That’s me, at Chester Folk Festival, aged about 7 or 8. Today, my kids break up for the summer and it feels like an appropriate day to nurture my inner child. I’m disappointed about a plan for summer that hasn’t come off and today of all days. But do you know what, it’s good to get some perspective in these situations, I feel so lucky, I have two amazing kids about to break up from school and I can’t wait to spend some time with them.
Today when Mr G walks out the gate I will have seen my two through their days at infant school and when they go back G will join L at the Junior school. It’s an emotional and a proud day, I will make him look back at the school as we leave, just like my Mum did when I left schools to move on.
A long and lovely summer stretches ahead and first on the agenda is….Camp Bestival! We’re so excited to be ambassadors for Camp Bestival for the fourth year running and to be working with Volvo this year, I can’t think of a better car for piling high with family camping gear.
I grew up with festivals, Towersey and Chester with family before finding my own way at Glastonbury and Reading, so it is so important to me that we have Camp Bestival in our lives. Sometimes I do a double take looking back at the photos, me at Chester could almost be L at Camp Bestival, although face painting has come on a long, long way since I was a kid…
Before I go and pick my two up, I will leave you with some pictures of a younger me and my family festivalling. The best little legacy a parent could give, and a lifetime of lovely memories. Tents, parades, face paint, music, picnics, flags, circus skills, peace and love.
Does your 4-8 year old love playing games on the phone or iPad? Do they love to travel? Like to be in control of their world? Airside Andy could be the perfect game for them this summer! We were invited to test out Airside Andy, a new MMO for kids, now I am totally unskilled when it comes to video games, but luckily my nephew was doing his work experience at Mr A’s video game studio, so offered to write the technical bit up as part of his work experience – ‘make it make sense to clueless parents* like me’ was the brief, he nailed it!
*In my defence I did do my MA dissertation on creating MMO virtual worlds, but teaching Media Studies now feels like a lifetime away.
Those swathes of beautiful sand and turquoise sea may look like the Caribbean, but it’s Northumberland. Our long weekend in Northumberland was packed with jaw dropping sights, from the Farne Islands to Bamburgh Castle, moments that Visit England promised us would make us say #OMGB – ‘Oh My Great Britain’. Here are six of them.
1 The Angels of the North
Sometimes travelling is as much about the people you meet as the places you go, and the unexpected. As we crossed the county border into Northumberland, our freshly printed Visit England itinerary on my knee, Claire, who manages the PR for the chain of inns we were staying with, called to apologise, we would need to change course. There had been a hitch at The Commissioner’s Quay Inn, so she had organised a family room in sister hotel The Hog’s Head in Alnwick instead. We were disappointed as staying in a yet-to-open hotel would have been such an exciting thing to do, it is open as I type this, and looks stunning, in a gorgeous setting by Blyth harbour – our first reason to return to Northumberland!
Claire’s cheery Northumberland tones and jokes soon had me laughing, she mentioned that she was currently having dinner with the owner of Bamburgh Castle and offered to meet us at the castle, but at that point I thought she was joking, so more on that later! I hung up smiling at her lovely Northumberland warmth, just in time to sail past the Angel of the North, by my all time favourite artist Antony Gormley, before the light completely faded (another reason to return to Northumberland, time to stop here in daylight).
The warmth continued at The Hog’s Head, where the staff had smiles, snacks and drinks waiting for us on arrival. The Inn Collection Group have several places in the area, relaxed, characterful and family friendly inns with hotel accommodation. The Hogs Head, Alnwick was named after the pub in Harry Potter because nearby Alnwick Castle doubled as Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter Films – third reason to return! It was a cosy retreat decorated with tartan, interesting relics and the Inn Collection coat of arms, underneath this grandeur it is a relaxed place with the perfect motto, ‘Eat, Drink, Sleep and Explore’. The family rooms were spacious, the kids had a single bed each and we all had a hearty breakfast and porridge, ready for a big day of exploring ahead. While we drank tea and made plans, the kids made friends on the climbing frame.
2 A Serenity Farne Island Boat Tour
We arrived in Seahouses harbour to watch starlings tucking into crumbs on the sea wall, behind them glimpses of the castle and the row of rugged Farne Islands which are paradise to seals, puffins, gullimots, kittiwakes, artic terns and lots more. We took a boat trip, with skipper Andrew of Serenity Boat Cruises to Inner Farne, although there are lots of boat cruises to choose from here, including photography and sunset cruises – another reason to return!
Another lovely warm welcome here, Andrew made his way round the boat chatting to everyone to find out what they were interested in seeing or photographing – puffins and seals came the cries from L and G – he told us to knock on the window if we wanted him to stop longer. We also had a brief chat about blogging – you meet fellow bloggers in the most random places – I’ve popped the link to Andrew’s blog and stunning pictures of his daily encounters around the Farne Islands below. Within minutes we were face to face with beautiful seals.
3. Our first sighting of puffins
Seeing seals was a huge treat, but it had always been the puffins we had sold the trip to the kids on. We entered a sheltered cove full of ragged cliffs lined with flocks of birds. The sound was incredible, the gullimots were a wonderful site, waddling along the rocks and diving into the sea like penguins. The kittiwakes with their fluffy chicks were lovely to watch, but it was the first sighting of puffins that made our trip. They are so comical to watch, with their colourful beaks and funny flappy flying, we giggled lots at their little round bottoms and orange webbed feet bouncing along as they flew around us.
4. An hour on Inner Farne
My Dad warned me what to expect here – dive bombing artic terns protecting their nests – which is a good job as ever since a pigeon landed on my head in Trafalgar Square I’ve had a bird on the head phobia. There are plenty of boat trips that don’t land here, and the terns are only defensive during nesting time around June, but I am stubborn nature lover, so I went ahead and packed hats for us all to soften the blow and, as Dad advised, distanced myself from any large camera wielding photographers getting too close to the nests.
I still freaked out initially, I ran off and Mr A found me hiding out in a tiny hut belonging to the National Trust. He convinced me that he and the kids had sussed out you have to move steadily and bob your head if they dive bomb and that all they really do is try and pull off your hat or hood. I took a deep breath, looked at my brave 7 and 9 year old and I overcame my stupid phobia, and it was absolutely worth it as I saw so many puffins once I ventured across the island. I also felt even more in awe of the terns after they nibbled my hat. More in the video!
3. Bamburgh Castle
So it turned out Claire wasn’t joking, she and her partner Frances did live in Bamburgh Castle, and he does own it, they moved out to let the public in. She even tweeted me a picture of Frances enjoying his dinner at the Hog’s Head Inn we had stayed in. Claire came to meet us, and we were still chatting as the staff were locking up the castle, she took this lovely picture of us all on the ramparts. She also invited us to come and see some baby chicks, but there were still the BFG’s footprints to find – Miss L has not let us forget this though, it’s not every day a real life castle resident invites you to see baby chicks! Although she was very excited to be able to tell Claire how brilliant she thought the brass rubbing activity was inside the castle, me too in fact, in each room L did a brass rubbing which builds up into a story of a local myth, this gave me time to look around and imagine living here, and L a bedtime story.
There is even self catering accommodation within the castle walls, you can see it above the archway below, Mr A was all ears, he has always wanted to stay in a castle. Northumberland kept giving us reasons to return!
5. Bamburgh Beach
Totally iconic and a photographer’s dream, Bamburgh beach with the castle in the background is breathtaking, it is also where The BFG’s footprints were captured in the Spielberg film version. Claire recommend we turn right out the castle and then take ‘TheWynding’ road to the car park to get the best pictures. We made our own BFG footprints in the sand and could have played for hours in the dunes, the sea and the sand, had it not been tea time.
6. Bamburgh Castle Hotel – the view of Seahouses and Bamburgh Castle
You will see our reactions in the video, but this has to be the place to stay, my Dad concurs, having stayed here with his local RSPB group. It’s a beautifully set hotel that caters brilliantly for groups, dog owners (there are even rooms with gardens) families and couples (at dinner my kids watched in amazement as the couple next to us tucked into a towering seafood feast). There is great pub grub with lots of choice, for kids and veggies too, and plenty of imaginative specials.
The views from our balcony and from the pub restaurant and beer garden are amazing, after Mr A took the kids to collapse into bed I sat outside with a glass of sauvignon watching the most incredible sunset bathe the harbour to the left and light up Bamburgh castle to the right. In the morning I watched the Farne Islands from the shower which made my day!
Oh My Great Britain! And that was just one epic day in Northumberland, our second day took in Hadrian’s Wall. We were really excited to come face to face with Roman history, but #OMGB, what a massive wrench to leave Seahouses and Bamburgh!
The video is a must to bring my family and other animals to life, we even talk in it too!
We took our ‘Inner Farne’ boat trip with Andrew at Serenity Boat Trips, check out Farne Island Tours and The Farne Islands Blog to find out what wildlife you can expect to see at different points of the year and which tour would best suit your group. This tour takes approximately 2.5 – 3 hours allowing 1 hour landing on Inner Farne. Adults: £15, Children: £10 (15 and under), Under 4: Free. Remember to pack waterproofs and warm clothing as it is chillier on the water, plus packed lunches, there are lots of places to buy in Seahouses, and allow time to buy tickets and National Trust landing passes which are £18.50-£22 depending on season. Dogs welcome, but not on Inner Farne, although had Max been with us, Andrew would have looked after him on the boat while we landed.
We visited Bamburgh Castle, which is £25 for a family ticket giving access to the grounds and to inside, the brass rubbing trail was £1. The castle has a great tea room. You could easily spend a day on the castle and the beach, we only had 3 hours.
Last week I spent a magical day stepping back into my childhood and into Roald Dahl’s footsteps in the town he called home for over 30 years, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. I loved Dahl’s books as a child, I have such fond memories of my parents and teachers reading to me. I am reading Danny the Champion of the World to Mr G for the 3rd time currently, and it is an absolute joy, I’ll be honest, Dahl is one of few kids’ authors I really relish reading. With the BFG about to be released and his centenary ahead in September, there has never been a better time to understand the man behind the books. Here’s how my day unfolded…Continue reading
I don’t know about you but managing work, friends, family, kids, a significant other, a dog and a home is pretty tricky sometimes, in fact, let’s be honest, most the time it’s a massive parentshaped juggling act with lots of balls dropped. I have so many intentions I feel like I have been pursuing for years, especially when it comes to maximising health and happiness, but trying to do it all at once can be tough. One month into our David Lloyd Leisure club membership and I feel like I am edging closer to some of those goals, in fact it’s turning out to be a rather pivotal piece in the old juggling act. As I explained in my last post, I really wasn’t sure how this would work for us, but I am beginning to eat my words.
When David Lloyd Leisure invited us to try out family membership, they asked us to set some intentions, so here are ours. I’ve also answered a couple of questions followers have asked me.
When you introduce someone, you need to do it properly. Life has been a bit hectic recently and I have been wanting to share this wonderful news for ages. In between our trip to Scotland, which I have started sharing here, and Iceland which I have started to share here, the kids and I made an overnight trip down to Surrey to see my brother and family and meet my new nephew, the kids’ new baby cousin. Continue reading
Our motorhome road trip in Scotland drew to a close with another day of incredible adventures, finding lots of things to do in Loch Lomond. We breakfasted with the ducks, on the shores of Loch Lomond, where we parked up our Bunkcampers motorhome at Luss Camping and Caravan Site. Next we walked into the pretty village of Luss – where the exterior shots in Take The High Road were filmed – and took a boat cruise to Inchcailloch an uninhabited island and nature reserve in the loch. Then we had dinner back in Luss at family friendly cafe The Village Rest, before stories and snuggles in the motorhome. I will share a few photos and then the video, because this is a day I captured most fully on film. Continue reading
Amsterdam is a city packed with invitations to play and new things to discover and learn as a family. From playful Vondelspark, where green parakeets squark happily as they fly through the trees, to Museumplein where the contents of Amsterdam’s largest museums overspill into a green and fun filled grass square, to a lazy boat trip along the canal network to ponder why the houses are skinny, wonky, forward leaning and have hooks on.
KLM airlines challenged my family and the family of fellow blogger Emily, from A Mummy Too, to a Twitter treasure hunt around the city finding family friendly things to do in Amsterdam along the way. Our combined Twitter followers tweeted out answers to the clues KLM set us, via the hashtag #findingamsterdam. Meanwhile, we channelled our inner Anneka Rice, to find the locations and discover the very best of Amsterdam for families. Here are some of the highlights of our time in the city that never stops playing, I’ve included the clues too, in case you want to play along. Continue reading
KLM Airlines recently challenged our family to take part in a treasure hunt in Amsterdam. Part of the appeal was the ability to fly to Amsterdam from Birmingham airport, a swift 50 minute flight into a family city break in Holland’s playful capital. We flew out with A Mummy Too‘s family, minus Emily who was filming in London and joined us later on. The kids loved that we travelled over from Nottingham together in a minibus and had time for a Giraffe brekkie of pancakes and full and veggie English brekkies at the airport. Dads, boys and girls bonded over not being at Download festival, rock music, tattoos, pokemon and plastic giraffes and I took pictures! Continue reading
I love cheese and jam together, it’s a magic combo! I’ve been sharing some amazingly cool and unusual places to eat great Icelandic food in my next instalment about Iceland over on A Mummy Too. From the comfort of cheese and jam on cinnamon scone to a full blown gastro feast at Hotel Ranga, plus lots of interesting stop offs in-between. There are so many foodie experiences you won’t forget in a hurry, like the most incredible Bloody Mary in a tomato green house, home baked bread, eating cheese on a farm with the cows who supplied the milk and drinking tea blended especially for runner’s with Icelandic herbs. Experiment, put some liquorice salt or some green tomato puree on your ice cream!
Check the post out over there and leave me a comment or any questions about the trip! You can also read about the amazing Hotel Ranga here.