Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle




Sometimes revisiting childhood memories can disappoint, not Lindisfarne. Had a wonderful day taking my daughters on their first visit. Can’t believe I have not been for so long. A magical place.

Practicalities: Pushchair friendly until you get to the castle summit although I did see a Phil & Teds at the top, baby change in the central car park.

Useful Links:

Check out the safe crossing times at http://www.northumberlandlife.org/holy-island/





Walk at Belsay Hall

My daughter is convinced there are dinosaurs living in the grounds of Belsay Hall. When you arrive and see the grand hall and manicured lawn it all looks very formal, but as you walk through the gardens and follow the path through the old quarry to the hidden castle, it is like treking through a scene from Jurassic Park. The path winds its way through the rock face and everything seems bigger than normal, even for me, so it must be enormous for a child. There are cave-like hideaways, lots of hidden seats, giant leaves and centuries old trees – and there’s a castle at the end of it to explore. The most stunning time to visit has to be when the rhododendrons are in full bloom, but any time has got something to offer. Check online and English Heritage often run events from jousting to theatre and singing. The empty shell of the old hall is also great for kids to explore – as they are exactly that – empty. Mine love tearing round the vast echoing rooms and I don’t have to worry as there is nothing to break. Practicalities wise, the paths are all flat lose gravel and pushchair friendly. There is a tea room at the main entrance, with baby change facilities and plenty of scenic picnic spots either at the hall or at the castle. The walk from the house to the castle is just about 10 minutes adult pace – obviously a LOT longer toddler pace with so many distractions. There are only portaloos at the castle, and there was an ice cream stand when we were there. Prices: adult £7.70 child (5-15)£4.60 family (2 adults, 3 children) £20 If you join English Heritage after your visit, your entry is refunded. Membership is £47 for an adult or £82 for a couple.


September walk at Gibside

Beautiful day at Gibside today. We usually only get as far as the Strawberry Castle Fort as at toddler pace that can take up a few hours in itself. But today we came armed with the backpacks and set off to explore further afield. With the new path opened through the West Wood it was great to be able to continue on and the children enjoyed hunting out the carved wooden creatures in the forest. After a visit to the stables, where they milked Daisy and played in the discovery room we headed back where the favourite activity of the day was gathering acorns under the oak trees. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gibside/

Morpeth Steppy Stones

Park at High Stanners and follow the riverside walk round to the Steppy Stones. Great for picnics and fishing nets, as long as there hasn’t been too much rain!

Heighley Gate

What would I do without Heighley Gate, near Morpeth? A brilliant playground, two indoor soft plays as well as plants, fish and rabbits. And all free. Amazing. http://www.thegardencentregroup.co.uk/garden-centres/heighley-gate/Heighley-Gate-Nursery-and-Garden-Centre/2D

Knights and princesses at Alnwick Castle

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 £14 and children (5-16) are £7. A family ticket is £36. http://www.alnwickcastle.com/

Rosedale Abbey Campsite, North Yorkshire

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 collegue 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.

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