Northern National Trusts with a bit of WOW

Did anyone else get National Trust memberships for Christmas? If you’re looking out for how to make the most of them, here are some recommendations of the best the North has to offer! There are soooooo many fantastic places to choose from that I’ve wrestled with writing this… can I really not include my beautiful local property (Nostell) that I’ve spent so many happy times at? I’ve had to be ruthless, so here we go….

Cragside, Northumberland

Yep, it’s tops another one of my lists! I think because it has EVERYTHING. An absolutely stunning house in the most amazing setting, a great history and my favourite element; miles and miles of fantastic walking trails in their impressive estate. It’s worth a holiday in Northumberland just to visit. Honestly, just go. More here.

Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire

Obviously this World Heritage site has to be included. The magnificent medieval abbey ruins are in beautiful grounds, perfect for a leisurely day exploring! There’s a great adventure playground and good, accessible paths. More here.

Stickleback and the Langdales

If you’re into the outdoors, perhaps you already have a bit of a love affair with the Langdales. The scenery is spectacular…and there are miles of walking trails to explore this piece of paradise. We love the National Trust campsite at Great Langdale, where you can start the Stickle Tarn Trail, a great short but challenging walk.

Brimham Rocks, Nidderdale

The best natural playground you could wish for! Children (and adults) of all ages will love exploring and climbing these impressive rock formations. The views over Nidderdale are both breathtaking and extensive, and on a clear day you can even see York Minster! More here.

Mam Tor, Peak District

One of the Peak District’s favourite walks, the shivering mountain is great for families, and for little ones starting at the top car park it’s a realistic summit which still can give them a good sense of achievement.

Other notable favourites

These all have their own bit of wow;

  • Longshaw Estate in the Peaks has beautiful walks, including the unmissable Padley Gorge
  • Catbells is a favourite walk for many in the Lakes.
  • Gibside, on the outskirts of Newcastle is another go to place for family walks
  • Wallington Hall has some fab play areas and the walled garden is just gorgeous
  • Clumber Park is impressive in size and the amount of things to see!
  • The Lake District’s Great Wood is a starting point for many good walks
  • Wray Castle on the banks of Windermere in the Lakes is a favourite for children
  • Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge is a must see for anyone loving stepping stones!

A Keswick Mini-Break

We love to get away for a mini break at the end of January! It blows away those January blues, and gives us something to look forward to in that post-Christmas lull. This year we stayed for three nights in a lodge just outside of Keswick in the Northern Lakes. If this is something you fancy, read on!!

Accommodation

Where: For the first time, we stayed in a Hoeseasons Lodge at Keswick Lodge Retreat.

What: We chose a Wainwright Log Burner Lodge, which had two bedrooms and two bathrooms

Cost: Three nights here (Friday-Monday) were great value at £290. There were cheaper and more costly (with hot tubs) available. We booked only a few weeks before, which may have meant we got a good rate, but looking at other dates you can also get a bargain.

Verdict: Ooooooooh we just LOVED it here. From arrival in reception where we received a glass of fizz, to finding a wine fridge in the lodge kitchen. The lodge was clean and spacious and had everything that we needed. The standard and spec was far higher than we anticipated, it really felt like a treat to stay there. When I think of some of the grotty city centre hotel rooms I’ve stayed in for well over a £100 a night, staying here is exceptionally well priced. The kitchen is well kitted out, there wasn’t any equipment we felt we were missing. You could quite happily eat in every night, cooking to your hearts content.

The site was peaceful with some great views.You can hire high chairs and travel cots for your stay, but we saved pennies by taking our own. At reception there was a small shop that sold essentials you might need for your stay, as well as extra wood and kindling for the log burner (which they are also happy to deliver for you).

The on-site bar and restaurant provided good food, we particularly liked the bar, and on Saturday night there was a live singer. We let the little ones stay up as a treat, James was absolutely mesmerised by her. The best babysitter we could ask for!!

Highlights Keswick and the surrounding area

1. Walking. Obviously one of the main appeals of the Lakes is to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Luckily you have LOADS to see nearby. If you want help getting the kids on board, this blog might help.

My favourite walks in the area are;

Whinlatter; this forest park is super close to where we stayed. It is honestly AMAZING and should be on your itinerary whatever the weather. This actually should be a highlight itself it’s so so good. There’s lots to do for children, including an adventure play and themed walks. We recently visited on a pretty miserable day but had a fabulous walk; details here.

Catbells; one of the most loved fells in all of the Lakes. It’s great fun with super views, and not without some challenge! If you fancy trying it with children make sure you read this blog post.

South of Lake Dewentwater, Castle Crag is a great climb for children. This blog from one of my favourite blogging sites, Family Walks and Pubs in the Lake District gives a good description to follow.

Parking at the National Trust’s Great Wood carpark, there are a number of routes perfect for children, and make sure you visit the gorgeous Ashness Bridge, one of the most photographed spots in all of the Lakes. If you fancy going a bit further, continue onto Surprise View and Watendlath. Superb.

2. Keswick Launch. Obviously this can be combined with a good walk, but a trip out on the beautiful Derwentwater is unmissable.

3. The Lake District Wildlife Park. On the doorstep of our accommodation is this great park, which holds many fond memories of my childhood. It includes animal encounters, an adventure playground and indoor soft play. Website: https://www.lakedistrictwildlifepark.co.uk

4. Mirehouse and Gardens, on the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake also takes me back to my childhood. Unfortunately the site isn’t open in winter months so check the website before you go. There’s some truly fantastic adventure playgrounds as well as family walks.

5. Castlerigg Stone Circle is half an hour’s walk from Keswick, with spectacular views. Be careful that the Threlkeld Railway path is currently closed for repairs (Feb 2020), so check routes carefully before you start.

And finally, a top tip..

Sometimes, sadly the weather is just too tough to handle with children. If you’re struggling to find somewhere, try Keswick Leisure Centre. It’s got a water slide, wave pool and a few bits for toddlers and is a good way to spend a couple of hours when getting outside really isn’t possible.

There you have it, my personal highlights but there is soooooooooo much more to do, and as much as I love a good mini break here, it always makes me want more!! We’re already looking to when we can book again.

Any more suggestions? Questions? Leave me a comment!

Finding Boggarts at Longshaw (NT)

Another weekend, another National Trust Trail!!

Longshaw, in the Peaks is an absolutely fantastic place to head to for gorgeous walking trails and outdoor adventures for children.

The Boggarts trail is based on one of the main walking routes that can be seen on the property map. Whilst the main path itself is suitable for robust pushchairs (some parts can get muddy), be warned the activities and exploring areas are largely set off the path.

The trail starts at the main car park, where you can pick up a trail guide for just a pound from the welcome building. Alternatively, you can follow the orange marked walking route and look out for Boggart signs!

One of the first discoveries is the little Boggart hamlet of Boggart Rise! All the little dwellings have doors that you can open and try to catch sight of one!

Other favourite activities were balancing at Boggart View and exploring Boggart Burrow.

There’s also a great viewpoint over the valley (although its largely obscured by our selfie)!

The Boggart trail’s final activity is found just off the orange route, on the path leading towards Padley Gorge, with more little magic dwellings.

If you’ve got a buggy, you’ll need to return to the orange route, it’s 1.7 miles in total. If you take a picnic it’s great for little ones!

However, if you’re buggy free you have the luxury of heading down to picnic or snack at the truly beautiful Padley Gorge. On warm sunny days you’ll find loads of families enjoying this wonderful spot, and there’s often an ice cream van parked on the road that you cross.

Without a buggy, you have another option to return to the car park. You can extend your walk by picking up the pink route, this brings the total length of the walk to 4.5km.

The pink route follows the stream, and whilst there’s no Boggarts to find there’s lots of fun to be had throwing in sticks and grass playing Pooh sticks! This path can get extremely muddy here, you have been warned!!

After crossing a footbridge the path leads up through woodland back to the car park. If you have older children there are some good boulders to climb on the way back.

It’s a lovely family walk, but if you fancy something a little more challenging then you might enjoy the fantastic 3 mile circular route of Mam Tor!

Five Reasons that I love Cragside (National Trust)

Or reasons to make a visit to Cragside in 2020 a priority.

Cragside is, in my humble opinion, the greatest National Trust property in the country. And I’ve been to loads of them. Let me explain why.

1. The Family Friendly Walking Trails

Our favourite family walk here is Nelly’s Moss Lakes Walk, which is just 1.5 miles long. It’s flat and is just perfect for picnics, with loads of benches on the way round! It’s a circular walk that starts at the playground, so a great bribe for little ones. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk, red squirrels can be found in this area. If you need to take a buggy or chair, there’s an accessible version of the route.

The 2 mile Armstrong Trail is another family friendly route, which takes in the main sights of this side of the estate and is a good choice if you don’t want to do the drive (even though you should, you definitely should).Other walks at Cragside can be found here.

2. Driving your car is amazing

Yep, you read that right! Who knew I’d be encouraging you to drive!! The 6 mile drive around the estate starts by going through the impressive arches of the house, and then shows you the best that Cragside has to offer. If you park at the Crozier car park to try the playground, you’ll end up doing this route on the one way drive.

3. Family fun a-plenty!

As well as a good sized play area, there are a number of fun activities under the 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4. My favourite activity is the barefoot trail (again, up by the playground), definitely fun for the whole family!

If you’re a fan of mazes, Cragside has one with a difference; Labyrinth is a network of paths and tunnels in a rhododendron forest!

4. The House and Gardens are spectacular

National Trust homes tend to be rather beautiful… but this is really something else. It’s position on a crag makes the house look breathtaking, and inside each room is a pleasure to see.

The gardens, that in many places we pass over in favour of parkland or the wider estate, are a true highlight here. The stream that runs from Tumbleton Lake through the gardens provide’s interest from the Achimedes Screw and Pump House (Cragside was the first home in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity), a picturesque setting for the Iron Bridge, and a pretty accompaniment to a walk through woodland in the garden. Absolutely gorgeous.

5. Enjoy the views from outside the tea rooms

Obviously, even if you take a picnic you’ll want to need to stop for a piece of cake. There’s not many tea rooms that will have better outdoor seating, either in the courtyard with the crags towering above,or take out your treats to the picnic benches overlooking the lake.

And there’s so much more!

This lists my favourite things… but there’s tons more to do, you really can spend hours here exploring. If it’s your first visit you might want to start at the visitor centre to help you plan.Our most common itinerary is to start at the Crozier carpark for the play ground and walk around the Lakes, before driving the rest of the estate drive back to the main carpark to explore the house and gardens.I really, really hope you get a chance to visit here because it’s just awesome!!!

**Other NT properties that we enjoy in the North East are;

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 £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. £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