2015 - Our year travel blogging

Wow! What a year 2015 has been. I started the year with the aspiration of 'writing as a travel blogger' and have certainly packed a lot of trips into our year. We have had SUCH a fabulous year and I am so grateful for all of the opportunities. I have learned a few things along the way though - mainly that I shouldn't try and pack too much in and it's nice to have a balance with quiet days at home too. By the time December hit we were all soooo tired and pretty much the whole month was spent at home. We needed it though! I've also decided that I don't want to pigeon hole myself into the category of travel blogger - I think North East Family Fun has turned into a family lifestyle blog now and I'm happy with that!

Here are a few of our travel highlights from the year:-


We started the year with a chilly trip to Springhill Farm Wigwams in Seahouses. This was a fab way to spend some screen free time together after christmas and highly recommended. We also enjoyed the Gruffalo Child's trail at Hamsterley forest in our first trip as Forestry Commission bloggers.


In February we were hugely impressed with Generation Noise at DLI museum in Durham and are very sad that the council have made the decision to close this attraction. We also visited The Bowes Museum for the first time and loved their wide range of child-friendly activities.


In March I spent the afternoon at Beacon Hill Farm Spa with the girls and we stayed in Beacon Hill Farm Cottages overnight - it is such a lovely spot and a fab base to explore Northumberland. We also spent a family afternoon in Jesmond Dene and visited Jesmond Dene House for afternoon tea with Jack (and Sweep). I travelled to The Conference and Hospitality Show 2015 in Leeds with a few other people from the North East and won a prize for best selfie :-)


In April we loved exploring the newly re-opened Newcastle Castle and think the views from the top are really something special! We were also lucky to be invited to travel to Amsterdam Zoo with DFDS Seaways and help them shoot a commercial for their website. We ended the month in style with the party to end all parties at the Chez Mal launch party. There were a few celebrities in attendance and it was a night to remember.


In May we travelled to the Calvert Trust Lodges in Kielder and took part in a range of activities from Clay pigeon shooting to archery and even hired their swimming pool just for us (free if you are staying). Steve and I enjoyed the most relaxing time at Acorn Glade Glamping near York - if you are looking for a child-free place to get away, Acorn Glade won't disappoint. We ended the month with a trip to Chesters Roman Fort which is our favourite spot on Hadrian's Wall.


Jack had been asking to return to Alnwick Castle so we enrolled in their Broomstick training in June and would recommend to any Harry Potter Fans! We were then invited to watch the Penguin Parade at Edinburgh Zoo and spent a week relaxing in Waterside View Cottage in Alnmouth. Steve and I took some more time out with a night at Newcastle Malmaison and we had a superb time at A garden of fairy tales at Alnwick Garden.


We enjoyed an epic trip to Blackpool at the beginning of the 6 weeks holidays including visits to Blackpool ZooBlackpool Tower and CircusMadame Tussauds, Nickelodeon land, the sealife centre and more. We had such fun and have to say - Blackpool is actually a pretty fun holiday destination! We also spent a long weekend at Butlins Skegness as our final task as a Butlin's Ambassador. Steve and I spent a wonderful night at The Morritt Hotel to celebrate his birthday and I was invited aboard Fred Olsen Cruises to hear all about their wonderful trips available from Newcastle.


We spent the evening in Sherwood Forest and spotted all sorts of wildlife including the cutest hedgehog! We also experienced our first night in a Youth Hostel when we stayed at YHA Cholderton. We were based on a children's farm and have to say, we loved it!

We were invited to join the Lakes Distillery on one of their tours and fell in love with the area. The Lakes are so beautiful and we really want to return this year. We loved the concept of the distillery so much that we ended up buying my father in law membership to their founding members club for Christmas (fab present idea for Whisky lovers by the way).

We also spent the week living the dream and pretending we lived in Tynemouth when we stayed at Longsands Lodge with Cottages in Northumberland.


We started the month with an overnight stay at Jesmond Dene House to celebrate our friends' wedding. Jesmond Dene House is definitely our favourite hotel in Newcastle and somewhere I recommend time and time again! We also ventured over the water and trialled the Breakfast and Beamish package with Sunderland Marriott. We had such a lovely time and were impressed with the hotel's location (right on the beach).

I documented our trip to Stonehenge over the summer and it is a trip I would definitely recommend - I can see why it is a spiritual home for many people. We stopped over at Bolsover Castle en-route and were pleasantly surprised! This was a much better option to stretch our legs than a service station.

I have always wanted to visit York Railway Museum so I'm pleased we managed to tick that from our list of places to see. I can't believe it is a FREE attraction! There is lots and lots to do and see. We also spent a week at Scarborough Ready Camp before heading back to school. This is glamping at it's best and we had a lovely relaxing stay in one of my favourite places.


In October I took Jack and his friend to watch Disney on Ice which really was a magical experience! I then travelled to Glasgow with my friends Chloe and Katie where I took part in my first ever art tour and stayed at the impressive Hostel Suites by Eurohostel which were completely different to a traditional hostel experience.

I am so pleased we managed to catch the Weeping Window at Woodhorn which was very moving and we squeezed in a day trip to Whitby too.


November was super busy and we started the month with Fireworks at Lightwater Valley. This was a fantastic display and very good value for money - we will definitely be returning next year. Steve and I enjoyed a break at the wonderful St Mary's Inn in Northumberland to celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary.

We tried (and failed) to break an Alnwick Garden World Record Attempt. Character building stuff though!

I shared our October Half Term at Sundrum Castle, Ayr which is somewhere that definitely exceeded our expectations - I only wish we had stated for a full week rather than 4 nights. We visited the Robert Burns Museum, Culzean Castle (with the best play area ever) and the Heads of Ayr Farm Park.

I started our Christmas shopping with a weekend in Newcastle with Travelodge. I am usually not a fan of shopping but we actually managed to have a lovely time and NO arguments. We celebrated with an evening in Hawthorns Newcastle which is definitely one of my favourited restaurants of the year and I was treated to a fantastic Christmas lunch at The Botanist. I loved it so much I returned in December for my birthday with the kids.

We ended the month with An Enchanted Christmas at Whitworth Hall which was a nice event and a very nice way to meet Santa despite a few hiccups at the start.


By the time December was here we were exhausted! We spent a lot of the month watching various pantomimes which were all superb fun and ended a wonderful year in Craster Reach Cottage which was a nice and relaxing place to spend my birthday.

Phew! What a year! Who knows what 2016 will hold. I think we have decided that we would like to visit Loch Ness this year and I would definitely like to return to the Lakes again. A trip to Devon or Cornwall would be the icing on the cake but we will see! We have booked a holiday to a quiet and unspoilt resort in Spain with the kids in June and I am REALLY looking forward to that and it is our 10th wedding anniversary in November and I have a few ideas up my sleeve for that.

How has 2015 been for you? Where was your favourite place to visit?


Christmas 2015 with the Rickeltons

So I was supposed to be having a 10 day break from blogging but it turns out I can't quite manage it! I really wanted to record and share our Christmas this year as it was simply lush!

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is my absolute favourite part of Christmas, it has a certain magic about it that just doesn't happen on any other day of the year. We visited my Grandma at lunch time before heading home to create a Gingerbread house. This is the first year we've done this and it is definitely recommended and something we'll do every year from now on I imagine. We bought a kit for less than £5 from waitrose and it contained everything we needed - even a piping bag! It was something we all got involved with - even dad! and we were pretty chuffed with our creation.

Pretty soon it was time for Christmas Eve baths. Elf on the shelf had left us a note saying he had enjoyed a wonderful stay but had to return to The North Pole when we were at Grandma's house. He left the children some chocolate coins and new PJs. You may remember the Hot Chocolate Santa Spoons we bought from Fenwick earlier this year - we enjoyed them before bed and they were lovely. 

We took it in turns reading Christmas stories to each other from our Christmas book box with The Night Before Christmas, A Smelly Sprout and Santa's Beard all being favourites.

Bless Heidi she was so excited that she wanted to go to bed at 5:30pm! Haha! We let her as we knew it would take her ages to go to sleep. We watched Christmas tv with the boys and then shouted her down at 7pm to leave cookies for Santa. Jack also left 8 carrots for the reindeer to share between them and a cup of his favourite blackcurrant juice for Santa. The reindeers must have been in a rush as the next morning we found a half eaten carrot on our garden path! ;-)

With the kids tucked in bed it was time for some grown up time. We ALWAYS treat ourselves to a nice meal and bottle of champagne and this year's didn't disappoint. We bought Waitrose own-label champagne which was fab and a Sirloin Beef joint from Aldi which hubby cooked perfectly. There wasn't much on tv but we enjoyed a few hours chilling out, drinking and eating sweets before Santa's arrival. 

We think Santa must have arrived at around midnight as we went to bed at 11:30pm and didn't see him. Harry and Jack heard some banging and are sure it must have been him.

Christmas Day

The kids woke up at around 8am on Christmas Day (I was awake from around 5am!) and I LOVE listening to them as they run into each others rooms and tip out the contents of their stocking. Whoopee Cushions and Satsumas were the hits this year! Jack was so excited to find an orange in his stocking and had to eat it there and then! After opening their stockings the kids piled into our bed for excited cuddles before we headed downstairs.

Santa had left a present with a note on for all three of them in the middle of our living room this year and H,H and J were delighted to discover their very own X Box and Minecraft! Just what they've always wanted.

Our grocery shopping is always delivered over Christmas as I can't face the shops but this year it was minus Bucks Fizz (booooo!) so Christmas Day breakfast was a sober affair this year but our extra special bacon sandwiches were superb (I think the bacon had been marinated in treacle!) We had a lovely chilled out morning before getting ready in our new Christmas outfits to head to Grannie's at lunch time. 

We take it in turns celebrating Christmas Day with my family and Steve's family as it is too much travelling between lots of houses. This year it was the turn of Steve's family and as they live around 7 miles away I was the designated driver for the day. We had a huge pile of presents waiting for us all in Grannie's living room and were spoilt rotten. The men headed to the local social club for a few hours and it was nice to catch up with the ladies. 

Christmas lunch is always a family affair and our in laws living room was transformed with one huge table to accommodate us all. We were served a lunch of Prawn Cocktail, Turkey and all the trimmings then Christmas pudding or Yule log. Lunch was delicious and we all chip in preparing part of it (we were in charge of pudding this year). 

Christmas day lunch was followed by a few games of this year's must-have game, 'Pie Face' haha what a laugh! Although I think we found Grannie cleaning everyone's faces with a dirty wet dish cloth the funniest part :-)

After a long day we headed home to play with a few of our new toys before heading up to bed. Steve and I were too full for our planned cheeseboard or any alcohol!

My favourite present!

Boxing Day

Boxing Day AKA Christmas Day no2 was spent with my family. Again, the kids were spoilt with a huge bag full of presents at my mum's house to keep them entertained. We all headed to a local pub (this year it was The Hastings in Seaton Delaval) for lunch and a catch up. The Hastings is a lovely pub serving some of the best homemade chips in the region in my opinion!

Burger and Chips at The Hastings

After lunch we headed back to my mum's to crack open the Champagne and dig into the Pudding Buffet! 

This is what we all wish we could be doing!

Instead of this........haha!

After a lovely afternoon together we headed home in the evening to enjoy a glass or 2 of our favourite Christmas tipple.

So that was our Christmas 2015 in a nutshell! We had such a lovely time together and so far NO ARGUMENTS to report! The rest of the Christmas holidays will be spent lounging in our PJ's and eating the mountains of food we have left over. However you celebrated Christmas, I hope it was a good one xx

Easy Homemade Sausage Rolls

You can of course buy sausage rolls but in my opinion homemade sausage rolls taste SO much better! They are super easy to make yourself and perfect to take along to any New Year party or buffet. It is a tradition of ours that I make them every Christmas and this year Jack helped in the kitchen. A 5 year old is more than capable of making an egg wash and brushing the pastry.

Homemade sausage rolls recipe


  • 1 sheet of ready made puff pastry (I use ready rolled from sainsburys)
  • 1 500g packet of Butcher's choice sausage meat (again I get mine from sainsburys)
  • 1 egg


1 - Take the pastry out of the fridge and packaging (to allow it to reach room temperature) for 10 mins, pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and grease your baking tray.

2 - Cut your pastry in half lengthways into two strips and place half of the sausage meat down the centre of each strip.

3 - Bring both sides of the pastry up to cover the sausage meat and use wet fingers to mould the join in the pastry so it is seam-free.

4 - Cut each strip into 12 equal sausage rolls and place on your baking tray. At this stage you can freeze the sausage rolls on the baking tray and then transfer to a freezer bag once frozen. To cook from frozen repeat step 5 but bake for 40 minutes rather than 30.

5 - Beat an egg and generously cover all of the pastry on the sausage rolls. Bake for 30 minutes and enjoy warm.

Homemade sausage rolls

Do you have a fall back party recipe you use every year? 


DIY gardens: 5 beautiful gardens and how to re-create the look at home

I know that Christmas isn't over yet but I've already started thinking about our garden for 2016. I have grand plans to create an outdoor office in 2016 and hope to add lots of colour to our outdoor space which is currently very green and brown! Re-creating the famed gardens of stately homes and National Trust treasures without a fleet of gardeners and experts might seem like an impossible task, but small, authentic replicas are possible with a spot of research and hard work on fabulous flowers such as patio roses. Here are five great gardens that you can truly bring home.

Sissinghurst Castle, Kent

First of all, build an authentic Elizabethan tower that could also act as a prisoner-of-war camp in your garden. If this is not possible, then don’t despair, as recreating the constituent parts of this spectacular work will more than make up for the lack of military buildings.

The National Trust recognised the value of this fantastic 460-acre location when it took over its administration in 1967, upholding the memory of its last private owner Vita Sackville-West. The various familiar herbs found in the famous herb garden such as thyme are easily purchased (although less easily maintained) while a full description of the work behind the beloved White Garden and ways to create a cut-down version can be found in this Guardian piece

Beth Chatto Gardens

These gardens in Essex celebrated their 55th birthday in 2015, when they were turned from seemingly inhospitable soil marshland into a delightful blend of woodland, alpine planting, and others, to comprise the Gravel Garden, Woodland Garden, Water Garden, Long Shady Walk, Reservoir Garden and Scree Garden.

There’s a very simple way to locate the particular plants from this magnificently-manicured project; visit the official website and buy the lavenders, ‘chameleons’, geraniums and many more on sale. The rest is up to you.

Boughton House

The gardens of this stately home in Kettering, Northamptonshire, are not particularly unusual in terms of floral variety or beauty. But what they lack in aesthetics is more than made up for in the unique and thoroughly modern shape.

The Orpheus garden was completed in 2009. Literally an inverted pyramid dug into the earth, the project is named after the musician of Greek mythological fame who, according to the Boughton House website, 'went down into the underworld to try and reclaim his wife Eurydice when she died. His music was so beautiful that Hades relented and allowed Eurydice to return to the world of the living.' 

Perhaps the sheer scale of this project may be beyond you, but smaller pyramid-type shapes are certainly possible with a clever bit of digging and re-seeding. 

Levens Hall

Growing the actual yews and hollies of this fantastic garden in Cumbria is the easy part; trimming them into shapes such as King and Queen, the Judge's Wig, the Howard Lion, the Great Umbrellas, and Queen Elizabeth and her Maids of Honour, is a touch more difficult.

The only way to get anywhere near the level of skill required to replicate these topiary treasures is practice, plus a pair of petrol clippers and possibly a hydraulic lift. However the parterre, composed of Pansies, Violas, Polyanthus and many more, might be a simpler task.

Barbara Hepworth Garden

This museum/garden combination is part of Tate St Ives, and comprises a huge range of the renowned artist’s modernism work dating back to the 1930s through to the 1970s. Many of the works, such as spring (1966) and Model for Meridian (1958) were specifically created by Dame Barbara for the great outdoors, and the gardens are a delight for people of all ages. 

An identical recreation is largely impossible, but a keen eye for interesting art (and possibly a mobile loaded with pictures of your garden so you can imagine how a piece will look before you buy) might bring forth an interesting comparison.

Are there any gardens near where you live that you would like to re-create at home? If I won the lottery I would love to re-create the magnificent Grande Cascade at Alnwick garden......we can all dream can't we.


Family & Child friendly Boxing day walks around Northumberland

Everyone needs some fresh air over Christmas and it really does make you feel better to get out of the house and away from the tv. This year, we'll be travelling to Durham to enjoy the Stick Man trail together, but for those who wish to visit Northumberland, here are our top picks for your Boxing Day stroll.

Child friendly boxing day walks in Northumberland

Wallington Hall

The Hall and Cafe will be closed on Boxing Day however the grounds and garden are open from 10 to dusk. Wallington Estate is superb for children with three fantastic adventure play areas, a den building zone, wildlife hides and a lovely lake to walk around. Entrance fee's may apply.

Wallington hall play area

Holy Island

If you fancy an early morning stroll, it will be safe to cross over to Holy island from 6:45am-12:50pm on Boxing Day 2015. PLEASE check here for crossing times BEFORE SETTING OFF. Holy island is the perfect place to escape and enjoy some time together as a family and always feels magical when we visit.

Lindisfarne Castle at Holy Island

Druridge Bay Country Park

Druridge Bay Country Park is home to the perfect length walk for little ones around the lake (it's around 1.5 miles). Enjoy watching for wildlife, spotting ducks and playing in the park. The beach is just across the car park too.

Stick Man Trail Kielder

If you don't fancy travelling to Durham but still fancy the Stick Man trail, you can also find the trail at Kielder Visitor Centre. Kielder village is a fab place to visit with the family and you can also read about stars, take part in the minotaur maze and view the castle.

Minotaur maze at Kielder

Where will you be enjoying a walk with the family this Christmas? We're always looking for new places to try. Make sure you follow us on instagram for where we'll be posting our Stick Man trail pics at the end of the month.

50% off your food bill at Gusto in January

It's no secret that we are fans of Gusto - we LOVED their autumn menu when we visited for lunch a few months ago. I am therefore delighted that they have announced the return of their fantastic 50% off food in January offer.

50% off food at Gusto Newcastle in January

Will you be tempted by their fabulous pizza or pasta dishes or perhaps the polenta coated mushrooms or pan fried duck breast will take your fancy? Don't forget to leave room for their infamous pancake dessert too.

50% off food at Gusto Newcastle in January

50% off food at Gusto Newcastle in January

Space is limited for this awesome deal and booking early is advised. If you don't want to book this deal for yourself (are you mad?), then why not make someone's day and book them a table, offer to babysit and present them with a Gusto gift card for Christmas? I don't know anyone who wouldn't be pleased with that as a gift and it's super easy to wrap too! 

Terms and conditions:- Valid from 2nd January to 31st January 2015. Offer must be booked online at the January Sale page. Subject to availability as displayed in the booking interface. Not available Friday or Saturday evenings from 4pm (Offer is available on Friday evenings in Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester ONLY). Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or existing membership discount. Discount is not applicable on set menus, specials menu, lobster dishes, fillet steak, service charge and children’s menu. For parties over 6 please contact the restaurant.

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