings, from £7.95.
If your family, like mine, thinks about food constantly, make the most of historic Kent pub The Three Mariners in Oare – a child- and dog-friendly beauty with oak beams and booths, plus a beautiful garden for bright days.
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As well as award-winning local Shepherd Neame beer, there’s exceptional food, such as kids’ burgers, or buttery hake with sea herbs and new potatoes, £18, and flourless chocolate cake, £7, for afters (Thethreemarinersoare.co.uk).
DON’T MISS: Visit one of Kent’s last remaining wildlife grazing marshes in Oare. It’s a site of international importance for migratory and breeding wetland birds.
BOOK IT: A seven-night stay costs from £2,762 (Sykescottages.co.uk)
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