After missing out on Turkey due to Cate getting chicken pox, we managed to get about half of our money back (check your travel insurance policy carefully, they'll do anything to reduce your payment) and it was enough for a week's break at the Haven caravan park in Berwick. No, not the one at Haggerston Castle, this one's in Berwick itself. That's Berwick on Tweed, not North Berwick, which is a few miles north in Scotland. Yes, Berwick used to be in Scotland as well, but not any more.
Anyway, a two hour drive got us to the place on Saturday afternoon. At a brief and noisy checkin area we were given our keys and we headed off to find our caravan. Then I had to go back to reception to get the correct keys for the caravan. But eventually we were in.
The park is quite large, with an entertainment complex at the entrance and the caravans spread out in named areas (we were in The Dunes) towards the cliffs. There are a few sets of steps down the cliffs to gain access to the beaches, which are best when the tide is out, but weren't drowned at all for the whole week we were there.
Our caravan was a silver class one, with 3 bedrooms. It was pretty spacious for a caravan, and we didn't feel cramped or falling over each other during the week. Mind you, we didn't have any days stuck inside with bad weather. The area is quite windy, being on a cliff-top, and you hear the wind whistling around as you try to get to sleep at night. We also had a faulty oven, which meant we had to make do with the hob and grill for the meals we made ourselves.
There's a big Morrisons just outside the town, and less than 2 minutes drive away, so we stocked up on Saturday as we settled in.
The entertainment centre is the place to go if you don't want to go to the beach. You have to make your way through all the amusement machines to get to anything, but the soft play area is quite good, the swimming pool is great, more on the evening entertainment later, but the place we visited most was the kids play area. There's just a single climbing frame/chute affair, but there's also a bouncy castle and the trampolines, which were a big hit with Cate. By the end of the week we had her doing somersaults, though we also had the occasional head-bouncing incident.
The beach was also popular, free and a good workout when you're going up and down all those steps with a child on your shoulders. Sunday was a really nice day so we spent a portion of the morning on the beach, building and decorating sand castles. The tide comes in quite quickly, so you need to watch out for it.
We took a walk around Berwick on Sunday afternoon, which didn't take too long as it's not too big a town. We went down to the harbour for a good view of the bridges and viaduct, walked along the city walls for a bit, with their cannon ready to defend the town, and went into the old guard house for a look around. There aren't many places to eat in the town, but we did spot a few restaurants for use later in the week.
Alnwick is half an hour's drive south from Berwick, and had some good press as a place to visit, so we thought we'd take a trip around the castle. It's well known from the Harry Potter films as some of the Hogwarts scenes were filmed there, and has appeared on a few other films as well. I was disappointed you have to pay for the car park, and we would have visited the adjacent Alnwick Gardens as well, which looked really good, except they wanted us to fork out again for that. Why you can't get a ticket for both attractions, I don't know.
Anyway, the castle was reasonably interesting to wander around, but the highlight was the kids area. Children can dress up as knights or princesses, play sword fights and various other games and there was a story time inside a tent, which Cate enjoyed.
Once we'd done all this we had an ice cream, visited the castle shop and had a few roly-polys down the grassy banks in the castle grounds. A good trip overall, but a shame we couldn't go to the gardens as well.
Lindisfarne, or the Holy Isle, is just 15 minutes away from Berwick, and can be reached by means of a causeway which is only accessible when the tide is out. The possibility of being stranded on the island was too much to resist, so we took the car across to see what was there. Crossing the causeway was fun, and you can see by the flat sands that the tide must come sweeping in pretty fast.
There's a decent car park on the island, and from there it's a short walk to the priory or a longer walk to the castle. We went to the castle first, which is set on a rock out on the tip of the island. We'd already been to a castle this week so decided not to bother going in. Back to the village and a packed lunch in the square, then we took a look at the priory. Again, we didn't go in, but got a good view from the hill behind, which also has some great views across the sands to the mainland and down the coast to Bamburgh Castle.
We bought some nice fudge from a shop in the village and headed back across the causeway in good time for the tide coming in.
In between our excursions we made the most of the park facilities. The beach got a few visits, sometimes just for a walk or to look for crabs, and we had a couple of trips to the swimming pool. Each night in the entertainment centre there was a show on for the kids, featuring the Haven's cast of cuddly jungle characters: Rory the tiger, Bradley Bear, Anxious the elephant and so on. There was a different show each night and the kids loved the characters, who would also appear on occasion throughout the day for photo opportunities. My only complaint about the kids show was that the sound system was awfully loud and a few kids spent most of the time with their hands over their ears. We never got a chance to go to the later shows for the adults.
We also visited the shop a good few times, which was fairly reasonable for general commodities such as tea, clothes pegs, etc, that you forget to take with you. They also had lots of themed toys for sale at premium prices, relying on pester power to open parents' purses.
Just outside the entrance to the caravan park there are a couple of remains of the city wall fortifications around Berwick. There is a tower known as the bell tower and a ruined fort with very thick walls. We took a walk to explore these ruins, and then down by the golf course to the coast where there is a coastal lookout station.
We enjoyed our trips down to the beach, and tried a bit of Tony Hart style giant artwork, in the hope that someone else might enjoy it and try out their own patterns.
On the Friday we found a little farm park just outside Berwick in the brilliantly named Conundrum. For a small price you can follow the farm trail, seeing and feeding the cows, sheep, goats, pigs and fish with feed from the farm shop. There are also a couple of play areas on the way round. There's a barn with goats, rabbits and guinea pigs, plus some toy tractors to play on and there's a cafe with some very nice cakes to try. We had a decent afternoon wandering around.
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