Our Family Adventure at Ford and Etal Northumberland
*We were kindly gifted free entry to attractions in return for this review*
We visited on a Thursday (24/06) It was not that busy although the Scottish summer holidays are taking place now so bare this in mind.
We love Ford & Etal and know it very well however, we probably hadn't explored as much as we should have when we lived just 20 minutes over the border. The boys were members of the Scout group here and we visited the Hay farm on a regular basis.
This was how our day went.
Heatherslaw Light Railway is a Narrow Gauge railway and is the most northerly steam railway in England. Currently pulled by steam locomotives Bunty and Lady Augusta and diesel engine Binky. The line runs from Heatherslaw to Ford Castle and takes around 20 minutes to get there. The carriages all have plastic dividers to keep you safe and you have to wear a face mask too.
We didn't walk to the castle from Etal we decided to stay on the train and go straight back to the station so we could head over to the café for lunch before the we visited the corn mill.
Train times can change but at the minute the train leaves from Heatherslaw at the following times:
First train 10.30, 11.45, 1.00, 2.15, 3.30.
From Etal station the train leaves at
11.05, 12.20, 1.35, 2.50, 4.05
For a family ticket of 2 Adults and 3 children it would be £30.50 and this is for return. Find out more HERE
No pre booking is needed, you just show up on the day and pay in the ticket office. Toilets are a short walk away either at the corn mill or at the castle. Free parking and free for dogs to travel. Please check the website for current covid restrictions.
Our next visit was to Boes Café attached to the Corn mill. Food was delicious and the staff were all lovely. We definitely recommend Boes Café. Today we ordered 5 flavoured waters, 3 Bacon paninis and 2 Sausage paninis which were really tasty and we ordered 4 chocolate brownies and 1 millionaires shortbread which all came to £48 which I thought was very reasonable considering it was for 5 people with some lovely views over the River Till. More info HERE
After lunch we headed into Heatherslaw Corn mill. Now I won't lie the boys thought this was going to be a bit boring. Elliot's words were, but its just flour.
We all left the corn mill surprised and the boys found it really interesting. John, the miller, was great telling us all about the mill and the parts that keep it going. You could tell by how he spoke that he had a true passion for what he was doing and he interacted well with the boys too.
The Corn Mill has so much history behind it and it is great to see it up and running and is the only place in Northumberland where you can experience a traditional mill. For the kids there is a mouse trail and a Junior miller quiz for the older kids. You can also buy flour that has been milled here and I did spot a bread makers gift set for £12 which I was eyeing up. (hint hint Craig, my birthday is coming up!) There is a gorgeous little shop here, with lots of goodies and I thought the little mice in the bed box was super cute. Elliot has a thing for Notebooks (no idea where he got that obsession from....) so he bought that and some sweets and the other two also bought sweets and a tin of biscuits. Make sure you check out the stepping back in time bit on the top floor. And you can also tip the miller here too.
We really enjoyed it and we all learned so much.
Opening hours 10am-5pm
Family of 2 Adults and 3 Children costs £12 which I think is fantastic value. Find out more HERE
Heatherslaw also has a visitors centre with plenty of info, toilets and a gorgeous bridge over the river with some lovely views. We spent a few hours in Heatherslaw and loved every minute of it.
Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre
We then visited Hay Farm Heavy Horses. When we lived in Coldstream we used to visit pretty much on a weekly basis and we have missed seeing the horses and the fantastic work Anna and the gang do here. Today we were super lucky as some of the horses were getting new shoes fitted, this was great to watch and the boys really enjoyed watching how it was done. We did see a few new horses that we hadn't met before, including George who is absolutely beautiful and a firm favourite. He is huge! Elliot has always had a love for animals, and just loves the horses here.
There is a small car park (also an overflow car park for busier days), a nice little shop and café that do a delicious milkshake and other homemade goodies. (The cakes are amazing!)
The boys and Craig all had a milkshake and I had a can of pop and it only came to £10. As you walk through the seated area, you head round to the small museum section with some farm equipment to look at. Once you have finished in this section you then make your way round to the stables where you will find the horses. The farm is home to the largest herd of Clydesdale Heavy Horses in the North East. The centre was awarded Approved Rare Breed status and is also home to other rare breeds such as Sheep, Ducks, Geese and Pigs. You can also take a walk to the top field, today on our visit the newest addition to horse family were there with proud mums and you can see some horses in the bottom field too.
There is a seating area for lunch, handwashing station and toilets on site. Cost is £5 donation per Adult with free entry for under 16s. I have seen people say you cant spend long here but we have been known to spend a good few hours here taking our time with the animals and talking to the staff who are always happy to answer any questions.
You can find out more HERE
Next on the list was Etal castle
We have been to14th century Etal castle many times before, it is English Heritage and you do usually have to pay entry here, however right now it is free to enter and the museum section is currently undergoing a refurb, so we are excited to see this once it reopens. You can take a look around the small ruins and there's a great photo opportunity in front of the main gates.
Other things to do in Etal include:
You can take a walk down to the river here which is lovely, especially on a warm day.
For food you have the lovely Lavender Tea Rooms, I have previously had a beautiful brie panini here and it was delicious. If you prefer more of a pub lunch you could head across the road and grab a bite to eat in the newly refurbished The Black Bull, the only thatched roofed pub in Northumberland. We actually ate in here when it reopened and it was beautiful, it was a cold crisp Autumn morning so it was nice to head indoors after a walk. I can't remember off the top of my head what we had to eat, but I think macaroni cheese and pie was involved and I remember it was delicious. In the village there's also a lovely village hall that sometimes has craft markets. If you visit during October half term look out for the scarecrow trail and the witches tree!
Once we were finished having an adventure in Etal we hopped in the car and headed to Ford. Now Ford is just one of those picture perfect places. I love Ford.
We headed for
Lady Waterford Hall
Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford, commissioned the construction to be a school in 1860. She was the owner of Ford estate. The school was to be built to aide the education of the villages children. Louisa spent 21 years painting huge watercolour murals that still to this day hang on the walls of the hall. They are amazing. The hall today is a place where you can be amazed by her paintings, take a look at some of her other work and learn about her life. I found it all quite interesting and enjoyed looking at the artwork. For Elliot, he had a Lego trail to keep him entertained and the other two found it interesting too but they do enjoy art.
You can also find some old school furniture that has been well preserved and a lovely little gift shop. Staff were lovely and helpful and toilet access too. Maybe one for the older kids to truly appreciate the work here.
Once we were done here we took a walk through the gardens of the Estate house, which is quite lovely. We headed down to the 13th century St. Michael and all angels church where you will find some of the most amazing views, I absolutely love it here and find it strangely relaxing. The church itself is absolutely beautiful and honestly has some of the nicest stained glass windows I've ever seen. (I love churches and I've seen a lot!) On your way to the church you pass the magnificent Ford Castle, every time I see it I say WOW. It is stunning. Currently though it is leased to the council and used as an activity centre for residential students, so no access to the public which is a shame because it is astounding and I can only imagine the history here. Most definitely an if walls could talk moment!
Our final stop for the day was the atmospheric Flodden Battlefield. Flodden Battlefield is the location of engagement where the armies of James IV of Scotland and The Earl of Surrey met on 9th September 1513. Find out more HERE
There is a carpark, with either steps to the monument or a ramp for easier access. There are some fantastic views from the monument, there is an info board in the carpark with maps with the different routes you can take. Today we took the Battlefield Trail Footpath. We are going to head back up here one day soon and explore a little more and drive the battlefield drive trail too.
Other things to check out on your visit.
Horseshoe Forge Antiques Ford - Honestly this is my heaven, as a collector of antique books it is just the place to be. You can find a range of rare books, antiques, vintage clothing and Victorian plants.
Madcap gallery Etal - A small but lovely gallery run by local artists. The building once supplied hydro electric power to the estate.
The Old Dairy at Ford - Concept store, coffee shop and champagne bar.
Everything is currently enjoyed outside due to restrictions. Elliot went to a birthday party here once and I just love the way the buildings are.
Handmade at Heatherslaw - We didn't make it into Handmade this time as they were quite busy when we passed. The store is opened in the the old drying kiln directly opposite the mill. Some beautiful handmade jewellery to purchase here.
Places to stay
You can now find a campsite here at Ford & Etal at Ford Bridge Campsite, with 15 pitches. Prices start from £12 per night.
If cottages are more your thing then you can try:
Kypie Farm Cottage is situated in Ford & Etal estate itself, on a working farm , walking and cycling routes a few steps away. Lovely cottage garden that welcomes wildlife throughout the seasons. Sleeps 4 however I have just had a look at bookings and it is pretty much fully booked until November with one week in October free. More info HERE
The Estate House at Ford right in the lovely Ford village, Dinner by arrangement includes organic home grown produce where possible. Please check the website for more info HERE
Ford Village B&B A small but lovely B&B in the heart of Ford village, 2 lovely en-suite rooms well furnished and ready to welcome you. You can also hire cycles from the shop.
More info HERE.
Hay Farm House offers spectacular views over the cheviots, as well as views of the majestic Heavy Horses out in the fields. It has 3 en-suite rooms, families are welcome.
More info HERE
All photos are our own and were taken on the day of our visit.
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