A family of 5 with a zest for life

What to do in Alnwick, Northumberland | 5 Reasons to Visit with Kids

I am resuming my new series this week and sharing 5 reasons to visit the market town of Anwick in Northumberland with kids. I love Alnwick and it's somewhere we'd love to live. With a population of around 8000,  it's home to independent shops, restaurants, coffee shops and pubs.

Alnwick is 5 miles inland from the coast and is a big tourist destination with lots to keep families occupied throughout the year. If you've missed our previous posts in this series, here are the links:

1 - Alnwick Garden

You'll find Alnwick Garden adjacent to Alnwick Castle and it's a beautiful place to take the kids for a day out. There are often special events running across weekends and school holidays and their Garden of Fairy Tales trail is not to be missed. Children will enjoy the water features, tractors, maze, rose garden and more. Alnwick Garden is also home to its very own treehouse which is a magical place to dine with the family. Find out more here. 

2 - Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle receives over 800,000 visitors per year and is the stately home of the Duke of Northumberland. It's also famous for featuring in the Harry Potter movies. Built in the late 11th Century, the castle is now one of the region's top visitor attractions. Children can dress up as a Knight, hide in the stocks, take on Dragon Quest or even join a broomstick flying lesson in the grounds. You can visit in the warmer months and there's enough to keep you busy for most of the day. Find out more here and read about our last visit here.

3 - Barter Books

Barter Books is one of Europe's largest second-hand bookstores. It's all indoors so perfect if the weather isn't playing ball. There's a cosy fire with an honesty box where you can enjoy drinks and biscuits, a spectacular range of books available to browse and purchase, a fantastic children's section with ride-on toys, a bookcase in the shape of a train and again, lots of lovely second hand books at bargain prices and a rather special station cafe serving light bites, cake and drinks. Look out for the trains travelling above your head and you can take some of your old books to 'barter' for store credit. Read more about our last trip to Barter Books here.

4 - Bailiffgate Museum

Bailiffgate Museum is an award-winning family-friendly museum that has been recognised as one of the top 25 places to visit in the whole country for early years. There's always lots going on from dressing up to crafts and there's a brand new toy exhibition which has just opened - Batteries Not Included features lots of much-loved toys from years gone by. The museum is just £4 for grown-ups to visit and £1 for children so it's a bit of a bargain! Read our review of Bailiffgate Museum from a few years ago here.

5 - Hog's Head Inn 

The Hogs Head Inn is a family-friendly pub just across the A1 from Alnwick Garden. We enjoyed our visit last year and would recommend for a bite to eat, especially if the sun is shining as there's a fab play area in the beer garden for kids. Read more about The Hog's Head Inn here.

Have you visited Alnwick recently? Have I missed any gems from my list? 

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What to do in Alnwick, Northumberland | 5 Reasons to Visit with Kids


How to enjoy 2 for 1 Entry to Top UK Attractions when you Travel by Train | Our Discounted Trip to Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester

*This is a collaborative post with National Rail and contains affiliate links

Travelling via train is something we often do as a family. It is so hassle-free compared to travelling by car. There's no stressing over directions, parking or traffic and a day out or short break can begin for everyone the second you step on the train. We've been the proud owner of a Friends and Family Railcard for the past 6 years now and we have saved SO much money over the years. From a big family trip with grandparents to Drayton Manor to day trips to London and a day out by train in Carlisle, there are lots of places you can visit by train and we already have a few ideas for trips this summer.

A Friends and Family Railcard costs just £30 per year and saves 1/3 off most adult rail fares, 60% off most child rail fares and can be used for up to 4 adults and 4 children travelling together. I predict we have saved hundreds of pounds in rail travel over the years. What I wasn't aware of is that there are further savings to be made on days out and if you travel by train, you can gain 2 for 1 entry to hundreds of top attractions up and down the UK over the years. Who knew?

There are hundreds of attractions offering 2 for 1 days out when you travel by train. From The London Eye, London Zoo and the Tower of London in the capital to the Sealife Centre, Blackpool Tower and even Cadbury World. Theme Parks such as Thorpe Park, Legoland and Chessington World of Adventures are included too. National Rail invited us to visit one of the attractions listed on their Days Out Website and try out using a 2 for 1 voucher for ourselves. After much deliberation, we decided to pay Legoland Discovery a visit as it's somewhere we've always fancied but never got around to visiting.

How to use the Days Out Website and download your 2 for 1 Attraction Voucher 

Downloading your 2 for 1 voucher via the Days Out website really could not be easier. The 2 for 1 offer applies to adult prices only so I bought a ticket and Harry entered for free and then Steve bought a ticket and Heidi entered for free - you wouldn't be able to use this offer for two child tickets if that makes sense. There's a pretty comprehensive FAQ section here if you're unsure.

Visiting Legoland Discovery in Manchester by Train with Older Children 

We travelled to Manchester Picadilly via train from our hometown of Cramlington with a quick change at Newcastle and York. There are regular direct trains from Newcastle if you're not keen on changing. The total journey time was just under 3 hours and we arrived in Manchester at around 11am. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the station before heading to the Trafford Centre where Legoland Discovery is based. There is a direct bus (X50) which you can catch from Picadilly Gardens for around £10 per family or like us, you can order an Uber direct from the Station which will take around half of the time and set you back around £12. 

We visited Legoland Discovery on a cold, wet and rather miserable Saturday so I was expecting it to be super busy. In all honesty, I really didn't find it too bad. We visited with Heidi (8) and Harry (11). Unfortunately, Jack had to stay at home as he'd injured his foot and had taken 3 days off school with no sign of recovery any time soon (although he seemed to make a miraculous recovery over the weekend at grannie's house). I know Jack would absolutely adore Legoland Discovery as he's a huge Lego fan but I think this just gives us more reason to return.

Entry to Legoland Discovery set us back £38 for the four of us using our 2 for 1 vouchers, which is the same price as a Saturday trip to the cinema for us. We spent around 3 hours exploring the centre but probably could have stayed longer, especially if Jack was with us. We all really enjoyed our day. I'd read lots of mixed reviews beforehand with many people saying Legoland Discovery was not worth the money, however, I think when you compare it to a morning at the cinema, it most definitely is. Harry and Heidi both had fun but I think the prime time to visit Legoland would be when your children are aged 3-8 years. 

Our Top 8 Highlights from Legoland Discovery, Manchester 

1 - Kingdom Quest Ride

Kingdom Quest is the main ride at Legoland Discovery - you'll join the queue right after your mini factory tour. We queued for around 30 minutes at midday on a Saturday which we didn't think was too bad. Legoland Discovery is all indoors and there were plenty of Lego boards attached to the queue walls to keep the kids entertained. Up to 5 people can sit in one cart and everyone is given their own laser gun which they must use to shoot various Lego figures around the ride. Your points are displayed on your seat and it does get rather competitive (I'm proud to say I won - a top tip is to shoot the smaller enemies as you can get more of them in the time provided). This ride sounds scary but it's honestly fine - even babies were having fun. It's a nice ride to involve the whole family.

2 - MiniLand

MiniLand is the area where you'll see lots of stunning Lego models, many of them moving with fantastic detail. We loved a replication of the Oblivion rollercoaster that actually moves too. There are buttons to press, noises to hear and Lego figures to spot as you walk around and over 1.5 million bricks have been used in this area alone.

3 - Lego Racers | Build & Test

This is an area of Legoland which we could all get involved with and was fantastic fun for older kids (and grown-ups). Using the bricks and wheels provided, you are challenged to build a vehicle that can withstand some pretty rigorous testing. It was lots of fun racing our Lego cars down the various ramps and there were plenty of bricks to go around too.

4 - 4D Cinema

I had heard reports that the Lego 4D cinema was liable to breaking or not working properly but we were in luck as it worked perfectly for us. The short film is a typical Lego style with lots of dry humour for both kids and adults. I loved that the whole movie was based on 'Brickworld' which was clearly a rip-off version of Legoland. The film had the audience chuckling away and was very funny indeed.

5 - Merlin's Apprentice Ride

Harry and Heidi were tall enough to go on this alone (I think it was 1.2 metres but don't quote me on that). The queue was fairly long (about 30 minutes) and the ride involves teams of two flying around and helping Merlin with his sorcery. The ride was over pretty quick and Harry and Heidi both said it wasn't worth the wait BUT they did say if they were able to go on it without a long queue, they'd have enjoyed it a lot more. We'd therefore recommend this ride at the end of the day when the queues are smaller. 

6 - Coffee and Ninjago Play

There's a Lego Costa in Legoland! Steve and I enjoyed our caffeine fix whilst H and H ran off and played in the Ninjago play area and tested their reaction times with the Ninjago reaction tester. The Ninjago play area was a lot smaller than I expected so the kids didn't spend too long in here, they preferred the other sections if I'm honest. They loved the reaction tester though and were playing long enough for Steve and I to finish our coffees. The Ninjago play area is on the opposite side of the room to the coffee shop so if you have younger children, they will need to be supervised and your coffee will have to wait a while! There is a very small Duplo soft play area next to the coffee shop though if you have younger children with you and need a break.

7 - Bat Cave

We are huge Batman fans so were super excited to see a real Bat Cave towards the end of Legoland Discovery. The kids loved avoiding the laser beams as they walked through and we were greeted by a real-life Lego man at the end.

8 - Gift Shop 

Not an obvious highlight but I have to say I was actually impressed. I expected a lot of items to be overpriced so was pleased to see a Price Match sign where Lego will match their competitors. There's a very good sale section and lots of pocket money toys too including various Legoland keyrings for £4 (we bought a Rocket Racoon one for Jack) and the chance to build your very own Lego figure for £2.50 or £6 for three. This was a fab way to end our visit and keepsake for the day without breaking the bank.

There are also a few smaller rides and play areas which we didn't explore and a brand new Space section coming this Easter. You can find out more about the various attractions at Legoland Discovery here.

We really enjoyed our trip to Legoland Discovery. I honestly think it's all about perspective. I had pretty low expectations but it was a place I really wanted to visit for myself and make my own mind up. For £38 for the 4 of us using the 2 for 1 voucher, it offered us very good value for money and was a nice place to visit on a rainy afternoon in Manchester. It was the same price, took the same length of time and offered a similar level enjoyment as a family trip to the cinema.

One thing I will say is that I didn't realise that Sea Life Manchester was next door to Legoland Discovery (and Sea Life is also an attraction you can use a 2 for 1 voucher for if you travel by train). I think if I was to visit Legoland Discovery again, I'd make the most of the trip and visit Sea Life Manchester next door straight afterwards.

Let me know if you fancy a 2 for 1 day out by train or if you're a fan of Legoland Discovery. I'd love to hear if you have any other recommendations for family days out by train too. We're thinking of visiting York Railway Museum and either Leeds or Liverpool in the summer.

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How to enjoy 2 for 1 Entry to Top UK Attractions when you Travel by Train | Our Discounted Trip to Legoland Discovery, Manchester


How I'm Saving for a trip to Alton Towers with OhMyDosh

*This is a collaborative post & contains referral links

After our trip to Florida last year, my children have been nagging me constantly to visit a 'proper' theme park with white-knuckle rides this year. I think we've narrowed it down to either Alton Towers or Blackpool Pleasure Beach. There's no denying that these sorts of attractions and I'll definitely be looking for various offers nearer the time but I think it pays to start saving for this kind of day out early. With this in mind, I have signed up to OhMyDosh which is an easy to use site, designed to help make you money online. I really believe that having a specific goal in mind works well when using these sorts of sites so I've set myself a goal of earning £50 to put in our Alton Towers fund by the end of July. 

How I'm Saving for a trip to Alton Towers with OhMyDosh

How to Earn Money Online with OhMyDosh

It really could not be easier to open an account. Simply head over to the OhMyDosh website here and sign up. It's FREE to do so and your account will immediately be credited with your first 50p for doing so. You then earn money by completing a variety of online tasks. Cash will generally take 1-2 months to be credited to your account and once you've reached £10, it will be paid out to you via PayPal. I've found the website to be super easy to navigate and very easy to use. There are a number of ways you can earn money, all from the comfort of your sofa. Here are a few of my favourites:

1 - No Spend

These offers allow you to earn money online with no spend from yourself. Current offers range from claiming a free O2 sim card and earning £2.50 to earning £5.00 for signing up for a FREE trial to Amazon Prime. Instructions for how to earn your commission really are super clear. 

2 - Competitions 

I love entering competitions online anyway, so being rewarded for doing so with an extra cash incentive is very appealing to me. At the moment, you can earn anything from 34p - £6 simply for entering a competition and prizes range from a year's shopping at Asda to an Audi Car and £10,000 cash. 

3 - Surveys

In my early twenties, I used to spend a lot of time completing surveys and would earn around £50 every few months. If you have some spare time, completing surveys in return for cash really is a quick and easy way to earn some extra cash online. Current surveys are paying out anything from 31p - £3.32 online when completed via OhMyDosh and if you're opinionated like me, it's nice to know your voice is being listened to.

4 - Save Money

Being paid to save money sounds like a no-brainer to me! This section of the OhMyDosh website allows you to earn up to £20 simply for finding the best utility deal through a company such as USwitch or the National Energy Helpline. 

5 - Shopping & Trials 

If you're interested in trying something new, there are a variety of trials available to sign up to via OhMyDosh with the added incentive of earning extra cash. There are lots of big-name brands to choose from including Sky Cinema, Amazon, Gousto and Audiobooks. I've signed up for a 30 day trial of Which! magazine and earned £7.50 in the process - it's always something I've fancied doing and it's something I've found useful for researching a new cooker purchase. 

There are also opportunities to shop online and earn commission through OhMyDosh. Again, there are a fair few options and current deals that have caught my eye include earning £4.45 when you sign up to Cineworld Unlimited and the chance to earn £2.25 when buying a personalised children's gift. 

6 - Refer Friends 

If you've signed up to OhMyDosh and are enjoying earning cash online, it's quick and easy to refer your friends via your account with a special link they can use to sign up. They'll earn a £1 welcome bonus (50p for signing up and 50p for confirming their email address) if they use your link (here is my referral link if you fancy signing up yourself). You'll earn £5 for every friend you refer that earns over £10.

Top Tips for using OhMyDosh 

1 - I recommend signing up using a dedicated email address. Sometimes when you complete surveys or enter competitions online, your inbox can suffer because of it! I like to keep a dedicated email address for entering giveaways and completing surveys and check it daily for new offers ect.... it just keeps everything in one place and keeps my inbox in order. 

2 - Make sure you read the terms and conditions clearly. I love that the T&Cs are super clear to read via OhMyDosh and there's no hidden or tiny small print to read - it is all perfectly clear what you are signing up to and what you need to do to earn your ££. Sometimes you need to complete a free trial, other times, you may need to sign up to something for a year. Just make sure you always know what you're signing up for before you agree. Sometimes you may need to cancel a free trial before it ends to prevent being charged. Make sure you make a note in your diary to do this. 

3 - Don't buy anything you don't need. Sites like OhMyDosh are perfect if you're purchasing something you need or are treating yourself by something new but don't be tempted to buy something just for the sake of it to earn some extra cash. Common sense applies! 

4 - There are a few sign-up offers for online betting accounts. Something to be aware of if this is something you don't wish to join. There is a dedicated section to these types of links and it's pretty easy to avoid. 

5- Check out 'hot' and 'new offers regularly or sign up to the OhMyDosh mailing list to receive alerts. Once you're acquainted with the site, the OhMyDosh 'new' and 'hot' offers are the first place to head and check out brand new or popular deals that you won't want to miss out on. 

I've already managed to earn £10 using OhMyDosh and that was just through signing up, completing one survey and signing up to a Which! trial. I am confident I'll reach my £50 target in no time. Alton Towers, here we come! 

Earn your first £1 by signing up to try OhMyDosh here. Let me know what you'd like to earn and save money towards in the comments. 

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How I'm Saving for a trip to Alton Towers with OhMyDosh


10 Reasons The Principal Hotel Manchester is Perfect for Families with Older Children

During our recent trip to Manchester, we decided to book a last minute overnight stay at The Principal Hotel. I'd read good things over on Steph's blog here and as Jack wasn't joining us for this trip and we were travelling as a family of 4, I wanted to make the most of our trip and book into a hotel which is something we don't often get to do as so many hotels don't offer rooms that are suitable for families of 5 at a reasonable cost.

Our stay was booked at the very last minute and on a very busy Saturday in Manchester. As well as St Patrick's Day, the Six Nations Rugby was taking place and Man U were playing at home. Most decent hotels were coming up at £400-£500 per night for the 4 of us and there was only one Premier Inn left which was out of the city centre and would set us back £149 room only. Yikes! The Principal Hotel was coming up at £199 which included breakfast and seemed like a very good deal so I booked asap. We booked using a kids stay and eat for free offer. We absolutely loved our stay at The Principal Hotel and would definitely recommend to other families. Here's why we loved it so much:

1 - Location

The Principal Hotel is located just across the road from Oxford Road Train Station. Our train from Newcastle actually stopped at this station which is super convenient. We decided to get off the train at Picadilly on this occasion though (quicker for getting to Legoland) and there is a FREE Metro Shuttle bus which transfers passengers between stations (we used Green route 2). You don't need to pre-book these shuttles, simply hop on and off.

The location of the hotel is perfect for families - there's an Archie's Shake and Waffles shop across the road from the hotel and Dog Bowl is just around the corner which is a tex-mex restaurant and trendy bowling alley allowing kids on-site until 7pm. We walked to the Museum of Science and Industry from the hotel and it was a quick and easy route which was well-signposted and took around 15 minutes on foot with kids. Not bad.

2 - Trendy yet child-friendly bar

Refuge by Volta is one of the best hotel bars I've seen in a while! It is super stylish with amazing food, fantastic cocktails AND a there was a live DJ playing funk and soul classics on Saturday night. Kids are welcome until 9pm and there's a little sidebar joined onto the Winter Garden room with table football and a pool table which will keep them entertained. Our bedroom was overlooking the bar's beautiful outdoor courtyard and we could hear the live DJ from our room a little. The noise stopped at 11pm on Saturday so it wasn't exactly too bad (we were all still awake watching a movie anyway) and I expected a bit of noise staying in a city centre but if you have younger kids who need silence in order to sleep, it might be worth asking for a quieter room in the hotel which I am sure can be arranged.

3 - Spacious Rooms with smart TVs and free WiFi

We booked a standard guest room and were kindly upgraded to a deluxe room. The reason given on check-in was because they realised we'd travelled quite a distance and had two children with us so thought we'd appreciate the extra space which was a nice touch. Most rooms sleep up to 4 adults and we had more than enough space. We really appreciated lots of nice touches such as a large smart TV which we used to snuggle up and watch a movie together on Saturday night, Elemis toiletries which I'm sure most teens will appreciate, free WiFi which required no password and was super easy to connect and you are given access to over 100 complimentary online magazines and newspapers in your room which I think is a fab idea and would love to see more hotels offering this service.

4 - An in-room tuck box 

All rooms are provided with a complimentary in-room tuck box filled with treats such as Tyrells crisps, chocolate biscuits and even drumstick lollipops. Ours didn't last two minutes and Harry and Heidi loved these extra treats. There's also a 'corner shop' in the hotel lobby selling lots of treats for kids and grown-ups alike.

5 - Fantastic breakfast

Who doesn't love a hotel breakfast? We were really impressed with The Principal Manchester's offering. We were seated in the Winter Garden room which is such a beautiful setting and really helped our day to get off to the best start. Harry and Heidi were over the moon when they were offered a big mug of hot chocolate as us grown-ups were provided with coffee. Perfect for a chilly winter's morning and it really made them feel included. The hotel breakfast is buffet-service and there was lots to choose from including cooked items, pastries, cereals and fruits/yoghurts. Everything was of very good quality and I especially recommend the Lemon and Poppyseed muffins.

6 - In-room fridge

Our bedroom was practical as well as stylish and we really appreciated an in-room fridge which was perfect for keeping the kids' drinks cool (and storing our beer!).

7 - Fantastic offers for families and loyalty programme 

The Principal Hotel Manchester offers lots of fantastic deals for families and we were able to take advantage of a kids eat and stay for free deal which really kept the cost down. They also offer a fantastic 'Applause' loyalty programme which is free to sign up and includes lots of fantastic perks such as 10% off your stay when you book direct, £5 to spend in the bar, restaurant or room service every time you stay, late check out and speedy check-in and check-out. These are all well thought out perks that are actually really useful and definitely enhance your stay and encourage you to book direct again.

8 - Extra treats to ensure kids are welcome

Children aged under 11 are supposed to receive a Percy the Fox cuddly toy, Hetty the bath frog, YoYo bear snack and a fluffy bathrobe (to borrow) now I'm not sure if this was down to the fact that we were upgraded at the last minute or whatever but we weren't provided with these on our visit. I am sure if I'd phoned reception they would have obliged but I'm the type of person who never likes to make a fuss. Heidi would have been over the moon with a fox cuddly toy (she is cuddly toy obsessed) and I'm sure this is just an oversight and she'll receive one on our next visit. Teens aged 12-15 are welcomed with their own retro sweet box and can of pop and babies will receive a cot on request, baby bath products plus complimentary warm milk via room service.

9 - Children's menu and Churros via room service

We tried to book into the hotel's Refuge by Volta restaurant but unfortunately, it was fully booked. If you'd like to dine here, I'd highly recommend booking in advance. We were super tired after exploring Manchester and it was -2 degrees and snowing outside so we weren't keen on venturing out. There are lots of restaurants in the vicinity but we decided to order room service and watch Saturday Night Takeaway and a movie in our room instead. Room service was very reasonable and catered well for families - Harry ordered a child's burger and chips followed by Churros, Heidi ordered a child's portion of tomato pasta and churros, Steve went for Lamb Shwarma with an extra portion of chips and I ordered a cheese and ham toastie which was served with chips. All of this was delivered to our room within 30 minutes of ordering and was all super tasty. It only set us back £32 including our £5 Applause member discount which we thought was a steal. The food was all delicious and we all cleared our plates. I loved that the staff brought the kids' churros to our room around 20 minutes after our mains had been delivered so they were still nice and hot - a lovely touch.

10 - Cookies on check out

During check out, guests are offered a complimentary homemade cookie which really put a smile of Harry and Heidi's face and left us with a positive lasting impression of the hotel.

I have well and truly been converted to The Principal Hotel brand. After posting a few pics across Social Media a few people have been in touch and highly recommended their hotels in Edinburgh and York so I'd definitely like to check these out at some point in the future too. The hotel is super stylish yet warm and welcoming too and all of the staff we encountered really went that extra mile to make sure our stay was a positive one and really included Harry and Heidi too. I've had a quick look again at hotel rates and some dates are definitely more expensive than others but I say if you can find a good deal like we did, you should 100% book a stay with your children and you won't be disappointed.

Disclosure: We paid for our own stay. 

I am linking up with Mummy Travels and Wander Mum's City Tripping - check it out here. 

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10 Reasons The Principal Hotel Manchester is Perfect for Families with Older Children

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