Down with the kids at YHA Ambleside

15 Nov

Todd Crag Loughrigg Fell

If you’re not hardy enough to brave a tent in the Lake District in the winter, there can’t be much better value for money than the view from our room in the YHA Ambleside.

OK, so I admit when we woke up and first eagerly drew back the curtains, we were slightly deflated by the sight of a thick grey mist. But as we sat having our breakfast from the window seat in the dining area below, the cloud gradually lifted, revealing the lake and the surrounding fells.


The light can constantly seem to change in the Lake District and the evening was even more impressive as we watched the sunset over the lake, with many of the hostel residents gathering outside to watch the natural light show.

YHA Ambleside

Another added bonus of the hostel is that the ground floor has its own pub. And as well as this pub having a corner of children’s books to keep little ones happy, you can also take your pint along the corridor into the large communal dining area, where there is plenty of space for them to wander about or do colouring and happy parents can almost, dare I say it ‘relax’?


The hostel is also within easy walking distance of Ambleside itself, which makes a nice change not to have to get in the car to be able to head off for a walk.

I’ve been lucky to spend family holidays in the Lake District since I was a child and was looking forward to taking the girls up Todd Crag on Loghrigg Fell  –  one of the first climbs I did as a child with my parents and grandparents.


For the children, the highlight was definitely the bunk beds – they packed themselves off to bed as soon as we arrived and had to be lured out again. They also loved the help yourself/all-you-can-eat breakfasts and could possibly have spent all day gazing at the treasure inside the Waterhead Shell Shop.

Tips: We have stayed before without children and not all rooms come with a view (as would be expected) so it might be worth checking when you book. Breakfast is extra, but we enjoyed it and the views from the dining room are fantastic. Self-catering facilities are also available in a separate area if you would like to bring your own food.

Find out more:

YHA Ambleside


A Walk to The Drakestone

1 Sep

On the hunt for a picnic in the heather, we headed to Harbottle in search of The Drakestone.

A good old yarn always helps sell one of mum’s “walks” to the kids, in addition to the promise of a picnic – so they were intrigued by the tales of druids and healing powers that this ancient rock is said to possess.


A great guide to the walk can be found here:

Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion David Wilson guides you on a two-hour walk

Summer Adventures in the Alps

24 Aug

Epic is a word that comes to mind when I try to sum up our camping trip to the French Alps. It’s not a short journey from the North East of England… but it was worth every mile.

The scale of the mountain backdrop is hard to capture in a photo and thanks to the cable cars we got the chance to reach heights far beyond the reach of little legs (or mine too.)

It was a picture in Cool Camping that first got me hooked on the idea of a summer holiday in the Alps. Snow-capped peaks, clear mountain lakes, blue skies and deep green meadows all sounded like scenes from Heidi.

And the highly-rated Les Domes de Miage did not disappoint. It is pretty much my benchmark now for campsites that is going to be hard to beat.

Anyway, enough of my waffle – here are a few highlights that I would recommend if you are passing that way:

Stay at Les Domes de Miage

Believe the reviews, it’s as good as they say. Friendly welcome, big pitches, jaw-dropping views, brilliant play park for the children, spotlessly clean facilities, great location for exploring the area.



There is no pool on site – but a few minutes drive down the road at St Gervais-Les Bains, there is a fantastic indoor and outdoor pool . The downside of this is it is quite pricey. We used it a couple of times as a treat either when raining or very, very hot. If you were going to use it regularly during your stay, passes are available that may offer better value than one-off visits.

One of the highlights of the holiday for us all is swimming in the Lac du Passy.

Free – apart from the small car parking charge and about a 15-minute drive from the campsite, it is just breathtaking. With views of Mont Blanc in the background, you can take a picnic and cool off in the clear waters.


Drive 10 minutes in the opposite direction and you come to the ski resort of Les Contamines. From here you can take the cable cars up the mountain, where there are a walks of various lengths and cafes to keep little ones’ energy levels up with an ice cream.

There is also a great playpark, with high rope climbing course and pony rides, as well as cycling and walks along the valley.

If your children are more confident on their bikes than mine – there were tots with balance bikes heading up in the cable cars to whizz back down again along the well-marked trails.


Around 20 minutes drive away is Chamonix. It’s a much bigger resort that Les Contamines. We only visited for the day and the main reason was the kids (or was it me…) wanted to have a go on this – the Summer Luge.

We also took the Montenvers train to the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) glacier where you can walk inside the glacier itself, fascinating.

There are also a number of family-friendly walks – such as this one to the Chalet Floria. 

Further afield:

Le Cirque du Fer-a-Cheval 

I don’t think I have ever felt quite as small as I did on this walk along a deep valley surrounded by more waterfalls than I could count. It does take longer than the guide suggests with little legs – plus stopping to explore – but they loved the cascading waterfalls and hunting for elusive marmots along the way.

Le Cirque du Fer-a-Cheval


The campsite offers fresh bread and croissants daily and there is a Super U and Intermarche Super in Passy where you can stock up on supplies (wine… at least Brexit hasn’t affected the price of some things…)


If you’ve forgotten any outdoor equipment (or even if you haven’t!) Decathlon Mountain Store the is good for a visit. It’s vast and has a cafe too.



We’ve visited Les Domes de Miage twice now.

The first year we took the overnight ferry with P&O Ferries from Hull to Zeebrugge  and made a stop off around Troyes at Lac d’Orient.

Our pitch was very cramped and the campsite more of a Eurocamp style. But the children liked the lake and the pool.

The following year, feeling more confident and also put off by a rise in the ferry cost, we decided to take the Eurotunnel and do the whole thing in one go with no overnight stops. Yes, you are right, of course that was a stupid idea. DO NOT DO IT!

We have friends who told us that this was possible and the advantage, in theory, was it would save the hassle of unpacking the camping gear for just one night – which was not as easy as we had first thought. Plus you get more time at your final destination. But unless you are like Margaret Thatcher and need very little sleep, have angelic children and the patience of a saint… I wouldn’t recommend it.

We all enjoyed both the ferry and the Eurotunnel. The ferry journey became part of the holiday and the children loved it – including the evening entertainment. I felt like I was on a cruise and was able to get in the holiday mood straightaway. I was also really impressed with the standard of the food and would do it again, but unless you get an early-bird discount, the cost is hard to justify.

I also found the Eurotunnel remarkably easy. It’s a long UK drive for us from Northumberland, especially when almost every major road seemed to be closed overnight for roadworks… but the crossing itself, could not have been more straightforward.

A good summary of stopover options can be found here




Alnmouth Beach

28 Feb

Check out the kite skills:

We are pretty spoilt for beaches here in the North East. From the vast expanse of Druridge Bay, to secluded spots like Sugar Sands or the all-action Tynemouth Longsands.

But one of my favourite all-rounders is Alnmouth. Parking practically on the beach almost feels like cheating, and is especially handy when it’s just me and the kids. I can keep nipping back to the car for the kite, ball, blanket, buckets, spades, rug, picnic, change of clothes, and the rest of the paraphernalia you bring to set up camp for the day.

Gazing out across the white sand and sea, you get that desert island feeling – but just a few minutes walk and you are in Alnmouth – with ice cream parlours, pubs, fish and chips and the glamourous but handy toilet facilities!

The walk round to the village takes you past fishing boats and keep going you will come to a lovely play park.

Or walk to the left and there is a great walk along the beach, up over the sand dunes and back to the car park.

Visit Alnmouth

Random fact: not one for the kids perhaps but Alnmouth is home to the UK’s most haunted hotel…

Read about The Schooner Hotel and its resident spirits here





Geocaching with kids: treasure hunting in a digital age

5 Feb


I had heard of the term geocaching but had no idea what it involved. So I was intrigued when a friend told me they had tried it with their kids and were hooked.

Once I “googled it,” I couldn’t understand why I had not discovered this before. I am constantly trying to come up with ways to bribe/trick my kids into “going for a walk.” I learned long ago that this was one phrase you never said. Instead, there has to be a purpose, eg. “let’s go collect shells on the beach,” “let’s go and see if there is any snow at the top of this hill,” or usually “look at this massive cookie you can have once we get to the top.” But now I had geocaching up my sleeve.

Treasure hunting in the digital age, the term originates from an original “stash” that was placed in a wood in 2000 by Dave Ulmer, an IT expert from Oregon, who then posted the coordinates on the internet.

The public GPS signals we have today were limited due to security fears until May 2000, when Bill Clinton decided that GPS could be made more useful to people and organisations across the globe.

The Ordnance Survey explain the basics:

What is Geocaching? 

Geocaching can be described in simple terms as treasure hunting for the digital generation. Instead of using the conventional compasses and printed maps more commonly associated with orienteering, participants rely on global positioning system (GPS) technology to find their way to certain points around the globe. These spots are found using coordinates published online by other forum members who have hidden boxes or containers (caches) there.

These boxes – often airtight Tupperware-style containers – can contain pretty much anything. In their most basic form, they’ll usually have a log book for hunters to record their names and the dates on which they find the stash. Much of the excitement, however, lies in seeing what other trinkets and souvenirs have been left. If the finder decides to take anything away, they’re required to leave something of equal or greater value for the next person to discover – and the chain begins!

– read all about it from the experts here

Geocaching to the test: 

We went to where you can sign in for free or log in with facebook.

We then put in our postcode and it brought up a surprisingly high number nearby.

They are rated by difficulty and this being our first time we went for the easiest.

Even though you have the coordinates, there is still quite a bit of searching involved and I wasn’t even really sure what I was trying to find.

Thankfully there are extra hints to help. Ours was this:

Face the roundabout and choose the seat on the right. Sit on the left-hand side and look down to the left. This will crack you up!

As we wandered round and round and fumbled through leaves, I was starting to think this was a bad idea – if I couldn’t produce a winning result on our first attempt – this plan of mine was doomed.

Thankfully, in the spirit of all things digital, previous treasure hunters can leave further hints and tips to help you on your way and soon I spotted the green tube in a crack in the wall and jackpot – relief all round.

The girls enjoyed unravelling the log roll and writing in our name – there was no trinket left behind, which was a bit disappointing, but as we hadn’t come prepared with our own gift to leave behind it was probably for the best.

Sign up for geocaching and you also enter into a worldwide community, which is centred around sharing information and also respect for the environment  – our clue urged us to pick up any litter we found lying around too.

Gaining in confidence, we headed on a second mission. This one completely brought out my inner geek, combining a mini history lesson and code breaking…


In memory of Emily Wilding Davison, a prominent member of the Suffragette Movement, who died a few days after she walked in front of the King’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby. This incident was one of the first sports disasters caught on film and shows the horrific impact and aftermath of the collision.

St. Mary’s Churchyard in Morpeth is very old and its residents diverse. It has a Lychgate at the entrance from the A197 and somewhere within it is a watchtower used to protect the fresh graves from the resurrection men (yuk).

The coordinates will take you to Emily’s grave in St. Mary’s churchyard. Use the inscriptions on the grave to find the missing numbers in the coordinates to the cache.

N 55°
W001° 41.def

a = age of Ethel at death
b = numeral of month of Alfred’s death
c = second numeral of Charles’ age at death
d = half the number of fenceposts at the grave
e = number of letters in the word describing ‘princess’
f = day of the month on which Charles died


The verdict? 

Yes, so OK, perhaps the other half and I did get slightly more excited about it than the kids… and yes, I think I will still need that emergency massive cookie in my bag. But they did enjoy ‘the hunt’ and opening the little barrel, especially when there was a bit of ‘treasure’ left inside. So I am preparing our ‘geoswag’ and am looking forward to our next family geocaching adventure (and maybe even one without the kids too…)

What do you need to get started?

A GPS device or smartphone

An account with

Geoswag – trinkets to swap eg keyrings, loombands, shopkins, matchbox cars

A pen and paper for any extra note taking/code cracking

**a hand held mirror for looking under things once you get super advanced!

Find out more:

  • Read more expert advice from experienced family geocachers here
  • A list of what to take with you here
  • advice from netmums here



New Year’s Eve

3 Jan



Tonight we went to Newcastle to see the fireworks.



The parade was amazing! There was a cauldron of fire  and a dancing stag.





Our Poem:

Beautiful fireworks filled the night

Thrilling everyone who watched the sight



Charlotte’s Day Trip to Whitby

27 Dec

Charlotte’s holiday homework is to keep a diary, so she’s been helping me out on the blog this week. We tried to find out some facts I never knew about Whitby, including snakes and monkey puzzle trees…






Whitby facts:

  • A monastery was built in AD657 by King Oswy of Northumbria. It became one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo-Saxon world under the Abbess Hild. She ruled over both men and women in a double monastery called Streaneshalch.
  • It is said that sea birds flying over the ruins of the abbey tip their wings in honour of Hilda while the presence of ammonite fossils on the shore at Whitby is explained as the remains of a plaque of snakes which Hilda turned to stone.
  • Whitby Abbey was the inspiration for a famous scary book called Dracula by Bram Stoker that was written 1897. Lots of people come to Whitby at Halloween.
  • Some people say there are 199 steps, some say 198 and others 200. so they say you have to try and count them for yourself!









Things we want to try next time we go back:

  • Mummy would like a necklace made of Jet

Jet Shop W. Hamond says: Unlike most gemstones, Whitby Jet is actually fossilised wood, similar to our present day Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria Tree, which has been compressed over millions of years.

The colour of Whitby Jet is unique; its blackness is so intense that the expression ‘as black as jet’ has been a commonly used phrase for hundreds of years.

Queen Victoria had a necklace made of Whitby Jet

Read more about it here: Whitby Jet

  • Katherine and I want to bring our buckets and spades and go down to the beach and ride on a donkey in the summer.

Other facts we found out about Whitby:

  • By 1795 Whitby had become a major whaling port. The most successful year was 1814 when eight ships caught 172 whales.
  • The famous explorer Captain Cook learned how to be a sailor in Whitby and his ship the HMS Endeavor that he sailed to Australia and New Zealand was built in Whitby.
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