Last week, we had our family holiday. This year, our destination was Northumberland, a place we were keen to visit for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was somewhere neither of us had been, secondly it is the home of Alnwick Castle (which was Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films) and thirdly we wanted to visit Lindisfarne.
All was good, we managed a late booking on a campsite and despite us not getting a roofbox or a tow bar installed on our fairly recently purchased car, we were able to cram the camping equipment and the four of us in. The weather forecast was a little dubious, and kept changing in the week running up to the holiday. On the day of our arrival, it was sunny as we left home but got more dull and cloudy as we got further north. The heavens opened half an hour before we arrived, and when we pulled up at the campsite it was still drizzling. By the time we found our pitch, the sun was just peeping through and we managed to whip the tent up before the next cloudburst. (I say whip, it’s a 7 man tent, but we know the drill now!)
The track up the hill to the pitch was beginning to get churned up, and Mr C wanted to park the car in the car park away from the tents to avoid getting stuck. However, the site dried up quite well (thanks to the wind!) so that wasn’t necessary. Middle of the night trips to the loo with the kids still involved a certain level of danger in the form of stepping in a puddle (the rain kind!) though…
We kept an eye on the forecast and chose the nicest day to book tickets for Alnwick Castle as it was going to be our ‘main’ day out. On the first full day of our holiday, we went to Lindisfarne, which was incredibly busy. We got there only 30 minutes after the causeway opened and the car park there was almost full already. We decided to walk to the castle, as we have National Trust cards and could get in free with them. Of course, my son needed to take the trickiest possible route (up rocky inclines). I’m sure he is part boy, part mountain goat. It was really nice inside, with lots of interesting displays and stunning views, and a trail for the children.
That evening, we explored the campsite a little more, as we knew there was a stream and it was one of the reasons we chose that place. It didn’t take too much finding, and the whole family (with wellies on!) had a little paddle. My son was insistent that he was going to follow it ‘right to the end’ at which point I decided a geography lesson might be in order! The children both took some persuading to come out of the stream.
The following day was our much anticipated trip to Alnwick Castle. Unfortunately we didn’t quite get there early enough to book the children into the broomstick lessons or the dragon quest, but we still saw plenty. The falconry display was the best I’ve seen, very informative and interesting. As with Lindisfarne, the place was just so busy that it felt like we didn’t enjoy it to it’s full potential. Even the toilets has massive queues, but a very lovely American lady who had chatted to my daughter and I offered her the chance to queue jump in case she was desperate. The tickets we had bought could be ‘unlocked’ to be an annual pass for the castle, so we may visit again next spring.
Because we booked online, we also bought tickets for the gardens, and they were absolutely stunning. The water features provided much entertainment for the children too. We all had an enjoyable walk around them, and had a drink on the terrace overlooking the fountains. In some ways we enjoyed that more than the castle!
When we returned to the campsite after that trip, we saw that the forecast had worsened, and Mr C and I both admitted that we had considered calling it a day on the camping trip, given that drying out a tent the size of ours is really tricky at home. We made a final decision over tea, and began packing up. I went over to the bar to collect our ice pack from the freezer and told the owner that we were leaving early. He was adamant that the forecast had been for rain for ages but none had come, but we decided to leave anyway. We were not alone, as another family were also packing up. The owner also told us that lots of people had cancelled at the last minute, which was why the site was so quiet.
By 10pm we had packed up, ready to commence the 3 and a half hour journey home. We seemed to have more than we went with, and ended up filling every storage compartment in the car. After a stop off to buy fuel (for Mr C and the car), we were on our way. Driving through the night was an interesting experience, particularly with road closures. The children fell asleep, leaving Mr C and I to sing along to the radio and try to keep awake. We arrived home at 2am, and I ‘may’ have slacked off from my navigating duties and had a short nap, but not until we were nearly home.
When we woke up the following morning, we learned that the campsite owner had been forced to shut the site for the weekend because of the weather, and on the Saturday the little stream we had paddled in had burst its banks onto the campsite. I think we made the right choice, despite losing the money we had paid for 2 nights of the holiday! (We have promised the children a couple of days camping closer to home before the end of the summer holidays.)
On Friday night, we watched Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as a family whilst enjoying a fish and chip tea for Mr C’s birthday. It was quite exciting to see our picnic spot in the background of the broomstick lesson scenes, almost surreal! Our Northumberland adventure may well have been cut short, but we still had a lovely time.