Brilliant Places to go for free… with the bairns!

Guest post from Kathryn Delaney at Brilliantly Social

Aren’t we lucky living in such a brilliant place!? 

I’ve been asked by the brilliant For The Love of The North to compile a blog about brilliant places to go with the bairns! Now, I must confess that I’m not a born & bred Northerner, having only lived in Newcastle for seven years. BUT I think this gives me an advantage, as I’m still discovering places to go!

But now that we’ve found the places that the bairns love the best, we tend to stick to them, on rotation, because a happy bairn breeds a happy parent! Isn’t that how it works out!?

Having said that, we’re not stupid, we always make sure that there’s something in it for us too… Our own little pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Normally culmintaing in a pub!

So, this list is mighty long and as you might find, it doesn’t really throw up any hidden gems. It’s just a list of our favourite places to go as a family. I’m sure there are more, in fact, I KNOW there are more. So please feel free to add them into the comments section below & lets get this thing really flying!

But for now, here it is. Brilliant places to go, for free, with the brilliant bairns!

The Coast

The North East coastline is SO beautiful & everywhere you look is a picture postcard with its many ancient castles & seaside coastal towns but sometimes you don’t have to go very far to have the best day out with the kids. For us, sometimes the shorter the car journey, the better & that’s why we’ll never tire of Tynemouth. You don’t even have to drive! Why not pop on the Metro & arrive into the beautiful Victorian train station in style (and not having searched for a parking spot for hours). If you visit on a Saturday or Sunday travelling by Metro is your best option & then you’ll be lucky enough to step right off the train & into Tynemouth Market, one of the loveliest markets in the North East. Selling an array of arts, crafts, antiques, food & bric a brac this is certainly one of Tynemouth’s highlights and the perfect way to start your day in this lovely spot. 

Once you’ve browsed the market then you can browse the high street too, with it’s many cafes, bars & independent boutiques there’s loads to see & all at quite a nice slow pace as you slowly meander towards the sea. If you’re peckish & fancy a bite to eat, then there are plenty of eateries to choose from here, including good old fish n’ chips which the kids always love. But if it’s seafood you’re after, why not save yourself and go all out & dine at Riley’s Fishshack.

This brilliant shack on King Edward’s beach is THE perfect spot to relax and enjoy some of the freshiest fish & seafood you can get, whilst the kids happily play on the beach. Fresh fish. Beer. Beach. Happy Kids, playing AWAY from you for what feels like hours! Bliss. What more could you ask for? I could actually just stay here all afternoon eating great food & listening to great tunes & if you’ve queued for a long time (as this is one sought after shack) then I’m sure that’s just what you’ll want to do! If you get good weather, then the market & Rileys’ is definitely enough for a brilliant day out in our book. So why don’t you stay until the sun goes down, the twinkling fairy lights come on & the moon lights up the north sea.

One beach over from King Edward’s you’ll find Longsands Beach, where our bairns always have a brilliant time whatever the season. They’ve even been known to have a very deep paddle in December (one a little bit more than a paddle and a call to emergency services wasn’t far off! Eeek!) and you can guarantee that they’ll build a sandcastle or start digging to Australia whatever the weather, even if there’s a hard frost on the sand and their fingers have turned to icicles! The natural light on this beach is gorgeous & with the addition of Crusoes cafe & now The View, a hot chocolate with marshallows in the winter or big fat ice-cream in the summer, is always on the menu. It’s a great beach to take a great big stride across or equally just as nice to sit & watch the surfers as the kids jump in & out of the tide. 

Aswell as eating fish, we like to buy it to & a trip the the Fish Quay in North Shields is always fun. There’s a great atmosphere down there and with the addition of the Old Low Light and it’s changing exhibitions & arts & crafts for kids, you’ll always find something to do. Plus, you’ll also always find somewhere to get a pint ( I told you there has to be something in it for us) and we love the Salty Seadog & it’s plethora of gins!

Further up the coast, Cullercoats Beach is always a hit in the summer for us as the beach feels quite protected & manageable… And lo & behold, there are great cafes! Further along to Whitley Bay (not forgetting to make a pit-stop at the brilliant For The Love of The North of course) a walk out to St Mary’s Lighthouse is always lovely & if you go armed with fishing nets (or you can buy them in the Lighthouse shop) then you may just be able to find some little crabs in the rock pools. But remember to keep your eye on the tide!

While we’re on the subject of lighthouses, we really love it at Souter Lighthouse. In fact, we love that whole stretch of coast from South Shields up to the dramatic Marsden cliffs & the Marsden Grotto. Who wouldn’t like a pub in a cave!? Is it time for a pint again already!? It’s a lovely long walk along the rugged coastline, one not to be done with small moaning children mind you! However, something that will certainly perk them up is a stop of at the Ocean Beach Pleasure Park. I have one brilliant bairn who is just MAD for funfairs & whenever we go here (which is actually not often enough) he tells us over & over again that he has had the BEST DAY EVER! And actually, it’s pretty damn good. It’s cheaper than your useful funfair, the rides are pretty decent, it’s beside a beach, which is a rather lovely beach I’d like to add, the fish & chips are great & there’s a brilliant park next door with a great play area, boating lake & miniature train ride. What’s not to love!? South Shields, we’re big fans!

Some of our favourite beach walks though are further afield. We love to travel up the coast & visit beautiful Alnmouth. It’s always a delight to take a stop on route at Barter Books & curl up in front of one of the many fires in the old waiting room with a classic novel. No, I’ve never done that! Are you joking!? With two kids in tow!? Ha! Chance would be a fine thing but oh, how I’d love to… Alnwick itself is very pretty but the kids would much rather be in the castle or the Alnwick Gardens. Which, I hasten to add, is a brilliant day out! We went in April when the Japanese blossom trees were in full bloom and they actually took my breath away. The kids & I sat on one of their many swings hanging from the trees & swung back & forth gazing up at the beautiful colours for what felt like hours... It was probably only about ten minutes but this small moment of peace & tranquility was a miracle in itself. It didn’t last long though before we had to jump to it & head straight back to the many brilliant water features which kept the kids highly entertained all day long… And very wet! Note to self; bring a change of clothes.*Technically Alnwick Gardens is only free for the bairns. With every adult ticket purchased up to 4 children can get in for free.

We love jumping in the car and taking a tour along the coast to the lovely seaside towns of Seahouses, Beadnell, Bamburgh, Embleton, Craster & Lower Newton By The Sea which also all have great pubs! But the Jolly Fisherman in Craster & The Ship Inn at Lower Newton by the Sea get a special mention in our best pub by a beach book!