Yesterday inspired by Sam’s recent post over at North East Family Fun, we went to Auckland Castle with our three little girls. We are staying up in the North East at my Mother in Law’s (on our weekend of adventures in our new Ford Smax), and as she lives about ten minutes away from the Castle we thought it would be the perfect thing to do. Our family history is intertwined with the Castle, it being a place my husband stayed when they first arrived back from 5 years in Africa and before my Father in Law started as Vicar at Escomb and Witton Park, where he worked as chaplain to the Bishop of Durham, and where his service was held ten years after his death to celebrate his life.
We were lucky with the weather and as we arrived the sun started to shine. Maybe someone was looking down on us.
There was a fun run on as we arrived and it was lovely to see the park bustling with people at just after 10. The parking has always been, and probably always will be an issue at the Castle. There are very few places to park in close proximity, albeit there are a couple of disabled spots within the Castle grounds. If you have toddlers it may be worth bringing a pram to push them from the car park to the Castle in.
We made our way straight into the Castle and collected 3 copies of the Big Hunt with clipboards and pens. The girls had to find a toy boar in each room and it definitely makes a great focal point for each room. The only issue is when they find it too quickly they want to move on!
We all enjoyed pottering around the Castle and spent ages putting on lots of fancy dress and taking pictures on the throne. The clothes are not only fun but make a good base for discussing what clothes people wore and why.
After the dressing up we moved through the Castle to find the Zurbaran Paintings. The paintings were bought by investment manager and art lover Jonathan Ruffer in 2012 for £15 million pounds and the Castle was thrown in as part of the deal. Changes are afoot at Auckland Castle over the next few years with lots of exciting developments. But for now, the volunteers in the room with the Zurbarans do a good job of pointing out the paintings funny quirks to keep the kids entertained.
The two rooms after the Zurbarans currently contain a Bishop Auckland FC football exhibition which includes a huge iPad according to my girls and one of them actually thought they were conducting the football match being played out on the screen.
It was a struggle to get the girls away from the football room, but the lure of the large chess set and noughts and crosses in the garden seemed to do the job.
We also collected Explorer Back Packs for the scavenger hunt on the way out. These backpacks are a lovely idea. Free to borrow and filled with binoculars, magnifying glass, tweezers and something known to mine as a ‘bug lifter upper’. There is a laminated sheet of things to find in the park and we decided to do that after our picnic lunch.
We wandered over to the Deer Park and found the ‘secret castle’ in the woods and the girls deemed it a castle for fairies and loved running around it.
We left 3 hours later having had a throughly lovely morning and continued our Ford Smax Adventure by driving onto Binchester Fort!