Archive | August, 2012

Knights and princesses at Alnwick Castle

30 Aug

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.


Fair weather camper

30 Aug


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.

Jedburgh Abbey

11 Aug
Much more scenic route to Edinburgh than the A1, with the perfect picnic stop off and amazing views. Didn’t even take that much longer as there were less tractors!





Seaton Delaval Hall

4 Aug
Picnic, hay fight and statues


Druridge Bay

3 Aug
Two hours of summer on the beach before the rain came in

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.

Wallington Hall

1 Aug
After becoming accustomed to the gentle political correctness of cbeebies, my first Punch & Judy show since I was a kid myself came as a bit of a shock, especially against the sophisticated backdrop of Wallington Hall. But everyone loved it. It was one of several special events thrown on over the summer in the Best of British theme. With four children between my friend and I aged 7, 4, 3, and almost 2, Wallington was a great place for them all to let off steam and have the all important picnic. First we headed to the most recent addition, a train climbing frame, where they all enjoyed clambering about and there was some very imaginative role play going on with a group of boys shovelling coal into the engine. Then via some foraging and muddy puddles we moved onto the playpark, with swings, a slide a zip wire and much more. It was then time for Punch & Judy, where despite being a bit taken aback by the sight of punch battering a baby, all seemed to have a good time. After a picnic on the grass we then explored the grounds and the Olympic theme was a great idea. I couldn’t believe how hard work sack racing was! The different activities including triple jumps, skittles and hoop throwing kept everyone entertained. We didn’t have time to explore the house or extensive grounds, but from a previous visit I can tell you they are all worth the trip. One of the best things about Wallington with young children is that the main attractions are quite compact, it is just a few minutes to the play area or the house, with handy toilets and a cafe on hand. But if you want to extend your trip the gardens and lakes are also an option. It is also pushchair friendly.



Gibside and the amazing Strawberry Fort

1 Aug




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