This isn’t a budget version of an Enid Blyton classic, just the two ‘Retirement Ramblers’ having a Northumberland holiday.
We’d booked 4 nights at Haven’s Haggerston Castle site, near Berwick, but our holiday began before we arrived at the van.
We stopped en-route at one of our favourite spots, The Alnwick Garden. We are both ‘Friends of The Alnwick Garden’, which means that, for an annual membership fee, we can visit the gardens as often as we like. This enables us to see the magnificent gardens in their different seasons. In addition, we receive free priority parking and various discounts, so well worth the money.
Since our last visit to The Alnwick Garden there have been some changes there, most notably to the catering arrangements. The catering is now in the hands of the renowned British catering company, Searcys. This is very much a coming home for Searcys, and is one of those, ‘you couldn’t make it up’ stories.
In 1837 John Searcy was pastry chef and confectioner to the then Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, and in 1847, after 10 years of devoted service, the Duke and Duchess agreed to John Searcy setting up his own business, and they even loaned him money to help start him off. So it was that John Searcy and Sons was established in 1847 and it is that same company that now runs the catering that can be enjoyed at Alnwick Gardens today.
It will be no surprise to regular readers of this blog, that the very first thing we did on arrival, after marvelling once again at the Grand Cascade, was sit down to coffee and scones.
Unfortunately, we were a little too late in the year to see the spectacular Cherry Blossom display, but we’ll catch it for sure next year. However, we still walked up through the orchard, followed by looking around the formal walled garden, down past the water features, up one side of the Grand Cascade and down the other side. We then had a little sit down by the Pavilion Café while we waited for the Grand Cascade to ‘do its thing’ again.
We next went for a little look around the picturesque town of Alnwick, and left via the Lion Bridge for our caravan holiday.
Haven at Haggerston Castle is very easy to find being alongside the A1, is extremely well organised, very well laid out in lots of separate areas, excellently maintained, and our home for the next four days was scrupulously clean and ready for us.
Now we have to confess to spoiling ourselves by booking a top of range mobile home that can accommodate 6 + 2 persons. However, we didn’t feel too bad about that because we thought about all the CO2 emissions we’d saved by holidaying at home.
Despite having been keen campers, motor caravanners, and static van owners in our younger days, we had never visited a site on the scale of Haggerston Castle, nor one with so many facilities. Initially we were somewhat overwhelmed, but we very soon became accustomed to everything, and the fact that it was out of season and quite quiet helped our adjustment.
The following day we visited the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The tides meant either going early morning and worrying about missing our return, or leaving it until mid afternoon which is what we did.
The weather was glorious, who needs abroad when you’ve got Northumberland, and the short drive was very pleasant, as was strolling around the village.
We only had time to visit either the Castle or the Priory. We chose the Priory and Priory Museum and will look forward to visiting the castle on our next visit.
The Priory and Museum are under the care of English Heritage and are very interesting and informative, giving a great insight into the early history of Northumberland.
We couldn’t believe our luck with the weather as the third day broke clear and sunny again. Berwick was on our agenda, but we decided to make the most of the weather and laze around the van and enjoy the on-site facilities. We roused ourselves from our reading late afternoon to stroll to the Golf Pavilion Café for ice creams, and very nice they were too.
Thursday was still sunny but a cold wind took the edge off the temperature and we made our delayed visit to Berwick Barracks.
Berwick Barracks, another English Heritage property, was completed in 1721 and was one of the first purpose-built barracks in the country, accommodating up to 600 soldiers and 36 officers in the 18th century.
The buildings are impressive and the museums well-stocked, with too many exhibits to detail here - you need to see them for yourself.
Berwick-upon-Tweed is, of course, one of the finest surviving fortified towns in Britain. Often besieged, raided and surrendered during 300 years of violent dispute between the Scots and English it changed hands 13 times. It is little wonder that the fortifications were so important and a tour of the town and walls is a must and brings history to life.
Reflecting on our short break at Haggerston Castle site, would we visit again? Definitely. The site is well located for visiting interesting places in North Northumberland and the great on-site facilities are suitable for families and couples alike.
Located in the Georgian market town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, visit Berwick Barracks for an insight into the life of the British infantrymen from the Cival War to the First World War.
One of the world's most extraordinary contemporary gardens.