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It is important to spend school holidays together, making lots of time for family fun and putting time aside to re-connect.
Whether you fancy following in the footsteps of Harry Potter at Alnwick Castle or seeing what you can spot on a Northumberland National Park Nature Trail, there’s always lots to see and do during a family-friendly getaway to Northumberland.
Here are our top five reasons to make sure Northumberland is on your to-visit list this year.
1. Beautiful (and dog-friendly) Northumberland beaches
Northumberland boasts around 30 miles of beautiful coastline with sandy beaches that are not only perfect for family-friendly holidays, but are also dog-friendly all year round - meaning everyone gets a day out in Northumberland!
We can’t think of many more places where castles and beaches combine, making this place extra-special for those children who are into history and culture. Beach time in Northumberland can consist of imaginative games reinacting battles from the past with the siblings, or sandcastles can be modelled against the real thing! Try Bamburgh Beach and Warkworth Beach for castle-inspired days out; both have impressive castles to admire whilst playing in rock pools, paddling in the sea or playing in the sand.
Another great choice is the sandy beach at Cresswell which is ideal for taking a bucket and spade to build sandcastles. The vast stretch of sand is protected from the wind by sand dunes, so it’s also perfect for a walk (with or without your four-legged friend).
Grab a bite to eat and introduce the kids to locally caught seafood fresh out of the sea:
- The Ship Inn at Alnwick - enjoy a fresh crab sandwich or local kippers as you look out over the beach. Location: NE66 3EL
- Rileys Fish Shack - The shack is located down on the beach and the menu changes daily depending on the catch. It has a reputation for serving the freshest of seafood in the region. Location: NE30 4BY
- The Potted Lobster - Great fresh local produce cooked brilliantly. High quality, locally sourced food served imaginatively with the star of the show being the local fish. Location: NE69 7BS
Discover more sandy play areas with our guide to the best beaches in Northumberland.
2. Northumberland activities for kids
There are lots of family-friendly activities to try in Northumberland during your holidays and, with companies running events throughout the year, you are sure to have plenty to do whatever time of year you decide to come. Here are some to think about for your next break:
Do you have a brood of Harry Potter fans? Or perhaps a bookworm or two who you didn’t see for the entire seven years JK Rowling was producing wizardry novels? Well you need to take them to Alnwick Castle which was the inspiration behind Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry and also the setting for many of the scenes in the blockbuster films. Here you can actually take part in a spot of broomstick training – an experience like no other and the kids will be talking about it for days.
- This is the second-largest inhabited castle in the UK and has served as a military outpost, a teaching college, a refuge for evacuees, a film set and a family home.
- The origins of Alnwick Castle date back to the Norman period.
- The castle has been the location for all kind of film productions and TV programmes including Harry Potter, Downtown Abbey and Transformers.
Read all about it in our guide to Alnwick Castle.
This amazing adventure playground is always a firm family favourite as there is so much to undertake when exploring this natural area. As well as dog walks and cycle routes, you can take on maze challenges, try activity trails, discover hidden waterfalls and even try a spot of stargazing. And let’s not forget about meeting the locals - like any forest, there are lots of opportunities to spot nature so make sure you take some binoculars for the chance to catch a closer glimpse of some of the forests inhabitants.
Keep your eyes peeled for:
- Red squirrels
- Roe deer
- Water vole
Read all about Kielder Forest and what is on offer in our informative guide.
If you want to continue the nature watch, you could take the kids to the Northumberland Zoo for a day of fun watching the creatures go about their daily business. With all sorts of species and a large park to walk around, this is an educational day mixed with fun and adventure. There are refreshment areas and picnic spots for lunch breaks, as well as play areas to keep the little ones entertained. Check out their map and plan your animal adventure today.
- Tractor Museum: Continuously growing, the Tractor Museum is awe-inspiring for young children to gaze at the giant tractors and it’s great for the ‘child at heart’ who appreciates old farm machinery.
- Outdoor play: With lots of space to run around and plenty of outdoor seating in the picnic area, you can comfortably keep an eye on the little ones while they enjoy the outdoor play.
- Wildcats: The zoo has recently welcomed two wildcats from northern Scotland. They are called Ross and Cromarty and they are just 3 and 4 years old. You can find them at the wildcat enclosure, next to the capybara on the river walk.
These are just a few of the activities on offer in the area and they all add to the bigger aim of creating wonderful family-friendly holidays in Northumberland. For more ideas, check out our guide on family days out in Northumberland.
3. Gorgeous Northumberland gardens in bloom
Northumberland certainly isn’t short of gorgeous gardens and the school holidays are a great time to wander round them, enjoy the colours and scents, and teach the kids all about plants. Spring and summer are the optimum times as the flowers are in bloom attracting insects of all sorts to them, increasing the educational purposes of your trip! Here are a couple of our favourites…
The Alnwick Garden includes a bamboo labyrinth, a tranquil orchard full of cherry blossom and some impressive water sculptures (including a Grand Cascade which is made up of 120 jets). You can have fun and games at The Forgotten Garden Adventure Golf and then get a bite to eat (or even a glass of prosecco) at The Pavilion Kitchen to round off your day.
Cragside is a National Trust property that dates back to Victorian times and is one of the most impressive houses and gardens of that era. The Formal Garden covers 3 acres and it still has lots of original features such as a surviving glasshouse from the 1870s. Cragside also houses one of the largest rock gardens in Europe and has the tallest Scots pine conifer in the UK within its Pinetum. There’s lots to keep children entertained during a visit too with den building, an adventure play area and woodland creatures to seek out within a magical labyrinth.
If you fancy a garden by the beach, Howick Hall Gardens and Arboretum near Alnwick was named one of the top five coastal gardens in the UK by Gardeners' World magazine. It’s also been the ancestral home of every Earl Grey since 1319. The famous tea was named after the second Earl Grey, in case you are wondering, so we recommend enjoying a cup in the Earl Grey Tea House after exploring the beautiful wildflower gardens and impressive arboretum. You can finish your day by take a scenic 1.5-mile walk through the arboretum (it’s named The Long Walk) which goes right down to the sea.
4. Outdoor adventures in Northumberland National Park
Not only is Northumberland home to one of England’s most peaceful National Parks but it’s also where you can find the clearest air and cleanest rivers in the country.
Children can play, splash, and generally have a whale of a time in this unpolluted environment and the scenery is spectacular. You’ll find dramatic waterfalls, woodland walks and lots of nature to spot along the way. Northumberland is one of the few places you can still see native red squirrels, whilst other wildlife you may come across includes roe deer, curlew, otter and grouse.
We recommend trying the Reaveley Farm Family Stroll which is a gentle 3-mile woodland walk where you can spot many varieties of birds (including red kites, heron and kestrels) as well as red squirrels and even otters in the River Breamish. You can call in the Ingram Cafe for refreshments on your return.
Activities to try in the National Park
- Pony trekking
Find out more about the Northumberland National Park.
5. Spotting puffins on the Farne Islands
You can’t take a trip to Northumberland and not experience a trip out to the Farne Islands for some nature spotting. Puffins, kittiwakes and guillemots are amongst many of the species of birds nesting here.
Daily boat trips take place from Seahouses and these will typically take a boat trip around the well-loved islands (there are 28 Farne Islands in total) before landing on Inner Farne. You can take a look around the National Trust site (usually for around an hour) and see the breeding birds up close.
Boats to the Farne Islands set sail from the harbour at Seahouses and you’ll find an assortment of shops, pubs in this pretty Northumberland village. We recommend getting some takeaway fish and chips which you can eat looking out over the harbour. Stay close by in the pretty village of Seahouses.
Has this inspired you to pay a visit to Northumberland this year? We have a range of family-friendly holiday cottages that are perfect for a half-term holiday, summer holiday or a weekend break. Whether you are looking to stay in a coastal retreat near the beach or a rural country cottage near Northumberland National Park, take a look and start planning your next family adventure today.