Monday, 16 July 2018

Walking from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle

If there's one thing you should try and do in Northumberland this Summer it's walking from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle. We recently did the 2 mile walk and it offers the most beautiful coastal scenery with the flat paths making it a very easy potter to enjoy on a hot Summer's day.

Walking from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle

We began our adventure in Craster, parking at the Tourist Information office it's a very short stroll down into the village where we were greeted by one of my favourite views in Northumberland, the stunning Craster harbour with its brightly coloured flowers, stone buildings and little fishing boats - it's the kind of place that you see on the front of a postcard and makes you so thankful that you live in such a beautiful part of the country.

Craster Harbour

The walk to Dunstanburgh Castle begins through a gated path just to the left of the harbour, clearly signposted it's not hard to  miss.  As soon as we began the walk we could spot the Castle in the distance in front of us making it absolutely impossible to get lost.  I told you it was an easy one, no need for maps and compasses on this walk!

Walking from Craster to Dunstanburgh

We love to enjoy the walk from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle at a really slow pace so we can appreciate the scenery.  It's hard to resist the temptation to take a few photos with every step and if you're very lucky you'll get to see the grazing sheep and cattle head down to the sea to dip their feet in the water.  There's something quite strange about seeing sheep clambering their way over the rocks for a paddle.

Walking Craster to Dunstanburgh

in no time at all we were at the entrance to Dunstanburgh Castle and ready to explore. The Castle is one of the most beautiful ruins and the perfect reward for completing your walk.  Run by English Heritage we were pleased to discover that as National Trust members we could use our membership cards for free entry.  If you're not a member of either then entry to Dunstanburgh Castle costs £5.40 for adults and £3.20 for children and is well worth the entrance fee, especially on a beautiful Summer's day.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Although the site is pretty small there is a lot to see and it is definitely best enjoyed at a leisurely pace to appreciate the stunning coastal scenery and wildlife.  For keen bird spotters Dunstanburgh Castle is a haven for coastal birds and there is a lovely spot where we stumbled across some twitchers sitting in the sunshine with huge cameras pointed at an opposite cliff that was packed full of birds.  It was another case of severe lens envy for us and I found myself desperately stretching to try and get some good shots using my kit lens, pretty impossible and yet another reminder that we need to upgrade our camera equipment.

Dunstanburgh Castle - Razor BillThere are several birds to see at Dunstanburgh Castle and we recognised a fair few from our recent trip to the Farne Islands including Razorbills  - they're easy to spot and the path around the site offers a fantastic view of them diving off the cliffs and swooping over the water.  We spent a good 30 minutes just stood silently watching, it is one of the  most relaxing ways to spend a sunny Saturday.

Dunstanburgh Castle - Razor Bill
The far end of the site at Dunstanburgh Castle offers the most spectacular views across the Northumberland coastline.  The day we visited it was so clear that we could just make out Bamburgh Castle 12 miles down the coast and after proudly pointing it out to everyone that passed us we enjoyed playing a Northumberland coast edition of "I Spy" for a good while, spotting Low Newton and the beautiful sands of Embleton.

Dunstanburgh Castle - Views

With lunchtime fast approaching we found a bench out in the sunshine to enjoy our sandwiches and watch the swallows darting around above our heads. If you're looking for the ultimate picnic spot in Northumberland, Dunstanburgh Castle has to be it, despite being such a hot and sunny day there were plenty of spare picnic spots out in the sunshine and for those of us enjoying the lovely weather in the castle grounds it felt like the best kept secret on the Northumberland coast.

We ended our visit with a climb up the tower which gave us fantastic views back to Craster where we decided, on looking at how far we had to walk back, that we deserved a treat when we got there.  Nothing powers you along more than the promise of cake.  So we made our way back to Craster, thinking about tea and cake with each step.

Climbing Dunstanburgh Castle - Views

Altough very small, Craster has some great food options.  If you're hungry then The Jolly Fisherman is one of the best places in Northumberland for seafood or , if you fancy something a ltitle lighter, Shoreline Cafe is ideal for lunch and light bites.  In need of some weekend sugar we couldn't resist ordering a chocolate orange scone to share which we promptly cut in half to save arguments.

Craster - Shoreline Cafe

We loved our day in sunny Northumberland exploring Craster and Dunstunburgh Castle and can't wait to see where else we can discover along the coast this Summer. Make sure you let me know your favourite spots to visit!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again - Summer Party Nights and Afternoon Tea at the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle

I'm not ashamed to admit that the movie I'm looking forward to most this Summer is Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again so I'm beyond excited that the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle are celebrating the release with Summer Party Nights and Afternoon Tea!

My love affair with Abba (and yes it really is a love affair) began when I was around 11 years old. My Mum was desperate to stop me listening to my Take That tape on repeat and so bought me Abba Gold on cassette, not realising that she was about to start an entirely new obsession! Within a year I'd bought all of their albums, knew every word to even the obscure songs and would put on Abba concerts in the garden with my sisters.

So when I say that I'm an Abba fan, I really do mean it!

Next weekend I'll be celebrating the release of Mama Mia! Here We Go Again at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle at one of their Summer Party Nights and if you're a movie fan you may want to add one of their special events to your diary!

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again - Summer Party Nights and Afternoon Tea at the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle

Dirty Dancing and After Party - Fri 13 July and Sat 14 July

No one puts Baby in the corner! One of my favourite movies of all time, the Tyneside Cinema will be screening Dirty Dancing this weekend alongside an after party!

Each ticket gives you:

Entry to a screening of Dirty Dancing featuring guest hosts
Entry to an exclusive after party at the Tyneside Bar Cafe
A Free Cocktail

Tickets cost £19.95 per person - click here for more information and to book your ticket.

Mama Mia! Here We Go Again Screening and After Party - Sat 21 July

Pull out your flares, warm up your vocal chords - the Mama Mia! Here We Go Again screening and after party is here!

Each ticket gives you:

Entry to a screening of Mama Mia! Here We Go Again
Entry to an exclusive after party at the Tyneside Bar Cafe including ABBA-oke Karaoke (oh yes!)
A Free Cocktail

Tickets cost £19.95 per person - click here for more information and to book your ticket

Afternoon Tea with Mama Mia! Here We Go Again - Sun 22 July

Fancy an afternoon out with your girlfriends? Enjoy a lazy afternoon at the Tyneside Cinema with  afternoon tea in the Tyneside Coffee Rooms followed by a screening of Mama Mia! Here We Go Again

Tickets cost £34.95 with a glass of prosecco or £29.95 without - click here for more information and to book your ticket

Grease Sing-A-Long Screening and After Party - Sat 11 August

And if Abba really isn't your thing how about hanging out with the T Birds and Pink Ladies instead? For everyone who struggles not to sing along to their favourite musical in the cinema - this one is for you! Enjoy a sing-a-long screening followed by an after party.

Each ticket gives you:

Entry to the sing-a-long screening of Grease
Entry to an exclusive after party at the Tyneside Bar Cafe
A Free Cocktail

Tickets cost £19.95 per person - click here for more information and to book your ticket

Summer Party Nights and Afternoon Tea at the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle

Find the Tyneside Cinema at:

10 Pilgrim Street

0191 227 5500

This post is written in collaboration with Tyneside Cinema

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Hawthorns Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza, Newcastle - A Taste of the North East

If there's one thing I'm very passionate about when I'm eating out it's menus that are packed full of local produce so today I thought I'd share with you my visit to Hawthorns Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza in Newcastle which boasts a menu bursting with food and drink from the region.  A real taste of the North East.

Hawthorns at the Crowne Plaza is ideally located if you find yourself strolling around the Central Station area of Newcastle looking for somewhere that serves really good food.  I have certainly found it a struggle in the past to know where to go in the area and I will admit Hawthorns has slipped my mind on more than one occasion as, despite only being a few minutes walk away from the Diamond Strip, it is a little hidden behind the railway.

With the development of Stephenson's Quarter approaching the finishing stages this part of Newcastle is soon gong to be pretty lively so now really is the time to take the short walk to the Crowne Plaza and check out the wonderful food that Hawthorns has to offer if you're yet to make a visit.

I promise you won't be disappointed.
Hawthorns Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza, Newcastle - A Taste of the North East

My date for the night was my friend Sarah who, on meeting me in the reception of the Crowne Plaza, declared it the loveliest hotel she has ever been in.  Reminding myself of the surroundings I have to say I agree with her - the interiors manage to strike that perfect balance of feeling rather fancy yet homely and welcoming and every time I step through the door I find myself wishing I could swipe some pieces of furniture for my own home.

We were greeted at the entrance of Hawthorns by our server for the evening, whose infectious personality had us swapping stories of Newcastle and food (two of my favourite subjects) in no time.  Showing us to our table we were soon drooling over the large menu and I couldn't help but feel a large amount of North East pride as I noticed how much of the menu was created using produce from the region.  If you enjoy eating dishes inspired by the wonderful countryside of the North East then Hawthorns is a "must visit" for your foodie list as they are truly one of the leading restaurants in the city for local dishes with the menu clearly labelled to showcase where local produce is used.

Hawthorns at the Crowne Plaza, Newcastle - A Taste of the North East

As we had arrived in our baggiest trousers (anyone else have special eating out trousers for when you plan to truly stuff your face?) we settled ourselves in for the full three courses.

One of the things that I find surprising about Hawthorns is that, despite being part of a huge international hotel brand, they have the freedom to create their own menus and the chefs are certainly encouraged to show off their talent and flare with the presentation of the dishes.  The beautiful amuse-bouche was the perfect start to our evening and a real promise of what was to come.

I began my evening with a Selection of Local Cold Meats and Geordie Baker's Bread (£6.95) which I knew was going to be impressive as soon as I noticed Sarah's eyes bulging at the size of it when it approached the table.  I'm usually left pretty annoyed at the amount of bread you get given on boards so was over the moon when I saw how much I had.  How was I ever going to manage it all?  There was a lovely variety of Geordie Baker's Bread with a generous amount of local meats served with onion jam, roasted sweet tomatoes and pickled garlic.  It was a real feast and I'm lucky that I managed to convince Sarah to help me finish it off.

Hawthorns at the Crowne Plaza, Newcastle - Geordie Bakers Bread
When it came to the main event I couldn't resist ordering the Butchers Beef and Black Pepper Burger (£15.95). Yes despite having demolished a huge pile of bread and meat for my starter I decided to follow it with some more bread and meat - go big or go home I say.

Of course every great burger eating challenge requires some preparation so I was very happy when our server appeared with a lemon sorbet to cleanse our palate - have you ever seen anything so beautiful? If you could capture Summer and put it into a glass I'm pretty sure it would look like this.

Hawthorns at the Crowne Plaza, Newcastle

The Butchers Beef and Black Pepper Burger was served in, what can only be described as, the most beautiful burger bun I have ever seen in my life.  It looked like the kind of burger you see in a food magazine, you know one of those photos that really makes your mouth water and make you instantly hungry.

As much as I wanted to just dig straight in I danced round it for a while, considering the best etiquette for eating a burger in public, before giving up and picking it up with both hands, I'm sorry but when the food looks this good I don't have the time to be polite.

Oh so juicy and packed full with prime steak beef burger, crispy pancetta and Monterey Jack Cheese it was one of the nicest burgers I've ever had and I wolfed it down in record speed before tucking into my fries. Unfortunately there was no chance I was ever going to be able to finish them!

Hawthorns at the Crowne Plaza, Newcastle - Burger

Sarah had ordered the 8oz Grain-Fed Ravensworth Rump Steak (£19.95) - tender Northumberland beef grain-fed served with shallot and watercress salad with triple cooked chips. As she cut into the meat it looked deliciously pink, just as I like it. I was beginning to get food envy.

As I finished my burger and turned my attention to the generous helping of fries, her Porcini Mushroom and Black Garlic Sauce (£2.95) caught my eye.  She must have noticed me staring as, being the very best kind of friend you can have, she asked me if i wanted to dip my chip in. Yes please!  The mushroom and garlic flavours were spot on and, after seeing how perfect Sarah's steak looked I think I'll be ordering this myself next time.

Hawthorns at the Crowne Plaza, Newcastle - Steak

You may think that after all that we couldn't possibly fit in dessert but somehow we managed it and, as we're currently enjoying a very hot Summer we decided to order Homemade Ice-Cream (£5.95). Made at Hawthorns there is a variety of delicious flavours to choose from and as we couldn't decided we ended up with a selection of four, complete with toppings.

The absolute highlight for me was the Apple Crumble Ice-Cream - it tasted just like a delicious frozen dessert, with huge chunks of sweet crumble hidden amongst the creamy ice-cream.  I'm seriously considering dropping by the hotel again at some point this week just to enjoy some more  on the outdoor terrace!

I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at Hawthorns and have nothing but great things to say about their fantastic food - if you want a true taste of the North East I highly recommend you book yourself a table!  I have my eye on their afternoon tea next!

Hawthorns at the Crowne Plaza, Newcastle - Ice Cream

Find Hawthorns at:

The Crowne Plaza
Forth Street

0191 562 3333

We enjoyed a complimentary meal for two with drinks in exchange for this honest review

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

A Lake District Travel Guide - A Two Day Trip to the South Lakes

"Visit the Lake District" has been on my bucket list ever since I relocated to the North East and, although we have visited Center Parcs (not really a genuine Lake District experience) and stayed at The Gilpin on Minimoon (definitely doesn't count as we didn't really leave the luxury of our hotel!), it's something that we forever talk about doing but never actually organise.

Until now!

With the fantastic weather that the UK has been enjoying we decided to plan a spontaneous Lake District trip because when the Lakes is promised some sunshine you know it's going to be looking pretty spectacular. With an overwhelming choice of beautiful spots to visit we decided for our first go we'd "do the tourist thing" and booked ourselves a break in the South Lake District.

Here's our Lake District Travel Guide for our two day trip to the South Lakes.

A Two Day Trip to the South Lake District

Getting Soggy in Grasmere

First things first, and this is more of a note to myself for future reference, even if your weather app says you are going to be getting two days of glorious sunshine and baking temperatures still pack a waterproof. Something we discovered in Grasmere when we were cooling ourselves down with icy fruit drinks one moment then running back to the car in the pouring rain around 30 minutes later to grab our coats whilst squealing "this wasn't on the forecast!"

It's best to be prepared for any weather in the Lake District!

We decided that our first stop of the trip would be to Grasmere as I really wanted to try some of their world famous gingerbread, for an organised person I was pretty unprepared for the shop not opening until 12:30 pm on a Sunday so we ended up spending a lot more time in the village than we'd planned to.

This lead to us walking up the hill away from the village and into the National Trust site at Allan Bank which offered some beautiful mountain views. I love that in the Lakes you are always only a few steps away from an amazing view.

A Lake District Travel Guide - A Two Day Trip to the South Lakes

Blueberry Scones at Ambleside

When it comes to planning a holiday I love to search Instagram for inspiration of where to visit, it's a fantastic modern day travel guide and if you don't already use it to plan your itineraries you really are missing out.

Instagram had us heading to Ambleside in search of the most amazing blueberry scones from Waterhead Coffee Shop.  I had seen photographs of the mammoth scones stuffed full of cream and, when I finally got my hands on one, I was so thankful that they looked just as good in reality.

The small coffee shop sits by the lake in Ambleside and is a particularly lovely spot when the sun is shining.  We managed to grab an outdoor table overlooking the water where we enjoyed some people watching while I tucked into my delicious treat.  It definitely got me wondering why more places don't serve scones in different flavours, because the tangy blueberries with the cream was a match made in heaven. These bad boys were definitely worth travelling for.

South Lakes - Waterhead Coffee Shop

Although a bit of a tourist hot spot, Ambleside is a nice place for a wander in the sunshine and the views across the water to the hills were breathtaking.  It was completely different to our last trip to the lakes during our Minimoon when it was so misty we hadn't been able to see a thing.  If you can get to the Lakes on a sunny day you really will be blessed with the finest views in England.

Walking along the water's edge we managed to find a quiet spot away from the other tourists (you can usually find somewhere if you walk far enough) and settled ourselves down in the sunshine to watch the boats going past.  It was one of those moments where you feel truly happy and content.

South Lakes - Ambleside

The Swan Hotel and Spa

With day one over we decided it was time for a rest so made our way to the Swan Hotel and Spa, a hotel in Newby Bridge on the southern tip of Windermere and our home for our stay.

I had been wanting to book into The Swan for a long time.  Its dreamy looking interiors had captured my attention and I'd be lying if I said the thought of an adorable pink dining room hadn't swayed my decision slightly (something which I hadn't dared mention to Simon!)  It's probably best to never judge a book by its cover because, although The Swan was beautiful, it definitely wasn't the best hotel we've ever stayed in, something that became apparent when we had a below average, overpriced evening meal there.

Luckily the extensive gin list made up for the disappointing food and, having seen the impressive collection of bottles behind the bar, I began my mission to try as many of the gins as possible.  All served in proper gin glasses with a huge variety of garnishes and tonics I spent most of my evening convincing Simon to traipse back and forward to the bar keeping me well stocked in gin and tonic while I lounged about in the sun.

South Lakes - Swan Hotel Newby Bridge Gin
The Swan is a real drinking destination especially if you're lucky enough to have good weather and want to make the  most of the evening sunshine.  They have the most picturesque terrace at the front of the hotel with a large number of seats all overlooking the water, it's a very peaceful sun trap and, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I've ever had a drink.

South Lakes - Swan Hotel and Spa
Luckily the bar at The Swan is just as beautiful as the outdoor terrace so once we'd had enough of the sunshine (I promise you it was Simon that decided that, not me!) we headed indoors to find a quiet spot.  The bar is busy which is great if you like to enjoy your drinks with atmosphere or, if like us, you enjoy  a quieter pace of life we stumbled across a lounge area just off the bar with the most amazing vibrant furnishings (I really want to decorate my lounge at home like this now!) and really comfy sofas.

Swan Hotel and Spa Newby Bridge

We had booked a "Lovely Room" for our stay, the cheapest accommodation available and not too badly priced when you compare it to other hotels in the area.  Our room was really comfortable and we were impressed with the amount of space we had for a standard room.

Unfortunately our breakfast experience at The Swan wasn't any better than our evening meal.  Flies were buzzing about the restaurant (nothing puts you off your food more than flies on the croissants), the dining room was in a bit of a mess, the buffet table wasn't fully stocked and my avocado and poached egg wasn't brilliant. To us it felt like it was the food that really let down The Swan and having had a little look on Trip Advisor since our return it seems we're not the only guests to feel this way.

Swan Hotel and Spa Newby Bridge - Breakfast

If anyone has any great hotel recommendations in the Lakes for our next visit I'd love to hear them as I dont think we'll be staying there again.

Pottering to Hill Top

The second day of our Lakes visit was another scorcher so we decided to spend some time exploring some of Beatrix Potter country that the Lakes are famed for.  Our adventure began at Hill Top, the beautiful country home that Beatrix bought following the success of her book Peter Rabbit.  Surrounded by the most beautiful countryside it's where she would sit and write some of her most famous tales.  Strolling around the colourful gardens it was easy to see how Beatrix felt so inspired at her home.

South Lakes - Hill Top

I grew up on Beatrix Potter so it was very special to have the chance to look around Hilltop and we coudn't believe the amount of her original furnishings and trinkets that were still dotted around the house including many items that are instantly recognisable from her illustrations.  The highlight had to be copies of her illustrations that she sent to her publisher when she was working on Peter Rabbit, the drawings are absolutely beautiful.

South Lakes - National Trust Hill Top

Hilltop is in the little village of Sawrey and a few steps away from Hilltop you can find plenty more recognisable landmarks from the Beatrix Potter books.  Beatrix was someone who brought her pictures to life using places that she knew well and strolling around the village almost every building is straight from the pages of one of her stories.

South Lakes - National Trust
Ice-cream Adventures in Hawkshead

Continuing our Beatrix Potter adventure our next stop was Hawskhead, another place made famous by the books.  Popping into the Beatrix Potter Gallery the lovely lady behind the counter showed us that the very building we were standing in featured in one of Beatrix's books and only a few steps outside the door we discovered loads more buildings that pop up in her illustrations.

We couldn't leave Hawskhead without visiting The Little Ice Cream Shop, the prettiest ice-cream shop I've ever seen with an impressive 22 flavours on offer and cones piled so high they were almost impossible to eat.  I went all out with two scoops of Turkish Delight topped with crushed Oreo cookies.

South Lakes - Hawkshead The Little Ice Cream Shop

Walking Tarn Hows

Our weekend in the South Lakes ended with a trip to Tarn Hows and Coniston, a beauty spot run by National Trust.  It's perfect for walking beginners as its a very short, flat, circular route that offers  beautiful scenery without having to hike up any hills.  However, despite being a very easy walk it wasn't without its struggles as Simon will tell you, he spent most of our walk running away from bugs determined to bite him!

South Lakes - Tarn Hows and Coniston

We really enjoyed exploring the South Lakes and although some parts were heavily packed with tourists (I can only imagine how crazy it gets in the school holidays!) it was a really relaxing break!

We're now busy planning our next trip and hope to visit a different part.  Let me know your favourite parts of the Lake District - where should we stay next time?


Friday, 6 July 2018

Visiting Butterfly World at Preston Park, Stockton

During our North East staycation we found ourselves driving through Teesside on our way towards the North Yorkshire coast, desperately trying to dodge the grey clouds overhead that threatened rain. Not ideal when my weather app had promised sunshine meaning our white legs were out for all to see and smothered in sunblock especially for the occasion. Realising the weather wasn't on our side we ditched the original plan and found ourselves at Butterfly World at Preston Park in Stockton.

Visiting Butterfly World at Preston Park, Stockton

Now, I have to admit I didn't have high hopes that Butterfly World was going to be able to rescue a day that was rapidly turning into a bit of a disaster but the thought of wandering around some lovely hot tropical gardens on a gloomy day was enough for us to decide to give it a go.

Thank goodness we did!

Butterfly World at Preston Park, Stockton
Butterfly World is small yet perfectly formed and despite not being the largest attraction in the North East we could have happily spent an entire day wandering about. We were kicking ourselves a little that we'd visited so late in the day and only had an hour or so to wander before closing time (we stayed until the very last possible second and for a brief moment I did consider hiding myself in a bush so I could stay the night!)

From the second we stepped into Butterfly World our jaws hit the floor. I'd expected to have to hunt out the butterflies but they were everywhere and with flashes of the  most beautiful vibrant colours dashing about in front of our eyes we didn't know where to look first.   It must have taken us a good 20 minutes to even begin our exploring because we were so mesmerised by what we saw two steps in!

Butterfly World Preston Park, Stockton
The first butterflies to really capture our attention were the Blue Morphos who could be seen from the second that we stepped into Butterfly World. They certainly aren't shy and were darting about all over the place dancing for us and showing off their beautiful blue colours. Until we got our camera out of course and then they would land and turn their gorgeous wings to their intricate camouflage pattern - they are almost impossible to photograph!

That didn't stop them playing with us though and I had several dancing about me at one point and one even landed on my head which, although rather lovely, did result in me pulling this rather special face!

Butterfly World Preston Park, Stockton - Blue Morpho

Although there are strict rules at Butterfly World not to attempt to touch or capture the butterflies if you are very still, gentle and lucky they will land on you for brief moments which is such a magical experience. I spent a good while sitting on benches that were dotted around Butterfly World just watching and hoping that a beautifully coloured butterfly would land on me and say hello.

We explored carefully watching each step to ensure we weren't about to crush any of the beautiful insects. You definitely can't go stomping around as you please as there are butterflies constantly flitting around and they move so silently it's easy to miss them.

Butterfly World Preston Park, Stockton - Butterflies

Simon and I were in our absolute element wandering around photographing the butterflies, it's a dream for amateur photographers like us and we enjoyed playing about with the settings on our camera to attempt to capture the butterflies mid flight. Although I was sulking each time Simon ran off with the camera (he tends to do that when wildlife is involved) it's worth noting that I actually managed to get some amazing shots on my iPhone. The butterflies are very easy to photograph as you can get really close so there's definitely no need to have a fancy camera to walk away with some pretty decent photographs.

Butterfly World Preston Park, Stockton - Butterfly

There are over 80 species of butterfly flying freely at Butterfly World and we had great fun trying to spot them all. Some were definitely harder to track down than others and when we finally managed to get a photo of the "green one" it was high fives all round (I'm also fairly smug as Simon had attempted to photograph it and I managed to get there first!)

Butterfly World Preston Park, Teesside
It took us probably our third lap to start looking a little closer at the plants around us and to realise that there were furry caterpillars on some of the branches. Don't ask me how on earth we missed it the first time round. Apparently there are more than a few hidden on the plants so I'd certainly say it's worth going walking round Butterfly World a few times because on each walk around you will see something new.

Butterflies Preston Park, Teesside

Butterfly World is also home to a few other creatures and we were surprised to discover snakes, lizards and meerkats in an adjacent room. I don't think I've ever been able to get so close to meerkats before and they were so lovely to watch.

Butterflies Preston Park, Teesside - Meerkat

We never expected to enjoy Butterfly World as much as we did and if you are looking for something a little different to do this Summer then I'd highly recommend an afternoon of butterfly spotting!

Butterfly World is open between 10:00 am and 4:30 pm daily and costs £4.25 for adults and £3.75 for children.

Find Butterfly World at:

Preston Park
Yarm Road
TS18 3RH

01642 791 414

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Afternoon Tea in a Vintage Caravan in Northumberland - Discovering Circa in Amble

Having recently enjoyed afternoon tea on a steam train, I think it's safe to say that if someone is serving up a cake somewhere a little bit different I'm going to want to check it out.  So when I discovered that I could get afternoon tea in a Vintage Caravan in Northumberland I knew I had to get myself to Circa in Amble to experience it.

Afternoon Tea in a Vintage Caravan in Northumberland - Discovering Circa in AmbleI must admit (and maybe this is a confession that will make some of you laugh) I quite like the idea of one day owning a caravan. Every time we pass one on the road I mention it to Simon who always responds with a very quick "no!" so for now having afternoon tea in a caravan is the closest I'll get to having one of my very own.

Circa is the most curious shop located in a very unexpected place (right next door to a petrol station!) on the outskirts of Amble. It sells a variety of nick nacks, bits and bobs, some vintage pieces and antiques - it's quite the treasure trove and worth stopping by just for a little look if you're in the area.

You wouldn't know from the outside but Circa also has a cafe and at the back of the cafe you'll discover the cutest little courtyard, the perfect sun trap and home to Annie and Daisy, the Vintage Caravans.

Afternoon Tea in a Vintage Caravan in Northumberland - Circa in Amble
As predicted, the second we stepped outside I was giggling with glee, the caravans were everything I'd hoped they would be and as the only people booked in for the afternoon I got to fully indulge my inner hippy and have a good look at Annie and Daisy.

Afternoon Tea Vintage Caravan in Northumberland - Circa in Amble

Each caravan seats 4 people and Simon and I had a table booked in Annie the blue caravan who was decked out in gorgeous wallpaper covered in pink roses with floral cushions, green cupboards and the prettiest bunting.  If I could own a caravan this would very much be it. Just imagine having a space like this to call your own!

Afternoon Tea Vintage Caravan Northumberland - Circa in Amble
After I'd finished playing caravan owner I finally calmed down enough to take a seat (taking full advantage of all the squishy cushions to get myself really comfy!) and take a look at the sandwiches on offer. When you have afternoon tea at Circa you can pick out a sandwich each from the menu which we really liked, it's great to be able to choose your favourite filling. I went for Mature Cheddar and Pickle and Simon opted for Ham with Caramelised Onion Chutney.

We were then asked to pick between a Cherry, Fruit or Cheese Scone (we both picked Cherry) and then chose a slice of cake from a selection of four - I chose a piece of Lemon and Raspberry Sponge and Simon went for a Chocolate Cake.

Afternoon Tea Vintage Caravan Northumberland - Circa Amble
Our afternoon tea stand appeared a few minutes later (we were seriously impressed by the skills our server had for getting it through the door of a tiny caravan in one piece, I definitely would have dropped it all!) and was packed with some delicious looking goodies as well as the cutest teapot decked out in a large knitted tea cosy.

Sandwiches first and we were very impressed with the size of them - nice big wedges of fresh bread packed full with a generous amount of filling. We realised after a couple of bites that unfortunately there was far too much pickle and chutney in each sandwich. I'm a huge pickle fan but even for me it was a little over the top. The amount of relish really overpowered the sandwich, I couldn't taste the cheese at all! Simon ended up scraping most of his off onto the cake stand.

Circa Amble - Afternoon Tea Vintage Caravan Northumberland

Next up were the scones which were absolutely huge, quite possibly the largest scones we've ever had on an afternoon tea. Cutting into them we were quick to discover that they were really dry. So dry they crumbled to pieces as soon as our knife touched them. Gutted! We packed them out with jam and cream which made them better but we were a bit disappointed.

Luckily the cake saved the day! My lemon and raspberry cake was really moist, full of flavour and a delicious end to the afternoon tea.  Simon's chocolate cake was also lovely but far too rich for me after that mammoth scone.

Circa Afternoon Tea Vintage Caravan Northumberland
We weren't overly surprised that the afternoon tea at Circa wasn't the best we've had in the North East. In all honesty I was going for the experience of eating in a vintage caravan rather than for the quality of the food and it really did live up to my expectations.  It wasn't awful but it wasn't anything special. I defintely don't regret our visit as I absolutely loved spending a beautiful afternoon in a cosy caravan with my husband. We were very lucky to have Annie all to ourselves and with the Beatles tunes playing quietly in the background we had the most blissful time in a caravan for two. It's quite a romantic way to spend a Saturday. Not going to lie, I did consider hooking Annie car up to our car and driving home with her - I can dream!

Circa serve afternoon tea between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm and if you want to book into one of the vintage caravans its worth calling in advance to book a table. Afternoon Tea costs £25.00 for two with a £3.00 per person supplement for dining in a vintage caravan.

Circa Vintage Caravan Northumberland
Find Circa at:

Mark's Bridge
NE65 0NG

01665 711 735
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