Wentworth Castle Gardens (NT)

This has been popping up on my news feed since it re-opened and I’ve been dying to see it! Absolutely did not disappoint. There really is a bit of everything; beautiful gardens, fantastic views, a sun monument, a castle to explore, and of course all the great facilities that you’d usually expect from a National Trust property.

Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wentworth-castle-gardens

Facilities: Everything you’d expect! Toilets, cafe and play area. Lots of benches dotted about.

Pushchairs: The gardens are fine for a pushchair, although I’d imagine parts would get muddy on wet days. The whole property is on a hill, so it might be difficult for scooters etc for little ones.

Dogs: Are definitely welcome!

Technically, this is our second visit. The first was a bit of a disaster….We decided to take Jess’s new bike which she decided she didn’t want after about two minutes. They’re pretttttty heavy now she’s bigger! So Steve started carrying it. James started having a meltdown. The heavens opened. We all got soaked. Jess fell over cutting both knees and screaming until she was having a meltdown too…. and we abandoned the day in favour of a (well needed) drink at the amazing Strafford Arms down the road.

This time round the sun was beaming down on us when we arrived which is always a good omen. First stop was obviously the play area; not only because Jess LOVES them, but because it’s the first thing you come to! Being a Monday it was nice and quiet so Jess had the place to herself. Absolutely fantastic space, with a toddler area as well as a fort and zip wire! There are a couple of picnic benches there too if you want to set up for a while.

With the weather so perfect, we skipped the cafe in favour of a picnic. I mean why wouldn’t you with these fabulous views!

We were told at the entrance the walk to the castle would be half an hour to 45 minutes, and I was a little worried because Jess was sooooo impatient to see it (are we nearly there yet? IS an actual thing). She kept telling me she was the Queen and wanted to see her home. But I need not have worried, there’s absolutely LOADS to see on the walk up. Firstly passing the temple (with a big hill to roll down- after the downpours over the last few days we skipped this), and then up to the gardens.

The Victorian flower garden is gorgeous and FULL of colour, and there are two sets of stairs to (almost- not sure what to call them) viewing platforms that give more great views.

I’d seen a sign for the sun monument, and naively thought it would be some sort of glorified sundial but nope… that really is a proper monument there!!!

And then the castle itself. Simply glorious. Now I’m not really a person with a problem with heights; skydiving, bungee jumping, climbing peaks, never been a problem. But I HONESTLY NEARLY CRIED with Jess when we climbed the spiral steps to the top of the tower. Having James strapped to my front probably didn’t help, but I nearly stopped circulation on her arm as we walked backdown I was squeezing so tight!! But Jess had lots of fun, and I enjoyed it more with her running around (at ground level!!!!) and exploring the other remains.

On the walk back we saw more of the gardens, they’re honestly beautiful and THE TREES!!! Oooooooh!! I do think the weather helped but it’s just gorgeous.

Jess was getting tired and James was getting cranky (he had his third set of jabs earlier which might have explained it) so after another turn on the play area we decided to head home.

I’m looking forward to returning and trying the walk around the Parkland, I imagine there are even more spectacular views!!

If you do make it over there, let me know how you get on… I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Rachel xxxx

Brimham Rocks, Summerbridge (NT)

This is probably one of the most iconic places to visit in Yorkshire. It’s the dream playground for adventurous kids, and, let’s face it, us adults too! If you haven’t been (errrrrr why not?!), in a nutshell this National Trust site is a collection of rocks which are millions of years old, sculpted into weird and wonderful shapes… with fantastic views over this amazing county. Pictures (especially mine!!) simply do not do it justice.

Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brimham-rocks

Parking: Pay and display car park, free for NT members. Entry to the site itself is free.

Pushchairs: Whilst you can take pushchairs on the main paths, the main appeal of this place is to explore. I’d recommend a carrier for non-walkers.

Facilities: a ten minute walk from the car park is the visitor centre, toilets and refreshments. There’s an indoor area for picnics in bad weather, and lots of picnic benches outside, but no proper cafe.

We visited Brimham after doing a short walk in the area, and I was a little unsure on how much there would be for Jess (3) to do… memories pre-children consisted of heady heights and steep drops, but there really is something for everyone; and you can do as little or as much as you like.

Nothing here seems off limits, literally anything goes so you can scramble and explore to your hearts content. In this world of health and safety it’s massively refreshing to be able to test your boundaries, although we had to keep a close eye on Jess and there is always the scope for idiot behaviour (the horrendously sad episode of last year case and point).

There are plenty of photo opportunities, and for even more entertainment watch the hoards of selfie takers with their multiple pictures of various expressions in EXACTLY the same pose. I realise this might be an ironic observation, given the fact I’ve included a number of pictures in this blog but HONESTLY….

A previous visit with friends!

The views are spectacular, and at the visitor centre there’s a great picture that not only shows you the names of various rock formations, but also points out key locations on the distance such as York Minster!

To make sure you see everything check out the property map, but you may be like us and just go where your feet take you!

We love a good trig point!! The one at this site is just behind the visitor centre.

Whilst we let Jess pretty much dictate our visit by pointing to which rocks she wanted to climb (and us saying no to 90%!), the National Trust website suggests some good ideas for a more structured visit;

  • A Spot the Rocks trail, taking you on a guided walk of the key formations
  • Picking up an explorer backpack from the visitor centre which teaches children about wildlife and geology on the site
  • Geocaching; there is a series of seven easy to find which are perfect for children.
  • Child friendly events– look at the What’s On page to discover Storytelling and Nature Explorer dates.

So to summarise; if you haven’t been, or it’s been a while, make it a priority. I definitely had left it too long (although not sure if my heart could take Jess climbing at a younger age). It’s much better in dry weather when the rocks aren’t slippy and you can enjoy your lunch taking in the views. If you’re planning a full day there perhaps check out one of the activities they have for children. Enjoy!!

Nostell Parkland Walk, 2.5 miles

We’ve been to Nostell lots of times, but have stuck to the gardens and house on our explorations. Today I thought a visit to the parkland was much overdue. I’m so pleased I tried it, it was so beautiful there and a great place if you only have an hour to spare!

Parking: Plenty in the NT carpark, free to members or Β£7 all day.

Facilities: Cafe and toilets at the house (do not need to pay to access). Within the gardens is a good play area, free entry to NT members.

Route: Available on property map https://nt.global.ssl.fastly.net/documents/maps/1431729758418-nostell.pdf

Pushchairs: Technically it’s not classed as buggy friendly but I’d be confident with a robust buggy on a dry day, some of the paths are grassy. Not suitable for scooters, small bikes etc.

Dogs: There were plenty of dog walkers about, but you might want to detour in places where cows are grazing.

The route takes you past the lake and through fields up to Obelisk lodge.

The route back includes a path through grazing land where you got close and personal with the livestock!

It’s a great little walk and I’ll definitely be back with my little one!

A long weekend in Anglesey

A couple of weeks ago we visited the beautiful Welsh Island of Anglesey for a long weekend. I think it was a little smaller than I had realised, so you can travel around easily and we got more done than I anticipated. The weather was superb, which obviously helped with our enjoyment! The only negative? Jess couldn’t understand why we didn’t see any whales haha. Here are our highlights!

1. Newborough Forest (with stunning beach)

We visited here a few times because it was SO gorgeous! There are lots of amazing forest trails for walks and bikes, including an activity trail for small children. The sandy beach is beautiful and we spent a full day collecting shells and making sandcastles.

2. Beaumaris Castle

One of the best castles I’ve ever visited! It’s a fantastic location, very picturesque. There’s lots to explore, although my heart did skip a little seeing Jess so high up. There is a little activity trail for children and an app to download and play (although we couldn’t seem to find anything).

Beaumaris itself is a lovely town too to explore, and if crabbing is your thing, there’s lots going on off the pier.

3. Plas Newydd House & Gardens

The House is huge and great to look around; there are fab views over Snowdonia and inside Whistler’s mural is a highlight (although Jess didn’t stay entertained too long).

Outside gives you the opportunity to spot red squirrels… Jess saw one first (well she thought it was a fox but I’ll still let her have it). As expected of National Trust properties, there is a large woodland adventure playground.

4. Red Dwarf Bay

We visited two places I’d recommend here; The Ship with a beer garden right on the shoreline (pictured), and the Tavern, which has beautiful views over the bay.

Overall, a gorgeous weekend- severely lacking in photos as we spent so much time on the beach!

Nostell, Wakefield (NT)

Nostell has what every good National Trust property should have; beautiful gardens, good facilities, a decent cafe and an adventure playground. With some lovely walks it is a great choice for a day out with the family.

Website and location: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nostell#Contact%20us

Trail paths: https://nt.global.ssl.fastly.net/documents/maps/1431729758418-nostell.pdf

Accessibility: Good accessibility generally (a few easy to navigate steps with a pushchair in gardens themselves). Parkland walk not suitable for wheels.

Facilities: Everything you’d expect from the National Trust! Cafe/ toilets/ play area/ picnic benches.

Parking: Free for members. Β£7 all day for non- members, but note this does not include entry to house, play area and gardens but you can use parkland and other facilities.

We chose a beautiful sunny day for our latest visit to Nostell; everything looked so green! Being a weekday the site was relatively quiet, and there were parts of our walk around the gardens where we didn’t see a sole; absolutely gorgeous.

Jess was delighted to see a swan with her cygnets too on one of the Lakes!

The adventure playground was in sheltered woodland, but well spread out with a range of equipment. We have seen better I think from the National Trust (I think this might need a little updating), but it kept Jess happy enough!

I was feeling a bit ‘too pregnant’ today to try one of the Parkland walks as I’d hoped, but look forward to returning post-birth! From the shop you could pick up a few nature trails to keep children entertained too- always a useful addition!

Overall, as always, an enjoyable visit with lots to appreciate(although how couldn’t you on a sunny day) and we didn’t even visit the house, which I’m sure is lovely too!

Xx

A family walk to explore the riverside at Hardcastle Crags

This walk is perfect for little legs who enjoy exploring woodland, climbing and balancing! Jess loved it (despite a mishap in the stream!) and it’s perfectly placed for a stop in Hebden Bridge for a cheeky cake stop!

Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardcastle-crags

Distance: It’s a mile to the Mill from the car park on the Estate path, but in total my tracker recorded 4.5km.

Route: The Tree Trail on this map https://nt.global.ssl.fastly.net/documents/maps/1431729757435-hardcastle-crags.pdf, although we continued along the river path a little longer than suggested on here. We didn’t visit the crags themselves on this trip, but they’re about ten minutes further on past the mill if you fancy it.

Access: Only the main Estate path is suitable for buggies, so don’t try it if you follow this route.

Facilities: Cafe at the mill, also toilets (they’re not great though). Benches are dotted along the path and there’s a picnic area near the mill. There’s no play area but if you stop off in Hebden Bridge after the walk there’s a decent sized one near the canal. Shame there’s nothing at the main car park.

Parking: We parked at Midgehole car park, when we arrived we found a space no problem, but by the time we left it was pretty busy with some tight turns after dubious parking. There’s a smaller car park (Clough Hole) closer to the mill, but it looks a steep path down.

We set off along the estate path before cutting down towards the river when we saw a track. Along the path there was loads to keep Jess entertained, although perhaps most of her fun came from finding big sticks to hit together and make lots of noise! The tree trail has signs in front of a variety of trees for you to learn as you go. We collected different leaves to see if we could tell what they were.

There’s a great spot to cross the river on stepping stones, nice big ones that meant I could go across with Jess holding her hand as I went. So we went backwards and forwards no problem.

Unfortunately the paddling in the water after proved a problem. Cries of ‘not too deep Jess’ were to no avail as Jess went a step too far for her ankle wellies and promptly ended up sitting in the water. Thankfully the sun was out today, so despite her looking like she’d wet herself, and having totally sodden feet, she was quite happy continuing along the path herself (that’s not to say there wasn’t tears when she first came out!!). I suppose that just shows how engaged she was in her surroundings!!!

At the mill there’s a nice but busy cafe, we skipped this to take advantage of the spring sunshine at the picnic area. It overlooks more stepping stones and you can see the path at the other side, so definitely a good people watching spot.

Jess is barefoot on this picture as we unsuccessfully tried to dry out her wellies and socks! Rather than making her put back on cold wet things we returned to the car park by the estate path, with Jess on her daddy’s shoulders and some fleecy mittens on her feet to keep them warm. 🀣 It’s a pleasant enough path, just not quite as fun as the river path.

To finish our trip out we stopped off at Hebden Bridge for a cuppa and cake on the canal and a little play in the park (decent size but super busy). It’s a lovely place to spend a few hours, next time I’d probably try going on a less busy day to find a bit more peace!

Rachel xxx

Fountains Abbey, nr Ripon

On Monday I met up with NCT Helen (I love a good phone save name :-)) and her gorgeous son to use our beloved National Trust cards at Fountains Abbey. Now the last time I came here Jess couldn’t walk, and we did the standard route plus a stop off in the cafe in less than two hours. So on Monday I had totally expected to be home just after lunch. But pram pace is clearly not two-toddlers pace, and we were practically fighting rush hour by the time we left!

That’s not a bad thing- I just forgot how interesting everything is in the eyes of a three year old, and that exploration is a big time-eater!! I also couldn’t remember there being a play area (I suppose not needing it on our last visit it just went unnoticed), but the one here is awesome.

It’s the type of adventure playground that can keep Jess entertained for hours- usually I’m pulling my hair out after 5 minutes but there was SO much to do that it was a delight to see her play. Parking at the visitor centre (rather than Studley Royal) meant that we could visit at the start and end of our day (always useful for a good bribe).

The Abbey itself is truly amazing- it’s just fantastic to be able to walk around and enjoy the site. Lots of opportunities for hide and seek too! You’re free to wander around which is massively refreshing for a historic world heritage site like this.

We decided to head for lunch at the Studley Royal tea rooms and back again. From the Abbey to the tea rooms it’s a mile in distance, walking along the side of the stream and past the beautiful Water gardens.

We did a bit of a scavenger hunt on the way there and back with mixed success (!!) plenty of twigs and seeds to find though if you fancy choosing some shapes little ones need to find. There are pheasants galore too- good luck if you want to try counting them!!

The paths wind between woodland giving even more hiding and exploring opportunities! There are also lots of pretty benches for snack stops. The paths are good- so perfect if you’re taking a buggy round like me!

I’m so so pleased that we’ve returned to this fantastic place, and certainly won’t be leaving it so long to our next visit. It was great for Jess to visit with a friend, so it was great that we had company. No doubt we’ll be keeping an eye on events too (the Easter Treasure Hunt sounds a winner). If you make it there, or have been before I’d love to know what you thought!

Rachel xxx

A trip to Wallington Hall, Northumberland

A weekend at my parents gives us the perfect opportunity to visit some of the fab National Trust properties in the North East. The gorgeous sunshine drove us outdoors today, so we revisited one of our favourites; Wallington Hall.

This must be one of the most child-friendly NT properties around with three great play areas on the estate; an adventure playground, a fort and a Train stop.

There’s loads of things of interest as you wander round the extensive gardens… including a fairy tree!

Today we headed down to the walled garden, just 10 minutes from the house so perfect for little legs and a great place to play hide and seek as you go!

There are some lovely views of the lakes as you walk, and you can even spot some ducks to feed.

There’s a small cafe in the far corner of the garden for a little cuppa and cake before you head back.

The house itself has lots of different things to see, it’s one of those places that I fondly remember from my own childhood.

There are also some lovely walks that you can do here- see the NT webpage for more details.

The River Walk is just two miles, so a nice choice for families, I’d maybe go clockwise (towards the walled garden first) which means you don’t need to pass the play areas until the end of the walk (and so can use them as a bribe if needed!)

Being a National Trust property means that there’s the usual high standard of facilities including food services, but if you did want to take a picnic there are plenty of pretty benches dotted about the estate.

We haven’t tried cycling, but there is a place to hire bikes if you fancy it too.

It’s a really great place to visit, and you could easily spend the day here. It’s over a two hour drive from or home in Leeds, so I probably would save a visit until I was in the area, but definitely give it a try if you can!

Rachel xxx

Beningbrough Hall, York

This is one of our closest National Trust sites, so a visit here was well overdue!

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough-hall-gallery-and-gardens

Approaching from the A59, you get to go over Aldwark toll bridge (40p)- its a great bridge and worth the detour! Entering through Newton-on-Ouse there were a couple of nice looking pubs which we spotted for a stop on the way home πŸ‘

Beningbrough Hall itself is a lovely property, and although our daughter isn’t a fan of visiting houses, there was a portrait room to dress up in and pretend to pose, as well as a basic soft play room- so she was happy enough to look around…

The gardens were what makes the visit, and is scattered with children’s bikes & scooters that you can pick up and use when you wish. Finding one free wasn’t too difficult on a January morning- but I imagine during summer months they’d be a little stretched!

The Wilderness play area was a big hit, and there was a den building area that backed onto it. There is also a Bare Foot Trail that our toddler can’t wait to try when it’s a little warmer! The walled gardens have lots of opportunities for exploring, and if you fancy combining the day with a country walk there’s a lovely circular 5k route to try out (best as carrier only)- and dogs are welcome!

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough-hall/trails/circular-walk-from-beningbrough-hall-and-along-the-river-ouse

I think as is often the case with these types of places, the best visits will be enjoyed when it’s warmer (and drier) -when playing/picnicking/running about on the grass can be enjoyed. But with plenty of events on through the year, it’s worth the 40 minute drive from Leeds!

Gibside (National Trust, Newcastle), A Day Out

Whenever we’re in Newcastle – which is pretty often as my parents still live there- we take the opportunity to visit some of the National Trust sites. Gibside is a favourite of ours, particularly at key events such as Easter when there’s a really good hunt to follow!

Today was another visit, a fairly mild winter’s day meant that we could enjoy some of the paths (there’s plenty of exploring to do), as well as spend some time in the pretty extensive (but usually busy) playground. The hall itself is in ruins- so this is definitely one for families who like the outdoors. There’s a great Nature room that teaches children about all the wildlife they can find around the estate, as well as a room to eat those packed lunches on rainy days. You can pick up worksheets for bird spotting too!

The main paths to the key locations in the estate are buggy friendly, and if your little ones don’t walk much yet they will be needed as there’s quite a lot of ground to cover- but most of the walking routes are unsuitable for wheels!

If you’re in the area and are National Trust members I’d definitely give it a try- perhaps a little too far for a stand-alone visit, and if you’re paying for your trip I’d wait until there’s something on. Having said that, if your children are a little older and enjoy walking there’s plenty to do, so no need to wait!

Rachel xx