By Rhonda Carrier
Lincolnshire was the first place I went on holiday, as a toddler living with my working-class grandparents. Mablethorpe, Sutton-on-Sea, Skegness… These kiss-me-quick resorts were their places of annual pilgrimage from the North Leicester council estate where we lived – to stay in caravan parks, eat fish and chips on the seafront as the North Sea winds whipped our hair into their faces, submit to the acrid sticky sweetness of sticks of rock, and generally partake of the Great British seaside in all its unreconstructed glory. Five decades later, the fading photos of my holidays there with them are among my most precious possessions.
‘We measured our walk out from the Saltfleet sand dunes to the sea at 0.8 miles. There was barely another soul in sight. This, we thought, is a real beach, far from the crowded stretches at those seaside resorts further south.’
Today these resorts remain lost in time; it would be an act of generosity and nostalgia to see any kind of retro charm in them. Yet Lincolnshire has vast amounts to offer those looking to get away from the crowds at a time when UK staycations are at their most popular and bookings – and bargains – at their most hard to come by.
Lakeside lodges at Bainland
I came back to this part of the country for another multigenerational holiday, this time bringing together my kids and their grandparents for the first time in a year and a half. Large properties are much sought-after at a point when families have spent so long apart, and Bainland, an upmarket lodge park in the former RAF station of Woodhall Spa, is just the ticket, with villas with private heated outdoor pools (sleeping 24!), lodges of various sizes, some on private swimming lakes, safari tents and treehouses. There are also various couples’ nests, including lakeside ‘hunting retreats’ inspired by the mountain hunting lodges of the USA, with a romantic English countryside twist, and shepherd’s huts.
This is very far from the Center Parcs holiday village experience. There are a few activities – tennis, archery, mini Land Rovers – but in general this is a lo-fi experience and all the better for it. We were in the English Country Villa, and my holiday-hungry boys spent most of the time in the 10m swimming pool (which can be covered or uncovered depending on the weather), in one of the two hot tubs, playing on the tree swing, challenging each other (or Grandad) at pool or finishing off some local sausages (Lincolnshire is famous for theirs) on the firepit. They also loved watching the resident geese and their young and visiting the animal enclosure with its sheep, goats and – arriving the weekend of our stay – new rescue llamas, three of them expecting babies…
It was all so blissful that it was hard to tear ourselves away, but I managed to lure the boys (and grandparents) back into the car in search of a beach on which to walk our dog (almost all properties at Bainland are dog-friendly, and canine companions all get their own goodie bag of treats on arrival). And what a beach we found! Crossing the pretty Lincolnshire Wolds, we arrived at the magnificent stretch of sand at Saltfleet, reached via a long estuary and rarely busy, it seems, even in high season.
The tide was far out when we arrived, and we measured our walk out from the sand dunes to the sea at 0.8 miles. There was barely another soul in sight. This, we thought, is a real beach, far from the crowded stretches at those seaside resorts further south.
But the North Sea is chilly even in May and the boys couldn't be kept away from their new pad and heated pool for too long. Having ruefully given up on going for a peek at the grey seals at the neighbouring Donna Nook National Nature Reserve because we had our dog with us, we headed back to Bainland for more swimming, more hot tubbing, and more firepitting.
This park has all the elements of the perfect family break, whatever your size of family, but there are even better things to come - the Main Lodge is being upgraded to include a new deli and pantry, a bar and bistro will open later this summer to offer casual all-day dining and take-away meals, and plans for the autumn include the addition of over-water lodges with monsoon showers and sunken hot tubs, and a yoga platform. Several new swimming lakes are being added too. We can’t wait to come back to make more memories that we'll still be talking about in decades to come.
Read more about things to see and do in Lincolnshire with kids.