The National Railway Museum at Shildon

Having a rare free day together as a family we decided on a trip to the railway museum at Shildon in County Durham. It’s a sister museum to the huge railway museum at York. The museum entry is completely free but donations are welcome.

Parking is easy to access and close to the museum, it’s also completely free and there are no time restrictions for visiting.

Having never visited before I was quite surprised by the sheer size of the building and amount of things to see and do. The museum is housed in a large industrial type unit with glass front which is easily accessible for both wheelchair users and pushchairs.

The museum itself filled with an array of over 1,000 items from the last 300 years of railway history including actual locomotives, art work and railway memorabilia. You can climb up to some of the trains to have a peek inside and wander through looking at and touching some of the items. There’s plenty of information and interesting facts to read and helpful volunteers dotted around who are happy to help and share their knowledge.

There’s the Platform 7 Cafe (which is closed at the moment due to refurbishment), toilets with baby changing facilities, vending machines with hot and cold drinks, confectionery and a gift shop selling a range of items items from Thomas the Tank children’s toys to railway prints and pictures. There’s also a little area for children to play with wooden blocks and more toy trains which the little man would happily have played with all day.

The little man loved being able to play with the little trains and tracks in the gift shop and I think it’s a nice touch that they have one out on display which children can play with and try out. I also think we may have found his Christmas present!

During our visit to the railway museum there was a Meccano exhibition being held in the main building. It was free to enter and there were various display tables dotted round the muesums giving us the opportunity to see some fabulous models, speak to the makers and even buy some of the kits. The little man thoroughly enjoyed watching all the models in action, and we ended up buying him a vintage junior Meccano kit because it was made up in the shape of a digger and he kept shout ‘Digga’.

Once we’d gone round the building, looked at all of the trains and the Meccano models we headed outside to see what else there was.

We hadn’t realised when we first got there, but you can actually have a ride on the train. The journey is very short but we decided to give it a go. Where ever we go we seem to find steam trains. It cost Hubby and I £2.90 each for a return journey which took about 15 minutes there and back. It was free for the little man but I do think it would work out expensive if you had a large family.

The journey was short and but sweet. We were able to stand outside on the train so the little man could watch the smoke and the drivers.

There’s also a large children’s play area outside the museum. There’s space for children to run around, picnic tables and benches and plenty of grass to have  picnic. There’s also a nice little walk along the edge of the railway lines if you fancy a little jaunt during your visit. 

We really enjoyed the Railway museum at Shildon and we’ll definitely be returning. There’s quite a lot of family friendly events on over the summer months which you can see here including toy fairs and a visit from Dora the Explora. 

We spent around two and a half hours at the museum and if the weather had been a bit warmer, we’d probably have stayed longer and gone for a walk along the edge of the lines. I think you could easily spend a half day on site without getting bored, particularly if you have younger children.

When we return we’ll be taking our own food though. I’m unsure how much food is in the cafe as it was closed during our visit. We did check out the small coffee van outside that sells hot drinks and sandwiches. The prices are extremely high at £2 for a cup of tea and £4 for a sandwich made with two slices of plain bread! If you eat on site your cheap day out could become very expensive, very quickly.


A visit to York – October 2014

Last week Hubby and I took the little man down to York for a few days for a list minute break.

After much searching and Trip Advisoring we finally settled on the wonderful Blackeney House, a beautiful, spacious and friendly B & B set in a large Edwardian house. Blackeney House is a pleasant 20 minute stroll out of York City Centre. 

When we go away we usually have a jam packed itinerary but on our trip to York we decided on a more laid back approach. Hubby and I have been to work many times so we’ve seen the touristy things so for this visit we made no plans at all. 

We wandered the blustery streets, looked at the beautiful buildings, window shopped along the Shambles and strolled through the museum gardens

We were lucky with the weather, which was fine and sunny but really windy. 

We paid a visit to York Railway Museum where we ate lunch on the Station Hall restaurant and wandered round the exhibitions.The museum is donation only, but you are accosted at the entrance to try ensure you donate. We hadn’t actually realised it was free until we were half round as the entrance is manned with tills. Whilst the £6 donation we gave was rather reasonable for size of the place I would have preferred to donate if and when I wanted too rather than before I’d even been inside. 

I was pleased to find a small soft play area inside the Railway Museum which was a welcome half hour stop for the little man.

We didn’t visit York Museum this time but we did have a wander round the gardens, which were stunning. I love this time of the year. The burnt colour of the leaves goes so well with the crisp Autumn air. Everyone seemed to have the same idea as us, as the gardens were pretty busy with either people on their lunch breaks taking in the views or other visitors going for a walk.

We even came a cross a cute little squirrel who was extremely tame and keen to pose for photographs. 
I love York, it’s such a beautiful, quaint city with so much to do, oh and McArthur Glen isn’t far if you fancy some designer bargains.
I’m already looking forward to my next York visit at the end of the month, this time for some retail therapy at the Christmas market and  cocktails with the girls. 


Old Hall Farm, Bouth, Lake District

While we were in the Lakes another place we visited was Old Hall Farm – a traditional working farm set in a very scenic location. 

It cost £15 for entry for the three of us. Hubby and I were each £7.50 and the little man was free as he is under 5. Children aged between 5 and 15 cost £5. 

We weren’t too sure what to expect as while we were in the Lakes we really struggled to get both internet on our phones or wifi, so we couldn’t check reviews or details online. We only knew about the farm as we picked up a leaflet while we were out and about. 

The farm is located in Bouth, south of Lake Windermere, it’s well sign posted but you do need to go up some narrow lanes to get there. There’s a good sized car park and everything is suitable for pushchair access. 
It’s a historic working farm with a variety of animals, including horses, cows and pigs. There’s also a children’s play area, and cute little tea room which you can visit without paying to get into the farm itself. 
The farm was pleasant enough but to be honest we found there was very little to do, despite the fact their website (which I managed to eventually have a read of when we got home) advertises various activities being available, including Jersey cow milking, ice cream making and animal feeding. We saw none of this taking place during out visit, or any option to as to do it.
As our son is very young that didn’t bother us too much but if you visit with older children I think you may be a little disappointed and I think they’d get bored very quickly. 
There are cows, pigs, dogs, horses and ponies, a donkey and some pigs as well as chickens running round everywhere. You can also wander round the barns looking at the old machinery and farm equipment.
There’s a barn filled with bales of straw and a tractor for children to explore and play on. The little man loved playing with the straw but was determined to eat it. 

The little man and his Dad were lucky enough to have a short ride on a small pony and trap. He couldn’t have looked less impressed if he tried!

There’s a little area for small children to play in opposite the tea room. It’s really sweet with little diggers and tractors and there are picnic benches so parents can sit and watch.

We paid a visit to the Chicken Shed tea room which is lovely. You can have a quick cuppa or try some of their delicious home made scones with jam and cream. The prices weren’t too bad, they were about average for The Lakes. I think it cost us around £10 for two cuppas and two scones. We sat outside and enjoyed the sun while we ate our scones and were pestered incessantly by a black Labrador who ended up getting half of our scones. I can imagine some wouldn’t be quite so keen with a dogs head on their lap while the ate their dinner.

Overall I thought the farm was quite nice, small but a pleasant place to visit. The little man doesn’t need to much entertaining so it was nice to walk round and look at the animals and let him touch things but I think older children would find it difficult to stay entertained. It kept us occupied for a couple of hours but with refreshments and entry it was quite expensive considering what we say.


Durham Botanic Gardens is part of Durham University and is used for learning within the university. It’s also open to the public for a small entrance fee. There’s a free car park but it is quite small and I imagine on a hot day you’d really struggle to get parked. There’s a Park and Ride car park nearby which you could pay to park in and walk along to the gardens. 

The gardens themselves are about 5 minutes in the car out of Durham city centre. 

It costs £4 for adult entry with concessions at £3, and children and students at £1.50. We paid £5.50 for the three of us to get in as under 5’s get in free and my student card is still valid until December. 

The gardens are open for the majority of the year, other than at Christmas and once you’ve paid to get in you can stay for the full day if you want too. 

You can buy some of the seeds from the garden in entrance foyer with a suggested donation of £1 a packet. We picked up a packet of ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ and ‘Malva Moschata – Alba’ which we may get round to planting … one day .. . when our garden finally looks like a garden.

The gardens are a massive 10 hectares in size with an abundance of wild flowers, trees and wildlife. It had been years since I’d been prior to our recent visit and I’d forgotten how beautiful it was. 

There are sculptures dotted through out the gardens too, some hidden amongst the trees. 

There are plants and trees from around the world, including Japan, China, North America, South Africa, and New Zealand with the majority clearly marked with informative signs and information plaques. 

There’s also a woodland garden, alpine garden and a bamboo grove. There’s a small Japanese Friendship Garden filled with beautiful cherry blossom trees. 

There’s a large hot house which is divided into three sections near the visitors centre. It contains an variety of tropical rainforest plants, desert plants and and absolutely huge Amazonian water lily. Sadly my camera kept steaming so I couldn’t get any decent pictures of inside the hot house but it was an unexpected treat and there’s even a button to stimulate rainforest rain which the little man loved.

There’s a small selection of tropical creepy crawlies in one section of the hot house and some stick insects which the little man enjoyed watching climb all over his Dad. 

There’s a small pond with water features at the front of the visitors centre with a section of seating around it. It quietened down while we were there but it was full of screaming children who were running through the water when we first arrived. 

There’s a large seating area above the pond where you can sit and enjoy something from the cafe. There’s ample space inside to sit as well, though we didn’t sample the cafe because it was almost closing time as we left.

We had intended on visiting the gardens for an hour or so to pass the time while it was reasonably sunny but we ended up spending about 4 hours there. It was such a calming and pleasant place where you can easily wander off through the trees and greenery without seeing any other visitors. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon and will definitely visitor more regularly especially when the little man is able to run around. 


North East Aircraft Museum, Sunderland

If I’m honest I didn’t know the North East Aircraft Museum existed even though it’s only a 10 minute drive from our house. 

I was a little reluctant to visit because if I’m honest, aircrafts really aren’t my thing but a friend of my husband had some of his art work displayed in one of the hangars so he deemed it the perfect place to go on his day off. 

The museum is located quite close to Nissan in Sunderland and not the easiest place to find. Watch out for the brown signs and don’t panic if it looks like you’re heading down a derelict road to an Industrial Estate.

Admission is £5 each for adults, 5-16 year olds and concessions are £3 and under 5’s are free. There’s a small, free car park at the front, which fills very quickly but you could easily park on the road outside. 

Entry is via what looks like Portacabin which is also the museum shop and tea room! We were greeted by a lovely member of staff who was keen to tell us about the museum and made a huge fuss of the little man.

There are variety of buses and trams located near the entrance. They’re in quite a state of disrepair but were interesting to see. It’s a shame that they haven’t been restored as I imagine they’re be great to get on an explore. 

There’s no set route around the museum so it’s just a case of walking where you want too. The ground is flat and dry but you do need to walk over grassed areas to get to some of the planes, so I could imagine quite a bit of mud if it was a wet day.

There’s a fun little street decked out in things from around the time of the war. Although it’s small it was well set out and interesting. 

There’s a large hangar filled with planes, tanks and other war machinery. There’s a lot to see but it’s not very well set out, it all feels kind of jumbled. I think it could be organised a lot better, giving a bit more a structured path and route through.

There are plenty of ‘hands on’ things at the museum and surprisingly quite a lot that children can get involved with, including a hunt for the 7 dwarfs. 

The little man loved ‘flying the plane’ and chuckled away while I was taking photographs. 

There’s another building filled with a good selection of military vehicles which have clearly been restored to their former glory. 

Despite my initial hesitation we actually had a nice couple of hours wander round. Hubby loved it because he’s a bit of a geek anyway but it was really quite interesting. I do think they could do a lot with it though, a little bit of organising and rearranging would make it a lot better but it’s still an interesting place and not badly priced. I think it’d be great for school age children who are learning about the war and history.