Woodhorn Museum Review

This is an advert for August 2023. Any edits / reshares beyond this date have not been asked or paid for. We have visited Woodhorn a lot over the years and this post shares photos and information from previous visits but is up to date and checked for correct information as of August 2023. If you're visiting after this date, please check with venue direct for the most up to date information as changes may be made. 

What is Woodhorn Museum? 

Woodhorn Museum is a popular visitor attraction in Northumberland. The museum brings to life Northumberland's mining history through a range of permanent interactive exhibitions, special tours, art and contemporary exhibitions and events.

It's a brilliant place to visit to learn about our region's past, take a walk down memory lane, have fun / get crafty and perhaps be inspired too. It's a real celebration of Northumberland and a day out that can be enjoyed from all ages from 0-100+ years. 

Woodhorn is both an indoor and outdoor attraction so ideal for our ever-changing British weather that can never seem to make up its mind. 

You can watch a video guide from our most recent visit here: Woodhorn Museum Video Guide 

Where is Woodhorn Museum? 

Woodhorn Museum is located just off the A189 near Ashington in South East Northumberland. Located in what was once the largest pit village in the whole world! 

You don't need to book a visit in advance and there is a free on site car park (use postcode NE63 9YF and follow the signs). 

You can visit by bus - the museum is a 15 minute walk from Ashington Bus Station - click here for walking directions. 

Kids ALWAYS Go Free  

Children and young people aged 16 and under are admitted free of charge. 

All other tickets are purchased on a 'buy once, visit for a whole year' basis and are very reasonably priced between £6-£7 per adult. Your ticket is an annual pass and provides unlimited entry to Woodhorn Museum for 365 days - just bring your annual pass along when you visit and show on arrival. 

You can also choose to purchase a 'site wide' Museums Northumberland Annual Pass for £16 which includes unlimited entry across a full year to Woodhorn Museum, Hexham Old Gaol and Berwick Museum & Art Gallery. 

There may be a few exclusions for special events but this will be clearly communicated. 

Woodhorn Museum is generally open daily from 10am-4pm across Northumberland school holidays and closes on Mondays & Tuesdays in term time. 

You can check current prices and opening hours here: Woodhorn prices & opening hours 

The Playground at Woodhorn Museum  

We love the Pit Yard Play Area. It's ideally located within the eyeline of the outdoor seating area of the cafe or there is plenty of grass if you'd like to bring a blanket and set up a picnic spot here. 

The play equipment is in excellent condition and has been themed around the mining and industrial  heritage of the area. 

Themed play equipment includes: 
  • An interactive mining platform with shovels, hoists and wheels
  • A tower tunnel slide 
  • A crawl through tunnel 
  • Mining carts 
  • A pair of pit pony rocking horses 
This is alongside more traditional play equipment including a basket swing and a smaller slide. 

In 2021, the museum raised over £70,000 to expand the play area and ensure it was accessible and inclusive. 

Accessible and inclusive play & sensory equipment includes: 

  • A matching pairs game to build memory skills (this is also themed around mining) 
  • A ferrophone 
  • Cradle nest swing which can accommodate multiple children 
  • Conference stations which allow communication across the play area 
  • A wheelchair accessible rotating plate

If I had to put an age on it, I would say the play area is best suited to ages 3-11 years however I do have to say, my older kids do still enjoy playing here and I even caught my husband Steve getting stuck in with the mining platform on our last visit! They aim to be inclusive and all ages are welcome. 

Coal Town, Follow the Banner & Mining History at Woodhorn 

Follow the Banner 

Coal Town is the main permanent exhibition at Woodhorn Museum. It shares the story of coal mining in Northumberland through a range of walk through and interactive experiences. 

You'll get to walk through a coal mine, snigger as you pass the communal showers, visit some Miner's cottages and even take a seat on their sofa to watch TV, try pigeon racing and more. 

I love to walk through the replica cottages as the furnishings take me right back to my grandparents' house. I swear my grandad had the exact same chair as the one below. 

There's plenty of hands on fun but also information to read too - covering everything from the importance of allotments in the community to the Miner's Strikes. 

You can try and do some washing using the traditional methods. 

And learn about the importance of Sundays. Take a look inside a dresser in a Miner's Cottage and the best crockery and cutlery that was saved for this day. 

There are a couple of games to play including 'Wacky Pigeon Race' which is always fun. 

You can pull up a seat in a bar at a Social Club. 

And below the kids are sitting on a 1980s sofa and watching a news broadcast about Margeret Thatcher and the Miners Strikes. I really like how you're invited to 'live' the experience here rather than just walk around and read information. It really helps to bring everything to life and is super engaging. 

There's a chance to handle some of the objects used by Miners. We are always shocked at how heavy the shovels are! 

Although Dee doesn't seem to be having too much trouble..... 

The Colliery Experience at Woodhorn 

As well as the main museum, don't miss visiting the outer buildings at Woodhorn Museum. These are original pit buildings you can explore in your own time.

You can view a capped mine shaft (which is 271 metres deep!), visit the stables and learn more about where the Pit Ponies stayed, visit the ventilation room and learn more about / see the mechanisms which kept the mine working and hear the stories / about the roles of the people who worked here. 

There are some interactive elements too with audio points and buttons to press. 

The Pitman Painters & The Ashington Group Gallery

The Pitman Painters is an exhibition sharing life as a miner both above and below ground. I really enjoy looking at the artwork and usually ask my kids to pick out their favourite pieces and let me know why they like them too. 

The Winding House Cafe at Woodhorn 

The Winding House Cafe is a bright open space with plenty of seating both inside and out. It's open from 10:30am-3:30pm with hot food served until 2:30pm. 

The outdoor area looks out over the playground and is the ideal place to sit with a coffee while the kids play. There is a retractable canopy outside should the weather take a turn for the worse and the beautiful planters are cared for by the Age UK Gardening Group. 

Gluten Free and Vegan options are available as standard and dietary requirements can be catered for - just ask. 

I highly recommend their homemade old school cake (£2.60) and their sausage rolls which are provided by local bakers Glentons Bakery. 

A 'Kids Bait Box' is available for £4.95 and includes a choice of five items from a selection on display. You can view the full menu here: The Winding House Cafe Menu 

I always find this cafe to be super reasonable and I don't actually remember a time I visited Woodhorn and didn't pop in. 

Woodhorn is part of the refill scheme and tap water is readily available free of charge. 

Pet Dogs at Woodhorn 

One reason I love visiting Woodhorn is that pet dogs are welcome to join you on your visit. Dogs need to be kept on a lead and accompanied at all times. 

Pet dogs are welcome in the museum grounds which are lovely for a walk, the outer buildings which are perfect for 'sniffs' and the outdoor seating area of the cafe which does have a canopy should the rain make an appearance. 

Fozzy (and Ollie) love visiting Woodhorn and it's perfect for socialising puppies as there are plenty of noises, different light levels and different smells to introduce them to. 

Dog water is readily available around the grounds and if you have forgotten / ran out of waste bags, just ask at the arrival hut as they have a supply. 

Pet dogs are not permitted inside the main museum or inside the cafe. If we're visiting with Fozzy, one of us usually walks around the grounds with him while the other explores the museum with the kids. 

Queen Elizabeth II Country Park is directly next to the museum and a nice place to visit for a walk afterwards (it is around a 30-40 minute circular walk around the lake). 

Just as an FYI, Woodhorn's sister museums - Hexham Old Gaol and Berwick Museum and Art Gallery are both fully dog friendly with pet dogs welcome in all areas of the museums. 

Accessibilty at Woodhorn Museum 

I've always found Woodhorn Museum to be super accessible and there is lots of pre-visit information available on their website here: Access information 

They're always open to suggestions so if you can see any way they can improve their access, do let them know. 

Accessible features include: 

  • Blue badge parking 
  • Carers go free 
  • Accessible toilets and a changing places toilet 
  • Baby change facilities 
  • Multi-sensory play area 
  • Quiet space available if required - just ask a member of staff
  • Wheelchair and mobility scooters available to borrow (book in advance) 
  • Designated quiet hour - from 10am on the last Sunday of the month 
  • Induction loops, large print maps etc.... and ear defenders available 
  • Seating across the museum 
  • 3D Braille map available 
  • Level access to all buildings which are open to the public 
  • Sunflower lanyard and dementia friend trained staff 
Each time I visit Woodhorn Museum I am struck by just how friendly and welcoming the staff are. They always have a 'can-do' attitude and genuinely go out of their way to ensure you get the most out of your visit. If you're not sure about anything, just ask and I guarantee the staff here will try and find a solution for you. 

Regular Events & Activities at Woodhorn Museum 

Make sure you pick up a free family trail from the main entrance. It's a beautifully illustrated map with lots of little bits of extra info included. 

There are also daily tours and talks all included with admission. I have to be honest and say I haven't made it to one of these yet but I've heard excellent reviews and I promise I will try one soon and feedback. Find details on their website or ask on arrival. 

You will always find themed colouring and activity sheets on tables upstairs in the museum and an Activity Trolly with drop in activities for little ones. 

During school holidays, Woodhorn Museum generally offers some kind of craft activity. These are available on a drop in basis at no additional cost. They're always high quality and over the years we have made everything from our own Miner's Lamps to our own Musical Instruments. 

'Banner and Branches' is available daily over the Summer Holidays (2023) - just drop in between 12noon and 3pm. 

You can create your own banner inspired by nature / the banners at Woodhorn or just use your imagination. All materials are provided and there are friendly staff on hand to help too. 

During the summer holidays (2023) you can also enjoy 'Wild Wednesdays' at no additional cost. There is a range of drop in activities available including bug mask making, bug hunts and flower crafts. We thoroughly enjoyed taking part in these activities - a nice mindful activity to try and a chance to get a little creative. 

Below are some of the previous crafts we have tried at Woodhorn Museum....... 

Do keep an eye on the museum's 'what's on' page for upcoming events. The Annual Miner's Picnic is not to be missed! 

Special Events & Exhibitions at Woodhorn 

'Notice' (pictured above) is a temporary exhibition running from 22 July - 3 September by Imogen Cloet. It's a community art installations sharing the hopes of local people for the environment via sound, imagery and text. If you're looking for somewhere to sit and take some time out to reflect this summer, this is the perfect exhibition for you. 

Below are some of the different special events and exhibitions we've enjoyed at Woodhorn over the years. These aren't recurring events so don't expect to see them again but they do offer you an idea of the kind of events you can expect to take place here. 

I really feel like Woodhorn Museum pushes the boundaries when it comes to it's exhibition choices and we've enjoyed everything from giant art installations and contemporary art to immersive theatre, pop up dance performances, circus acts, reptile visits, dinosaurs and art trails over the years. 

I love looking back at these memories. 

Museums Northumberland 

Woodhorn Museum is part of Museums Northumberland - places where you can discover Northumberland's stories and our region's role in the world. 

As mentioned earlier, you can buy an 'all sites' annual pass for £16 and visit all three museums as often as you like across a full year. I'd highly recommend you do this. Just ask for an 'all sites' pass on arrival or purchase an 'all sites' pass online. Kids Always Go Free and don't require a pass (aged 16 and under). 

Hexham Old Gaol shares what life was like as a prisoner in Northumberland in the 1300s plus some of the infamous families who lived in the region and were in trouble with the law. It's interesting and fun and in the heart of Hexham (also dog friendly throughout). 

Berwick Museum & Art Gallery is also a brilliant place to visit. Kids will love walking through the Dragon Tunnel, playing with the silly mirrors and the Medieval town and the museum shares the challenges faced by a border town (also dog friendly throughout). 

Red Squirrels at Woodhorn Museum 

Northumberland is one of the best places to spot rare Red Squirrels in England and they are spotted at Woodhorn. Check out this post which features a video of a Red Squirrel visiting in August 2023. If you do spot one, please report your sighting here: Report a Red Squirrel Sighting 

What's Nearby? 

Just to mention, the mini train at Woodhorn was run by volunteers and is currently closed for the foreseeable future. 

We have visited Woodhorn Museum many times and usually spend 2-3 hours visiting. You could easily spend little longer here and even a full day if you get nice weather and the kids are happy playing in the park. 

If you're looking for other places to visit nearby, check out these options: 

Woodhorn Museum features in our 'Best Places to Visit with Grandparents' post, our guide to 'Things to do when Staying at Cresswell Towers' and our post featuring the 'Best Places to Visit as a Wheelchair User'. 

Find out more here: Woodhorn Museum Website 


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