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Ford and Etal

What to do in the summer holidays for kids; North East England & Scottish Borders

Other posts by  |  Sheelagh Caygill on Google+ |  August 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

What to do in the summer holidays North East and Scottish Borders

National Trust staff and children from Abbeyfields Primary School in Morpeth gather to take part in the National Trust’s 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ activities

National Trust staff and children are set to have a great time at National Trust properties this summer

There’s no end of choice when it comes to ideas for what to do with the kids during the summer holidays. But if you’re still looking for inspiration, here are some options. Feel free to add your own in the comments box or on our Facebook page.

Hexham Gaol, Hall Gate, Hexham, Northumberland

Hexham Old Gaol was the first ever purpose built gaol built in England. It is almost 700 years old and was built between 1330 and 1333. The gaol is a really interesting and exciting place to visit for kids of all ages. There are interactive displays, seasonal exhibitions and events, too. You can find out more about the fierce and often terrifying Border Reivers. The Reivers were raiders in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders who terrorised people between the 13th and 17th century. Find out more:

Heatherslaw Light Railway, Ford and Etal Estate, near Wooler

Ford and Etal Estate is a fantastic place to visit because it offers so much. It’s set in beautiful country side, and the villages of Ford and Etal are picture-perfect. There is history, with Etal Castle, Heatherslaw Mill, Lady Waterford Hall and a visitor centre, with the prehistoric Duddo Stones and the 16th century Flodden Battlefield close by, too. Young children love the Heatherslaw Light Railway, which is a A 15” gauge steam railway running a 6.4-km picturesque journey from Heatherslaw to Etal Village – a return journey of 50 minutes. The village of Etal is home to thatched cottages, a tea room and Northumberland’s only thatched pub – the Black Bull.  Find our more:

Milkway from Kielder

The Milky Way over Kielder in Northumberland

Kielder Observatory – observe the night skies and the stars

Northumberland is home to some of the darkest skies in the UK, and that explains why it is also home to the spectacular Kielder Observatory! The facility holds ongoing events throughout the year as well as Star Camps. See with your own eyes the Solar System, stars, planets and gas clouds. You can also learn about the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and what causes these magnificent light displays. Even if stars aren’t your thing, its well worth the drive to Kielder to see this magnificent timber building that fits in so well with its surroundings.  Booking essential More details:

Go Ape, at either Peebles in the Scottish Borders, or Matfen Hall, near Corbridge , Northumberland

Go Ape at Glentress near Peebles offers the highest Go Ape zip wire and is for kids over the age of ten years. It’s on a hillside in the stunning Glentress Forest, Scottish Borders, and you get to zip wire over reservoirs in the valley! In the south of the region is a Go Ape at Matfen Hall, near Corbridge and not far from Hadrian’s Wall.  Again, this Go Ape is for kids over the age of ten.

Ceramic Experience, Galashiels, Scottish Borders

For the creative and arty the Ceramic Experience in Galasheils is a must. This award-winning attraction is a ceramic and painting studio all in one, located in a former mill. Even very young children can enjoy a visit and are allowed to select unpainted pottery, draw a design and then paint it. The Ceramic Experience supplied everything from stamps, stencils, aprons, to brushes, tiles and paint.  All materials are very safe to use, and are non-toxic.

Seven Stories, Newcastle

Seven Stories is a national centre for children’s Books in Newcastle. The centre takes its name from the fact that it is located on seven levels in an old mill, and also the idea that there are just seven basic plots in literature. Seven Stories offers a fantastic time for children, and has exhibitions for both children and adults, programmes of events, and many resources. Take a look at the Seven Stories website to see current events and activities.

Bowes Railway, Springwell, Gateshead

One of the engines at the Bowes Railway

One of the engines at the Bowes Railway

Train-mad children in love with Thomas the Tank Engine don’t have to trek all the way to the National Rail Museum in York to see trains. The Bowes Railway is the only operational preserved standard gauge rope-hauled railway in the world. Located at Springwell village between Gateshead and Washington, the attraction is open Monday to Saturday throughout the year. The Bowes Railway was originally a colliery railway built to carry coal mainly from pits in north west Durham to the Tyne at Jarrow, Tyneside. The first section was designed by George Stephenson and opened in January 1826, making it one of the world’s first modern railways.  Find out more:

 Get back to nature with Northumbrian wildlife and woodlands

The North East of England and the Scottish Borders are rich in woodlands and wildlife, and there are plenty of wildlife watching opportunities.

The Farne Islands, near Seahouses

We have many nature reserves and are home to the Farne islands, just off the Northumberland coast near Seahouses. The Farnes are one of the most important bird sanctuaries in Europe. They are home to puffins,  Grey Seals, various Terns. A boat trip to the Farnes means that you can get as close as you ever will to these wild creatures in their natural habitat. Don’t forget to take your camera! The islands are managed by the National Trust, and you can find more information here, including how to get to the islands:

A Farne puffin with sand eels, by Kevin O'Hara

A Farne puffin with sand eels, by Kevin O’Hara

Blue Reef Acquarium, Tynemouth

You can also see other animals at various places and sanctuaries in the North East. The Tynemouth Blue Reef Aquarium takes you on an underwater journey of your choice. It has more than 40 themed habitats all the way from the North East coast to tropical waters, rainforests with Amazonian features. The Aquarium even has monkeys. You can see seals, otters, , seahorses and graceful stingrays and lots more. More info:

Chillingham Wild Cattle, near Wooler

In North Northumberland near Wooler you can visit Chillingham Wild Cattle, a rare sight indeed, with each animal being one of the rarest on Earth. For more than 700 years these remarkable wild cattle have been grazing in Chillingham Park.  With only around 100 beasts, they are one of the rarest animals on the planet and have remained genetically isolated for hundreds of years. Details about tours and more:

Wild white cattle of Chillingham - the bulls squaring up

Wild white cattle of Chillingham – the bulls squaring up

Conundrum Farm, near Berwick

Not too far away from the wild cattle and near Berwick is Conundrum Farm, full of friendly animals, fish, walks, play areas and a restaurant. The farm trail is specially designed for families with young children. Find our more about Conundrum Farm.

Kielder Water Birds of Prey Centre, Kielder

If birds of prey are your thing, go to Kielder Bird of Prey Centre in west Northumberland. The centre is home to one of the largest collections of birds Of prey in the North of England, including falcons, eagles, hawkes and kites. You can see these birds in action and can experience the tingling excitement of handling one of these magnificent creatures. The Kielder Bird of Prey centre also lets visitors discover more about birds of prey, including their role in the natural world. More info:

The Sanctuary Wildlife Centre, near Morpeth

The Sanctuary Wildlife Centre outside Morpeth at Ulgham is a very special place because it is one of the wildlife rescue centre in the North of England. As of summer 2012 it was home to more than 150 animals. The owners Kim and Allan take care of injured and abandoned British wildlife, in addition to dozens of unwanted farm and pet animals. The overall objective is to care for animals and hopefully release the animal back into its natural habitat. Animals that are disabled or imprinted are given a permanent home at The Sanctuary in as natural an environment as possible. It is this last group of animals, called the permanent residents – that you will be able to see at The Sanctuary Wildlife Centre. Find our more:

Bluebells and wild garlic carpet a woodland floor in Allenbanks


This part of the world is full of woodlands and forests where you can have a picnic, spot wildlife, identify leaves and trees, see red squirrels, or simply enjoy nature. Consider going to Kielder Forest and Water Park in west Northumberland, Thrunton Woods near Rothbury, Chopwell Woods, Gateshead, Allenbanks in south west Northumberland, or Deer Park in Jedburgh, here:

Got some suggestions? Then feel free to add them to our Facebook page.

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Category: Best of Northumberland, Scottish Borders, Newcastle

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