If you are ever party to those immortal words…...‘are we there yet’….. just as you depart from the driveway, there’s a fair chance that a child-friendly activity plan sits high on your list of priorities on any short break or holiday. Here at Crabtree & Crabtree, we like to think we’ve pulled together some rather nifty ideas to keep tots to teens happy and entertained during your stay.
Berwickshire & Northumberland
Some of the best adventures don’t have to cost a lot, and some in fact cost nothing at all. And so to the beaches of the stunning Northumberland coast which provide endless opportunities for children to run, jump and play. The pristine sands of Bamburgh are perfect for a spot of frisbee flying, sandcastle-building fun, including a particular favourite, the beach treasure-hunt. Dogs are permitted here and it can be an entertaining spectacle as they endeavour to dig their way to Australia! The area has good local facilities and plenty of parking.
The gentle bay at Coldingham Sands has a lifeguard on duty through the summer season, and a rocky shore at either end provides an ideal spot for dabbling in the rock-pools. The area is much favoured by families and offers lovely golden sands just right for beach-cricket, volleyball or kite-flying. Surfing and bodyboarding is popular here and the St. Vedas Surf Shop nearby can provide rental and instruction. The area has a beach cafe, toilet facilities, and plenty of parking and there is a lovely family-friendly walk over the headland to the pretty fishing village of St. Abbs where thousands of seabirds can be spotted along the way.
For wet-weather fun, head to the historic town of Berwick-upon-Tweed where the Berwick Sports and Leisure Centre has a soft play area and three swimming pools including a splash area and slides. Two miles south of Berwick, Pot-a-Doodle-Do has lots of open space for youngsters to run around including a pottery workshop for pot-painting or mosaics, an enclosed play area, and trout-fishing on a 2 acre lake. Two miles in the other direction will take you to beautiful Paxton House where children may even spot Paxton Ted on the Teddy Trail! It includes pitch-and-putt or croquet on the lawn, and a super adventure playground with slides, swings and a zip wire.
Young and old alike will delight at the Heatherslaw Light Railway, a 15” gauge steam train running from Heatherslaw to Etal, a 6.4km excursion which runs along the bank of the River Till and gives stunning views of the Northumberland countryside. Pulled along by steam locomotives ‘Bunty’ or ‘Lady Augusta’, it provides a fun way to while-away an afternoon and explore some of the area’s other activities and attractions. Kimmerston Riding Centre, and Heatherslaw Cycle Hire are both nearby, or for more action-adventures, Active4Seasons offer canoe trips, rock climbing and sea kayaking under the watchful eye of fully qualified instructors.
Take a trip towards Dunbar, East Lothian where Foxlake Adventures offer some watery excitement with its Wakeboard Park, Ringo Rides and Adventure Course over water. Whizzingly good fun!
For a little bit of education and history, pay a visit to Gunsgreen House in Eyemouth once described as a ‘splendid palace built by a smuggler’! Built in 1753, today it offers the chance to learn more about the life of ‘merchant’ John Nisbet through its interactive tours of the house, museum and cellars. Children can dress up as a smuggler, explore hidden tunnels, hide in barrels and discover the famous ‘tea chute’!
For fun on the farm, The East Links Family Park will provide hours of family entertainment where you can take a train safari through the animal paddocks, enjoy a leisurely walk around the farm or get up close in the small animal barn. The four level Fortress area, includes go-karts, trampolines, a ball blast arena, hay barn, climbing walls, soft play area, pedal tractors, education area and a JCB young drivers zone. Whew - definitely time for tea and cake!
A little further afield take a visit to stunning Alnwick Castle, film location for the wizardly magic of Harry Potter. Meet characters inspired by Hagrid and Harry and take part in activities offering all sorts of magic and mayhem! Join the resident wizarding professors for a spot of Broomstick Training on the spot where Harry had his first flying lesson - much hilarity guaranteed! Another not-to-be missed attraction is the enormous The Treehouse at Alnwick Gardens where a world of wobbly rope bridges, wooden walkways and tree-top views await you.
Ettrick, Lauderdale & Roxburghshire
Set in beautiful rolling countryside near to Jedburgh, Harestanes Visitor Centre offers a fabulous day-out for the family. There’s a large park with play equipment suitable for all ages, a wooden trim-trail, sandpit, indoor games area, a lovely cafe serving scrumptious tray-bakes, an exhibition space, and a small courtyard of local craft businesses. For walking and cycling, there are plenty of family friendly trails, and if you’re feeling particularly energetic, take a hike through the forest to Peniel Heugh for stunning panoramic views across the Borders heartland.
Next pop across to the Borders Donkey Sanctuary to visit Shaggy Sean, Horace-Pierre and hairy Kofi! - an amazing centre offering a refuge for neglected donkeys from across the UK and Europe. Visitors are welcome to visit for tours at 2pm every Saturday and Sunday from March to December where you can meet the donkeys and take part in feeding time. There is no charge to visit but donations are very gratefully accepted.
You can go wild in the woods at Bowhill Country Estate with its fantastic woodland playground sure to keep even the most energetic little adventurer happy! Zip wires, climbing obstacles, and a huge slide are certain to bring whoops of delight, while a number of woodland walks and bike trails provide an up-close and personal view of the area’s wildlife, flora and fauna. Horseriding and treks can be arranged at Bowhill Stables, and fishing is available on the River Ettrick and Bowhill Lower Loch nearby.
For outdoor adventures, head across to the Rock UK and 7Stanes Centre near to Newcastleton who offer a mind-boggling choice of activities including archery, climbing, kayaking, bouldering, fencing, high-ropes, abseiling and biking. Lots of laughs and family fun guaranteed!
For something a little different, why not test your aim in the age old sport of archery - a great opportunity to try a little target practice and experience an activity the whole family can enjoy. Archery lessons and 'have a go' fun sessions are available at various venues across the region with Ian Hendy, an experienced qualified instructor who will introduce you to the basics or take you to the next level in a relaxed, friendly environment. Groups of up to 8 people can be accommodated with all equipment provided.
Tweeddale is seen as a mountain-biking mecca, and that means there’s plenty of action to be had on two-wheels! At Glentress Forest - a 7Stanes Biking Centre, there are lots of trails to choose from, for all ages and riding abilities. From gentle family meanders to extreme downhill, including skills areas to develop core riding techniques, the area is sure to offer something for everyone. It also includes a state-of-the-art £8.5m visitor centre with plenty of parking, shower and toilet facilities, as well as a super cafe and bike hire.
If you still have some energy left, why not explore your inner tarzan with a Go Ape experience. We should stress that this has nothing whatsoever to do with primates! and everything to do with tree-top adventures - taking in zip wires, rope swings and ladders and a variety of other challenging obstacles and crossings - all set within beautiful forest surroundings.
At Traquair House, the area has plenty to offer families with a sensational natural maze deserving particular mention. Planted in 1981, it is one of the largest hedged mazes in Scotland covering half an acre and 1/4 of a mile to reach its centre. Children will love this activity, but please do allow extra time to get them out! The terrace walls provide an excellent vantage point for parents to offer direction - can we perhaps suggest you take a refreshment along with you! Other attractions here include willow tunnels and woodlands, scavenger hunts, pond dipping, and plenty of wildlife and animals to spot.
The Easter Eggstravaganza at Traquair - ‘probably’ the biggest easter egg hunt in Scotland with over 6000 mini eggs hidden in the maze. Features scavenger and treasure hunts in the grounds, easter bonnet making and face painting!
Or pay a visit to the Massed Pipe Band day and witness the truly rousing spectacle of 200 pipes and drums marching amidst the spectacular backdrop of Floors Castle, Kelso.