Weekend Adventure in the North East of England


As you might have realised, we are very rarely at home. As a family we love travelling but we obviously can’t be on a foreign jaunt every week, as much as I’d love to be. There is work to be done and school to be attended, however we do try to get away for weekend adventures as much as we can.  This August Bank Holiday we took the opportunity to visit hubby’s Mum and Sister who live in the North East of England. We have very kindly been loaned a new Ford Smax for a month, and been asked to put it to the test.  We thought a weekend away was the perfect opportunity to start road testing it.

Hubby moved two of our car seats into the Smax, together with Lily’s new Diono Booster Seat.  One of the hardest things about 3 children in Stage 1 and Stage 2 car seats is the size of the car seats.  You need three proper seats across the back of the car to fit them in.  Wide cars alone won’t do (we had to sell our very large car when we found out we were expecting the twins!) as there needs to be three equally sized seats.  The Smax completely ticks that box.

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We then packed the boot and were amazed at how empty the boot looked when we had packed it. Bag of wellies, bags of coats, large suitcase, more coats, food that needed using up, three scooters and there was still room. I don’t think we would have got the girls three bikes in as well, but a bike rack would easily fix that.


So we set off (by 8.30am!) and drove the 2.5 hours up to Darlington to hubby’s sisters house in time for lunch. Hubby was very surprised at how much power the Smax had, and he kept having to slow it down! The Smax we are trialling has all the added extras and whilst the sat nav didn’t completely recognise my SIL’s address (she does live in the middle of nowhere) it did get us to within a mile very efficiently. I smiled a lot at the adjustable drink cup holders, which seemed over engineered until the drink cups seemed too tall to use the automatic gear box and we just took the bottom layer out, allowing the cups to sit further down.  The leather seats are very practical for our young family as when dirty boots are worn (yes even at the start of the weekend) or drinks are spilled, the mess wipes right off.


After arriving in time for lunch,  a run around the garden and a quick bounce on the trampoline, we ended up spending a lovely afternoon at Preston Park.  Preston Park is just the right combination of things to do for the ten of us aged between 3 and 65+.  There is a fantastic skate park, adventure playground and a victorian museum and gardens.  The girls had a lovely day with their cousins before heading off to Grandmas to sleep.


Day 2

In the morning we decided upon a visit to Auckland Castle. This is where the Smax becomes very useful indeed.  We moved one of the car seats into the back and we could seat the 6 of us meaning Grandma didn’t need to drive her own car.  If you use both seats in the boot of the Smax you don’t have a lot of room for anything else, but using just one leaves plenty of room for the wellies, raincoats and picnic!  It’s also advisable to move car seats into the back as the leg room in the back isn’t amazing for adults.  Perfectly adequate for an adult for a short journey, but definitely more suited to a child.


So off to Auckland Castle it was, meaning only one lot of car parking to pay for, and only one space to find in a busy car park. Check back for our review of Auckland Castle and that of Binchester Fort that followed after lunch too.

The girls had a lovely weekend spending time with their Grandma and after a late bedtime the night before we persuaded them into bed early whilst we sat down for dinner.

Day 3

Bank Holiday Monday in August obviously meant rain! We set off to Hamsterley Forest to go on the Superworm Trail.  Again with Grandma in the same car this meant only one car parking fee of £4 (a bargain in any event). Hamsterley Forest is a lovely place to spend a day, even in the rain.  The smell of campers steadfastly continuing to BBQ through driving rain filled the air.  We spent a lovely couple of hours on the trail before returning to Grandmas for a lazy afternoon watching Bugs Life.

We waited until we thought most of the holiday traffic would have died down and set off home with three exhausted girls fast asleep in the back.  We had a fabulous weekend of adventures in our Ford Smax. What did you get up to?



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Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!

Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.

8 thoughts on “Weekend Adventure in the North East of England”

  1. What a fun weekend – we were busy exploring different bits of the same area at the same time, it turned out. I’m a big fan of little cars (only really started driving again regularly after my daughter was born) but this looks ideal when you have three – or more…. #countrykids

  2. Wow you sound just like us, we have are out and about pretty much every weekend. It looks like you had a great long weekend and Preston park looks intriguing. Which was your best bit of the weekend?
    Katrina #MondayEscapes

  3. The car sounds perfect for a large family, I have tried and failed to put three carseats across the back seat in our SUV too and ended up having to put my sons friends on a booster seat.. not ideal 🙁 I went to uni in Preston so your article took me back a few years! #MondayEscapes


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