The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland

These gardens are just GORGEOUS. On a sunny day, grab a picnic and head there to enjoy the stunning surroundings. Even better, if you picked up a copy of Gardner’s World back in May you can get in on the 2 for 1 offer.

On entering the ticketed area you see the superb cascading fountains. They are spectacular, and provide lots of entertainment watching people getting caught out and soaked! In front of the fountains are mini diggers that our three year old enjoyed using to collect water and dump it over my feet!

The grassy area soon filled up with picnic rugs and deck chairs as families set up for the day. There are some provided, but got snapped up quickly so I think you need to get in fast! The cafe does do really good food, but expect to pay high prices… no doubt partly the reason for the number of picnickers!

Before we arrived we downloaded the free app; A Giant Adventure. This was fantastic – you can see the giant asleep in the Lake outside, and then follow the trail inside. The app uses augmented reality and is really good fun. Jess LOVED it, although it completely baffled her 😂😂

Inside the garden we all loved the different fountains and water features, lots of fun. Lots of children were playing in them in the scorching weather, although there were signs around warning against this. A few surprise water spurts soaked some over eager parents… great laughs.

The gardens are perfect to explore and wander around. Covered walkways take you up the side of the cascade fountains to a gorgeous flower garden, brimming with colour!

There are further surprises dotted about the gardens that kept Jess engaged!

We didn’t enter the Poison Garden on this visit, but it does seem a firm favourite for many, with tours every 20 minutes.

At the gardens you can also play golf and go on a woodland walk.

Overall it’s a really good day out, particularly when you can take advantage of the weather. If you’re visiting the area its somewhere you should try to fit into your itinerary- particularly if it’s a sunny day! If you’re not staying in the area, its right next to Alnwick Castle so you could combine the two to make the most of a day trip.

Travelling ‘oop’ North? Three child-friendly alternatives to A1 services between Yorkshire and the Borders.

It’s always nice to break up longer journeys for kids. But services are usually lacking their need for fun and fresh air! Here are three suggestions of places we like to stop off the A1 to make travelling a bit more interesting.

1. Switch Scotch Corner for Cross Lanes Organic Farm.

Ok, so this is a bit of a detour… but don’t let the fact it’s 12 miles off the A1 put you off. Really it’s only 15 minutes from Scotch Corner services where you can fill up with petrol, and SURELY it’s worth it?

Website: http://www.crosslanesorganics.co.uk

What’s it got? A fantastic farm shop, which to be fair is worth the visit itself! It’s organic restaurant has a great menu, and with outdoor seating much more preferable than a motorway meal. There’s a decent play area, and being a farm there will be animals around to spot.

2. Passing Newcastle? A few minutes from the Cramlington services joining the A1 and A19 is the rather unusual but spectacular Northumberlandia

If you’re going past this way there’s really no reason not to stop at the world’s largest human landform sculpture (which is also a lovely country park).

Website: https://www.northumberlandia.com/

What’s it got? A visitor centre with cafe (closed Mondays) means toilets! Car parking is free, and there are even spaces for electric car charging. Walk through the smaller woodland area (spot animal homes in the trees and you could follow the woodland trail) to reach the sculpture itself. Decent paths and lots of climbing to wear out little legs. PLUS picnic benches if you’d rather sit out. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on leads.

3. Sunnyhills Farm shop in Belford is just 500m from the A1.

It might be a smaller farm shop than Cross Lanes, but its proximity to your route makes it an easy choice for a stop.

Website: https://sunnyhillsfarmshop.co.uk/

What’s it got? A play area, cafe with kids menu and delicious deli (amazing cake).

Hopefully these suggestions will help you on your travels! If you find them useful let me know and I can do some more on other well-travelled routes.

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