The Isle of Wight is well equipped with minigolf courses (see our children's days out guide for a list). If I was more entrepreneurial I'd organise a tour so that middle-aged men could stay in posh hotels, wear Pringle jumpers and then see who was best at hitting a pink golf ball up a ramp. ITV4 might even televise it.
We recently tried out two of the Island's courses at Rylstone Gardens and Shanklin Seafront. To add to the challenge I decided to carry a baby in a sling whilst I played. I've never seen pro golfers do this but it does create an excellent excuse if you don't win.
First up was Rylstone Gardens which has proper Isle of Wight cutesy charm. I'd stick it in that category of those old fashioned Isle of Wight attractions which appear to be a hobby which got out of hand (there's a random collection of chimney pots at Blackgang Chine which also has this feeling about it).
The 18 holes at Rylstone Gardens resemble the kind of thing my grandad used to build in his shed for the amusement of his grandchildren (and his own amusement I'm sure). He was a dentist and I once asked where a piece of his antique dentistry equipment had gone. He pointed to a wooden dolls house he was building and told me he had needed the wood.
At Rylstone Gardens, bits of drainpipe have been repurposed for golfing amusement, signs are carefully handwritten. The whole thing feels wonderfully homemade and it's well maintained with lovingly grown flowers and vegetables adding to the feeling that you have wandered into someone's back garden.
It's pretty cheap too, with a family of four costing £10 when we visited. There's also a cafe for non golfers who prefer pudding to putting.
For the record, Mrs Guru won by one point thanks to an appalling 11 shot final hole on my part. Daughter one won in the under 18s category.
A couple of days later we were on a gloomy Shanklin Seafront trying out the new Jurassic Bay minigolf.
This one is very much at the other end of the minigolf market with an impressive course which has clearly cost thousands to put together. There are Blackgang Chine-style fibreglass dinosaurs, roaring noises and a green pond in the middle. It's a big visual upgrade from the course which was previously on the site.
Of course you pay a premium for the location and the roaring dinosaurs with an adult ticket costing £6.50 when we visited - almost twice as much as Rylstone Gardens.
Personally I like minigolf holes which involve tricky curves, ramps and tunnels. Some of the holes were a bit simple for my liking but they went down well with the four year old and the holes certainly got more interesting as we went along. The one with a water feature was a nice touch along with the one which looked like a section of a Nascar racetrack.
On this occasion I was victorious over Mrs Guru, though I suspect she may have let me have this one for the sake of a pleasant journey home. She was carrying two bags and a scorecard and whilst I could have offered to help, I wasn't sure my ego could take another defeat.
Daughter one was once again victorious as the only competitor in the under 18s category, thanks largely to her croquet style of putting and occasional requests to move the ball closer to the hole.
So which did we prefer? On balance I'd say Jurassic Bay, just because of all the small details and because like most manboys, I love dinosaurs. For value for money though I'd certainly say Rylstone Gardens is worth a go. If you time it right you can listen to a brass band tooting away on a Sunday afternoon whilst you putt in the sunshine.
2020 update: After writing this blog I discovered that the golf course at Rylstone Gardens previously lived elsewhere on the Isle of Wight and features in the film That'll Be The Day starring David Essex and Ringo Starr. See our tour of Isle of Wight TV and Film locations for more info.
My least favourite thing about a family trip to the beach is getting home and realising you've got to empty the boot. Carefully organised bags have become sand-encrusted jumbles of clothes, leftover food and wet trunks.
My number one learning for this week is that a "quick trip to the beach" with young children is not wise, since it requires just as much packing and unpacking as a long trip without the time-filling advantages.
The outing started well. Our four-year-old hadn't been on a train before, besides the steam train, so we parked up on Ryde Pier and caught the train to Lake.
If you aren't familiar with the Island Line service, it manages to be both a useful transport connection and an historic attraction. The trains are former Northern Line London Underground stock and bump up and down enough that you feel you should be a minimum height to be allowed to ride. Personally I love it, and suspect most holidaymakers find it charming.
Most people travelling from Ryde stop at Shanklin or Sandown for a seaside outing but we went for Lake since it's only a short walk through a housing estate to the beach and we only planned to stay for an hour. If you want a proper day out then Sandown, Shanklin or Ryde Esplanade are better choices.
Things were going swimmingly until we reached the beach. I'd coped with the steps and slopes with the pushchair and we'd timed it all precisely so we wouldn't have to cough up nearly £7 for parking on the Pier (two hours was £1.70 which seemed more reasonable).
The train ride was great fun and only cost about £10 return for the four of us. I wouldn't say the scenery was stunning as it is mostly inland but the Pier section is a nice novelty.
As we approached the golden Sands and sparkly water of the beach at Lake though there was only really one way it was going to end. Within seconds the baby was eating sand and the four year old looked like a sandcastle statue. We were somewhat ill-prepared with a towel and not a lot else (besides the usual nappies, drinks, sling, cardigans, healthy snacks for the children and unhealthy snacks for us that we eat in secret when the children aren't looking).
And so after about five minutes of paddling in the water we declared it was time to go. Thankfully this didn't result in a meltdown but I suspect it might have done at another time of day.
We spent most of the return train journey trying to remove sand from both children.
I do think a train and beach trip is an excellent day out for younger children. Next time though we'll either pack for a full day out or keep them away from the water and fill the time with an ice cream.
I responded with some suspicion when the cashier at the Coop in Freshwater warned that the Chale Show would be windy. The sky was blue and it wasn't exactly blustery.
10 minutes later she was proved right as we stepped out of the car for our first visit to the show (actually, I might have been years ago and forgotten about it, along with most of the things we did during my childhood on the Isle of Wight).
This year, the main arena acts were a quad biking Australian who jumped over a car and a long haired horse whispering type who leaped on and off horses like he was made of rubber.
We enjoyed both very much but the highlight for me was the huge marquee filled with rows of extra large carrots, prize-winning chickens and competing jars of lemon curd. It gives the show a community feel rather than just being a series of stalls selling resin driveways and 0% finance hatchbacks.
I like to imagine that there are vegetable and preserve related rivalries going back decades and am currently considering a pitch to Channel 4 for a no-holds-barred documentary (I'm a big fan of not barring holds).
The Chale Show is also blessed with a glorious location, so even if you lose interest in the quad bikers you can admire the west wight coastline in one direction or The Pepperpot in the other.
I also thought it was pretty good value. We paid £18 for a family of four and stayed for about three hours. If we weren't trying to fit around a nap routine we'd have spent more time at the live music stage where a group were belting out a pleasant violin version of an Elbow song.
I'm sure the sunshine helped but we left full of praise for the Chale Show. Thanks to all the volunteers who made it possible.
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