London to Cornwall and back with a toddler

21st May 2014

I wrote about our fabulous trip to Bude last summer and our stay at Court Farm but I never got round to talking about our journey. Surviving a 6ish hour car journey with a super fidgety nearly 2 year is no easy task! So I put a lot of thought into making the experience as pleasant as possible.

Survival Kit


We planned to drive in approximately 2 to 3 hour bursts and to schedule these to coincide with nap or picnic lunch or tea times. For toddler amusement around these times I put together a survival kit containing:

* A little backpack filled with: Peppa Pig mini books, George Pig cuddly toy, a tiger wind-up torch, a mini Aquadoodle set and a little colouring book with crayons and stickers (Seren can use the impact shield of her Kiddy Pro car seat as a little table). All of these things were new as I thought that would add to the excitement and novelty factor!
* Laptop and Peppa Pig DVD (we keep thinking about getting an in-car DVD player for longer journeys but haven’t as yet)
* Larger holiday and beach themed books
* Toddler friendly apps on my iPhone
* Lots and lots of drinks and snacks!

If I was doing this now with a 2.5 year old then I would add a magnetic sketcher and a fiddly toy such as this Montessori lacing tree.

For this journey, either MrS or I sat in the back of the car to be on hand to pass over snacks, pick up dropped toys, load DVDs etc. On our next journey we will have two car seats in the back so we won’t be able to do that!

Getting there: North London to Stonehenge

stonehenge stonehengeWe were slightly too ambitious with our first driving stint having planned to get from home to Exeter in one go on a hot July Friday afternoon. We thought we might get away with this by setting off after Seren’s swimming lesson and lunch meaning she would be extra tired. Unfortunately, Friday afternoon A303 traffic wasn’t on our side and as we slowed down through Wiltshire, Seren became rather unsettled. So we stopped at Stonehenge to stretch our legs, enjoy an ice-cream and see the famous stones. You can do all of this in the car park area without paying to get close to the monument, MrS and I have done that on our own before. However, given that fast-moving toddlers and car parks are perhaps not the ideal combination we opted to pay the entrance fee. At £14 per adult (under 5s are free) this is not a budget option though if you’re an English Heritage member anyway then it’s ideal.

Getting there – Stonehenge to Exeter

mercure southgate exeter

Feeling revitalised, we got back in the car for the 2 hour drive to Exeter where we were staying for the night and Seren enjoyed a car picnic tea. Following a recommendation from a friend we stayed at the Mercure Exeter Southgate Hotel. By the time we had got there, settled in, played with the phone and watched a couple of episodes of Peppa Pig it was time to get Seren ready for bed. Then MrS and I took turns to head down to the bar area for dinner, wine and Wimbledon on the TV!

Getting there – Exeter to Bude

The next morning we went for a swim in the hotel pool, breakfasted and went for a walk around Exeter until lunchtime when we picked up my sister from the train station and set off for the 2 hour journey to Bude. Fortunately Seren slept for nearly all of this part of the journey!

Returning home – Bude to Bath

We didn’t make any overnight stops on the way home but I found this really, really helpful blog that lists child friendly scenic stops along the M4 (and also on the M1) and we planned our route accordingly. We did have couple of places in mind should we need to stop before the M4 (such as the National Trust’s Fyne Court near Taunton in Somerset) but Seren slept for a good 2.5 hours and we made it all the way to Dyrham Park near Bath in one go. Dyrham Park is a 17th century National Trust run mansion with gardens and deer park. Standard Entry to the park and gardens is £4.60 per adult and £2.30 for a child.

We spent a good couple of hours walking through the park and around the gardens and having lunch. It’s quite a long walk from the car park to the house, this is downhill on the way there and the scenery is spectacular. We did however opt to get the shuttle bus for the journey uphill back to the car park! It was a searingly hot day (though the tiny historic church in the grounds was lovely and cool) and we were quite pleased to get back to our air conditioned car.

dyrham park dyrham park dyrham park dyrham park dyrham park dyrham park

Returning home – Bath to North London 

The heat knocked Seren out again for another nap and it also put us off stopping again unless we really, really had to (the beauty of a child still in nappies!). Should we need to, we planned to stop at either Dinton Pastures Country Park in Berkshire or Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire. With both parks you pay for parking only. We will have to visit them another time though as we did manage to get home without stopping again and by stretching out snacks and activities!

Time to get planning another UK trip for late summer I think…


  • Reply Baby Routes (@BabyRoutes) 21st May 2014 at 9:31 am

    Great post and thanks so much for the mention – glad you found the motorway stops post handy! I’ve added an M5 post too now too! Your photos of Dyrham Park are beautiful – fantastic one of the gardens. Were you using an SLR or just really good with mobile/point & shoot? Will have to head over and read up about your accommodation in Bude – would love to head back down to Cornwall again now our eldest is perfect paddling age. Kate x

  • Reply littlestarandme 24th May 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Thanks for your comment Kate! Sorry for the delay in replying, super distracted here with a lovely newborn! The motorway stops info was very, very handy, I will look for the M5 recommendations too. The photos at Dyrham Park were taken with a Nikon DSLR – thank you! We definitely recommend Court Farm – great combination of farm animals, play areas, swimming pool and close driving distance to quite a few great beaches. We totally lucked out with the weather too and had an amazing time. X

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