It’s the October holidays and – a bit like noticing everyone’s skinny when you’re not – everyone seems to be jetting away while we’re staying put.
And while I am at once delighted for pals who casually drop into conversation that they are jetting off to Portugal, Cyprus, Greece – and even Mauritius – there’s also a festering green-eyed monster inside me.
So not to be outdone, I booked a day to Blair Drummond Safari near Stirling.
It’s always a winner with the kids. It’s got a sand pit – so the similarities with Mauritius are there.
And it turned out to be one of the best days of my life. Really.
We always love it there but in the run-up to Halloween, staff have raised their game. And then some.
There’s a pumpkin patch, marshmallows to toast and good old fashioned rides like dodgems.
And that’s aside from all the amazing animals – rhinos, giraffes, elephants, lions etc – to be seen over miles of terrain.
A cameraman pal who lives in Cumbria is making the trip to Blair Drummond just for the park.
His reasons are threefold: he’s listened to me bang on about it often enough, his kids love animals but he can’t stand seeing them cooped up in cages in zoos, and the reviews online are excellent.
I heard a few English accents as we wandered and wouldn’t be surprised if people had travelled hundreds of miles to be there.
Blair Drummond is so close to home
Luckily for us, that wasn’t necessary.
Eight hours in a car with three wee boys is no cake walk.
But sometimes it’s the kind of thing you have to do in the name of a staycation.
Lions interact with a giant hay bale and pumpkins filled with enrichments at Blair Drummond Safari Park, during final preparations for their Halloween event which starts this weekend.
— PA Images (@PAImages) October 6, 2021
We did it in June for our trip to Legoland.
The easing of restrictions makes it easier to get away for these holidays but sometimes the best fun is to be had right on your doorstep.
While there’s so much on offer, it was the fortress and pirate ship in the giant playpark and jumping on a hay bail that kept my sons occupied for hours.
We feasted on wood fired pizzas and warm donuts that were much better than any food offerings at Legoland.
And on the hour’s journey back home I asked: “What do you like more boys? Legoland or Blair Drummond?”
The result was unanimous – the safari park all the way.
Again, sometimes the best things are the closet to home and there’s no need to drive past them in search of something better.
Holiday fun never stops
Camps are a blessing if you need to work, or if the kids are climbing the walls.
There’s the Community Trust-run Dundee FC’s camp at Gardyne Sports Centre and United’s at D.I.S.C – starting from P1 right up to senior school ages.
Prices start at £6 for a half day – and £12 (United) and £15 (Dundee) for a full day.
It’s terrific value.
You can sign up for a full week – and both are running this week and next.
Every holiday, I panic about options and every year, I’m pleasantly surprised and mightily relieved to find there’s lots going on.
The boy from Lochee done good
Late to the game, I watched an episode of Succession on Sky Atlantic this week.
It was a mid-season one and, of course, I should have found the original opening show, but I was immediately hooked on the media dynasty storyline.
The third season starts again next week so there’s still time for you to catch up.
I’m also in awe that our own Brian Cox is at the helm of a series that’s been hailed the best thing on TV all over the world.
Not bad for a boy from Lochee.