Right back at the beginning of the year, I decided to plan to try and work towards taking our bikes a bit further afield for some longer rides. I looked into areas with lots of recommended family cycling routes and searched for accommodation close by. As long term members of the YHA we have explored lots of the UK using their low cost accommodation options – staying in old buildings, new buildings, glamping tents, as a family and as a group. When I settled upon YHA Ilam Hall I was excited about its proximity to Dovedale as well as several cycle trails.
Our family room was a good size with 3 sets of bunk beds and an en suite bathroom. The view from our massive window was of Ilam Church and the surrounding beautiful countryside. There was plenty of space to store our belongings and we squirrel led our food stores away in the self catering kitchens downstairs. Ilam Hall has a secure bike storage shed, complete with a full array of tools and a pump for tyres – all things we were grateful for during our stay. As we are members of the National Trust, parking was free for our stay, but reduced charges can be paid by YHA residents.
We spent the first evening exploring our immediate surroundings and followed the map supplied by the National Trust to walk around the wider grounds of Ilam Park. The children loved running around the Italian Gardens after the day visitors had gone home, and we loved being able to give them some freedom to explore.
Our first full day saw us up and organised early (too early, sharing a room with 3 small children has some downsides!) We took full advantage of the discounted breakfasts I had booked with our stay and found the offer plentiful and varied. We used the self catering kitchen to prepare a picnic and set off to complete waht turned out to be a wonderful day on the Manifold Trail. The children happily clocked up 26km on bikes and foot cycling the trail and climbing to Thor’s Cave.
The exercise worked and we had a longer sleep on our second night, before heading off for another day in the saddle at Carsington Water. A full circuit of the reservoir saw us cover 15km on bikes, as well as visiting the adventure play parks and education centre.
On our final morning, after packing up the car and bikes, we walked from the Youth Hostel to Dovedale over Dunster Hill.We followed the route advised by the National Trust and had a great time. Whilst not far, the views are stunning and helped to give the children a real feel of what walking in the peaks can be like.
Dovedale itself was very busy and we were glad to have left the car behind and taken the scenic route. Despite the crowds we managed to have an unhurried ‘turn’ on the famous stepping stones and found our own quiet spot for a picnic. We treated the children to an ice cream from the in situ van as we sat in the sunshine and discussed what a brilliant break we had had. Leaving reluctantly for home, we all agreed we would definitely be coming back!