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Action stations: a family activity break in the French Pyrenees

Tree climbing, ziplining, rafting and hiking, plus many more activities from a flexible menu, make a fun-packed family holiday

Our night at the Vénasque mountain refuge, close to the Spanish border high in the French Pyrenees, was going better than we could have hoped. After a sweaty, three-hour trek up the valley we had cooled off in a mountain lake (much warmer than it had any right to be, given the altitude), then loafed on its banks while cloud swirled over the ridge. It was like a scene from Tolkien without the hobbits. As the light faded, bowls of soup and pasta were served by the refuge warden, and before long my wife and I were making friends with our fellow hikers in the dinner tent while our two boys (aged 10 and 13) thrashed us at cards.

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Summer fun on Portugal’s riverbanks

Exploring the pristine rivers running through forested mountains proves a great alternative to the country’s golden coastline for this young family

José Manuel dos Santos, our guide, was looking a little sheepish. “You have to understand,” he said, “the beach isn’t normally like this.” We were sitting on a low bridge below the pretty village of Avô, right in the centre of Portugal, feet dangling above the crystal-clear River Alva, the sun on our backs, rushing water filling our ears. “You need to picture it full of people.”

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