Thursday, 5 December 2019

Celebrate Christmas at Cragside

This is an advertisement feature with National Trust Cragside

I always love to fill the first day of December with plenty of Christmas fun, it's usually the day that I convince Simon to pull the Christmas tree out of the cupboard and I love to ensure that our whole day is filled with plenty of Christmas cheer and festive activities. This year we decided to celebrate the start of Christmas at Cragside, one of the most beautiful National Trust sites in the North East and somewhere that we have never visited during December before.

Celebrate Christmas at Cragside

Visiting Cragside is the perfect way to start your Christmas celebrations with plenty of seasonal activities to keep your whole family entertained for a full day. So whether you want a great place to blow off the cobwebs, a delicious mince pie or to meet Father Christmas there is something to suit everyone at Cragside.

Driving down the road into the Cragside Estate we were greeted to the most beautiful Winter Wonderland of frost tipped trees, we felt like we'd jumped into a Christmas Card Mary Poppins style, the views were so incredible it almost didn't seem real. If you are looking for a really stunning place for a Winter walk this Christmas time then I would definitely recommend heading to Cragside.

Christmas at Cragside Northumberland

Christmas at Cragside

We began our Christmas at Cragside with a visit to the house, somewhere that we have never actually been into before (shocking really when you consider its rich North East history!). Used as an external filming location for Jurassic Park, my husband was particularly excited to step inside although I did have to tell him we were on the look out for Christmas decorations, not dinosaurs!

Christmas at Cragside

If you are visiting Cragside this month then popping into the house is a must. Parts of the ground floor and some of the bedrooms have been decorated for a traditional Victorian Christmas. Dimly lit with fires and fairy lights, the upstairs bedrooms transport you back to Christmas Eve where children are getting ready for bed, hanging their stockings out for Father Christmas whilst the adults in the neighbouring room are getting ready for the party downstairs.

Christmas at Cragside House
Following the holly garlands down the staircase we explored the rooms on the ground floor, each more impressive than the last in their seasonal decorations. I loved the pretty paper decorations then, just when I'd decided to maybe keep our own decorations simple this year, we found our way into the most beautiful dining room complete with a huge tree and very decadent spread.  Just imagine having your Christmas lunch in a room like this.

Victorian Christmas at Cragside House

Every weekend at Cragside house you have the opportunity to meet the Victorian Cooks and following our well trained noses we found our way into the kitchen where mince pies had just been taken out of the oven.  The smell was absolutely incredible and made my tummy growl.

Christmas at Cragside House Kitchen
The house at Cragside is open between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm (last admission at 2:30 pm) 
Normal Admission charges apply. 

Wreath Making Workshop

Next on our Festive agenda was a Wreath Making Workshop inside Cragside house. Having tried wreath making a couple of times before I have to say it's definitely not my greatest skill but if, like me, you struggle to make things look beautiful please don't let this put you off. Creating your own wreath is such an incredible way to spend your time, truly gets you into the mood for Christmas and is so much fun.

Christmas at Cragside - Wreath Making
The Wreath Making Workshop at Cragside is extra special as wreaths are created using a traditional method, natural materials from the gardens at Cragside and lead by one of the gardeners of the Estate. I loved asking questions about all of the different festive foliage that can be found round the Estate and the abundance of red berries this year has meant that the collection for the wreaths are particularly spectacular.

Christmas at Cragside - Wreath Making Workshop

The best thing about wreath making is that once you've got the basics there really isn't a right or wrong way to create your design. Every single wreath in our workshop looked different and each one looked so effective. That said, I'm really not joking when I say that I'm beyond useless at crafting so I ended up helping Simon with his, although in reality I was bossing him about whilst drinking mulled wine.

Christmas at Cragside - Mulled Wine

Yes, I did say mulled wine! The Wreath Making Workshops include a cup of mulled wine and a mince pie which you can enjoy half way through the class - just be careful not to drop your foliage into your cup!

Considering how much homemade wreaths cost to buy in the shops creating your own at Cragside is such a cost effective way of making your home look really lovely this Christmas time. I never thought we'd be able to make something we'd be happy to display but we actually do have our creation hanging with pride from our front door.  It'll certainly be a talking point this Christmas.

Christmas at Cragside - Wreath

Wreath Making Workshops take place on 7, 8, 14 and 16 December and are adult only. 
The workshop costs £28.00 to join - call 0344 249 1895 to book your place

Christmas Lunch at Cragside

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a Festive Lunch and we ended our visit to Cragside with a three course feast with all of the trimmings. Served up in their tea room in December, the menu offers a perfect little choice of traditional favourites and a complimentary hot punch to welcome you in from the cold. We enjoyed ours by the fire, the perfect way to warm our fingers, tummies and toes on such a cold day.

Christmas at Cragside - Punch by the Fire
There's nothing better on a cold Winter's day than a nice hot soup so we both opted for Soup of the Day (£4.75) to start our Festive Lunch. The delicious bowl of vegetable soup was spot on (I often order soup from National Trust as it's always so good) and served with a very generous hunk of bread.  It was a pretty filling start to our meal so I'm glad we went in hungry - if you're planning on heading to Cragside for a Christmas lunch, make sure you leave yourself plenty of room!

Christmas at Cragside - Festive Lunch

It wouldn't be Christmas without Turkey and so Simon decided to go for the Traditional Roast Turkey with all of the Trimmings (£11.95) as his main course. It was served with what was definitely the largest jug of gravy I have ever seen. I couldn't believe the jug was for just one person and it was so welcoming to not have to ask for more. There's nothing worse than a Christmas lunch with a stingy allocation of gravy. I definitely picked myself one of the good guys because my husband voluntarily passed me one of his pigs and blankets and it was delicious! If you're after a good traditional festive lunch then this one ticks the boxes.

Christmas at Cragside - Turkey Lunch

Although not a vegetarian I do find myself sometimes getting a little tired of turkey at this time of year so I decided to go for the equally festive alternative of Cranberry and Mushroom Wellington (£9.95). Served with a large jug of Vegetable Gravy it was huge, stuffed full and absolutely defeated me - it was hard to stop but I needed to save myself for the all importation dessert.

Christmas at Cragside - Christmas Lunch

The temptation of Classic Christmas Pudding served with Orange and Mead Sauce was almost too much to resist but in the end we both decided to finish our meals with the Chocolate Tart, Passionfruit Sorbet with Caramelised White Chocolate (£4.95). It was very indulgent and rich and perhaps a little too heavy after a full two course meal but there were no regrets, we both managed to polish the whole lot off.

Christmas at Cragside - Christmas Lunch Tea Room

Christmas Lunch at Cragside is the perfect way to celebrate the festive season and is particularly great for families. As we tucked in to our meal several larger groups were also sitting down to eat and it was lovely to see tables filled with family members spanning generations. The tea room is very child friendly so the best place to bring the whole family for a sit down meal.

Christmas Lunch is served every day up until 22 December.  Booking is essential on 01669 622 038 or e-mail for a booking form. 

Christmas at Cragside - Tea Room

We absolutely loved our Christmas day trip to Cragside, it was the most special way to spend a cold Winter's day and to kick off December. If I wasn't feeling Christmassy before I certainly am now.  If you're looking for somewhere to enjoy some Festive fun with friends or family then a trip to Cragside really is a must for your diary.

Christmas at Cragside Rothbury
Find Cragside at:

NE65 7PX

This is a sponsored feature with National Trust. We also received a complimentary Wreath Making Workshop and Festive Lunch for Two.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Newcastle Theatre Royal Pantomime 2019 - Beauty and the Beast Review

This is an advertisement feature with Newcastle Theatre Royal 

As a couple without children you may be wondering why a trip to the Newcastle Theatre Royal to see this year's Pantomime, Beauty and the Beast was a must in our Festive calendar. I mean, Pantos are for kids right? The silly songs, boos & hisses and cheesy lines are surely something that we have all grown out of?


If you are yet to experience a Pantomime as an adult I honestly believe that you are missing out. Adult life is not fun - the house chores, budgeting dramas and office politics - by the time I get to December I'm usually feeling pretty drained and in the need of a really good laugh and a night out with my husband - which is why the Newcastle Theatre Royal Panto is an essential part of my Christmas.

Newcastle Theatre Royal Pantomime 2019 - Beauty and the Beast Review

I have been to a number of pantomimes in the region and, between you and me, the Newcastle Theatre Royal offering is the very best with a high quality production that always delivers impressive choreography, beautiful sets, great special effects and catchy songs.  It is also the only Panto that actually makes me laugh out loud with plenty of jokes for the grownups, slap-stick that is actually funny and some hilarious ad libs when things go a little wrong. It is bonkers silly mayhem from start to finish and is guaranteed to put a smile on my face.

This year was Simon's first ever experience of the Newcastle Royal Pantomime, and having had to put up with me going on and on about how great it was when I went without him last year he wasn't going to miss out this time round.

It's become a Geordie Christmas tradition to see the legendary father and son team Danny Adams and Clive Webb who are appearing in their fifteenth consecutive Theatre Royal pantomime this year. Forget the soap actors and 90s pop stars, the Theatre Royal Newcastle turn their back on the usual gimmick casting, instead bringing us true icons who we've been loving in the Panto for years. This is what brings the crowds of happy people into the theatre to enjoy the Panto every Christmas.  It's no surprise that over 78,000 tickets have been sold this year.

Newcastle Theatre Royal Pantomime - Beauty and the Beast Review

The scene was set as we were introduced to the village of Geordieville, an immediate clue that this Panto was going to be full of local humour which, of course, we all love. In fact it wouldn't be a Theatre Royal Panto without the famous "Hiya Hinny" would it? Shouting that out whenever Chris Hayward steps onto the stage makes you feel like you're part of some kind of exclusive Geordie club albeit with a few thousand other people. Combine that with some great Geordie characters, local gags and two original Geordie songs and we're in for a night that makes us feel as proud as punch to be in the North East.

Although the Pantomime more or less follows the traditional story of Beauty and the Beast complete with the beautiful Belle (performed brilliantly by the fabulous Laura Evans), a Beast and, of course, a rose the story is intertwined with the most amazing comedy sketches and gags from Danny, Clive and our favourite castle idiot, Michael Potts (whose deadpan face never fails to crack me up).  You can expect plenty of rude jokes for the adults, a lot of slime, great gags for the kids and hilarious audience participation.

Newcastle Theatre Royal Panto - Beauty and the Beast Danny Adams

The Newcastle Theatre Royal Panto isn't all just "she's behind you" and daft gags, in fact I would say it's the only Panto I have ever seen that is full of original content.  A lot of Pantos in the region use the same songs and jokes as each other and it all gets a little predictable! The Theatre Royal always takes its Panto to the next level and the West End style production means there's plenty of on the edge of your seat drama - this year's chase in the woods with the wolves was particularly great to watch.

I'm always slightly nervous sitting at the theatre with my husband who isn't as mad for the stage as I am and will sometimes sit there, arms folded looking like he wants to be somewhere else. But he was roaring with laughter all evening, in fact he has been quoting Danny Adams' lines since we got back (which is beginning to get on my nerves!).  As we headed into the interval I couldn't wait for the lights to come back up so we could discuss our favourite parts, there were just so many.

Newcastle Theatre Royal Pantomime - Beauty and the Beast Danny Adams

The absolutely highlight for us though came at the very end during Danny's Song Sheet - an opportunity for the kids to get on stage and join in. The whole thing had us crying with laughter and the set finished with the most hilarious twist that I honestly can't wait for you all to see - it is brilliant and one of the funniest things I have ever seen on stage.  Just you wait!

If you have tickets for this year's Pantomime at the Newcastle Theatre Royal you are in for a truly incredible night and I am very jealous. I am desperate to go again and am already counting down the months until next year's offering. Christmas really isn't Christmas until you've been to the Panto and this year's really is the best that I have ever seen.

Newcastle Theatre Royal Pantomime - Beauty and the Beast

What you need to know:
  • Beauty and the Beast runs from Tuesday 26 November to Sunday 19 January
  • Running time is approx 2 hours 15 mins (including an interval)
  • Tickets cost from £14.00 and selling fast! Get yours at the Theatre Royal Box Office, on the phone on 08448 112121 or online at 
Find Newcastle Theatre Royal at:

100 Grey Street

08448 11 21 21

We attended Press Night with complimentary tickets. 
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