Known in Turkish as Adalar

Escape to Istanbul's secret island
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My seven-year-old son slumped onto the heavily patterned carpet of Istanbul's Blue Mosque and looked up at me with a crumpled face. 'Mum, it's just a big empty room,' he moaned.

I turned to his sister Emelye, nine, who, a little earlier, had seemed intrigued by the sound of the muezzins calling Muslims to prayer. 'Look at all the beautiful tiles on the walls,' I whispered. Em shrugged before collapsing onto the carpet next to Luke.

Day two of our trip to Istanbul and things were not looking good. Over the road, inside the Hagia Sofia Museum, the children had played hide-and-seek around the giant columns for 10 minutes before pleading to leave.

They had been eager to go to the Grand Bazaar, though probably because I had told them it was 'like the Arndale Centre, but older'. When they failed to find a Turkish branch of ToysRus in the ancient alleyways Luke wailed: 'This place is full of rubbish.' Only a refreshing glass of mint lemonade at the historic Fes Cafe and the sight of a man selling spinning tops for two lira (less than £1 of his pocket money) cheered him up.

A suggestion of a cruise along the Bosphorus had resulted in collapsed shoulders and cries of 'Boring!' though the children could have watched the men fishing from the Galata Bridge, next to where the boats depart, for hours.

They enjoyed a trip to buy Turkish Delight at Haci Bekir, a shop close to the Spice Bazaar where the sweet was apparently invented - and bought boxes of the stuff for show-and-tell sessions at school - but really none of Istanbul's attractions could compete with the hotel swimming pool and the PlayStation thoughtfully provided by the super child-friendly Ritz-Carlton.

Every time we left the hotel, the children nagged to go back, but thankfully it was close enough to the city's old European quarter, where all the main sights are huddled, for us to make brief excursions. But on the fourth day we gave up sightseeing altogether and went where all children long to go - the beach.

Now you would be correct in thinking that Istanbul isn't known for its seaside resorts, but floating in the Sea of Marmara, a short scenic ferry-ride away, are the Princes' Islands where you find sandy coves and calm waters, ideal for little bathers.

Known in Turkish as Adalar, these nine small islands - four of them inhabited - are popular with the Turks, but have gone largely unnoticed by international visitors. You certainly won't find them in holiday brochures.