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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Gibside - Summer 2014

Gibside is one of our favourite National Trust properties. A group of us (5 adults and 9 children) were staying at Westwood Yurts for 2 nights (look out for the blog post soon) which actually form part of the Gibside estate and allow you un-restricted access to everything Gibside has to offer - even after it closes to the public.

WestWood Yurts on The Gibside estate

Our group decided to spend the full day exploring Gibside. It is about a 20 minute walk to the Strawberry Castle Play area but we decided to take the scenic route (also known as getting lost) and walked past the beautiful Chapel and avenue.



The Strawberry castle play area is simply fantastic for children aged 10 and under. There is so much to do from the gigantic castle to zip wires and even pretend stocks. We set up camp and laid out our picnic and spent a wonderful few hours here relaxing in the sun while the children played. There is a little hut that sells hot and cold drinks plus delicious ice cream and the play area has it's own bathroom facilities. Perfect! 





I just love the scenery around Gibside, especially on a sunny day.



After lunch we decided to walk to the blind folded challenge. This was a simple obstacle course in the woods designed to be attempted in teams of two - with one of you blind folded and one guiding the way. This was suitable for all ages and was very well supervised. We loved it and went around three times!




At this point our group split up into their family groups - some of us went off to explore the low and high rope challenges (they had older children in their group), another family caught the bus to the stables to visit the indoor play area and seek refuge from the sun. We decided to visit the den building area of the woods where we also found Gibside volunteers toasting marshmallows on a campfire and encouraging others to have a go too. The boys loved making a den and I was very impressed with their efforts.







By this point we had spent approximately 6 hours walking around and exploring Gibside so it was definitely time to walk through the woods back to our Yurts for a much needed rest. Some of our group returned to the den building later that evening.


Every time we visit Gibside we always find something new to discover. We love it! Can't wait to see what Autumn has in store.






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Friday, 29 August 2014

Butlins Ambassador 2014-15

This is the place you will find links to all of my Butlin's posts, videos, guides and news. Please keep checking back as it will be updated regularly. To find out more about booking your Butlin's break and what is on offer, please visit www.butlins.com
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National Trust

National Trust



Our family has been a member of the National Trust for over 3 years - I think we will probably be life long members. The properties in the North East are fantastic - we are really spoilt for choice and their events programme for families over school holidays and weekends is second to none. If you join National Trust there is always something to do come rain or shine. This page features a round up of my favourite posts featuring visits to National Trust properties:-

National Trust in the North East

Autumn at Seaton Delaval Hall - Autumn 2014

Halloween 2014 with North East National Trust

Gibside - Summer 2014

Cragside - Summer 2014

Chesters and Housesteads Roman Forts - Hadrians Wall - May 2014

Ormesby Hall - April 2014

Dunstanborough Castle - February 2014

Holy Island (Lindisfarne Castle) - February 2014

Pirate Day at Souter Lighthouse, Summer 2013

Seaton Deleval Hall - Easter 2013

Gibside in the mud - March 2013

Wallington Hall - June 2012

Gibside in the Sun - May 2012


National Trust around the UK

Beningbrough Hall (North Yorkshire)

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Monday, 25 August 2014

Belsay Hall: A Knight's tournament 2014

Belsay Castle, Hall and Gardens (situated near Ponteland) is managed by English Heritage. We decided to visit their special bank holiday Knight's tournament event and it turned out to be a fantastic fun-filled day. You can view admission times, details of upcoming events and admission prices via their website.


Our day started with a walk through the fabulous gardens towards the castle. I didn't take many photographs as we were in a rush to watch the archery but it really feels as if you are walking through wonderland with so many fantastic and exotic plants. I overheard the boy in front telling his parents that this is what he imagines heaven to be like. I completely agree and definitely want to visit Belsay again simply to enjoy and photograph their gardens (and visit their tearoom as it is AMAZING but sadly too busy for us today).


It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk to the castle and for today's special event the castle provided the perfect back drop to the Knight's tournament event that was taking place. We arrived just in time to watch the lady's archery. We chose a team and joined the crowd to cheer them on as loudly as we could.





When the archery was finished, it was time to explore the castle. I have to say it is in very good condition. We all climbed about half way up but then the stairs started getting a bit too steep for Heidi (and me!) so Steve continued to the top with the boys. Our 3 year old managed to get to the top but it was a little bit of a struggle climbing back down. We loved the castle though and it is very deceiving - much bigger on the inside than you would imagine.






We left the castle at the rear and found a whole medieval village had been set up. We wondered around the various tents looking at cooking, fancy dress, crafting, armour and weaponry.  There were lots of people in costume happy to talk to you and demonstrate medieval skills. The Medieval barbar we had watched at Warkworth Castle had gathered a crowd to demonstrate his slightly gruesome methods of surgery. The atmosphere was lovely and it was nice to see everybody joining in, giving archery a go and trying on various costumes.



When we'd finished browsing we found a spot in front of the main arena ready for the main Knight's battle. This part of the day was definitely a highlight. There was a large crowd all waving their flags and cheering on their team. The compare really got the crowd going and the jester joined in raising a few laughs. I know the weapon's the actors use have been designed not to cause any harm but to be honest it was hard to see where acting ended and real life started - they REALLY got into character and took the battle's seriously which was fantastic to see. By the end a lot of people (including our 3 year old) were on their feet jumping up and down and screaming for their team to win. It really was an amazing atmosphere.






It was now 2pm so we left to visit the delicious tea room but unfortunately as the event was so well attended there was a queue out of the door and no free tables - I would definitely recommend bringing a picnic if you attend future events. There was a full day of events planned included jester shows, weaponry displays and battles - something different every 30 minutes so you could easily have spent the full day here.

We had such a lovely time at Belsay and this was without exploring the gardens or hall itself. I can't wait to return soon.

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Friday, 22 August 2014

Beningbrough Hall

In preparation for the summer holidays I always check the special events that are planned at National Trust properties around the North East and Yorkshire. As we are National Trust members, these events are normally available at no extra charge and feel like a free day out. Beningbrough hall really caught my eye - it looked like a gorgeous property just outside of York and when I read they were exhibiting contemporary portraits of the Royal family in conjunction with the national portrait gallery, I knew we could not miss an opportunity to visit.

We were planning on taking our children with us, however at the last minute my in-laws asked if they would like to visit their caravan for a few days. To be honest I jumped at the chance of a child-free visit as I don't think we have ever had the chance to visit a national trust property without our children. Our three year old in particular can get irritable pretty quickly so it was nice that we were going to be able to take our time looking around the hall together instead of taking it in turns to supervise Jack.


Beningbrough hall is certainly stunning. We started our morning with a walk around the gardens - I must admit when we watched some children playing cricket together on one of the lawns I did think my children would love it here and that we should have brought them - there's always next time though. The garden's were beautiful with lots of pretty flowers and places to sit and really take in your surroundings.


After our walk, we entered the house and galleries. To my disappointment photography inside the house is not allowed. This is expected though I guess. There are free audio guides should you wish or you can just wander at your leisure as we did. The portraits are spread over three floors and contemporary pieces stand next to older more traditional portraits. We absolutely loved this exhibit. 

This portrait of the Queen by Chris Levine is just so beautiful. It has been displayed on a light box and looks as if the Queen is moving. The photograph was taken as the Queen was resting between shots and I think it shows a different more human side to her. I love that she's wearing her crown too!


Steve's favourite piece was this painting by Nicky Phillips which shows the two Prince's having an informal moment whilst on duty.


I won't ruin the whole exhibition for you but there is also the chance to see a stunning photograph of Princess Diana in vogue magazine, Andy Warhol's interpretation of the Queen and the first official portrait of Prince George on his christening day and more. If you love the Royal family then I promise you will not be disappointed with this fantastic exhibition which continues until November 1st 2014.

It turns out, our children would have LOVED this property. There is an interactive zone on the top floor of the hall which allows children to use touch screen computers to design their own portraits which can then be emailed home. Plus, there is a fantastic outdoor play area complete with swings and dens and even a small play room with toys in one of the upstairs rooms.


There are a few options to stay for something to eat and drink at Beningbrough hall - this picture shows the entrance to the walled garden restaurant which looked lovely. There is also the option to bring your own picnic or even visit the on-site farm shop which is about a 15 minute walk from the house for a spot to eat.


We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Beningbrough hall and will definitely visit with the family again soon. 






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Video

Links to our youtube channel featuring short video's (they last about 1 minute) featuring places we've loved:-








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An Afternoon in Harrogate

I cannot believe I have never paid Harrogate a visit before. Reading this post from Cloud in a teacup last week really reignited my wish to visit soon. We had already planned a trip to nearby Beningbrough hall this week so when our in laws asked if they could take the children to their caravan for a few days I knew this would be the perfect time to visit Harrogate as well.

Harrogate is just under 2 hours drive from our home in South East Northumberland. We parked in the odeon car park (postcode - HG1 5LB). Parking was only £3.50 for 5 hours which is extremely reasonable compared to other town centres. The car park was just over the bridge from the town centre so perfectly situated.

We arrived in Harrogate at lunch time so decided to hunt out the world famous Betty's. Betty's is an institution is Yorkshire - I have been lucky enough to visit their flagship store in York many times and could not wait to see what Harrogate had to offer. Betty's is home to the most wonderful tearoom and bakery. It is on the expensive side however definitely worth a visit for a special treat. Their afternoon tea's are in particular to die for. You can find out more via their website - www.bettys.co.uk.

The queue outside Betty's was as always out of the door despite the rain. The front of house staff are amazing though and have some sort of magic powers as the queue goes down quickly and we were seated within 5-10 minutes.
Queuing for Betty's in the rain

I have to say, our lunch really wasn't as expensive as I thought it might be. I enjoyed a chicken and lemon mayonnaise open sandwich with salad plus a glass of champagne (making the most of our child free day) and hubby ordered a french onion quiche plus a pot of dajeeling tea. We shared a patisserie selection between us for dessert. All of our food was scrumptious and certainly worth the £30 we paid. The atmosphere in Betty's is wonderful and I was pleased we were sat right next to the window - the perfect place to people-spot.





A trip to Betty's must include a visit to their shop to purchase some treats to take home. There was soooooo much choice and we spent quite some time deliberating. We ended up with some Betty's teabags and a lemon and lime cake for me to take into work. These were priced at £3.95 each so didn't break the bank - you could easily spend a fortune in here.

Don't I look pleased!

We spent the afternoon browsing the shops - Harrogate is home to some lovely designer brands, upmarket boutiques and lovely department stores. Unfortunately I have champagne tastes on a beer budget - it is nice to window shop though. There are some more traditional high street stores here too and I was surprised to see that Harrogate even has it's own primark.

Window shopping was thirsty work - we had been trying to keep our eyes out for a pub but unusually didn't see any! Thanks to google maps though we were able to find a selection on John Street pretty close to the high street and enjoyed a few drinks in the pitcher and piano.

It was almost time to leave Harrogate, I had booked us into the Yorkshire Meatball Company at 5:30pm after reading lots of fab reviews. I have to say we were not disappointed. The service was nice and friendly and the food really set us up for our journey home. It is the sort of place that feels like you are dining at a friend's house and not a restaurant. It is lots of fun choosing your balls, bed and blanket and who could turn down the free (homemade) yorkshire pudding offered with every meal? If you have plans to visit Harrogate, I would certainly recommend paying these guys a visit. My only regret is that we didn't have any room for their cheesecake balls for dessert. Maybe next time!





I am very pleased to say I have now been to Harrogate. We loved Betty's, The Yorkshire meatball company and browsing the designer stores. It is the perfect place to spend half a day and could easily be combined with a trip to York or a nearby National trust property.



Mama and More
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