A long weekend away with friends and children in beautiful Northumberland
by RLB2 on September 26, 2011
On a wet and windy day in Newcastle what are you supposed to do with 3 whining children? Well this gem in Newcastle's crown will always be a good option. Visit in the middle of winter around Christmas time and you could also have a go on their outdoor ice skating rink. Alas our visit this time was just in rainy September so we had to amuse ourselves indoors. As we paid to get in we were just in time to watch one of the Science Theatre shows so that was our first stop. The show was called Crazy Chemicals and had a really excellent presenter who was engaging with the children and showing them a range of colourful and almost explosive chemical reactions. The children, who were aged 8, 5 and 3 were really engaged throughout the show, which lasted around 15 minutes.The next place to visit was a temporary exhibition with Wallace & Gromit called A World of Cracking Ideas, which as you may have guessed was all about inventions in the home and from history. The exhibit is set in Wallace & Gromit's home from the movies and you wander through each room which are filled with hands on exhibits that the boys loved. A particular favorite was karaoke in the bathroom shower. Much laughter was had by all at this point.After that hilarity it was time for a sit down in the centre's Planetarium, the biggest in the North of England. I think a range of shows are held inside the Planetarium, but we only had time to watch one called Naughty Monsters in the Sky, which was perhaps a bit young for our 8 year old, but the other two were happy. The show only lasted about 10 minutes, but was a nice introduction for small children into astronomy.As a consolation for the Planetarium show being a bit young for him, we took our 8 year old onto the motion ride, which this time looked at the deep sea. As the name suggests this ride does move around quite a bit so there is an age restriction of 7 and over on it. Luckily there is a new pre-school soft play area that the little ones headed to while I got to enjoy this ride. The ride itself was only 5 minutes, but it was fantastic, we followed a sperm whale into the deep sea and maybe just maybe we spotted a giant squid.The final exhibition we looked at was the human life exhibition. It was all about how humans live, who we are and more importantly what the future holds. I thought it was a really nice way of dealing with some important questions in a child friendly manner, that they might just retain. Again lots of hands on stuff for the kids to play with and just a really well thought out exhibit.I can't praise the Centre for Life enough, it has kept us occupied on many a rainy day and is such good value for money, I would urge anyone with kids to take them there!
I wouldn't really describing this as a restuarant, it is more of a nip in a pick up a sandwich deli, but it isn't an attraction either, so I've gone with restaurant so you know this place is about food. We had a day in Newcastle as aprt of our holiday and decided to let the kids run around in Jesmond Dene. That day we hadn't packed a lunch as we had heard about this wonderful deli and decided to give it a go.We arrived at 11am and there were a few people in front of us but the staff were moving quickly and preparing each sandwich fast, so the queue disappeared in no time at all. Mind you the menu is so extensive we needed to wait time to work out what we wanted to eat. A rough count gave 18 different bread options, from the regionally famous stottie to bagels and back to basic baguettes. So with that many different breads you can imagine the number of fillings they had all written out on a big blackboard behind the counter. Most of the fillings and the salads were in the counter so you could have a good look at what you were getting. Interestingly this deli doesn't serve anything mass produced and they source all their meat locally and make up all the fillings like coronation chicken themselves. So you can be sure that you're not eating lots of horrible additives. Having said all of that the sandwiches are not really that expensive, this is probably because the area around the deli is a bit student haunt. Our sandwiches were huge (I had chicken tikka with mint & garlic yoghurt on a stottie, which is a large flat bread bun) and cost £3, not bad when it fills you up to teatime. Not a sandwich fan? Well they also do what seemed like an endless range of salad boxes (my other half had chicken with couscous, pesto and pine nuts) ranging from around £2.50 to £5, homemade soups, pies and other tasty sweet treats all home baked. I have to say for such a small shop the sheer range of options offered was quite staggering, but the sandwiches were all beautifully made in front of us and were full to brim with tasty fillings. You can opt for dressings or ask for certain things to be left out or added as you wish. Gone are the days of a soggy ham salad sandwich in a box.....this place is the future, well for Jesmond at least. We will definitely be returning on our next jaunt up north and I recommend you give it a go if you are ever in the area!
by RLB2 on September 22, 2011
Our main reason for choosing Seahouses as a holiday destination was for this wonderful beach. It was a couple of minutes walk from our holiday home just over some sand dunes. The beach stretches all the way from Seahouses to Bamburgh and Bamburgh Castle overlooks the beach. In the summer the beach is very popular with families mainly because it is flat and sandy and the sea is relatively safe.In September even on a Saturday afternoon it was relatively quiet, and cold. However, if you wrap up warm you can still enjoy a day running around on the beach, seeing only the occassional dog walker. We thought it was a lovely place to spend some time away from home, we flew kites, built sand castles, went body boarding and had long walks all the way to Bamburgh.If you're looking for somewhere to let the kids run free then this is the place for you. If you are on your own and are looking for a nice walk then this is also the place for you. I think you could even just bring a couple of disposable barbeques and enjoy some fun on this beach.
What a lovely place to spend a Sunday!Alnwick Castle was made famous in the Harry Potter film as it was used as a filming location, but next to the Castle are the Gardens. We arrived and parked in the official car park, which is a short walk away from the Gardens. During the walk you will see the famous treehouse and it's walkways, which are a must to experience. The day we arrived the hedgehog trust were on site helping kids make hedgehog houses, which we had a go at. The staff were wonderfully helpful and great at explaining things to the kids.We paid to enter the gardens, which I thought wasn't too bad to say that it is a charity (£11 for an adult). We knew that the kids weren't going to be that interested in the castle so we just paid to go into the gardens. The first thing we saw on arrival was the wonderful waterfall, which has fountain shows every few minutes. More importantly below that there were toy diggers for the boys to play with, which was fantastic and kept them entertained for quite a while. There are lots of other things to explore, like a sculpture garden, a maze and a poison garden, which I found very interesting.We spent quite a bit of time having coffee in the covered outdoor area of the cafe, watching the kids play. But we did explore the rest of the garden and felt that it was a lovely day out for all ages, well worth the fee to get in.
Boards and Bikes is a service offered ont he coast of Northumberland that allows you to hire out surf boards, body boards, wet suits and yep you've guessed it bikes. I sent an e-mail via the website and was told that in September we didn't have to book anything and just to give them a ring the day before we wanted something. I dutifully did this and was told that they would deliver the suits and body boards to our holiday home or could meet us on the beach. Well I thought this was brilliant so had 4 wetsuits and boards delivered to our holiday home.The van turned up bang on time and we soon were well kitted out for the very reasonable sum of £40 for the half day. We arranged for collection and were soon out enjoying the sea and beach of seahouses. Given my rather scathing view of the Blue Reef Aquarium I can happily say that I would much rather spend that money hiring out this kit. We had a fantastic time and had been given some advice regarding safety about where we were boarding.The service also offers surfing lessons, which if we didn't have the kids I would have been more than happy to have a go at. The whole experience was a very professional, friendly service that gets you out enjoying the beautiful Nortumbrian countryside....I cannot recommend this service enough!
We visited this aquarium on a wet and windy Friday afternoon with an 8 year old and two 3 year olds. It is very easy to find, being just on the Grand Parade in Tynemouth overlooking the long sandy beach. It was very quiet inside with only a few other visitors. We dutifully paid (a bit of advice, search online for discount vouchers, we got one that gave us 20% off) and went into the first section, which had pirhanas and other freshwater fish. We were then straight into a section with British fish species, rays, sharks, lobsters and crayfish, which we good to look at from my point of view, but the kids ran straight past most of it. Around another corner the giant king crab had disappeared (obviously died) since my last visit, leaving a couple of essentially boring fish. We then rounded a corner to look at some teeny tiny seahorses, anemones and some octopie. Then we were straight into the asian short-clawed otters, which were entertaining to watch, but didn't really capture the kids attention for very long.Around another corner there were a couple of tropical fish displays, focusing on fish from the Disney film Finding Nemo, which obviously the children loved. Although I seem to remember some box and cow fish from a previous section and I always found them far more entertaining than clown fish.The next section was supposed to be about the Amazon and had a few monkeys, although I don't really see how they fit into an aquarium. There were also some frogs, chameleons and other amphibians that entertained the kids for about 2 seconds. The next tank was supposed to have a giant pacific octopus, which is advertised on the website, but once again it had disappeared. Luckily for us there was a new section that had some captive grey seals outside, that were lovely to watch. Then it's just the tunnel through the big tropical tank and your done.I suppose to children who have never seen marine animals before may be quite entertained, but personally I found the aquarium overpriced. In fact the kids we were with were just as happy on the beach outside running up and down. So in my opinion it wasn't worth the outlay in cash to visit this aquarium, it was very disappointing and there were no staff members engaging with the public. A real disappointment!
We were in Northumberland in September just as the grey seal breeding season was beginning. We were eager to go and have a look at the colony, which has an estimated three to four thousand seals. A quick internet search brought up this company, which was a family run business that first began taking boats to the islands in 1918, but the business that runs today didn't get going properly until the 1930s.We didn't book anything beforehand, but just turned up in the town of Seahouses and found the little office. There were lots of options in terms of times and we chose a 2 hour trip that didn't land on the islands and cost £11 for adults and £8 for children over 5, the younger children were free.We all headed down to the pier and climbed onto the boat, which is called Glad Tidings. There was plenty of inside and outdoor space to sit in, but we headed straight to the front of the boat. The skipper gave us a running commentary all the way across, explaining about the various birds that are on the islands. Our visit was at the end of the bird's breeding season, so we didn't see many but during the summer you would see puffins, shags, comorants, guillemots, fulmars, eider ducks, kittiwakes and many many more. It really is an ornithologists paradise in the north of England.After having a look at some of the Inner Farne islands we finally spotted some seals and then once we saw them we saw hundreds of them. It was really a joy for the kids to spot the seals playing around in the surf and we had lots of fun. We also had a great story told to us about the Grace Darling heroic rescue from the Farne Islands in 1838, but I will let you enjoy that story yourself if you ever go to the Farne Islands.A really great trip that was well worth the money!
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