Magic and making at Alnwick Castle

We’ve had some time away in Northumberland as part of our Easter holidays and we decided to make our second visit to Alnwick Castle.

It’s been four years since our last trip but the children could still remember all the fun they had that day which is pretty impressive when you are 10 and 7 years old.

Alnwick is a beautiful castle right in the heart of Alnwick and it’s well worth a trip. Parking was really easy and just a couple of minutes walk down to the gates. You can buy discounted tickets online in advance but we left it too late so first stop was the ticket office. Our family ticket for 4 cost £45 and you can get it validated so you can return for free within a year (although I never managed to find the place you have to go to do that)

In case you didn’t know, Alnwick isn’t just a beautiful castle, bathed at this time of year in a sea of daffodils, it was also used as a location in the filming of Harry Potter. There is a real sense of the familiar if you are a fan, and plenty of reference to a Harry and Hogwarts in the activities and the gift shop. You don’t need to be a Potter fan to enjoy the place though – there is plenty more to see and do.

We started our day looking at the amazing birds of prey ( flying displays run all day) then went along to the free Archery sessions. With a cold wind blowing and quite a few people waiting we decided not to queue so went on to explore into the towers of the castle where various exhibits are displayed.Through into the main section we could join in on broomstick training sessions and watch a show featuring Harry, Dumbledore and some magic. They were both good fun and I would highly recommend the broomstick training if only for the photo opportunities at the end – grab your camera or phone and snap your family members flying on their broomstick – if you time it right you’ll get an awesome photo!

Into the courtyard there is an area for dressing up and trying out the stocks. They also offer free craft activities. The kids remembered making homemade soap on our previous visit, today it was magic wands.

In the courtyard you can also collect a ticket to visit the Dragons Quest which was a really good walkthrough exhibition full of lots of really good special effects and a tricky mirrored maze which nearly caused us a few bumped heads

We finished our trip inside the castle visiting the state rooms. There were lots of tours and guides all around to speak to. We chose to go round ourselves but we chatted to a really friendly and knowledgeable guide. It amazed us all to see signs of normal life among all the state and history and to learn that the family do use some of those rooms for real. It was lovely to see real family photos alongside famous art works and some pictures of Royals who have stopped by for a visit.

The castle is a great place to visit and the activities made it a great family school holiday trip. We only visited the castle but Alnwick also has beautiful gardens and the fantastic treehouse restaurant which could extend your visit even further.

If you haven’t been I would highly recommend a visit. I’m off to practice on my broomstick….

Feeding birds and baking with kids – handmade school holidays

Our half term was last week, but I know lots of other who are on holiday this week, and with all these grey skies and rainy days you might want some more indoor activity ideas…

Although the days are getting a little warmer, we still have lots or birds at our feeders, so we decided to make a homemade bird feeder.

We bought bird seed, and bird peanuts and the kids mixed it together in a big bowl along with some raisins and a few breadcrumbs. I melted a pack of lard in a pan and poured it into the mix then we stired it all round again.

If you have any disposable cups you can use them for the next bit – I didn’t have any so I lined normal mugs with grease proof paper instead. First put a piece of string into the cup – with a disposable cup you can put a hole on the bottom and poke the string through.In a proper mug I put one end on the outside of the greaseproof paper so it would be left hanging out. Then pour the mixture into the cup(s) and leave to set. This might take several hours – we left our overnight.


When it’s set you can take it off the cup – either cut away the disposable one or slide it out of a proper mug. You should have string sticking out of both ends which you can tie together to hang your feeder outside. We have had blue tits, robbins and starlings visiting since our feeders were hung out.
So the birds were well fed but the children were still hungry – it was time for some baking.  We made this gluten free banana cake together as it is always a winner and it fairly easy to make with lots of opportunities for little ones to measure and stir. I tend to cook it for longer than the recipe though so it might need checking a few times – just keep testing with a skewer until it comes out clean.

My daughter also wanted to do her own baking so I gave her this recipe for gluten free jam biscuits from homeonalake. All I did was to separate out the egg yolk and melt the butter but she measured and mixed the ingredients then shaped the biscuits and added the jam. They were delicious – like a jam topped shortbread.


So there you go – a handmade holiday activity day!

Adventures in Blackpool Zoo…

It’s been half term this week, today we took a trip to Blackpool Zoo. Looking at revuews online last night it seemed that not everyone was impressed, so I wasn’t totally sure how our day would go, but we have really enjoyed our visit.

We stared in the Dinosaur Safari, which we did manage to walk round the wrong way, slightly messing up the chronology of the story but the dinosaurs were all there and the kids loved spotting the ones they knew.


Then it was on to the real animals. We started with a bird display – a beautiful parrot and some birds of prey – aparently the colour of an owls eyes can help you work out if it hunts at night or in the day….

There were lots of animals to visit and talks all through the day, which we really enjoyed. We watched penguins being fed (they had to be quick with seagulls around) and saw camels, lots of birds and monkeys, zebra and reindeer.

One of the highlights for us were the cute monkeys wandering around in the rainforest enclosure – the kids loved being near enough to be able to touch them, and we all wanted to take one home!


We went to the elephant talk and learned about Kate – it’s good to hear that she’s getting a new enclosure and some new friends this summer. Although looking at her routine I’m thinking of booking myself a break at the elephant enclosure – she gets more pampering that I do!

The best show of the day was the sea lion display – they were amazing!


We saw the tiger and lion being fed, I always forget just how big those big cats are – the robin sitting in the tiger enclosure was much braver than me!


With two coeliac children I often have to take food in case we don’t find anything gluten free, and the only review I had seen said that there was very little choice. We found there were several options available, including chips, jacket potatoes and curry & rice. Lots of reviews also said the food was poor and expensive but we paid £23 for 4 hot meals and drinks which I though was reasonable and I was pleasantly surprised by the food.

Yes the zoo needs a lick of pain in a few places and it isn’t as big as other places like Chester Zoo, but it was a good family day out that we all enjoyed and we will definitely go back in the future.

(For the record this is not in any way an affiliate post – just our experience of a day out)