Archive | November, 2014

A few Festive things to do this weekend (with the mother-in-law)

25 Nov

With the mother-in-law flying in from Ireland at the weekend  for the annual pre-Christmas visit I’ve been on the look out for some festive family days out.  I’ve now found far too many things I’d like to do, so I thought I’d write a kind of Christmas wish-list:


Alnwick Garden: I would have loved to have been there for the switch on of the beautiful lights display and I’d still like to see the fountains illuminated in the dark – a real work of art that brings the gardens to life in the early evenings. There are also lots of special events including Christmas markets and children’s theatre.

There is a 5% discount if book tickets online


Enchanted Parks – The Stargazer of Saltwell:  Keeping on the subject of illuminations – there are only a few tickets left for this dazzling after-dark spectacular of light and performance. There’s also the wonderful story of how it was a little lonely star-gazing girl called Estella who inspired her dad to build the magical Saltwell Towers.


Beamish: I still can’t believe I haven’t taken my kids to Beamish yet, officially the top large tourist attraction in the region, no less. Christmas seems the perfect time to sort it out: Edwardian traditions – an ice rink – tram rides – sounds a day to remember.  HALF PRICE ADMISSION – every Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday


Wallington Hall

Listening to Mrs Claus reading stories by the fire followed by the carol singing in the hall was one of my favourite festive day trips last year. There are THREE children’s playgrounds in the extensive grounds too,  (yes three) including a zip wire and a train, so you can’t really go wrong.

There’s a code for 25% off membership in November here


Northern Stage

After spending three quarters of last year’s panto hiding from Captain Hook/ Jo Mangle in the corridor of Whitely Bay Playhouse with my three-year-old daughter, The Christmas Grump specially created for younger children sounds a much safer option.


Newton-by-the Sea

I love getting wrapped up in the winter and heading to the beach. And at Newton-by-the-Sea you not only have a beautiful walk to Craster (voted one of the top 10 in the UK)  but  a pub on hand at The Ship Inn or a just up the road The Joiners’ Arms. Sign up to the Joiners Arms Newsletter and you get a £10 voucher too.


National Glass Centre, Sunderland

This is for older ones, but I like the sound of starting a Christmas tradition and blowing your own glass bauble



This grand finale to the Christmas Fayre with a wintery spectacle of fire and ice,  Snow Queen, human Catherine Wheels and bonfire sounds amazing. We loved the Santa Special ride on the railway last year – in fact the mother-in-law came with us then too and as I recall was very taken with the charming Mr Claus!

Entry to Woodhorn is free, but parking is £3.50 – a bargain. And there’s even a free parking ride service. A visit to Santa’s Grotto is £7.50 a child, including present.

Santa Specials run on weekends in December


Christmas Cracker Whitehouse Farm

If I go to one grotto this year I think I’d like it to be this one. There’s so much for children here too: animal petting, trator rides, trampolines, playgrounds, soft play…. A great day out.

Free child with an adult voucher



Autumn walk and Sunday Lunch at Alnwick Garden

9 Nov

There can’t be many better table-top views than the one I had today as I tucked into my very tasty roast dinner.

On a November weekend I would usually expect to be cosied up munching on my Yorkshire pud by a warming pub fire if I was off out for a family Sunday Lunch.

But as a birthday treat I was sunning myself in the conservatory of the cafe at Alnwick Garden looking out on to blue sky, autumn leaves and cascading fountains.

We’ve visited a number of times before, but to be honest we usually bring a picnic and perhaps grab a coffee rather than eat in the cafe.

So I felt I was being a bit flash, going the whole hog so to speak and getting a pork roast dinner. I don’t often write about food, but not only was it delicious, I think at £8.95 it was pretty good value considering you are at one of Northumberland’s most popular attractions.

I won’t bang on about it, but juicy pork, crisp crackling, fresh tasting veg, red cabbage with raisins and light and fluffy Yorkshires. The only down sides were that I hardly got a look-in at my Yorkshire puds as the girls snaffled them and then that I was so stuffed, I felt like a lie down rather than heading out round the garden.

My children – five and four – had a jacket potato, beans and cheese, which at £4.95 was also not bad value really as they were enormous and one could have done the both of them.

With two children, not too keen on sitting still or quietly for more than 30 seconds, it also had the advantage of being a carvery so there was no waiting for food and the open conservatory meant I didn’t get that cabin-fever feeling I sometimes get when I fear they are about to blow and I need to plan my emergency exit route.

Anyway enough of the food. As usual Alnwick Garden is a beautiful place to explore at any time of the year. There were still late flowering roses and the immaculately trained crab apples amongst stunning autumn leaves.  Despite visiting so many times my kids still love the water features and we always leave in damp clothes whether winter or summer.

No visit would be complete without a visit to the Treehouse, which still brings out the wanna-be Ewok in me every time we go. I am not sure how many times they would walk round the wooden rope bridges if I let them, quite possible for several hours. You can also climb up to the top of the Treehouse and get a great view across the fields. There’s the restaurant (where you want to book in advance) and small cosy cafe called The Potting Shed, a good spot for your pudding, if you still had room from lunch.

A lovely birthday.

Entry for a family is £16.72 or an annual family pass costs £45

10 top North East spots

5 Nov

Hard to choose but as Nick Clegg announces a £10m funding boost to tourism in the north here are a few of my favourite spots… hope this doesn’t mean they are going to get too busy!!

Holy Island










Bamburgh Beach










Druridge Bay













Saltwell Park













Hadrian’s Wall












Belsay Hall












Kielder Water


















































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