Taking the granchildren on a caravan break

Horse riding at Haggerston Castle
Horse riding at Haggerston Castle
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WEARSIDE grandparents are giving mums and dads a break by taking their grandchildren on holiday.

Pat and John Smith, from High Barnes, are dedicated caravanners and enjoyed a break with their grandchildren Max and Harry...

WE’VE been great fans of caravan holidays for years. Our tourer has provided many happy holidays for the two of us, but we have room for four and we were keen to share a holiday with our grandsons.

I was looking forward to some “quality” time with Max, 10, and four-year-old Harry and they were delighted about spending a week in our caravan. As soon as I’d persuaded their mum to let us borrow the boys for a week, I started worrying.

This was likely to be a very different type of touring experience!

How would we entertain them? What sort of things would they like to do on holiday? What if it rained and I ended up with muddy boys and wet clothes? How would we meet kids their own age for them to play with?

We’ve always opted for smaller parks in slightly out of the way places. We went for peaceful and scenic places, but would that suit the boys? Would they be happy with a wonderful view and a draughty shower block?

We had a look around and found there are plenty of parks with plenty to do – providing all sorts of facilities and activities for all of us.

We booked a break at Haven Holidays’ Haggerston Castle, near Berwick.

The park is probably better known for static caravans, but has a separate touring area with more than 100 hard standing pitches.

As we reversed the caravan onto the pitch and hooked it up to the electricity, I began to realise the attractions of a bigger, well-equipped holiday park.

There was more than enough space for the awning and car parking alongside. The shower blocks (choice of two) were clean, heated, equipped with hairdryers and shaving points and the dish washing areas were under cover.

The boys were quickly excited by reading through the welcome pack, which had leaflets and brochures detailing the activities available on the park.

Set in the grounds of a former stately home, we thought Haggerston Castle had a lovely atmosphere. Beautifully landscaped with plenty of trees and shrubs, the park has a series of lakes to explore (as we were soon to discover!) by pedalo boat.

There’s not much left of the original “castle” apart from a tall tower with battlements, which disappointingly turned out to be a disused water tower – although a book on the history of Haggerston bought in the gift shop provided more than enough info to bore the boys with about the origins of the de Hagardeston family and the witch’s curse that promised the castle would be destroyed by fire (it was!).

Haggerston Castle was heaven for the boys with two heated indoor pools with a water play area, a high wire ropes course (too high for Harry but perfect for Max), a nine-hole golf course, ‘Daisy’ bikes for hire and even horse-riding – and that’s not to mention indoor games and a programme of organised sports and activities.

There was football coaching, fencing and archery sessions, tennis courts and pint-sized bowling alleys. Morning kids’ clubs offered everything – Wildlife Detectives, arts and crafts, treasure hunts, games and competitions.

Harry loved the stables, which had Shetland ponies that were the perfect size for him and offered guided pony rides for children aged from three. A Pony Club for older children meant they could get involved with grooming, tail-plaiting and other stable activities.

It would have been easy to just stay on the park, but we wanted to show the lads some of Northumberland and of course and visited Alnwick Castle – famous as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movie!

Owned by the Percy family since the early 14th century, Alnwick Castle is still the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland. Parts of the keep date back to the 12th century and it’s easy to see why it was so perfect as Hogwarts - Harry especially loved meeting the Dragon Master! The gardens (worth the extra entrance charge) are absolutely stunning!

Bamburgh Beach is only a few minutes’ drive from the park – a glorious long stretch of sand dramatically overlooked by Bamburgh Castle. We made a day of it, exploring the castle in the morning and the beach in the afternoon.

We also paid a visit to Holy Island, which was slightly more brief than intended as we misread the tide table and had to make a speedy return across the causeway to avoid spending the night there.

Evenings on the site had plenty to do thanks to the entertainment programme and we took in the music, shows and cabaret in the Show Bar.

A few of the neighbouring caravanners got together for a barbecue.

We loved having our grandsons to ourselves and are looking forward to making this a more regular event – especially as my daughter-in-law enjoyed her break too.

We loved the park. We won’t give up visiting the more remote, scenic parks, but the facilities at Haggerston Castle were perfect for this kind of holiday.

FACT FILE...

Haggerston Castle is one of 23 Haven Holidays parks offering touring facilities as well as leisure facilities, activities and entertainment.

Take your own touring caravan or motorhome to Haggerston Castle, with pitches available from just £15 per night (based on various dates in Spring for an electric hard standing pitch – but check for the other special offers)

Go to www.haventouring.com or call 0871 230 1933 for more information.

Haggerston Castle also offers static holiday homes with four-night breaks from £149 based on selected dates in standard accommodation (including early booking offers) sleeping six people. Go to www.haven.com or call 0871 230 1900 for more information.