GOLDEN fields of wheat and barley glimmered in the blazing sun as we lolled lazily along, perched high in the saddles of our horses.

There was a refreshing gentle breeze and the sedate pace meant we were able to get used to rhythm of the ride while taking in spectacular views across North Northumberland from a different perspective.

A tug on the neckstrap, and Larry, the 18-year-old Irish draught was trotting.

Looking around, my son and daughter, who were getting to grips with Piper and Teasel, seemed to be having the time of their lives, expertly guided by Hilary Dunn, yard manager from Kimmerston Horse Riding Centre.

The Northern Echo:

Riding Larry in Northumberland 

The hour-long trek was part of a day out during a family caravan trip to nearby Wooler and the centre caters for everyone from total beginners, like us, to the more experienced who can go on a beach ride.

It is not far from Chillingham Castle where we spent a fun few hours exploring the collection of artefacts curated by the eccentric Sir Humphrey Wakefield.

The horse and elephant armour really stood out, as did the collection of swords, including middle eastern blades, the children were able to pick up and handle.

We particularly liked the bronze age tools and weapons and cave paintings.

The hotch-potch approach means Chillingham Castle is unlike any other you are likely to visit and is said to be Britain’s most haunted.

We did not witness any supernatural activity but those with young children may wish to avoid to the torture chamber in the dungeon. It is pretty grim.

The Northern Echo:

Chillingham Castle

Young ones will, however, love to visit the rare Chillingham Cattle on the site next to the castle.

We were taken to visit the herd of around 100 in the back of a Land Rover by a warden with the warning that they can attack and we may have leave quickly to avoid a very real threat of death.

It was like being on safari. I imagine.

What makes them so interesting is they are the only wild cattle in the world, sole survivors of herds that once roamed the forests of Britain with a gene pool dating back 800 years.

The Northern Echo:

Chillingham Cattle 

We managed to spend an hour viewing these creatures from a couple of hundred metres away using field glasses while our guide told us about their daily rituals and battles, their history and life cycle.

They are not managed in any way by the wardens, other than to put an animal out of its misery if it is injured during a contest and is suffering.

Who would have thought standing in a field looking at cows was interesting?

But trust me, it is.

We were staying in our tourer at Riverside Leisure Park, which is right next to Wooler, and is a well-maintained site, which also caters for holiday makers in static vans.

The site itself, as you would imagine, given the name, has a river flowing through it, which was shallow enough for the kids to cool off in during that searing heatwave at the start of the summer holidays.

The toilets are immaculate, the shop well-stocked and there are two children’s play parks.

The Northern Echo:

The swimming pool at Riverside Leisure Park

Just off site there is a bar and clubhouse, which has evening family entertainment and decent meals, next to the swimming pool and amusement arcade.

It is a friendly site, ideal for relaxing without going too far or to use as a base to explore the wider area, which is what we did.

Forty-five minutes away, at the mouth of the River Coquet, is the pretty harbour town of Amble, which on Sundays, between 10am to 3pm, has a brilliant market with everything from fresh meat, fish and veg to second-hand tools and toys.

We spent the morning mooching around, picking up bits and pieces before enjoying a magnificent meal at The Fish Shack.

The Northern Echo:

The Fish Shack in Amble 

The wooden building, partly made from an upturned training boat, was opened in 2016 by world cup winner Jackie Charlton and has developed quite a reputation.

Is it not hard to see why.

The portions are generous and the fish and chips here are just perfect.

I usually cannot stand shellfish or seafood but my daughter loves it.

She was, however, unable to finish her mussels in garlic butter and I was persuaded to try them. I think I may have been converted.

“That’s because they are done properly here,” I was told.

Another recommendation we had to follow up on was an ice cream at nearby Spurreli.

Started by Katie Spurr, from Lanchester in County Durham, and her husband Nick, this boutique ice creamery has become something of local institution.

The couple make their own gelato, with flavours from Turkish Delight to elderflower and ginger, and firm favourites such as salted caramel, honing their skills with regular visits to Italy to learn from the experts.

Most of our family day’s out in North Northumberland tend to be not far from the coast but one attraction we had overlooked until this trip was the attractions on the Ford and Etal estates.

There was too much for us to squeeze into one day so will have to go back, but we enjoyed baking bread in centuries old water mill at Heatherslaw Cornmill before visiting the tradition tearoom overlooking the River Till where the giant sausage rolls are a must.

We also visited Lady Waterford Hall, which is named after the keen English artist who was associated with John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

She spent 21 years decorating the interior of a school hall she had built with Biblical scenes using people from the village as models as a teaching aid for pupils.

It is marvellous and the estates are worth a trip to see this alone.

The Northern Echo:

Alnwick Castle 

During a windy and overcast day we enjoyed a day out at Alnwick Castle where my little Muggles delighted at seeing where the Harry Potter films were shot as well as trying their own hand at broomstick training, getting their obligatory ‘flight shots’.

They also enjoyed making their own clay tiles and a pretty awesome juggling jesters show before splashing about in the fountains of the ever impressive Alnwick Garden.

The highlight for me though was lunch in the spectacular Searcys restaurant at The Treehouse, which is built in the grounds from Canadian cedar, Scandinavian redwood and English and Scots pine.

The Northern Echo:

The Treehouse at Alnwick

It looks like something from a fairytale and has been on the ‘to do’ list for over ten years now.

Forget about the magic of JK Rowling's characters, this is what I call enchanting.

Boughs poke through the floors and ceiling of the wooden room while fairy lights and log fires finish off the warm, spellbinding ambience.

My lamb came with feta cheese, mint and charlotte potatoes, not a combination I would knock together at home, but it worked like a dream.

The kids had Northumbrian bangers and mash and, uncharacteristically for them, they cleared their plates.

This should be on everyone’s bucket list.

So too should be a trip to Longstone Lighthouse in the outer group of Farne Islands, which was built in 1826, but became famous 12 years later.

The Northern Echo:

Longstone Lighthouse 

It was here, in September 1838, that Grace Darling, and her father, the lighthouse keeper, set off to rescue nine members of the crew of the Forfarshire, which was bound from Hull to Dundee but had gone aground on Hawkers Rocks, about a mile from the lighthouse, killing 43 people.

Golden Gate Boat Tours is the only organisation allowed to land on the rock and skipper George Shiel gives a terrific tour of the islands, explaining the birdlife during the hour-long round trip.

Looking back at the North-East’s stunning coastline from the North Sea, I looked at the stretch at golden beach that lies in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle.

I wondered if the kids realise how lucky we are to have all of this on our doorstep.


NE71 6NJ
Prices are from £15 per night

Alnwick Castle 
NE66 1NG
Ticket Prices:
Castle adult £16.75, kids £8.85 

Chillingham Castle

NE66 5NJ
Adults £10.50, kids £6.50 

Kimmerston Riding Centre 
NE71 6JH 
One hour ride is £25 for adults and £20 for children under 12

Golden Gate Boat Trips 
NE68 7RN
From April-October
Office 01665-721-210  
George 07904-800-590 
Adults  £18      
Children £14       

Coquet Street
NE65 0DJ
01665-710-890 / 0780-813-9701

Fish Shack
29 Harbour Road
NE65 0AP

Searcys at The Treehouse

The Alnwick Garden 

Denwick Lane



NE66 1YU


Chillingham Wild Cattle
NE66 5NP


Adults £17.50, concessions £14.50 

Tours: Mon to Fri 10am, 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3.15pm. Closed Sat and Sun at 10am and 11.30am