Ten great summer holiday ideas

Here’s the first instalment of our sunniest feature yet, full of inspiration for making the most of the holiday season. Take a look and raw up a plan for the coming month.

Spend afternoons with balloons

Watch the skies at the 40th Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, which takes place between 9–12 August and offers four fantastic days of family fun. The event is Europe’s largest annual hot air affair, attracting over 130 balloons from across the globe – and it’s all free.

Go pony trekking

Wheal Buller Riding School, near Redruth in Cornwall, offers riding holidays for adults and children, from novices upwards. Set in the World Heritage site of the Mineral Tramways, the area is exceptionally beautiful and the perfect spot to get comfortable in the saddle. There’s also the option of taking the horses for a swim in a lake, which sounds like a blast, especially if the weather’s hot and you and your steed need to cool off. The owners are happy to pick up travellers from the train station.

Visit a top farmers’ market

Stroud in Gloucestershire has one of the best farmers’ markets in the UK. It takes place every Saturday, 9am–2pm, selling local produce from a 17-mile radius, and regularly appears on TV cooking programmes. If Rick Stein and the Hairy Bikers say it’s alright, then that’s good enough for us.

See 3,000 stars

Exmoor National Park boasts the darkest skies in the country. Away from urban light pollution, you can see up to 3,000 stars. The park holds a Stargazing Festival from 20 October – 4 November, but if you can’t wait till then, there are hotels in the woods that you can use as a base for starspotting.

Walk a country-wide coastal path

The Wales Coast Path is something to behold. At 870 miles in length, it joins several paths to create one route that spans the country’s entire coast – the first of its kind in the world. Set up base at one of the many GWR destinations in South Wales and explore this exceptional part of the globe.

Enjoy a BBQ in the park

There are several parks in London where you can enjoy a barbecue, including London Fields and Caledonian Park. Our top recommendation, however, is Highbury Fields in Islington. Right at the heart of one of the city’s coolest areas, Highbury Fields is simply a chilled-out part of town where you can incinerate sausages in public.

Do yoga in the park

Every year, Wanderlust 108 arrives in London town on 15 September (ok, so it’s not quite summer holiday time!) and encourages thousands of people to take part in a ‘mindful triathlon’, which includes a 5K run, an outdoor yoga flow class and a guided meditation. It’s non- competitive (you don’t have to run the 5K and can instead walk or wheel), with a focus on being together and coming to terms with the world. This year’s event takes place in Battersea Park and kids are welcome.

Eat the best ice cream ever

With so many great places to get top ice cream on the network, it’s tough picking just a few. Try seafront favourite Boho Gelato in Brighton and taste some weird and wonderful ices, including their Battenburg flavour. There are three branches of Scoop in London, so you’re never far from top Italian gelato in the capital. Head to Moomaid of Zennor ice cream parlour in St Ives to sample sundaes made from locally produced ice cream.

Spend the night under canvas

Why not just find your nearest campsite and spend the night there? If that seems too casual an approach, then get yourself over to Ayr Holiday Park in St Ives. The campsite looks out over the stunning St Ives Bay and is within walking distance of the town’s major attractions, including Tate St Ives.

Have breakfast with baboons

There are loads of zoos and safari parks on the GWR network. ZSL London Zoo is the oldest of its kind in the world. The ring-tail lemurs at Bristol Zoo are a must, as are the cute red pandas. Get an early start and join the baboons for breakfast at Paignton Zoo.