If you're anything like us, you are always looking ahead for things to do with the kids in the school holidays, over a bank holiday weekend or throughout February half term. Lucky for you, Northumberland is full of action-packed family days out.
1) A day of magic in Alnwick
Visiting spellbinding Alnwick is guaranteed to make for a magical family day out. Lilidorei at The Alnwick Garden, Alnwick’s newest family attraction, is a magical village where woodland creatures prepare for Christmas all year round. Home to the world’s largest play structure, is it an absolutely unmissable attraction for families in Northumberland.
Don’t miss the staggering surroundings of The Alnwick Garden, and make sure to admire the Grand Cascade, mysterious Poison Garden and romantic Rose Garden.
Then, enjoy lunch in the twinkling treetops of The Alnwick Treehouse (if you can make it across the wobbly bridge!) before heading to Alnwick Castle, known for its starring role as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Spot Harry Potter and Ron Weasley wand-ering the corridors, and enjoy a broomstick lesson on the very spot where Harry, Ron and Hermione learned to fly.
Don't miss Bailiffgate Museum & Gallery, which holds over 10,000 years of history in its charming stone walls, before heading to The Hogs Head Inn for a delicious homemade evening meal.
Make it an overnighter: Stay at Village Farm Cottages, just a ten minute drive from the centre of Alnwick in the old village of Shilbottle. The superb self-catering holiday cottage accommodation ranges from Scandinavian-style chalets to traditional stone-built cottages and a 17th century farmhouse. Plus, they have a Health Club equipped with a swimming pool and spa, perfect for the kids to play and parents to relax.
2) A day of time travel in Ford and Etal
Stepping out of your car at Ford and Etal Estates is like stepping out of Marty Mcfly’s DeLorean Time Machine. Start your day by visiting Heatherslaw Cornmill, the traditional, 700 year old corn mill that is still a working mill today. Take a bag of freshly ground flour with you and head to Boes Café for coffee and cake, before boarding the steam train at Heatherslaw Light Railway to Etal.
Visit beautiful Etal Castle, currently offering free entry. Then, grab a bite to eat at the only thatched pub in Northumberland, The Black Bull. Take the perfect post-lunch walk down to the banks of The River Till and watch canoeists glide by on the sparkling water.
Head to Ford and pop into Lady Waterford Hall (a short walk or drive away). The old school house is now a gallery that is filled with Louise Waterford’s Pre-Raphaelite artwork. And finally, end your day by walking or driving to Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre to see the adorable horses, foals and piglets.
Make it an overnighter: Till River Fishing Holidays cottage accommodation lies only 200 yards away from the River Till, offering a large lawn area, a path leading down to the river, an apple and plum tree, and even a tennis court closeby. Make use of your self-catering facilities at mealtimes, or treat yourself to a meal cooked for you by Kooked North, who use all local produce to create beautiful dishes for guests.
3) A day to roam like the Romans in Hexham
Time your trip to Hexham with a Tuesday and start your morning with a mosey around Hexham Market. Freshly baked bread, organic fruit and veg, and locally sourced meats are just a few of the exquisite culinary offerings.
Visit Hexham Old Gaol, the prison that dates back to the 1300s where you can descend into the dungeons and even try out the stocks. Head into Hexham Abbey to admire the striking architecture. The monastery-turned-abbey was built in 674 AD using ancient stones from Hadrian’s Wall, and the eerie crypt from the original building still remains today. Then go for a wander around the idyllic Tyne Green’s lush green spaces, passing trickling streams and views of Hexham Bridge.
Make your way to Vindolanda and The Roman Army Museum to see live excavations taking place by expert archaeologists (during summer only) and you might be lucky enough to witness some astounding ancient artifacts being revealed. Enter The Roman Army Museum to learn about the history of the site and see collections of incredible ancient finds that were dug up onsite.
Make it an overnighter: Just a ten minute drive from Vindolanda, Carraw Farm is a fantastic option for a family holiday in Northumberland. Their two luxury, self-catering holiday homes sit quite literally on Hadrian’s Wall and within easy reach of Hexham for nearby restaurants and shops.
4) A day to al-paca your wetsuits in Kielder
Fill your day with activities and adventures in Kielder. Start with much-needed coffees and hot chocolates to fuel up for the day ahead at The Forest Bar and Kitchen. Make the most of their staggering, waterside outdoor seating area and enjoy the peaceful reservoir views before you take to the water yourself with Kielder’s guided watersports activities.
Northumbrian Water’s newest activity offering means you can admire Kielder reservoir from the water itself. Test dad’s balance on a stand up paddleboarding session, or discover the reservoir on a guided canoe tour.
Having surely worked up an appetite, drive to The Pheasant Inn for a delicious lunch and beautiful countryside views. Then, continue the adventure with a visit to Ferny Rigg, who run Alpaca Walks through Northumberland National Park. Get active and enjoy the fresh country air with an adorable, fluffy alpaca by your side. They are guaranteed to make the kids smile with their loveable nature and quirky charm.
If the kids have enough energy after a day of exploring, take them to a fascinating dark skies event at Kielder Observatory. Offering a number of family events, even in the summer months, From their Light Year Academy to their session on rockets, their Space Kids programme is an excellent way to spend an educational, interactive and fun evening as a family.
Make it an overnighter: Clear Sky Lodge Park in Kielder is set in 45 acres with views of the North Tyne in the peaceful Ravenshill Forest. Right in the heart of Kielder Village, it is just a stone's throw away from Kielder Water & Forest Park, within easy reach of Kielder Observatory and sits below Northumberland's dazzling Dark Sky Park.
5) A day out for the tens and over in Corbridge
Have a day filled with history and hair-raising activities in the beautiful market town of Corbridge. We highly recommend starting your day by exploring the town, perhaps picking up a pastry from Corbridge Larder and checking out The Pele Tower in Corbridge Market Place.
Then, it's time for the history portion of the day, as you visit Corbridge Roman Town. Just a short walk from Corbridge centre, the site was once a bustling town and supply base where Roman civilians would pick up food and provisions. Walk like a Roman through the ruins that once made up a vibrant community and head into the museum to find Roman armour and trinkets.
Once you've had your fill of ancient Roman history, you might want a bite to eat before an action-packed afternoon. There are a number of lovely cafes and pubs in Corbridge, such as The Angel of Corbridge or The Black Bull, so you won't be short of options for a delicious, fresh, locally-sourced lunch.
If you have teenage children (10 and over), make your way to Matfen Hall's Go Ape course and choose from Treetop Challenge, a Goliath of a high ropes course with super-fast and super-high zip wires. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, why not try Axe Throwing? Whatever you decide, you are guaranteed to have an amazing day out with the family and have the added bonus of incredible surroundings while you do it, as this course is set within the grounds of stunning country house hotel Matfen Hall, and is nestled within one of the UK's most unspoilt areas of natural beauty. *The minimum age for Tree Top Challenge is 10 as long as they are over 1.4 meters high and supervised by participating adults over 18. Axe-throwing has a minimum age of 16.
Make it an overnighter: Extend your time at Matfen Hall by booking your stay here. Rich in heritage, atmosphere and space, the Matfen Hall estate provides a 5 star unequalled paradise to stay, spa and golf in, nestled away in the heart of historic Northumberland. Set in over 300 acres of unique parkland, this is a place for couples to relax, families to explore and friends to enjoy.
For more family activities and adventures, whether you are planning what to do on a weekend in Northumberland or looking for inspiration for February half term, see our family friendly attractions page. Don't forget to tag us in your holidays snaps on social media via @visitnorthumberland or using our hashtag #endlessexperiences
Author: Jenni Meikle