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    Where to go for a pre-GCSE educational holiday

    Long Boat ride in Mulu National Park

    By Mark Frary, Editor of 101 Family Holidays

    I often hear parents say they will not take holidays in the school year that their children take their GCSEs. Each to their own, of course, but sometimes a few days away from school books and revision can help to reinvigorate tired young minds.

    A pilgrimage to Stratford-upon-Avon could be just the thing for English students. They can immerse themselves in all-things Shakespeare by paying a visit to his birthplace and make the trip to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Better still, take in one of his plays performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Sykes Cottages has the perfect place to stay, what is believed to be the oldest place to stay in town, a 15th Century Grade II* listed cottage. Alternatively, you could hire a cottage for a few day in the Lake District and spend some time wandering lonely as a cloud, Wordsworth-style.

    London has much to offer the GCSE student, from the settings of many of Charles Dickens novels to the world-class museums of South Kensington and art galleries throughout the capital. Stay in a boutique hotel or self-catering apartment in London to explore.

    If you have a would-be geologist in the family, what better way to get them to tell their Jurassic from their Cambrian than a visit to the Dorset coastline, which often crops up in GCSE papers as a case study of erosional and depositional landforms. You could rent out a self-catering apartment in West Bay, made famous by TV’s Broadchurch. It has views of East Beach, at the foot of the iconic sandstone cliff.

    The fossils of the Jurassic Coast are just a short hop from these working farm cottages in Dorset while the Isle of Wight is justly famous for its prehistoric remains.

    If it’s the Devonian or Carboniferous periods that you need to brush up on, how about staying on a cottage on Dartmoor or Exmoor?.

    Anyone with an interest in anthropology and social geography, the pre-historic caves and troglodyte villages in the Dordogne are fascinating. Stay here, and you are just a 30-minute drive away.

    The stories of Pompeii and Herculaneum may well crop up in your child’s history exam and what better way to learn about pyroclastic flows from Mount Vesuvius that destroyed these towns than going there in person. Vesuvius became a national park some 30 years ago and now the summit can be reached using a well-known tourist trail leading up to the mouth of the crater. Stay on the Amalfi Coast in a villa in Campania, close to Positano or Sorrento.

    It’s only a five-hour flight to Egypt, one of the most exciting destinations in the world to explore ancient history and the mysteries of the Pharaohs. Egypt where you can explore Pyramids, gaze at mummies, sail on a felucca and take a luxury train ride along the Nile. See this selection of dedicated family tours for ages 5-18.

    Knossos in Crete is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on the island and it has been called Europe’s oldest city. The region was settled as early as the Neolithic period and is a fascinating place to visit for anyone with an interest in history. Stay in a villa half an hour away.

    Bring the world of economics to life with a trip to Malawi where you get to meet the recipients of microloans and hear their stories and how the loans have changed their families’ lives. Or, for business studies students, participate in workshops with local entrepreneurs such as Trinitas Kunashe, the founder of Tina Pads, which supports adolescent girls in Malawi to stay in school by delivering reproductive health education and reusable sanitary pads.

    Future conservationists taking their GCSE in biology can really see this in action in South Africa with a safari in a malaria-free zone. At a private game reserve in the Waterberg region, you can track rhinos and go horse-riding alongside giraffes and zebra.

    The jungles of Belize also teem with wildlife – howler and spider monkeys, toucans, parrots and crocodiles as well as colourful bird life. There is also the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Sanctuary in a rainforest reserve where you might just get the chance to see the elusive jaguar or at least its tracks.

    Just before the GCSEs kick in is also a good time to go to Zambia to catch the big five. Alternatively, take a trip to Borneo to see the famous orang-utans or Madagascar for the ring-tailed lemurs.

    Studious scientists of a different slant – with a penchant for astronomy or physics – will love a holiday to Iceland or Lapland to see the magical aurora borealis or Northern Lights.

    If it’s a last-minute refresher on their languages you are looking for, why not take a trip au velo in France, a few days in Galicia to polish that Spanish or a quick jaunt to the lakes and mountains of multi-lingual Switzerland.

    Finally, if you are looking for inspiration for your food and nutrition GCSE, there is always Puglia, famous for its ‘peasant’ food. Whatever your kids are studying there is always somewhere that offers a little more than just a week by the beach.

    Last updated: 9 June 2018

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