A family of 5 with a zest for life, love of good food & passion for travel

My Top 5 Days Out in North East England - Clare Talbot Jones | Talbot Jones Risk Solutions


Welcome to the second day of our mini series. Today Clare from Talbot Jones Risk Solutions is sharing her top 5 days out in North East England. 



Clare, Richard and their 2 children are the family behind Talbot Jones Risk Solutions
 a community-focussed commercial insurance brokerage based in Gateshead. Coming from Northern Ireland and Wales respectively, Clare and Richard are proud adopted Geordies and they love to explore the amazing region as a family. Over the Clare:


Hamsterley Forest


We first heard about Hamsterley Forest when our friend shared a blog by North East Family Fun about the newly-opened Gruffalo trail. We promptly took our two Julia Donaldson fans for a visit and fell in love with the place!

The trail is great for little ones, with sculptures and activities to complete around the 1.5 mile route. As well as just following the arrows and ambling round the paths, you can also download the free augmented reality app for extra fun. Alternatively, keep your phone firmly in your pocket and pick up an activity pack to guide you round (available for £3 from the Visitors’ Centre).

Every time we return, the forest’s very impressive offering of playparks, assault courses and low ropes courses has been augmented and improved. The Viking Wild Play course straddles both sides of the babbling river and offers children outstanding opportunities to imagine, explore and challenge themselves. It took us a LONG time to travel the 8000m of the course, as there was so much adventure and excitement to be had. There are elements and some much more challenging elements suitable for much older children (and us grown-ups enjoyed the challenges, too!)

Since our first visit, it’s been our ambition to return on a hot summer’s day and enjoy a leisurely picnic on one of the many idyllic little river beaches we’d spotted. During the heatwave in May (remember that?!) we were excited to have the opportunity to do just that! Dressed in shorts and crocs we had a beautifully relaxed afternoon in the shade, building dams in the river, chasing fish and following the curves of the water as we journeyed downstream.

The next time we visit we’re going to bring our bikes and enjoy one of the many cycle paths through the forest. There are routes suitable for anyone from beginners to experienced mountain bikers among the 33-mile network. Bring your own wheels or hire one of the bikes available on site.
Visiting the forest is free, but there is a parking charge of £6 per car (£10 on bank holidays May-Aug). Bring a picnic and flask and treat yourself to lunch or a snack at the forest cafĂ©.

Read more: The Gruffalo's Child Trail


Warkworth Castle and Amble


One day it is our dream to retire to Northumberland, but in the meantime, we enjoy visiting at every possible opportunity. One of our favourite haunts is the imposing and forbidding Warkworth Castle , in the picturesque village of the same name.

The English Heritage property is always fun to explore, with an impressive array of dungeons, cellars, great halls and winding stair cases. The views are stunning and the history feels tangible. During the holidays there is a marvellous calendar of events that allow all sorts of exciting experiences, such as falconry, jousting, medieval sword-fighting, archery and more. These are free for English Heritage members, and generally included in the entrance fee for non-members.

Despite being regular visitors to the castle, we only discovered the Hermitage last year. This is one of our favourite family memories.

Wandering along the beautiful and peaceful riverside, we arrived at the crossing point. The children were VERY excited to clamber into a row boat manned by a really friendly and welcoming member of English Heritage staff. It’s only maybe 20m across the river, but we travelled very slowly, so we were able to savour and enjoy the experience of being on the river. We felt like we’d stepped out of the Wind in the Willows!

The Hermitage is extraordinary- an ancient hideaway hewn out of the rock. The light, dappled by the thick foliage, danced on the cave walls and was mesmerising and beautiful. The carefully sculpted statues of the Virgin and Child are weathered and worn, but still majestic. The centuries old graffiti marking the flood levels through the ages act as a very tangible way of linking ourselves to others who visited this place way back in history.

Opportunities to visit the Hermitage are limited to only a few days a week in the warmer months, so check openings before travelling.

After a few fun hours exploring the castle and surrounds, we love to head for Amble. I’ll generally have a browse round the Harbour Village- a group of little gift shops in quaint little pods. Richard and the children will make a start hunting for coal on the beach. This special fuel burns with a delightful green blue glow, due to the salt it’s picked up on its journey down the river.

When we’ve gathered our haul and had a scavenge on the beach and a wander down the peer, we always make sure to head to the Quayside Chippy for fish and chips to take out and eat outside, overlooking the busy harbour.

Richard then insists that we go to Spurelli’s for his all-time favourite pistachio ice cream. To be honest, we’re all totally delighted to join him! And that’s a perfect end to a very happy and fun family day.


St Mary’s Lighthouse


One of our favourite family activities in rock pooling, and there’s nowhere we’ve found better to do it than the iconic St Mary’s Lighthouse 

The incoming and receding tide that cuts off the causeway to the island are what makes the rock pool pickings so rich (and the adventure so exciting!) but it does mean that you have to carefully plan your trip according to the tide tables so you don’t get stranded!

You’ll generally find ice cream trucks with a selection of buckets, spades and nets for sale in the car park (charges apply) so you won’t be cut short if you forget to come prepared.

As well as exploring the rock pools, there is a great viewing hut with binoculars and guides for a spot of bird-watching out the back of the island. There are a lot of marvellous opportunities for seal spotting, but visitors are asked to stay well away from these gorgeous and intriguing creatures in order to ensure the safety of all. The sensory gardens offer an interesting opportunity to explore, too.
The lighthouse is open at selected times for a fee. We don’t think we’ve ever gone in, but it would probably be worth a look round- who doesn’t love a lighthouse?! The little gift shop offers some fun little keepsakes and souvenirs, with plenty of pocket-money options.

A day at the sea side is never complete without a fish and chip supper finished off with ice cream, so we head down the coast to Tynemouth for our feast! Marshall’s on Front Street is our choice for traditional fish and chips. Riley’s Fish Shack, the exceptional fish restaurant located in two old shipping containers overlooking the stunning King Edward’s Bay is a must-visit if you haven’t already been. It consistently stands out as my best dining experiences, in terms of quality of food as well as location and atmosphere. It’s no longer a hidden gem, as its great acclaim has spread, so waiting times are long. The children are always perfectly happy playing on the sand while one of us keeps a place in the queue, so it’s not generally an inconvenience.

Although there are puddings on offer at Rileys, our longstanding family tradition is to bring a chocolate fondue with marshmallows to enjoy under the shadows of the majestic Priory as the light fades to night.

Read more: A Coastal Walk to St Mary's Island and Riley's Fish Shack 

Hadrian’s Wall


As an archaeologist by training, Richard is in his element when we head up to explore Hadrian’s Wall. The children are always enthralled to learn more about life in the Roman era and one of our favourite stop offs is Chesters Roman Fort.

The remains of the garrison afford a really interesting insight into life on the edge of the empire and the soldiers’ way of life. We love exploring the bunk houses and stables, examining the remains of the underfloor heating system and finding out about the complex and protracted bathing rituals. There is so much left to see!

The river always calls us for a little paddle on the tranquil and verdant banks, which are a perfect spot for a picnic. It feels very untouched by the modern day.

Rifling around in the mole hills is always rewarded with some interesting finds- generally bits of pottery and bone. The Clayton Collection, housed in the on-site museum brings together quite a staggering assortment of artefacts found along the wall- great practice if you ever learned any Latin at school, and the kids enjoy deciphering the numerals.

English Heritage have recently introduced the Chesters Fort Takeover, a trail for children that engages and informs them about the site’s history. We enjoyed doing the brass rubbings.
We try to arrange our visits to coincide with the many fun events that are arranged during the holidays. The children absolutely loved dressing up as Roman soldiers, learning to march and practising battle formations. On other occasions, they’ve been very interested to learn some archaeology skills and put them into practice. We always learn something new and have a great time.
The small temple to the Roman God Mithras just 3 miles away is fascinating and we love popping up at Housesteads, to explore The Wall and have a further scramble around the most complete Roman fort in Britain. The views are dramatic and well worth the walk.

After a busy day exploring, we love to pop to the picturesque village of Corbridge for some food and a browse of their wonderful range of independent shops.

Read more: Chesters Roman Fort & Exploring Hadrian's Wall by bus


Newcastle City Centre


On Wednesday we popped into town for lunch with friends at the Grainger market and ended up having a memorably lovely day!  

There’s all sorts of fantastic food on offer- Pizza, sea food, Chinese dumplings, decadent puddings, all day breakfasts, crepes…we opted for a sit-down meal in Little Italy. We very much enjoyed the authentic Italian food and great service.

We always enjoy having a browse round the market as there’s so much variety and stallholders are always so ready and willing to engage and educate about their products or services. It’s a really intriguing and family-friendly place to visit, with lots to explore and discover.

On Wednesdays 11-3 throughout the summer there will be different arts and crafts activities available for children free of charge. The children thoroughly enjoyed the very impressive range of Chinese creative makes- fans, spinners, opera singers, fire crackers, masks and more! They had a really great time and were very interested to learn more about this culture.

We then stumbled upon a wonderful art opportunity at the Newcastle City Library. Our little girl happily created a huge collage from textured paper while our boy got creative with a string winding activity. They are keen to return again for more. The Fifth Size Book Adventure will be at the library every Wednesday to drop in between 2 and 4 for these free sessions.

The local museums never fail to provide some great free entertainment over the holidays too. We have happy memories doing archaeology practice, learning to sword fight, handling birds of prey and jewellery making at the Great North Museum, as well as enjoying the usual exhibits that are available all year round. Check out their events page to find out all the exciting opportunities they have planned throughout the holidays.

When we visit the Discovery Museum, we rarely make it past the fantastic Science section, but there is loads more to explore. Drop in activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the holidays allow children aged 5-12 to invent and explore, keeping boredom at bay for only £1.50!
When we’re in town we love to pop into the Quilliam Brothers tea house for a quirky, relaxed and characterful time-out over tea and a treat. There are games on hand to entertain and engage the children, too.

For lunch, you can’t beat a taste-explosion Zapatista’s burrito. The kids enjoy making their choices and seeing their food assembled and Marvel fans young and old enjoy the amazing superhero mural on the basement wall at the Grainger Street branch.

Read more: Play + Invent at Discovery Museum and Zapatista's Review

Thank you so much Clare - I've yet to visit the Hermitage at Warkworth but it's on my list! 
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2 comments

  1. I can remember visiting zst Mary's Lighthouse on school trips when I was little

    ReplyDelete
  2. Warwark castle looks amazing as does Hadrians wall. I agree that the North East has some great places to go to! x

    ReplyDelete

I always love reading your thoughts and comments - Sam x

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