A super busy half term blog title image with spike lying on a bench at Seven Stories in Newcastle
Days out,  Discussions,  Family,  Holiday,  Travel

A super busy half term – Our long weekend in County Durham

So its taken me ages to get round to writing this. Spike has been a little difficult lately and it has stopped me from wanting to write anything. We’re finally over what I’m hoping is the worst of it but we’ll see. The difficult bit started just after we got back from our lovely little holiday in County Durham. It’s kinda put a dampener on the holiday but we had so much fun while there that I have to share some of the highlights, in the hope that it encourages more people to visit this little part of England that doesn’t seem to get many visitors! 

County Durham as a holiday destination
Our holiday destination

I grew up in County Durham, so its a bit of a strange place for me to be recommending as a holiday destination. If you’d have mentioned it as a holiday place when I was 16 I’d have laughed on your face. There were fields, and naff shops and all the teenage angst. Now though I like to make a little holiday of going to see my family whenever we go. There’s lots to see and it’s got great links to Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear to take advantage of too!

Our road trip 

We started our trip on the Thursday of half term. Travelling across country, over the Yorkshire Dales. I loved this drive as literally none of it included motorway. How rare is that for a holiday in England!? I am a huge fan of starting the holiday before checking in, which is why we travelled the way we did. We broke our trip up with a day out at Forbidden Corner.

Forbidden Corner
Welcome to Forbidden Corner….

I’d heard of Forbidden Corner years ago but had never been, despite it being so close to my house at the time. The attraction is a folly in the Yorkshire Dales which is full of weird and wonderful things. You arrive to a huge smoking dragon welcoming you and enter into a garden with an ent like tree man pointing the way. The attraction had extra weird things set up for Halloween and we took part in the Halloween trail as we went round. 

Too scary for Spike

Forbidden Corner is an attraction for all ages. But some areas are a little dark and a little weird. So Spike wasn’t too keen on some bits. The mausoleum is probably best avoided if you have a little one, and I went into the area under the folly itself on my own while Spike and T stayed outside! But I loved every minute and I really recommend it if you like odd things. 

Spending time with the family 
The village green

We went from Forbidden Corner to my mums house and spent one night there before heading to our caravan. I love seeing my mum and Spike together. We don’t get up there as much as I’d like and I know my mum loves the time they get together when we visit. 

A trip into Newcastle 

On the Friday we headed up to Seven Stories in Newcastle. My sister joined us for this and to be honest I think me and K enjoyed ourselves more than Spike did. Seven Stories is a museum focused around children’s books. We visited their Maisie inspired room followed a storytelling session in the Attic by some fantastic storytellers who really brought The Witches Kitchen to life. 

Seven Stories Drawing Words

The main exhibition room was a room dedicated to illustration in books for people of all ages. It had been curated by Lauren Child – an author that Spike unknowingly loves. Spike is obsessed with Charlie and Lola and as soon as we walked into the room she loved the pop up style illustrations of the worlds created there. The Drawing Words room was split into little themed areas which were set out to inspire children to draw. They were encouraged to draw what they wanted to dream about that night in a bed area and draw a picture from their favourite book in the book nook. 

Play inspired by reading 

I loved seven stories for how playful it was. There was stuff inspired by books everywhere and it was so much fun. Once we’d seen every part of the museum spaces we headed to the bookshop which was amazing. I love children’s bookshops because they always feel like happy places and this was no exception. I struggled but managed to only buy 1 book before heading out. 

Our caravan in County Durham 
Even in the rain its beautiful

After the museum we finally went to our holiday destination! We stayed, for most of our holiday, in the Durham Dales at a caravan park my work owns, Heather View. I get staff rates on last minute breaks so its the ideal place for us. The park has everything that the caravan parks of my childhood used to have, grass, plenty of places to run free, a play area and a club which plays bingo. It was bliss. The only difference was the caravan was lovely and warm, even in October! 

Adventure Valley in Durham 

As it was Halloween weekend there was lots on to celebrate the season. We headed to Adventure Valley which is a farm on the outskirts of Durham. It was so much more than a farm though. It was a huge adventure play area located on a farm! There was two indoor play areas, lots of outdoor play areas, a maize maze, and animals. What’s more they had pumpkin picking and carving. 

Picking a pumpkin
The perfect pumpkin

Call me sheltered but Ive never picked a pumpkin so this was an experience and it was one I really enjoyed! Spike chose a tiny one and wheelbarrowed it herself along the rows of pumpkins in the indoor patch. We then went to the carving station to get messy and left all the mess there! Brilliant! 

Halloween Parties and late nights

Heading back to the Caravan we took advantage of their Halloween party, enjoying live music, prize bingo and a few drinks. It was nearly 11 by the time Spike came off the dance floor, declaring herself too tired to dance. So back to the caravan we went with out little witch. 

Sundays are best spent with Family 

Another day in our holiday and we headed along to my mums house to chill out there for a bit. We took a pretty autumn walk through the village I grew up in and then visited my dad. Heading too to my sisters new flat for a nosey. It was a chilled out day and just what we needed. 

Spotting a Gruffalo 

After our chilled out Sunday, we headed back to the caravan for a decent nights sleep, then woke early to pack up for home. There’s nothing like dragging out a holiday for as long as you can though, and on the way home we headed to Hamsterley Forest to see if we could spot their Gruffalo. 

Gruffalo Orienteering 

Hamsterley Forest has a Gruffalo which is relatively easy to see. It’s close to a number of their walks and play areas. But if you pay £1 at the info desk you get a Gruffalo Orienteering pack which sends you off through the words to find clues on signposts before bringing you back into the entrance where the Gruffalo is and we loved it. It was a long, steep in places, walk but with plenty of snacks and stops we had lots of fun. Spike loved meeting Owl, Snake and finally the Gruffalo and his child. It was amazing to be out in nature too and traipsing through the woods! 

Our adventure ends 

We headed home and all we have now is memories of a half term well spent. But it was worth every minute. If you are looking at a holiday in the north east be sure to check out the places Ive mentioned because we definitely recommend them all! And if you have any tips on where we should try next Friday Half Term, we’re all ears!