To Cragside via Middle Earth

Enjoyed a day out today that I regularly recommend to guests, a trip across to Cragside to see the famous Rhododendrons in full bloom – and truly beautiful they were too. Miles upon miles of these bright pink flowers along both sides of the 6 mile carriage drive and also around  Nelly’s Moss lake, where we enjoyed a walk with our six year old and her best friend.

Rhododendrons

Although we didn’t visit the house today as it was just too sunny to go inside, it is well worth a visit if you get the chance. A trip through the kitchens always reminds me of growing up at Bog Mill and the old range fire that dominated our front room, a similar one to that seen in Cragside kitchen. Their bathroom though does slightly have the edge on ours.

My very favourite part of the trip though is always the journey from Alnwick to Rothbury, the most spectacular view from Corby Crags. Demonstrated by the same view used in the publicity posters for the film The Hobbit. Though didn’t spot Gandolph as we passed today.

Northumberland

The Stable -test run

Alice enjoying her first meal in the Stable

Well they say the best way to really test the user experience in your holiday cottage is to give it a go for yourself. So this week Alice and I packed our bag and made the long journey (approx 3 minutes door to door) to the Stable cottage for the night. Actually the proximity didn’t really matter because once we shut that door we might as well have been far away because Alice screamed ‘we are on holiday!’ and the mood was set.

We had come armed with our pizza and a tipple of choice so set about testing the facilities. Never having ‘cooked on gas’ before I was interested to see how it would compare to my home fan oven but judging from the nicely toasted pizza I can say it was a success. The integrated dishwasher was a definite bonus as clearing away was done in a trice leaving the kitchen spotless and ready for the next meal.

For our evenings entertainment we had a choice of activities. Provided in the Stable  are a range of children’s dvds, a Roku stick allowing full to digital services including Netflix (by signing in on our own contract) or an XBox 360 with a selection of games. Alice’s choice for the evening was a dvd so a trip to Madagascar for the evening had us laughing all the way up to Alice’s bedtime.

Alice opted to try out the magnificent four poster bed, and who could blame her with its pocket sprung mattress and upper memory foam layer this bed was built for comfort as well as style and a great nights sleep was enjoyed- at least until 6.30am.

The early start to the day did give us the opportunity to try out some more of the Stables facilities. Opening the kitchen blind as dawn broke provided a beautiful view of the River and sheep grazing peacefully on the other side was lovely to see. 

View from kitchen window

We had brought Bunny shaped Crumpets for our breakfast and luckily I had remembered to pack plenty of butter to enjoy these, but of course being clumsy me I managed to drop a jar right on top of two of the side plates chipping them both 🙄. I will be off to the shops this morning luckily these pieces are for sale individually in Alnwick so any breakages are quickly and easily replaced- a real advantage as accidents do happen (to me anyway!) but shouldn’t cause any upset whilst on holiday.

After breakfast Alice raided the shelf load of family games and Hungry Hippos was the game of choice, family trivial pursuit and a jigsaw followed- and all of this before 8am! 

Once showered and dressed we decided as we were on our holidays then a trip to the beach was the activity of choice for the day so heading off from the cottage just 3 miles east took us to Alnmouth Southside beach, the far quieter option than Alnmouth village but watch your car, the track down is really only suitable for 4x4s but the half mile walk is definitely worth it if you are able.

Alnmouth south side

A grand day out- Newcastle Quayside

Just a 20 minute train ride away from Alnmouth Station will take you right into the centre of Newcastle. If you fancy a break from the countryside for a day then I’d highly recommend the trip. Ian and I popped through this weekend to take in some culture and a trip to see some modern art at the Baltic gallery didn’t disappoint- confused us admittedly, but think that’s what it’s supposed to do isn’t it???

 A stroll up from the Quayside into the centre of Newcastle is worth the effort, not just to get to John Lewis but the surrounding architecture never fails to impress, and see if you can spot which bits have started in recent films.  One of my favourite Streets is Grainger Street where Grey’s monument stands proud and central, and the latest Transformers movie was filmed here- after they had finished filming in Alnwick of course.

The Stable almost finished

That moment I’ve been waiting for for what seems like an age finally happened today. I photographed the first room totally finished in the Stable cottage and what a picture it is! Love, hard work and a great deal of thought have come together to make this bee-utiful bedroom.

An L shaped, initially uninspiring room has been transformed into a stylish, cosy and welcoming double bedroom with 5 drawer chest, triple mirrored glass wardrobe and dressing table and chair. Feature lighting and cosy rugs complete the space. 

Fingers crossed for more photos of completed rooms tomorrow, first guests check in Friday. Hope they enjoy.

Bookings being taken now for short breaks throughout winter and spring, weekly bookings with Saturday changeover from Easter.

Introducing ‘The Stable’

The Stable, with it’s large patio doors opening onto paved area overlooking the River Aln. Wheelchair friendly open plan lounge/dining area, ground floor double bedroom, twin mezzanine bedroom, brand new fully fitted kitchen and new fixtures and fittings throughout, the Stable is set to be a rival for my affections for favourite cottage. This, the third and final cottage at Bog Mill is set to open to the holiday cottage market in the next few weeks.

Work is well under way in renovating the Stable, as my painting arm will testify! So many beams certainly make for a spectacular ceiling but having to paint each panel does mean a lots of cutting in edges, will be really glad to finish the painting I must admit, even if the view from up there is pretty spectacular.

The brand new kitchen is being fitted next week, choosing that has been an exciting challenge and hopefully I’ve got it right, will post photos as soon as I can and you can tell me what you think. The new furniture continues to be chosen, purchased and delivered so should all be in place within the next few weeks, bookings being taken now from end of November onwards, so if you fancy being one of the first guests to try this stunning new cottage get in touch. Can’t wait to welcome the Stable’s first guests.

The Apple Core, Lucker

Our next foray into exploring the eateries of the area took us roughly ten miles up the road to the small village of Lucker. I’d heard good things about a newly reopened restaurant and pub in this tiny village and felt it was time to try it out for ourselves.

On arriving at the Apple Core I was suitably impressed by the ‘kerb appeal’ of the Apple Core eatery situated opposite it’s sister pub The Apple Inn, clearly newly renovated and and clean modern feel to the building which extended to the interior on entering the building. A large open plan restaurant with open kitchen and small bar area. Advertised as a Pizzeria and Creperie although it was clear from the menu that they offered much more besides. I was particularly tempted by the Mixed Seafood Burger-Hake, Coley & Salmon Burger, Chilli Tempura King Prawn, Avocado & Spiced Tomato Relish, Fresh Leaf Salad and Fries, or indeed the Pan Roast Duck Breast Sweet Potato Fondant, Trilogy of Baby Vegetables, Caramelised Baby Apples,Bretagne Cider Reduction. But it was the Pizza which I had been looking forward to, my initial choice was the FORMAG

GIO di CAPRA-Mozzarella Base, Spinach, Red Onion, Sun-dried Tomatoes & Goats Cheese,topped with Balsamic Glaze but as this was also Ian’s choice, and I have a personal rule that I can’t have the same option as him so I went for my other personal favourite the PICANTE-Tomato, Mozzarella, Pepperoni, Jalapeños, Chilli Flakes & Fresh Chillies which didn’t disappoint, but I must admit Ian’s choice did look fantastic and his unwillingness to share did lead me to believe he had got the best option on this occasion, maybe I’ll have to change my unwritten rule if he keeps this good choice habit up!

Now we couldn’t leave the Apple Core without sampling one of their wonderful crepes, our table was situated right beside the open kitchen and all evening these delightful creations had been being prepared and passed before us. I opted for the Caramelised Banana and Alnwick Rum crepe which was served with a small jug of pouring cream and Ian went for the Raspberry and White Chocolate option, suffice to say neither of us was left disappointed.

Reflecting back on our overall meal experience I have to say the decor and quality of food really made the evening for me. However I did feel slightly let down in the hosting. The table next to us had a blond female waitress and eves dropping on their conversation left me a little jealous, she, I felt had it just right lively chats and a real warmth in their table chat, for us however although the man serving us was absolutely polite and efficient I did feel a complete lack of interaction whatsoever other than asking our menu choices was little unsociable.

In conclusion I would very much recommend the Apple Core but if you get the option see if you can get the slightly older blond waitress as I think it will make your evening a far more relaxed and enjoyable one.

Strawberry lounge cafe

Continuing in my mini series  of cafe/ restaurant reviews yesterday  I tried out the Strawberry Lounge on Narrowgate in Alnwick. Finding myself in the rare situation of only having one of my children and myself at home I decided it was  perfect timing to take him out for a quick treat. The Strawberry Lounge has long been Adam’s cafe of choice although must admit that since the arrival in Alnwick of Costas I have found myself opting for a posher coffee when not in his company. Now, one of the Strawberry Lounges key selling points for me I must admit is the value for money, not sure I know anywhere else where you can take your child have a drink and scone each and still walk out with change from a fiver- and a very happy child to boot!

Now when you first walk into the Strawberry Lounge just feast your eyes upon their wide array of homemade scones, for this is what they are most famous (at least in my household). Flavours on the day of our visit included Strawberry meringue and white chocolate, Camembert and Tomato and Rhubarb and Custard, to name just 3 of the dozen or so on offer and at a price of just £1.40 including butter and jam then really what’s not to like?

Decor has been updated since my last visit making for a lovely cosy feel to the place  and the fridges and counters were brim full of what looked to be tasty treats.  Can’t comment on the rest of their food currently but feel in my role of advisor to Bog Mill visitors it would be sensible to return again in the near future, purely for research  obviously! And if you do make it along yourselves during your stay please let me know how you get on.

Leave me any recommendations you suggest in the guest books in the cottages and I’ll feed that info back for others to benefit, and obviously I’ll have to test them out myself too if they sound really good, it’s a hard job but someone has to do it! Rx

Surf Northumberland

A friend’s birthday gave us the perfect opportunity to try out a sport I’ve always wanted to give a go. Although a regular swimmer in the sea around our beautiful Northumberland coast, surfing was something I had never really tried beyond body boarding with my kids. So it was on Saturday that myself and four other friends- who really were old enough to know better took to the waves.

And what a fantastic time we had! Our teacher, Sally is an old colleague of mine from when I worked as a swimming teacher has opened a brand new surf school.  Surf Northumberland is in its first season and she’s so in her element that I can’t imagine a better job for her. The passion she has for the sea and surfing couldn’t be clearer, from the moment we arrived her stated aim of ‘just wanting everyone to enjoy themselves as much as she does’ is clear and she certainly managed it with our group of feisty forty somethings. I just can’t wait to get back out there again and should you wish to give it a go too Sally offers adult lessons for £30 an afternoon and kids for £25. More details on her website www.surfnorthumberland.co.uk.

I’d highly recommend it .

A family of Oyster Catchers

 

Admit I had to consult the bird book to identify these beautiful birds but their distinctive long red beaks and black and white markings mean a family of Oyster Catchers have joined us to enjoy their holidays at Bog Mill.

Walk too close and a very protective parent calls to his family until the danger has passed, so photos are a bit distant but what lovely birds, I hope they stay around for a while.