Saturday 19 October 2019

Multi-generational Magic: 'This is why I LOVE going on holiday with my family'

For Fiona Ness, a trip to England's Lake District with three generations of family rekindles the real meaning of the word 'holiday'

David and Fionn Ness (left) in the Lake District
David and Fionn Ness (left) in the Lake District
The Ness family's Lake District Living area

Fiona Ness, her father David and her daughter Sadhbh share three takes on the same holiday in England's Lake District.

1. The Parent

- by Fiona Ness

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A flooded jetty in Derwent Water, Lake District, England (Deposit Photos)

"Bunnies!!!!!!" The children catapult out of the car in pursuit of the bobtails that are carpeting the Whitbarrow village lawn.

This is Beatrix Potter country and the rabbits are scarpering quicker than I can say, "Myxomatosis!" Then my family, aged from 71 down to four, form a human chain and our seven-seater is unloaded within minutes of our arrival in the Lake District - dazed but not defeated by our three-hour drive from the Belfast ferry.

The kids race around the farmhouse my dad has rented for us all near Keswick. My sister's family and my parents are upstairs and we (because we are noisier) are downstairs.

For the first time in forever, my three children are neither fighting for my attention nor each other's; there are now so many more interesting adults to go around. I stand in my new luxury kitchen with its bottle- green subway tiles and think wistfully that, in another life, this is how our cramped Dublin home would look. With bitten-down nails, I unpick the twisted waxed paper from around the handmade toffees left for us by housekeeping. Best not to tell the weans, I think (bad for their teeth), and start to chew.

This is why I love, love, LOVE going on holiday with my family. The sheer joy of abdicating responsibility. Of letting the real adults take over. It's like being shipped home from the front, from where I've been losing the work-life-balance war.

Many parents will tell you that bringing young children on holiday is no holiday at all. To that I would say: those parents have obviously never been on holiday with the grandparents.

Before I had kids, I was a mountaineer, a skill I learned from my dad, now recovering from a difficult illness. The undulating beauty of the Lake District is a Mecca for us. We breathe out; we reconnect. We stretch our legs and he shows the littler ones how, even on holiday, there's wisdom to be found in putting one foot steadily after the other.

The grandparent

David and Fionn Ness (left) in the Lake District

- by David Ness (71)

At age 71, when the suggestion of a holiday with your children and their children is seen as a great idea, the wide age range becomes a scary prospect. Getting stuck into the planning, the must-haves sharpen the mind: short travel distances; outdoor activities to use up energy; lots of bedrooms and bathrooms; at least two houses; local attractions for all ages.

A previous break at Whitbarrow Lodges in the English Lake District encouraged an enquiry. Imagine our delight when it resulted in the offer of a detached self-catering farmhouse separated into two flats, each with lounge, kitchen and three ensuite bedrooms with "luxurious furnishing and décor" and a private hot tub for each flat.

The properties lived up to the publicity. We marvelled at the space; we appreciated the luxury. We could all relax. Fortuitously, our stay coincided with the hottest, sunniest summer in many years. A visit to the nearby Lake District Wildlife Park was great fun for all.

As Granda and Fionn, the youngest grandson, have a shared interest in steam engines, a day out to the Ravenglass & Eskdale Steam Railway was planned before we left home. We were joined by teenage grandson Jack and Fionn's dad on a train ride to Dalegarth Station, where the engine was turned for the ride back to Ravenglass.

An evening drink in the village lounge bar gave us the chance to choose a destination for a family walk - around part of Buttermere Lake - the next day.

This holiday worked out better than anyone expected. It is a great delight when all three generations of the same family can come together to make more memories and enjoy each other's company. Whitbarrow village in Keswick made this very easy for us all.

The child

- by Sadhbh Kelly (9)

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The Ness family's Lake District Living area

"This place sounds great," I thought when I heard we were going to the Lake District. Our gran and granda, our big cousins and aunt Jacqueline were coming to meet us there. We had two houses in one big house. They both had a hot tub! Pool party every day!

Whenever I needed something to do, I just ran upstairs to my gran's house. There was always someone to play with or talk to. My aunt Jacqueline went into the hot tub with us. My granda played badminton with me, even though the World Cup was on TV. My cousin Molly went horse riding with us. We had brilliant fun with the giant floats in the swimming pool. On one of the days, we went on a boat across a lake where a famous poet had lived. My mum told us his poems.

I don't understand kids who complain about having to go to their gran's every Saturday. That would be my dream. I think going on holiday with your gran and granda is fabulous, especially when they live in a different country.

Top 5 tips for '3G' holidays

1. Don't insist that everyone eat together. But for time-pressed working parents, it's handy if gran decides to do some basic meal planning and shopping in advance of the trip. She has more room in her car for groceries, too. Cooking and eating in smaller groups can be less stressful. It's nice to come together for dessert, though.

2. Plan your own activities. Don't try to organise massive group ventures - just because you're a family on holiday together doesn't mean you're the Borg. Suggest what you're planning to do and see if anyone else wants to fall in, then go for it.

3. Bring board games. Good multi-gen board games include Quizmaster (with questions for kids and adults); Cluedo; Ticket to Ride (Europe) and good, old-fashioned playing cards. Cribbage, anyone?

4. Do your research before you go. Know roughly the things your family wants to do, and whether others are interested. Co-ordinate cars as necessary.

5. Give others their space. If people are happy to do nothing, let them. It's their holiday too, you know.

Get there

Stay: Whitbarrow village, near Keswick. Lodges have their own hot tub, with free use of hotel facilities and housekeeping;

Travel: StenaLine from Belfast to Cairnryan costs from €177 for car + four passengers. See

Read more:

20 best multi-generational holidays for parents, grandparents and kids

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

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