What to do in Washington with Kids

Thanks to our reader Maria for sending in this guest post. 

Washington is a small town in Tyne and Wear which sits between Newcastle and Durham. I think there is so much to explore for families here, from cafes and restaurants to nature reserves and parks.

There are also two national trust properties, both of which are well worth visiting. In this article I'm going to tell you how to spend a day enjoying all that Washington has to offer, in fact there is so much to see you may want to make a return visit.

Washington Village 

  • Postcode NE38 7AB
  • Parking - free
  • Opening times - (Old Hall) Friday - Monday 10-5
  • Cost - National Trust Membership or £5.50 per adults or £2.50 per child
  • Cafe - Yes

At the centre of Washington New Town lies The Old Village.

I’ve always felt it is full of charm and feels like you are stepping back in time. There is so much history here and some beautiful houses and cottages dotted around adding to its old charm. Surrounding the village green are a number of cafes, restaurants and village pubs.

My favourite of these is The Green Tearoom, a beautiful old building which used to be the village library. I can remember walking from my little village school to the library and would spend ages sitting in the old nooks choosing and reading books and spending time with friends.

In recent years it has been brought back to life by local couple Kelly and Wayne and it is now a stunning cafe set over two floors . They serve a selection of local sweet and savoury bakes, delivered daily, and a vast selection of teas and coffees.

I would highly recommend you sit upstairs to enjoy the most amazing views over the village green while you eat. The decor is sumptuous yet relaxed and welcoming, the staff provide a brilliant service and can answer all your questions about the area if there is anything you need to know.

If you are really lucky you might even get to meet Kelly and Wayne and talk to them about their journey to bring The Village to life and create a community spirit that had previously been missing. Across the green is The Forge, also owned by Kelly and Wayne.

It is set within the old Blacksmiths and is a small, intimate place to eat. Perfect for couples or get togethers with friends and families. It's relaxed enough to take children, we have had a few visits with the children and always felt welcomed and at ease.

The menu is wonderful and has well thought out ingredients creating high quality, tasty food. Just a few metres away is National trust property, Washington Old Hall. This is one of the smaller National Trust properties in the North East but is steeped in history and well worth a visit.

You can find out about the fascinating relationship that Washington DC and this tiny village have and you will be welcomed to take a tour round the hall. There are some fabulous events and workshops held here during school holidays in the grounds to entertain and occupy little ones.

We have attended many over the years such as crown and wand making sessions and willow weaving, they are always really engaging and the bonus is the children get to leave with the items they've made.

The grounds of the Old Hall are a children’s paradise, there’s a small play area with a wooden castle and a wild garden where they can run free - you might just get time for a quick sit down to relax and take in the beautiful gardens around you.

Washington Wetlands

  • Postcode NE38 8LE
  • Parking - free
  • Opening times - 10-5.30 7 days a week
  • Cost - £10.45 adults £6 child ( concessions and group tickets available)
  • Cafe- Yes

Washington Wetlands is a real hidden gem in Washington. A huge nature reserve and stunning wetlands centre, you could spend a day here alone.

As you enter there is a fabulous gift shop and cafe which serves delicious home cooked food. I can definitely recommend eating lunch here with a menu for all tastes and lots of choices for children. The food always comes in large portions and is cooked fresh to order. Purchase your corn at the shop and head out to start your adventure.

If you have really small children I would recommend sticking to the shorter route which will incorporate close encounters with the ducks at the designated feeding stations, visiting the flamingos and the otters. Designated feeding times and talks take place throughout the day and are well worth going to to find out about these amazing creatures and watch them being fed.

The otter talks are always a big hit, they managed to keep 60 six year olds engaged recently on my school trip so if that’s anything to go by I would say a visit is a must. The centre is full of wildflowers and meadows to help support diversity in the environment and encourage wildlife to survive.

The longer routes take some of these into account and along the way you’ll pass a number of bird hides where you can sit and watch the birds in their natural environment. The duckery, at the right time of year, is a great place to see the chicks from newborn right up to those ready to go out into the centre.

We love to stop by Hollowood which is a fabulous wild woodland where you can hunt for bugs and explore nature without worrying about spoiling anything.

It really is the place to go if you or your little ones love immersing themselves in nature. No day out is complete without a play park and this one is high up in the playground stakes.

With a water play area, a climbing net, slides and a huge wooden adventure trail, this will both delight and challenge all age groups. This is always the highlight of our trip, but I always leave this until last otherwise it is impossible to drag the children away to explore the rest of the centre!

There are always fantastic holiday events and sessions here so do check the website to find out what's on offer. I know the lego trail at Easter and the puddle jumping competitions during February half term have always been hits during our visits. 

Penshaw Monument and Penshaw tea rooms

  • Postcode- DH4 7NJ
  • Parking - free
  • Opening times - open 24 hours
  • Cost - free ( charges apply for tours of the rooftop)
  • Cafe - Yes

Another of the national trust properties that you can visit on a day trip to Washington is Penshaw Monument. 

Make sure you have sturdy footwear on for the 114 stair climb to the top. This is a popular spot and once you reach the top you will have 360 degree views of Washington and right out over parts of Sunderland. There is a lot of history around Penshaw Monument and why such a vast monument was built in such a small town. 

We often climb to the top and it's the perfect place to watch the sunset on a warm summer's evening. Take a flask and picnic and enjoy this perfect picnic location with an unrivalled view.

On a couple of days a year the National Trust opens the stairs inside one of the pillars and you can take a tour to the top, this is a brilliant experience and well worth looking out for tour dates. 

Check the website for up to date information for this. There are lots of forest pathways around the monument which are great if you want to extend your walk and there are lots of wooded areas to explore with many tracks that will eventually take you down to the river. A fantastic area to explore if you and your little ones are keen walkers. 

At the foot of the monument is Penshaw Tea Rooms and Farm Shop. No visit to Washington is complete without a visit here. There is a fabulous cafe serving lunches and cake -and a good selection of hot drinks. It is very popular so does get quite busy. 

There is seating inside with a cosy log burner or if the weather is good you can sit outside and enjoy views of the monument while you eat.

The home bakery has to be one of the best bakeries in the area. It is worth a visit just to see the cakes! They are huge and there is every variety you can think of including lots of traditional favourites like peach melbas and apple turnovers. 

There is a wide variety of savoury bakes and a fabulous selection of sourdough and speciality bread. We never leave empty handed.

There is a fantastic butchery and the recent addition of a fruit and vegetable barn which means you can buy everything you need to make dinner that evening. On our last visit we tried out the new milk vending machine. 

Fresh milk is poured straight into reusable glass bottles from the machine. As well as plain milk, there are a variety of flavoured milks to choose from, a great addition to the Farm shop and a big hit with little ones!

Herrington Park Postcode DH4 7EL

  • Parking - free
  • Opening times - 24 hours
  • Cost - free
  • Cafe - Yes

Herrington park is a fabulous parkland with miles of pathways and fields to explore and run free. 

Perfect for dog walkers, families and those who enjoy a long stroll in the open countryside. We often visit early in the morning when it's quiet for a quick stroll around the lake and through the little woodland at the side and rarely see anyone other than the odd dog walker. 

There is a skate park which is popular and well used with parking right next to it. Anyone from beginners right up to expert skaters are welcome and there's always a lovely atmosphere. The central point of the park is the lake which is a fantastic spot to watch and feed the ducks and swans. 

The model boat club often sail their boats which is always fun to watch, The playground is a really good attraction for families with younger children, we have spent many an hour here. There is a good variety of equipment and caters for toddlers right up to teens with swings, slides, zip wire, trim trails and climbing frames. 

A small cafe sits at the entrance to the park and Love Lily have recently announced that they will be moving in! (June 2022)and bringing their delicious bakes and drinks to Herrington park. This is a very exciting addition to Washington and I’m sure it will be very very popular! 

Fatfield riverside walk and tea trailer
  • Postcode DH4 7PU
  • Parking - free
  • Opening times - closes at dusk
  • Cost - free
  • Cafe - Yes

Fatfield riverside walk is a beautiful walk along the banks of the river Wear. I would recommend you start at Old James Steel Pond - now known as Mount Pleasant Park. Park in the car park, then walk to the right of the lake and follow this river pathway through the trees. 

This is a peaceful forest walk which sits above the river and eventually leads you past the little iron bridge to the infamous Oddfellows Arms. Make sure you look out for the ancient tree on the walk. It’s a huge tree which has a hollow around its roots large enough for a child to sit in - we call it the hugging tree because it feels like you are being enveloped by the tree! 

Just a few metres past the Oddfellows on the edge of the river is the New Plough Tea Trailer. This is such a fabulous spot and as it's half way round the walk it's the perfect place to refuel. The New Plough is a tea trailer with a large outdoor seating area with a stunning view over the river. 

They serve a selection of teas, coffees and locally made cakes and savouries. Since it opened in 2020 it has extended and now has a play area for small children and a few new seating areas.

After you've eaten, head back to the little iron bridge and cross over to walk back along the other side of the river and back towards the car park. 

This side is slightly different; the first part is more open with good stretches of grass and some beautiful houses to gaze at as you pass by.

Once you reach Fatfield bridge, cross over the river and you are back to where you started. If your little ones are desperate for a play area, just up the road is Harraton park with a great playground for all ages. 

There are definitely many reasons to visit the little known town of Washington and I think there are at least two full days worth of attractions to keep you and your children entertained and happy and hopefully returning for more adventure-filled days.


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