Partly due to my three-year-old daughter’s current obsession with Mike the Knight she was very excited about visiting Alnwick Castle. And we all had a brilliant time. The activities in the Knight’s Quest were great fun and she loved getting dressed up in the costumes and having a go at the sword fighting. There was also some great spots inside the courtyard for our picnic. I thought the children (three and two) might have been too young to appreciate the inside of the castle, but the staff were so geared up for children and showed them how to look out for the little white owls hidden in the rooms, which they enjoyed tracking down. At the moment if you pay for a day, you can visit free for a year. Adults are ‘c2’a314 and children (5-16) are ‘c2’a37. A family ticket is ‘c2’a336. http://www.alnwickcastle.com
So apparently the first mistake I made was thinking our camping trip was a “holiday”. As I later discovered in my Art of Camping book, it should not be looked on as leisure, but a sport. I also learned that I was one of those categories of people you should not choose to take with you on a trip, a “fair weather camper.” I was hopeful this was going to be more successful than last year’s one night stay as the forecast at least promised dry weather in contrast to the deluge that washed us out last August. As we drove across a decidedly murky North Yorkshire Moors on route to our destination at Rosedale Abbey and lightning flashed across the gloomy sky it soon became clear this was not going to be the case. Driving into the campsite, barely visible through our window wipers going into overdrive, all I could think of was my nice warm dry house two hours drive away. As we discussed/argued over where to pitch our tent I could see the smirking expressions on our new neighbours’ faces, smugly already under canvas, thinking, “ha ha this should be fun”. Anyway we launched ourselves into the downpour, kids and all, and by some miracle managed to put our new home up without any major disasters. Maybe I had just been emotionally broken down, but as the rain eased off and the sun came out, I hate to admit it but I started to almost enjoy myself and the girls couldn’t have been happier diving in and out of the tent and running around with the other children on the site. My biggest fear before hand had been my two-year-old waking screaming in the night. There were a couple of whelps, but thankfully nothing too bad and whereas at home where the windows are plastered in blackout material they wake at 5.15am, out in the wild they somehow didn’t wake until almost 6.30am. Don’t get me wrong, I slept badly, woke with back ache and the shower under little more than a dribble didn’t seem to do the trick, but somehow those few blissful moments of sipping wine under the stars, the sound of the stream at night next to the tent and the kids diving around on the grass without even whining for TV once seemed to make it all worthwhile. Nevertheless perhaps in the pursuit of balance and fairness, my next holiday review should, as a colleague advised, consist of hotels, indoor pools, posh suppers and in house-childminding. I think maybe that could be good for the soul too. As a campsite Rosedale Abbey must be about as perfect as you can get: stream, tarzies, village, pub, woods, walks, a playground and beautiful. We arrived the Wednesday before August bank holiday and while it was reasonably busy, there was plenty of spots to choose from. We were told however that the bank holiday weekend was fully booked. It is a large site, stretching back along the river. There are several tea rooms, a village shop and a pub yards from the site and a shop at the reception too. It was very family friendly, most people were there with children, but a really good atmosphere and nice and quiet at night. As mentioned on some review sites, the showers were a bit poor – hot but very weak pressure. The whole area was kept quite clean however. There is so much to do nearby -from steam train rides to moorland walks. My favourite childhood spot is the stepping stones at Lealholm, just about 20 minutes away.
I have never seen a crowd at Druridge Bay. It is so vast that even in the height of summer it doesn’t seem busy. At the main carpark at the Country Park there is a visitors centre a few minutes walk from the sand, with toilet and small cafe. There is also a walk around the lake. If you take the next (unsignposted) turnoff, heading north towards Warkworth, you can however park for free right by the beach, which is so handy for piling down onto the sand. http://www.visitnorthumberland.com/do/druridge-bay-country-park-p26011