In the footsteps of Harry Potter, Katherine Scott discovers the magic of a family holiday the wonderful county of Northumberland.
Conveniently located less than two hours up the A1, Northumberland is a county of contrasts.
There is the dramatic coastline, imposing castles, islands which are havens for wildlife and it is steeped in religious history. Then there are the rolling hills and acre upon acre of farmland. If it’s good enough for Harry Potter then it is good enough for us – Alnwick Castle being Hogwarts in the Potter films.
A good base to explore everything the county has to offer is Beacon Hill Farm, a 360 acre farm north of Morpeth situated within sight of the sea on a raised site with stunning views in all directions.
There are fifteen 4 star and 5 star cottages dotted around 10 acres of landscaped gardens. A 40 acre beech wood lies to the east of the cottages, and the Harry Potter trail encourages families to spend time in the woods, with the opportunity to see red squirrels, roe deer, badgers and a wide range of birds. To the west end of the farm Meg’s Lake, a two acre trout lake is set in a 20 acre nature reserve.
Unfortunately, being England, one cannot always rely on the weather, so we were grateful for the great spa facilities, especially the exceptionally clean and well-maintained pool. As well as the pool, ideally set up with a carpeted surround for youngsters, there is a myriad of other facilities for adults only including the Laconium with great views, a heated floor and specialist heated beds imported from Baden Baden; a steam room; sauna, Orangery and the Garden Room and terrace. For the more active there is also a large well-equipped gymnasium.
The beauty salon is open six days a week and a full range of treatments are available, from hot stone therapy to mud wraps.
And virtually everything is included in the price, from the spa facilities, to logs for the fire and washing up liquid. It is akin to a self-catering top flight hotel with acres of land and animals. And it is a testimony to owner Alun Moore and his team that for many weeks all 15 cottages are occupied by returning visitors, many who have come for 10 years or more.
For those who wish to go further afield there is plenty to explore. The beauty of the coast, even in the rain, is breathtaking.
The nearest beach to Beacon Hill is Druiridge Bay (eight miles as the crow flies) a long stretch of beach and sand dunes with the most joyous sand imaginable. With the breakers crashing on the beach, you could be anywhere in the world.
A little further up the coast is one of England’s most breathtaking beaches, Embleton Bay, with apricot-coloured sand and views to the dramatic medieval ruin of Dunstanburgh Castle. Its giant dune system shelters some quaint 1930s summer houses; indeed Embleton seems lost in a time warp, and is still totally uncommercialised, thanks to the protection of the National Trust.
Slightly inland is Alnwick Castle and Garden. We didn’t make it into the castle but we did venture into the garden. Be warned, though, there is a separate charge for the house and the garden, the garden alone being £8. But it was worth it just for the water features, Charlie Dimmock would be in her element.
Surprisingly, waterfalls and features are a hit with the small people as well. There is also the Tree House, little more than a glorified restaurant on stilts but it does play host to two “wobbly bridges”. Not for those afraid of heights or rope bridges, but another hit with the children.
Heading up the coast again, you come to Bamburgh. With the imposing Castle behind you, you can stand on the beach looking out to the Farne Islands and see not a soul.
For the really rainy day with small children, a trip to the aquarium in Tynemouth is worth a visit, followed by fish and chips, and Marshalls for a pot of tea. Truly scrumptious!
We had a wonderful holiday in this amazing part of the country which is so close to home. I can’t wait for a return visit in the sun.