You don’t have to be a fan of Blackpool to understand its appeal – in fact, you can positively sneer at it while having a rollicking good time there. And with so much to do – as well as the Pleasure Beach with its new-in-2011 Nickelodeonland, the iconic Blackpool Tower was just about to reopen at the time of writing, after a £5million revamp, with the new Tower Eye complete with skywalk and 4D cinema and the new Blackpool Dungeon – it’s worth making a family break of it.
But staying in Blackpool itself can be pricey. And that’s where Ribby Hall Village comes in handy. Set just 11km inland of the resort, it’s great for taking advantage of all that Blackpool has to offer without having to put up with it round-the-clock. It’s also handy for a whole host of other Lancashire attractions, from the beaches of Lytham St Anne’s and the Martin Mere Wetland Centre with its canoe safaris to the Forest of Bowland just to the east, where attractions in addition to the sometimes heartstoppingly beautiful countryside itself include Clitheroe Castle, the Ribchester Roman Fort & Museum, the Bowland Wild Boar Park and child-friendly foodie haunts such as Bashall Barn Food Visitor Centre (see our feature on a family break at a Country House Hideout in the area).
Ribby Hall itself won’t win any beauty contests, but it does offer comfortable cottages in a safe, traffic-light environment in which kids can run around. There’s a couple of good playgrounds, a decent swimming complex with a throbbing pop soundtrack, a soft-play centre, and other bits and bobs including on-site horse-riding, a lake with canoes, rowing boats and pedaloes, bike hire, fitness and activity classes for adults and kids, and entertainment. Being a bit of a pampering junkie, I was disappointed that the new spa wasn’t open by the time of our visit, but the adults-only pool was a pleasingly calm environment for a child-free interlude, with a sauna and steam room.
Our cottage, a Ribby Poppy sleeping six in a double and two twin bedrooms, had been refurbed in 2010 and while not chic from the outside (a lick of white paint would have worked wonders) had easy-on-the-eye modern décor within and a decent kitchen for self-catering. The on-site shop was fairly priced, with a smattering of local produce among the usual suspects but no proper coffee (despite there being a cafetière in the kitchen). That’s a minor quibble, however, and doesn’t alter the fact that Ribby Hall offers great value in a plum location for Blackpool and the other sights of Lancashire – a week’s stay here can cost from as little as £295 off-peak.
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