With the other half being a bit of a Roman history geek we took a Father’s Day trip to Vindolanda. While the kids are a bit young for taking much notice of the history lesson he was trying to give them, they loved clambering on the walls, running around the tunnels among the foundations and climbing the fort. The beautiful scenery provided plenty of picnic spots and a short walk takes you down to a temple by the stream where there is also a recreated Roman shop and house, which the children enjoyed looking at. There is also a cafe, with outdoor seating, and then the small museum, packed with hundreds of Roman treasures including tablets which give first hand accounts of Roman life at the camp. Always a bonus when you return from a day trip feeling you’ve learned something too!
Discovered I harboured an inner trainspotter today when we made our first trip on the Tanfield Railway – the oldest in the world no less! The children were amazed to find a train that actually went chugga chugga choo choo and it really was like stepping back in time.
We parked in the main car park at Andrews House and took the train from the station all the way along the route, which is quite short (about three miles each way.) Sitting in the “buffet” car we were even able to munch our picnic in between the obligatory waving at passers by and hanging our heads out of the window. There are lots of short stops along the way and we got out at Causey Arch, where we only had chance for a short walk over the bridge (again a record breaker as it is the world’s oldest railway bridge), but where you can stop for longer and enjoy lots of woodland walks before getting the train back again.
We then walked down to Europe’s oldest working engine shed at Marley Hill, where volunteers are busy on restoration projects and where the geek in me really did emerge and I was fascinated by the old engines, some by Robert Stephenson and the children loved climbing in and out of the old Victorian carriages. It really brings home what feats of engineering have taken place in the region.
There is a cafe at Andrews House for refreshments as well as toilet facilities and picnic benches.
The passenger service runs every Sunday. A family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) is £23 and under 5s are free. It may seem pricey, but when you remember all this is only possible because of dedicated volunteers, it is well worth it. For more information visit