I have two very specific memories of Lincolnshire; the first is of driving miles out of our way to a small place called Boston around 11 years ago in order to pick up a gorgeous white kitten; our first real pet as a couple (because I’m not counting the many hamsters…) and the second is of a trip to Lincoln itself on our first wedding anniversary, and of finding out that very day that I was pregnant with Meg. You might say it holds a special place in my heart because of that last memory, but it’s strangely a place we’ve never revisited with the kids, despite our best intentions.
So when we were invited to spend a few days exploring the Lincolnshire Wolds; an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we jumped at the chance. We are very lucky to have had some fantastic travel experiences in 2018; as a family we love to visit new places and I was so pleased to see out the year by being able to add one more to the list.
We arrived at our accommodation late Friday evening after battling the rush-hour traffic. It’s always a relief when you reach your destination after a lengthy journey and an added bonus to be greeted by a friendly face. We were staying in one of the luxury self-catering cottages at Greetham Retreat: you can see my vlog if you want a tour of the interior of the cottage. Greetham Retreat is an award-winning site set in rural Lincolnshire, just a short drive from Horncastle. We were given a quick tour of our cottage with an explanation of how the necessities worked and then left to settle in.
We had a fairly solid itinerary for the following two days and we decided to hit the ground running.
One of the main draws in the autumn to this area is the arrival of the baby seals at Donna Nook. Donna Nook is a National Nature Reserve and every year in November and December, grey seals come to the shoreline to give birth to their pups. There is a fence to keep the public and the seals separate but you can get so close. It’s absolutely fascinating and such an experience. We decided to arrive first thing as we felt it would be busy on the weekend and we were right; by the time we left at around 11am it was much more crowded than when we had arrived. It is free to see the seals, but you do have to pay £5 for parking and dogs are not allowed in the seal viewing area. There were wardens dotted around who were more than happy to chat about the seals and the local area and this was a real highlight of the trip for us. Especially for Eli who was utterly delighted to discover that some of the seals had most likely come into contact with sharks in the wild (because sharks will always be king…!)
After spending some time with the seals we decided to head into nearby Horncastle for some brunch. We ate at some really quaint and lovely places during our time in Lincolnshire including The Old Stables, The Tea House in the Woods, The Blue Bell Inn, and The George and Dragon. We’d recommend each one as being very family friendly with good food options.
Our original plan for Saturday afternoon had been to ride the steam train, but we arrived at the station only to find that it was closed! After a quick re-group we decided to go out for an autumnal walk and we chose the Spa Trail which is a 3 mile bridleway ideal for young families. There was a little reception area at Greetham Retreat with a number of different walks available. We didn’t manage to quite finish the trail before dusk fell and we headed back for some food but it was the perfect way to round off our day; by appreciating and enjoying the stunning Lincolnshire countryside.
We were so lucky with the weather during our trip and although it was chilly we had sunshine and clear, blue skies for the entire time which lent itself very well to the gorgeous autumnal colours of the area.
Sunday was possibly one of the most quaint experiences we’ve ever had. We had booked tickets to watch Disney’s The Nutcracker at a local independent cinema known as The Kinema in the Woods. A trip here is like taking a step back in time from the rich, red drapes which cover the screen to the working organ at the front of the screen. Apparently sometimes the organ gets played before a movie begins but we weren’t lucky enough to be treated to this. There is even an interval in the middle of the film! We opted for some delicious ice cream ahead of the second half. We followed this up with a trip to the nearby Tea House in the Woods for Sunday lunch and then we attempted round two at Ludborough. Ludborough is the only standard gauge steam train in Lincolnshire and offers a lovely authentic experience through the countryside, although the kids were mostly thrilled with the fact that the doors to the carriages opened by sliding to the sides like they do in the Harry Potter films; suffice to say we all had to take our turns acting out scenes! The journey is only short but it’s definitely something younger children will enjoy. There is also a small museum with some station memorabilia which is open to the public.
We had such a lovely time during our stay and I wish we had been able to extend it so we could fully explore the area as I feel like we really only scratched the surface. It always amazes me that the UK has such hidden nuggets tucked away and they are well worth taking the time to explore. The majority of the things that we did were inexpensive as well; I don’t think we spent more than £20 on any one attraction which would make it very affordable, especially if you also took advantage of the vast countryside to get out on walks.
We also wouldn’t hesitate to recommend staying at Greetham Retreat; our hosts went out of their way to make sure we had all the information we needed and Maggie Mews had more than enough space for the four of us, plus the dog!