A review of The Crab & Lobster near Thirsk

We first visited the Crab & Lobster around 6 years ago when I was pregnant with Jack. We treated ourselves to an overnight stay to celebrate our wedding anniversary if I remember rightly. We stayed in the Bardola Lodge which is set back from the manor and comes with it's very own hot tub and private decking. The lodge is priced at £250 per night including breakfast which I think is a fair price. I have fond memories of visiting the Manor before dinner and enjoying the complimentary canapes along with other guests before tucking into the most wonderful meal in the Crab & Lobster restaurant. Back then if you could locate the 'secret tap' in Crab Manor you could help yourself to unlimited complimentary beer which scored huge points with Steve. I'm not sure if this is still the case, if it is, you'll find a tankard and a few hints in your bedroom on arrival.

Crab and Lobster Restaurant, Thirsk
The Crab & Lobster Restaurant

Fast forward to 2016 and we are now in the fortunate position where we now have all three children at school and a little jaunt to North Yorkshire for lunch feels completely acceptable. We booked a table online for 12:30pm and set off from Northumberland at around 10am. We arrived around an hour prior to our reservation so enjoyed the blue skies and a walk around the market town of Thirsk before heading back to the restaurant in time for lunch.

Thirsk Market Place
Thirsk Market Place

The Crab & Lobster's design won't be for everyone but I love it. It is eclectic, weird and wonderful. Ancient antiques & treasures sit alongside spacesuits and vintage furniture and no two tables are the same. There is a bar area, restaurant and conservatory (where we were seated) to choose from. I felt as though I had been transported back in time as music from our grandparent's era is piped through the restaurant which really helps to set the scene. 

Crab and Lobster Restaurant, Thirsk - interior
Conservatory area

Spaceman at Crab and Lobster Restaurant, Thirsk
A Spaceman came travelling

Crab and Lobster Restaurant, Thirsk - interior
The restaurant area

We started proceedings with a bottle of Prosecco - Ca'del Console Prosecco Extra Dry, Italy to be precise. At just shy of £32 it is worth every penny and one of the best we have tasted. Definitely the right choice to accompany our lunch. 

There is a very good set lunch menu which offers 2 courses for £20 or 3 for £23 which is fantastic value. We will however save that for our return. After winning a competition via social media, we were here today to sample their finest a la carte. 

Crab and Lobster Restaurant, Thirsk - Goats cheese starter
Yellison Goats Cheesecake - Gin, Lime & Thyme Jelly, Salad of Walnuts & Seared Winter Vegetables 

Crab and Lobster Restaurant, Thirsk - Scallop and Black Pudding Starter
From the specials board - Pan Seared Scallops, black pudding, belly pork and apple puree

Our starters were exquisite. I definitely made the right choice with my Goats Cheese and absolutely devoured every last bite. It was so creamy and full of flavour - just as it should be. For starters, the portions were very good too.

Onto our main.........

Crab and Lobster Restaurant, Thirsk - Halibut main course
Grilled Loin of Wild Halibut, Palourde Clams, Sweetcorn & Tomato, Lightly Smoked Cream Sauce, New Potatoes

Crab and Lobster Restaurant, Thirsk - Fish Platter
The Fish Platter, Salmon & Crab Filo Parcel, Codling Fishcake, Seared Swordfish, Fish & Chips, Seared King Scallop, Crushed Peas, Crayfish Tartare

Crab and Lobster Restaurant, Thirsk - Homemade chips
Not forgetting the most delicious and generous bowl of proper homemade chips

WOW! As is always the case now, we don't order for just ourselves and usually end up sharing everything. There was soooooo much food and it was all perfect. I adored the Salmon and Crab Filo Parcel and the Fishcake tasted so fresh. The Fish and Chips were also beautiful and something I will maybe order by itself from the lunch menu next time. Oh and how could I forget the crayfish tartar - perfect for chip dipping!

The service throughout our meal was spot on. The manager popped over for a quick chat, our drinks were refreshed as and when (but not too much - hate that!) and we were pretty much left to our own devices. There was a little boy on the table next to us and I although the Crab & Lobster is somewhere I would recommend for a special treat, I would definitely feel comfortable bringing my brood along too. 

After spending around 20 minutes waiting for our meal to settle and finishing our drinks there was definitely no room for dessert so we said our goodbyes and went for a saunter around the Crab Manor gardens and set about remembering our last visit.

Crab and Lobster Restaurant, Thirsk - Terrace
Sunny terrace

Crab and Lobster, Thirsk - Crab Manor Gardens

Crab and Lobster, Thirsk - Crab Manor Gardens

Crab and Lobster, Thirsk - Crab Manor Hotel
The Crab Manor Hotel

Before long it was time for Steve to drive us back up the A1 home and back to reality. Spending an afternoon at the Crab & Lobster was such a treat and we definitely won't leave it another 6 years before our next visit. 

A review of The Crab & Lobster near Thirsk


6 Family Things to do at Kielder - Guest Post by Rural Teacake

Today we have another lovely guest post from Carrie who blogs over at Rural Teacake. Carrie's blog features the challenges and adventures of rural living as a wheelchair user and someone with chronic illness. I have particularly enjoyed Carrie's 'Frugal February' series where she managed to save almost £500 in one month. You can find Rural Teacake on Facebook,  Twitter  and Instagram. Over to Carrie.......

6 Family Things to do at Kielder - Guest Post by Rural Teacake

Kielder Water and Forest Park is the perfect place to entertain kids of all ages this Easter.
Nothing beats the great outdoors, and with family bike rides, outdoor activities and good old mother nature, there is something for everyone. Here is my top 6 things to do at Kielder this Easter.

Leaplish Waterside Park

With a timetable packed full of fun activities there is something for everyone at Leaplish. From archery to sea scooters, play parks and squirrel hides, the hardest part is deciding what to do first!  If you are looking for a more relaxed day out, jump aboard the Osprey Ferry for a great way to explore the lake. You can sail around the entire reservoir or simply do half a trip and depart at Tower Knowe Visitor Centre where you can enjoy some ice-cream and a bit of Kielder history.
When you are worn out from all the fun, head to The Boat Inn restaurant for a delicious meal and don’t forget the gift shop for your souvenirs.

Accessibility : With such a wide range of activities it is possible to find something for all abilities. Some areas of the park are more accessible than others for wheelchair users. The Boat Inn Restaurant and Shop are accessible and there are a number of accessible toilets.
The Osprey Ferry is not accessible for wheelchair users and has a deep step to navigate on foot. Some people/children with ASD may find the engine noise of the ferry is loud.

Tel : 01434 251000
Osprey Ferry : £6.95 Adult / £4.35 Child / £18 Family 

Kielder Water Bird of Prey Centre

If you only do one thing at Kielder, you must visit Ray and his spectacular birds of prey. Based in Leaplish Waterside Park, the birds of prey centre is renowned for its vast range of birds from tiny screech owls to the gigantic white tailed sea eagle.  Learn all about the birds, what they eat for lunch and their natural habitat. Ray is always looking for little helpers during the flying demonstrations and you can even adopt an owl!

6 Family Things to do at Kielder - Guest Post by Rural Teacake, Kielder Water Birds of Prey Centre

Accessibility : Built on a hill, the centre is hard work for self-propelling wheelchair users and those with mobility difficulties, but not impossible. The hands-on experience is great for people with visual impairments. Some people/children with ASD may find the noise from the birds a bit too much and it can get busy at demonstration time.

Tel : 01434 250400
£7 Adult / £4.50 Child / £21 Family, plus £4 per additional child

Mapping Golf

Crazy golf enthusiasts will love the twist on this classic family game. Situated at Leaplish, the course is actually an art installation based on Kielder before the reservoir was built. You can play the holes in any order but watch out for the ones that simply defy the laws of physics.

6 Family Things to do at Kielder - Guest Post by Rural Teacake, Mapping Golf

Accessibility : Wheelchair users can navigate around any obstacles thanks to the design of the course.
Tel : 01434 251000
£2.60 Adult / £2.10 Child / £6.75 Family

Kielder Castle and Minotaur Maze

Free fun is the best kind of fun so if you are watching the pennies, head to Kielder Castle. Centred in Kielder village itself, the castle was built by the Duke of Northumberland as a hunting lodge. It now houses the educational red squirrel room where you can learn all about the endangered species. If you are lucky you may even spot one on the squirrel watch TV. Head upstairs to visit the forest room, filled with fun facts about Europe’s largest manmade forest before learning all about space and star gazing.
6 Family Things to do at Kielder - Guest Post by Rural Teacake, Kielder Castle

Let the kids burn off energy on the playpark or let them loose in the Minotaur Maze - just make sure you find your way out before dark!

Accessibility : Cobbles and stairs make the castle hard work for wheelchair users. There is a stairlift to get to the first floor but no wheelchair lift. Some parts of the Minotaur Maze are a tight fit which may make it difficult for some wheelchair users. Some people/children with visual impairments may find parts of the castle are very dark making it difficult to see.

Lakeside Way

The Lakeside Way is a path that encircles the entire reservoir weaving in and out of the forest. Visit some of the amazing art installations found along the way including the spectacular Silvas Capitalis, a giant wooden head hiding in the forest. Enjoy a picnic by the shore and pack a towel in case of spontaneous toe dipping.

6 Family Things to do at Kielder - Guest Post by Rural Teacake, Lakeside Way

Accessibility : The Lakeside Way is accessible for buggies, light wheelchairs and powered wheelchairs/scooters but self-propelling wheelchair users will struggle due to some steep hills.

Calvert Trust

If you and your family want to get your hands dirty and your feet very wet then Calvert Trust is your place. Offering activities for all abilities they specialise in making fun accessible for people with disabilities. There is plenty to choose from including zip wire, climbing walls, canoeing, high ropes and even a hydrotherapy pool to soak sore muscles. Booking is essential.

Tel : 01434 250232
Accessibility : Ideal if accessibility is priority. Learning disabilities and ASD are catered for in a sensitive and supportive manner.

Thank you Carrie for these fabulous ideas. We would also highly recommend a stay at Calvert Trust or booking one of their accessible activities. 

6 Family Things to do at Kielder - Guest Post by Rural Teacake


The best places to visit in Catalonia

Spain’s Catalonia attracts millions of visitors every year which is no surprise given its wealth of family-friendly attractions. From the rolling hills of the Pyrenees to the sun-kissed beaches of the Costa Brava and the Golden Coast. 

The best places to visit in Catalonia

My first ever holiday abroad was to Esartit back in the 80's and since then we have returned to the Catalonia region time and time again. In fact we are also heading back this summer with our own children. Here are the best places to visit on your next Spain holiday:- 

Costa Brava

The best places to visit in Catalonia : Costa Brava Beach

Visit Spain’s wild coast during the summer and you’re guaranteed endless days of sunshine. The beaches here are plentiful, but Platja de Pals in Pals Village is one of the very best. It’s also home to windsurfing schools where children can learn this exciting sport on beginner-friendly waves. Adults can spend the morning playing golf nearby on the one of the Costa Brava's many top class golf courses. Alternatively, you could pay a visit to the region’s largest amusement park, Water World, home to tons of rides with discounts available for small children.


The best places to visit in Catalonia : Elephants at Barcelona Zoo
Saying hello to the Elephants at Barcelona Zoo

Famed for its inspiring architecture and laid-back beachside atmosphere, this is one of Spain’s most vibrant cities. For the young football fan, nothing beats a guided tour of Barcelona Football Club. You’ll have the chance to admire the stadium and given a sneak-peak at the impressive trophy collection. From here, be sure to visit Barcelona Zoo, which can be found in the Parc de la Ciutadella. Home to over 400 species, highlights include a dolphin show and a cute petting zoo.

Costa Daurada

The best places to visit in Catalonia : Salou Beach
Salou Beach

This is another sun-worshipper's mecca, the aptly named 'Golden Coast' boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year. The resort town of Salou is highly recommended for families. Its Blue Flag beach features a gently sloping shoreline and extensive facilities from baby changing rooms to showers and sun-lounger rental. There is also a seafront fairground to be enjoyed, as well as the comically named ‘Wally Trolley’. This miniature train navigates around Salou, allowing you to hop on and off for a daily charge of €3.


This historic port city is home to some of the best-preserved Roman sites in Europe. If sightseeing isn’t top of the agenda, the activities for kids are just as impressive. Choose from two water parks – Aquapolis or Port Aventura – and be sure to explore some of the many nature trails. At the horse-riding school, Mas de Teret you can take pony treks, lounge by an outdoor swimming pool, or feed animals at a mini zoo.


The best places to visit in Catalonia : Pyranees
Image by Peaces & Cream used under Creative Commons License

Bordering France and Andorra, the Catalonia Pyrenees is the perfect holiday destination for adventurous families. Well-marked trails criss-cross this jaw-dropping landscape, best explored on foot or on mountain bikes. The region is also home to the highest concentration of ski resorts in Spain. A variety of slopes offer something for all abilities with plenty of affordable chalet accommodation to choose from.

Visit one of these destinations and you’ll be guaranteed an unforgettable family holiday in Catalonia. Organise your trip early this year to make your Spain holiday is a success. 

The best places to visit in Catalonia


Newcastle Gusto Children's Menu Review

After working every Sunday for god knows how long I still pinch my self that since embracing full self employment last year our Sunday's are now devoted to family time. I have slowly been working through my list of things I have missed doing and visiting the Quayside on a Sunday is something I managed last weekend. We last visited the Quayside on a Sunday back in 2013 (serious cringe at the state of the blog post featuring our visit) and love how vibrant it is. There is a bustling market, buskers entertaining the crowds and lots of yummy food and drinks for sale. We parked in the Quayside Car Park (£3 all day on a Sunday) and headed down to the Quayside just in time to watch the Millennium Bridge 'blink' to let a tall ship pass through. 

Newcastle Quayside

A tilting Millennium Bridge

A blinking Millennium Bridge and the Baltic Museum

We had booked a table with our friends Chloe and Simon at Gusto and were delighted to be seated upstairs by the window where we could enjoy a spot of people watching. 

Although I have dined at Gusto on numerous occasions, I've never actually taken my children. This is very cringey but as we sat around the table with friends catching up over lovely food, I couldn't help but think this is the life. 

The children's menu at Gusto will set you back a very reasonable £5.95 and for this children can choose a half portion of pasta from the main menu or 'create their own pizza'. The price also includes a free ice lolly or ice cream too. 

Make your own pizza from the children menu at Newcaslte

The boys opted to make their pizzas and could choose up to three toppings each. They loved doing this and set about creating their very own masterpiece. A nice little touch is that they were asked to accompany our server to meet the chef and were able to hand him their pizzas through the pass. The chef pointed out his pizza oven, congratulated the boys on their creation and informed them it would take the pizzas 5-6 minutes to cook. If you watch the short video at the end of this post you will see the delight on Harry's face :-) 

Make your own pizza from the children menu at Newcaslte Gusto

Make your own pizza from the children menu at Newcaslte Gusto
Jack is very pleased with his creation

Make your own pizza from the children menu at Newcaslte Gusto

True to their word, our food arrived within 6 minutes and the boys cleared their plates. I asked Jack if he'd like to be a Pizza chef when he's older to which he replied 'Yes as well as a Wrestler and a Train Driver' Hmmmmmmm

Pasta from the children menu at Newcaslte Gusto

Heidi doesn't really like pizza (I sometimes question if she is my child!) so decided upon a portion of spaghetti bolognese. I love that this is exactly the same as the main menu. Gluten and Wheat Free Pasta are also available. Heidi thoroughly enjoyed her lunch and ended up with one of those faces children end up with when they eat spaghetti bolognese.

Onto the grown ups......

On the advice of Chloe I ordered the Peking Duck Pizza which was perfect for lunch and Steve went for the Pan Fried Chicken Breast with Pan Fried Leeks and Gnocchi. I thought his portion looked on the small side and think he could have done with a side dish but he assured me it was the perfect portion. 

Time was getting on and we had to head home in time for a very important Tyne-Wear derby match so there was no time for desserts. The children were chuffed with their mini milk ice lollies though and finished them on the walk back to the car. 

Lunch with the kids and friends was such a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon and I'm pleased we decided on Gusto as the place to meet. The restaurant feels grown up and makes you feel as though you are going out for a special treat yet the atmosphere is lovely and laid back and the staff are so friendly and welcoming to children that you feel very comfortable. Our video review will give you more of an idea:- 

Rumour has it that Gusto are soon to launch their own Sunday roast, as soon as they do I'm sure I'll be first in line to try it out with the family :-) 

The children's menu at Newcastle Gusto - a review


Top tips for taking photos of your kids on days out & holidays

I love taking photographs of my children during days out but have to say it's not always the easiest of tasks. The photographs you see on this blog post are often one of many I have struggled to take. Luckily for me, I have a team of experts on hand to ask for advice and the lovely Rachel from RJM Photography has kindly agreed to share her top tips for taking photographs of your children during your spring/summer adventures. 

Over to Rachel:- 

As a parent, I always look forward to this time of year. It’s the start of warmer weather and lighter evenings. That means days out, picnics, adventures and fun!

My two boys are used to me always pointing a camera at them - sometimes I feel like the Paparazzi. Well I probably am, although I like to think my images are much more artful than their tabloid snaps. Through the years of being a child and family photographer, and also a parent, I have learned some great techniques on how to get the best photographs of children outdoors. Here are a few I’d like to share with you.

Child location portrait.jpg

Plan ahead. If you would like to take some images for prints or have an album in mind, I’d recommend packing your camera rather than relying on your Smart phone. As well as being better quality for printing, your digital camera will be less like to get full or lose battery power- which tends to happen to me and my Iphone 4s all the time (really must upgrade soon)!

Tell a story. Through the years of watching my own children grow up, my favourite pictures are always those that tell a story. I do this by capturing moments throughout the day. Portraits aren’t just about your child smiling at the camera. Think about capturing other clues of your adventure, like a toy left abandoned on the grass, the picnic feast, the wellies covered in mud or even a shadow.
I may not put these kind of photos up on my chimney breast but I have them in a cherished photo album and when used alongside the other main images of the children, it always brings back happy memories and emotions of fun times. Don’t be frightened to take lots of photos that seem a bit random at the time. They will all work together beautifully to complete the story.

Child location photography.jpg

Dynamic action shots can be full of energy. These are the shots that will make you smile when you look back at them, and help portray the fun you had on your day out. Usually your child will be well up for these kind of shots and, if they’re like my two boys, probably start striking a pose or doing crazy stuff.

Look for different angles, I like getting really low. It adds a fun perspective to the photograph rather than a straight on view point.

Childrens Photography.jpg

Don’t force it. I’ve been there before and it gets frustrating for everyone involved. When the kids are engrossed in some fun activity and we’re interrupting them saying ‘’look over here….smile, no not like that, smile normally….no, look this way ….argh’’ Kids will be kids and they can be rather stubborn. You run the risk of getting images where their smiles are fake and their eyes look disengaged, so it’s really not worth the hassle.  The main thing is that you have an enjoyable day out with your family!

Expressions. Capture the kids when they don’t realise you’re there. These are the shots that will touch you emotionally. Laughter and genuine interaction are the golden nuggets of a great set of photos. You just can’t stage these things so this is where you use your inner paparazzi.


I hope I have given you some great tips to try out next time you’re on a day out.

Thanks Rachel - I love the idea of storytelling through photography and I'm definitely going to look for snapshots from our day during our next days out. 

Don't forget to follow RJM Photography on Facebook where Rachel often shares her top photography tips. Rachel offers family photography from only £50. Visit RJM Photography or send Rachel a quick email for more information. 

Top tips for taking photos of your kids on days out & holidays

Thank you to RJM Photography for providing the beautiful images used in this post.


My plans to travel the world when I retire

I have been a fully self employed blogger for just over 6 months now. I am fully embracing the freedom & challenges of self employment and if I am honest, I don't ever think I could return to an employed role. This was never a direction I expected my life to take - when I was at school and spoke with my careers advisor, self employment was never mentioned and something that I just never considered.

At High School Prom - Self Employment was never an option

Thinking towards the future, I have previously relied on my NHS pension which was automatic and I didn't need to think about it. I knew that it was a 'good' deal and liked the fact that it was easy and simply taken from my pay at the end of the month......one last thing to think about! Now that I'm self employed however, it isn't so easy and I think it's time I started thinking about my future a little more carefully.

Our Retirement Plans

Ideally, I would love for both myself and Steve to retire at aged 60. Steve works so hard in a call centre and pays quite a bit into his work pension and has done since his twenties. I am hoping this will allow him to retire at 60 and this will give us some time to travel the world together. Yes I know I am only 32 and this is 25+ years aways for me but I have already started looking at round the world cruises and planning our itinerary. I just can't help myself! Apparently, a 'round the world' cruise isn't the best way to see the world as you spend a lot of time at sea so I think we will probably take a few shorter trips seeing various destinations on our bucket list across 4-5 years. This also means that we won't spend too long away from home and our future grandchildren. 

My plans to travel the world when I retire

The top 5 destinations we would like to visit in our retirement:-

*Stay in an Igloo/Ice Hotel - £1500 each
*Cruise around Hong Kong/Thailand - around £1500 each
*An African Safari - around £2000 each
*A Caribbean Cruise - around £1500 each
*Stay in a 5* Hotel in Las Vegas - around £1500 each

Total = £16,000

Now this is before we take into consideration any spending money/insurance costs and I still have another 25+ years to add to the list so I am sure it will continue to grow. 

How we will fund our grand plans

The rules around when you can claim your State Pension and how much you will receive are constantly evolving and who knows what the rules will be when I hit retirement age. To be honest, I would rather not rely on having to collect my State Pension and the amount I am likely to receive won't come close to being able to fund my grand plans. According to this Government calculator I won't receive my State Pension until 2051 when I'll be 68. Wow that seems like forever away!

I have decided to find out more about my options for saving for my future dreams whilst being self employed. I need someone with experience who will cut through all of the jargon and tell me in simple terms how much I need to pay into my pension every month to receive a lump sum that will cover the cost of my future travel plans plus hopefully a little bit every month to ensure I can lead a comfortable life. Newcastle Financial Services Limited (part of Newcastle Building Society) have created a FREE guide that cuts through the jargon and answers the following questions:-

*How to plan for your retirement
*Details on the many types of pension available to you
*How to access your pension when you retire
*Why annuities are important

I have sent away for my guide and after I've read up a little I'm going to make a no obligation appointment with a NFSL Financial Planning Manager at my local Newcastle Building Society branch to discuss my options and plans with a real life person. I am really excited to be making steps towards our future travel plans.


The lovely people at Newcastle Building Society have given us a £50 Paperchase Gift Card to give away. One lucky winner will be selected at random and will be able to treat themselves to lots of lovely stationery to plan for their own future. Simply enter via the rafflecopter giveaway widget below. Good luck. 

win a £50 Paperchase gift card with Newcastle Building Society

This post has been commissioned by Newcastle Building Society and does not constitute financial advice. All thoughts and words are my own.

Terms and Conditions
UK entries only
Over 18's over
One winner will be chosen at random and informed via email within 7 days of the giveaway closing. They have 28 days to reply and claim their prize.
Prize will be posted to a UK address only.
Prize - a Paperchase gift card to the value of £50
Entrant's email addresses may be added to the Newcastle Building Society Marketing database from which you can opt out at any time. Details will not be passed onto any third parties. 
Competition closes at midnight on 10th April 2016

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