THE last time I stayed in a caravan, I vowed never to set foot in one again. It was the worst holiday experience of my teenage existence.
My brother took ill with a vomiting bug which rampaged, like the plague, through the entire family. My eye is twitching at the memory. So I find myself gazing up at a cloudless blue sky, looking for a sign that lightning is about to strike me, as we arrive at Golden Sands Holiday Park, Cresswell, Northumberland.
The girls are desperate to explore our static palace. I’m reluctantly hanging back, tentatively peering inside. However I’m pleasantly surprised. Hope exclaims, “Mum, it’s so luxurious,”’in ecstatic tones. The living area is vast and there is a proper dining table. And a kitchen that, well, resembles a kitchen. Sleeping accommodation consists of two twin rooms and a double room with a shower room off.
The holiday park is quiet and located directly across the road from an amazing sandy bay. Beach perfection is completed by a sandstone section, ideal for rock-pool adventures.
I’m not risking poisoning anyone with my cooking, so we head to the village of Craster and the Jolly Fisherman Inn for our evening meal.
As we peruse the menu, my partner Graham quenches his thirst with a Black Sheep Ale. Gastronome Eve, our elder daughter, opts for dressed crab for her main. The sceptic in me thinks she’ll never finish it, but somehow she does. This comes after helping her dad scoff his liver parfait starter, beautifully presented on wooden platters. It must be the sea air, because we’ve had little time to earn our ravenous appetites. The pub is a mecca for walkers and for locals, so book to avoid disappointment. However this time we only make it as far as the harbour to walk off our dinner excesses.
Back at chez caravan, we settle down for the night in front of the telly. In my day it was snakes and ladders and a game of snap, or racing raindrops down the windows. There is on-site entertainment, but you don’t have to involve yourself, if it’s not your bag.
The next day the skies are still blue, so we head to the beach and roll up our trousers for a spot of paddling. After dusting off our sandy toes we ooh ahhh our way over the pebbles back to the caravan before heading to the nearby town of Amble.
The bustling Sunday market is great to wander around seeking bargains, before we keep a date with Dave Gray’s puffin cruises to head out to sea. We’re hoping to glimpse some of the abundant bird and wildlife off nearby Coquet Island.
Fellow passenger Pam kindly points out some rare skuas to us. However, even the untrained eye can spot plenty of puffins, roseate terns and common seals. Spending time with Dave, a wonderful local character, is worth every penny of the ticket.
Warkworth Castle is next on the tourist list, high on the hilltop above the River Coquet. It’s an imposing site, where we spend an age learning about Harry Hotspur and the invading Scots. We left visiting Woodhorn Colliery museum, in nearby Ashington, until the next day. On this trip we experienced the industrial heritage of the area, through interactive presentations, shown through the eyes of a young boy going down a pit for the first time. The highlight for the girls was the talking outside privy. For me, though, the dramatic display of red-draped union flags was champion. Looking up at the banners I couldn’t help imagining the marches they have been on.
Sadly, it was time to head homewards and, exhausted from our busy day at the coalface, we made for the Hog’s Head Inn at Alnwick. Ravenous, Graham demolished a venison burger in no time, while Eve and I polished off our respective choices of mushroom ravioli and steak & ale pie. Even Hope managed to clear her plate of chicken and vegetables and still have room for pudding.
Although I remain undecided about caravanning – childhood memories can really scar – the girls had the most fantastic time, experiencing a Great British holiday at its best, in the sunshine.
Golden Sands Holiday Park, Cresswell, Northumberland, tel: 01670 860256, www.northumbrianleisure.co.uk is open from Saturday 2 March. Seven nights cost from between £295 to £490 high season or three nights cost from between £210 to £295 high season. Prices are based on four people sharing. Towels not included. Offer does not apply during July and August or Bank Holiday weekends. Tel: 01665 711975 to book Puffin Cruises, www.puffincruises.co.uk, sailings last for one hour, tickets cost £7 for adults, £3 for children. Sailings begin at Easter. Family tickets for Warkworth Castle cost £12.70 (2 adults, 3 children), www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/warkworth-castle-and-hermitage/