You wouldn’t believe the number of times I have sat down to try and write this post over the last few weeks but every time I did, I felt as though I wasn’t quite doing our recent trip to Northumberland with Ross Holiday Cottages justice. I wanted to try and capture the many mini adventures we had, and what a beautiful part of the country it is. Without just giving you a long list of reasons why you should visit!
Northumberland is a part of the UK which none of us had been to before and when Ross Holiday Cottages got in touch to offer us a stay in one of their converted Coastguard Cottages we immediately took them up on it. It was just over three hours drive from us but involved an epic journey of passing through the Lake District and winding through the Pennines; picturesque locations for sure but not a straight road in sight so we were very happy when we finally made it to our home for four days.
Originally we had hoped this break away would offer us the opportunity to relax a little, but if you are a regular reader here then you’ll know we don’t do anything by halves so we immediately hit the ground running. The cottages at Ross are situated just a 15 minute walk from the beach and a short drive from some of the area’s best attractions, and we planned to make the most of our time. We were staying in the East Coastguard Cottage; a two bedroom which sleeps four and has all the amenities you would expect from 4 star self-catering accommodation plus a few cheeky extras like an enclosed garden with stunning views, and a jacuzzi bath which was a personal highlight for Eli who asked for a bath every single day: morning, noon and night!
Getting to the cottage was straightforward; we were given a code to access the key and then we were met by the caretaker, David, who brought us a complimentary bottle of wine and a branded corkscrew which was a very nice touch. He talked us through some of the facilities offered by the cottages such as access to a Pelican Canoe and BBQ and we chatted through some suggestions with him on how to spend our time. A friendly face is always welcome when you are new to an area and David made us feel right at home.
During our stay we were offered complimentary visits to a number of attractions, and I’m sorry that we didn’t have time to visit and fully explore them all. I will try and write a separate post on the many things for families in the area as there is absolutely stacks to do, and it was really tricky narrowing down which we had time for during our stay.
Before we headed to the cottage on our first day, we stopped off to visit Bamburgh Castle and the beach. It was a glorious day with blue skies and sunshine and Bamburgh Castle offers some fantastic views as well as a wealth of history. There was a trail for the kids to follow inside the Castle, lots of open space for them to run around outside and although there was a chill to the North Sea on the beach, there was a long stretch of golden sands for the kids to build sandcastles and play. The village of Bamburgh is also home to the Grace Darling museum which I would have liked to have explored but we just didn’t have the time.
For avid Harry Potter fans like ourselves, no trip to this area would be complete without stopping at Alnwick Castle; the location used in a number of the movies. Even if you aren’t fans of the wizarding world, this is a top family attraction with plenty going on. We had a lot of fun in the medieval Artisans Courtyard where you can dress up and enjoy some traditional games and crafts. It was unfortunate that we visited on a school day and there were a number of class trips so we weren’t able to join in the crafts (something it would be good for the Castle to address actually; we weren’t the only family left with disappointed children!) but both Meg and Eli (and James!) enjoyed dressing up and the staff all really got into character too which was great. There is also the Dragon’s Quest in the Artisans Courtyard which is highly recommended. It is a short interactive experience and we happened to be the only ones on our tour around, I’m not sure if that made it better or worse as there was nowhere to hide! And of course, for Harry Potter fans I can’t fail to mention the broomstick flying lessons which take place on the huge green. We found ours to be absolutely hilarious; again the staff really got into character which made it so much fun. There is no additional charge for this once you are in the castle but it is a ticketed event and very popular so I’d suggest heading to the Courtyard to book your time slot on arrival.
During our visit there was also a wild bird display and of course the Castle itself which is interesting. They have plenty of events taking place throughout the year so it’s always worth having a look on their website to see what is taking place if you are planning a trip in the near future.
Directly adjacent to the Castle is The Alnwick Garden which requires separate tickets but again, is very much worth a visit. They are so much bigger than I expected with lots of different themed gardens. There is a Giant Adventure for children to enjoy and Eli in particular, was fascinated by the Poison Garden. I love attractions like this where you feel as though there is something waiting around every corner.
At The Alnwick Garden there is a Treetop Restaurant which we had a quick peek around; it was closed for a wedding but I imagine that would be a very cool place to dine if you had the opportunity too.
We also managed to squeeze in a couple of trips to the nearby Lindisfarne Nature Reserve which is a 15 minute walk from the cottages and well worth the walk. It’s a little bit further than you might think at first with the rolling dunes and you do pass through land which is occupied by livestock, which may give you a fright if you aren’t expecting it. I’m not saying that happened to anyone during our trip but a sheep suddenly appearing out of nowhere is pretty startling…
From the beach you can see both Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island and although we didn’t stray too far, we pretty much had the beach to ourselves. The whole coastline which runs alongside the cottages has been classes as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it really is a beautiful spot to talk a walk.
If you fancy staying closer to home, the Pelican Canoe available for us for cottage guests which James and the kids ventured out in a couple of times too. You can stay nearby and paddle through Ross Low or head out into Budle Bay. On arrival David warned us about keeping an eye on the tide times if we planned to head out into the Bay and these were printed in a folder in the cottage too. It is definitely important to keep an eye on these otherwise you will get caught out.
Finally, I want to round off this post by talking about our trip to Barter Books. Barter Books is the second biggest used bookstore in the UK and on discovering that it was in nearby Alnwick, just 20 minutes drive away, I knew where we would be spending some of our time! We actually spent the whole of Sunday morning at Barter Books. They offer a service where you can bring in some books and they give you store credit to use against other books which I obviously had to take advantage of, although I seemed to end up with more books that I dropped off. Strange that. There is also a cafe, stacks and stacks of books and even a children’s area. It is housed in the old Alnwick railway station and often times there is a miniature train running around the top of the bookshelves which is a very unique touch!
I think that just about covers it but truly, I think Northumberland is a place which we will definitely look to return to in the future as there is just so much we didn’t get to explore. Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle in particular along with the Northumberland National Park, a trip to the Farne Islands to see seals and puffins and maybe we could even manage some horse riding or cycling…again a full itinerary if we decided to go for round two. A huge thank you to Ross Holiday Cottages for inviting us and allowing us to explore just a smidgen of this beautiful part of the UK.