19 July 2017

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East + Map

I thought a handy A-Z list of free family days out in the North East may just come in useful …with so many free places for a family to have a fun day in North East England you just need a picnic, sun cream, a brolly and transport and you are set.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East

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Arbeia Roman Fort, South Shields

Arbeia Roman Fort is one of the UK's most important archaeological sites. Just a five-minute walk from South Shields seafront is Arbeia Roman Fort, the most extensively excavated Roman military supply base in the Empire. Built in AD160, this UNESCO World Heritage Site stood guard at the mouth of the River Tyne and once controlled the main port of entry to the Roman Empire in Britain. Today, Arbeia is a fascinating place to visit and is a great insight into what life was like in Roman Britain. It combines the excavated remains of the original fort with excellent reconstructions of buildings.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Barter Books, Alnwick

Barter Books is one of the biggest antiquarian bookstores in the UK. The place is so big you could literally spend a half a day here easily, inside the building you will find the original station waiting rooms, places to sit and browse the books, the Station Buffet with good plain food, coffee, tea and cookies, a model railway acting as a link between the book columns of the central room, along with poetry lines, three 40-foot murals, a mini-cybercafé, free wi-fi. and a children's toy room. They do what their name suggests as well, you can take in used books and trade against new purchases.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Coastline, North East England

The coastline of North East England is among the country's most rugged and charming. Towns and cities are interspersed with rocky cliffs, windswept beaches, quaint fishing villages and bustling, family-friendly resort towns. From Sunderland to Hartlepool, the Durham Heritage Coast has emerged from its industrial past to an area worthy of Heritage Coast status with one of the finest coastlines in England and is a great place to collect sea glass. Northumberland is the least densely-populated area of England, characterised by vast white sandy beaches, castles and unspoilt countryside.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Durham Cathedral, County Durham

Durham Cathedral along with Durham Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Durham Cathedral was built in 1093 to house the Shrine of St Cuthbert. It is renowned for its magnificent Romanesque architecture and spectacular location at the heart of Durham City. It is also the resting place of the Venerable Bede. Highlights include the twelfth-century Galilee Chapel with its original medieval wall paintings, the towering sandstone pillars in the Nave, and the stunning Rose Window in the Chapel of the Nine Altars. Don’t miss the medieval Cloister, which featured in the first two Harry Potter films, or the Western Undercroft, now home to the award-winning Cathedral Shop, Undercroft Restaurant and Durham Cathedral in LEGO.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Embleton Bay, Northumberland

Embleton Bay was named as the UK Beach of the Year in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards this year. This sweetly curving beach, with its small grassy square and white-painted fishermen’s cottages, is picture postcard pretty. The ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle rear upwards in the distance along from the long stretch of sand curving around Embleton Bay, where you can paddle in the shallow water, go rock pooling or relax on the sand.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Fossil Hunting, County Durham

The Fossil Tree and Frosterley Marble, two of the best-known fossils in the north east are in neighbouring villages in Weardale and Stanhope. Frosterley Marble is a dark grey limestone from the Carboniferous period, 325 million years ago. The most famous use of Frosterley marble is in Durham Cathedral for the ceiling of the Chapel of the Nine Altars. But it can also be found at Frosterley including a sculpture at the railway station, a raw boulder at the village car park and many pebbles and cobbles in the River Wear; and at Bollihope Burn, under the footbridge where the rock is naturally polished by the burn.

The fossil tree in Stanhope churchyard, is a Sigillaria, from the Carboniferous period 320 million years ago. It was found in a stone quarry near Edmundbyers Cross in 1915 and brought to the churchyard, where it is a prominent feature of the town centre.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

The Great North Museum features pieces from the Hancock Museum and Newcastle University’s Museum of Antiquities, the Shefton Museum and the Hatton Gallery. Key exhibits include a fully interactive model of Hadrian's Wall, natural history, a significant display of plants and animals, spectacular objects from the Ancient Greeks and mummies from Ancient Egypt, a planetarium and a life-size T-Rex dinosaur skeleton. The Living Planet exhibition is home to a myriad of creatures and, via interactive technology and exhibits, you can better understand their diverse habitats, and how they are well equipped to not only survive but thrive in the most inhospitable of environments. Live animal tanks and aquaria are integrated into this major display where visitors can see wolf fish, pythons and lizards to name a few. Star objects include a full-size model of an elephant, a great white shark, a virtual aquarium, live animal displays, a polar bear, a giraffe and moa skeleton.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Hamsterley Forest, County Durham

Hamsterley Forest is a delightful 2000 hectare oasis, sprawling along the sides of a sheltered valley. Visitors to Hamsterley have no shortage of options when it comes to forest adventure or a tranquil getaway from the hustles of modern living. From wildlife watching and dark sky gazing to adventure play and high octane mountain biking, there is something there for everyone. Hamsterley Forest’s new Viking Wildplay Trail is set along an 800-metre long path straddling both sides of the bubbling Bedburn Beck. It features a number of timber play structures designed and built by North Shields-based company ‘Infinite Playgrounds’. And don't forget to download the app before you start the Gruffalo trail.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East + Map


Intu Metrocentre, Gateshead

The intu Metrocentre is Europe’s largest shopping and leisure centre with shops, restaurants and leisure activities as well as free parking and accessible by public transport too. It is also home to the only IMAX cinema in the North East and Namco Funscape, which includes bowling, dodgems, soft play and much more. intu Metrocentre welcomes children with its spacious, pushchair-friendly malls and lifts, and has free buggies or boobaloos. You can also join the Metrocentre Kids’ Club for free and members can receive up to date information on exclusive special offers, competitions and events all designed with children in mind.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Jesmond Dene, Newcastle

Jesmond Dene is a unique haven of peace and tranquillity for the people of Newcastle. It is a narrow wooded valley that follows the river Ouseburn between South Gosforth and Jesmond Vale with a spectacular mix of native and exotic trees, and the Dene is home to a lot of wildlife, notably the Kingfisher, the Red Squirrel and many woodland birds as well as waterfalls and historic ruins. The Dene stretches for over three kilometres and has many areas of tranquillity, as well as ‘honey pots’ of activity. There is also a Visitor Centre, café and toilets, a large picnic area and a ‘Pet’s Corner’ where you'll find animals of all shapes and sizes, including alpacas, pot-bellied pigs, goats and sheep alongside rabbits and colourful birds.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Kielder Water & Forest Park, Northumberland

Kielder Water & Forest Park is home to northern Europe’s largest man-made lake and England's largest forest,  and is one of Northumberland's best attractions. It is perfect for families that love nature, water sports, exploring, walking, cycling and much more. It has miles of purpose-built trails including forest walks for all the family and dedicated mountain bike tracks. The Lakeside Way is a 26-mile multi-user trail, suitable for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and wheelchair users, that encircles the shoreline of Kielder Water. A haven for wildlife, Kielder Water & Forest Park is also home to around 50% of England’s native red squirrel population. It is also famed for having the darkest night skies in England and there is also contemporary art and architecture including the futuristic shelter design of the Belvedere, the Minotaur maze and Silvas Capitalis, also known as the ‘giant forest head’.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Locomotion: The National Railway Museum at Shildon, County Durham

Locomotion is part of the National Railway Museum, where more than 70 railway heritage vehicles from the National Collection are on display, as well as restored historic buildings including the Coal drops, stables, Goods Shed and Parcels Office, Hackworth House, Soho Shed and the welcome building which was constructed in 1888 as a Sunday School for the Methodist Chapel and is the home of the original Sans Pareil locomotive built by Timothy Hackworth to compete in the Rainhill trials in 1829 for the newly created Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Children can also let off steam and enjoy the outdoors with climbing frames, slides, scramble nets and swings in the railway themed adventure playground. Plus you can bring a family picnic –there are both indoor and outdoor picnic areas.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


MIMA, Tees Valley

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art is a contemporary art gallery based in the centre of Middlesbrough, Mima is one of the UK's leading galleries for modern and contemporary art and craft. The landmark building designed by Erick van Egeraat Architects is situated in the heart of the city and hosts temporary exhibitions of fine art and craft from 1900 to the present. Featuring work by internationally acclaimed artists, the gallery brings together the town's art collections for the first time, from Middlesbrough Art Gallery and Cleveland Craft Centre. Selected works from the collection are showcased in an annual collection show. Exhibitions change throughout the year and admission is free. The Smeltery also offers great food with a menu catering for all dietary needs – their Sunday Lunch is worth checking out.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North, Northumberland

Northumberlandia is a unique piece of public art set in a 46-acre community park with 4 miles of footpaths on and around the landform. The country park and landscape sculpture is open from dawn until dusk each day and the centrepiece of the park is Northumberlandia, a stunning human landform sculpture of a reclining lady. Made of 1.5 million tonnes of rock, clay and soil, she is 100 feet high and a quarter of a mile long.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East + Map
Image reproduced by kind permission of photographer Graeme Peacock


Ouseburn Farm, Newcastle

Ouseburn Farm is a community-led project located in the Lower Ouseburn Valley, just a mile from Newcastle city centre. The farm attracts over 50,000 visitors a year and has an array of animals, gardens, orchard and an onsite café serving coffee and fresh food which has been produced directly from the farm.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Penshaw Monument, Sunderland

Penshaw Monument is owned by the National Trust, and sits on top of Penshaw Hill. Also known as the Earl of Durham's Monument it provides stunning views from this 70-foot high folly. It is a replica of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens and can be seen for miles around. It is considered to be Wearside's most beloved landmark, even appearing on the badge of Sunderland Football Club. It also overlooks Herrington Country Park which offers walks and cycle trails, environmental sculptures and lots of family events.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Quayside – NewcastleGateshead

The Quayside is a spectacular area day and night with the iconic Gateshead Millennium Bridge, the world’s first and only tilting bridge, linking Newcastle and Gateshead for pedestrians and cyclists. BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art is an art lover's dream, whilst Newcastle’s array of riverside bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants, paired with the Sage Gateshead’s diverse programme of musical events, ensure you’ll be well catered for through daylight to nightlife. One of NewcastleGateshead’s most iconic spaces is also transformed into a seaside paradise every summer complete with deckchairs, palm trees, beach huts, volleyball net, golden sand and a kids' climbing wall. Kick back, relax and while away a summer’s day in this surreal city centre oasis.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Rising Sun Country Park, North Tyneside

The Rising Sun Country Park is a green oasis of 162 hectares, set in the heart of North Tyneside. Boasting a nature reserve with ponds, woodlands and extensive grasslands; a farm and Countryside Centre, the site is a haven for wildlife and an ideal place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors, with extensive footpaths, bridleways and cycleways to explore, bird hides, cafe with terrace and park views, free parking with picnic and barbecue area, children’s play area and water play feature.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street, County Durham

Riverside Park has always been popular with visitors and has been designed to meet the needs of a range of visitors. The play area and splash pad are lively, fun spaces to keep children entertained. The gardens provide a quiet place for relaxation and reflection. The grassed area and riverside walks offer chances for quiet relaxation, picnics, kite flying or more vigorous pursuits such as running and cycling. The play area covers an area of approximately 5,000 square metres and is suitable for all children, from toddlers to children in their teens. Its central feature is a 16 foot castle, inspired by the nearby Lumley Castle which overlooks the park. It also has the only splash pad in County Durham - a state of the art play facility which is free to use and suitable for families from toddlers to early teens.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East + Map


Saltwell Park, Gateshead

Saltwell Park is one of Britain's finest examples of a Victorian park. It’s historical and peaceful grounds has earned many awards such as Green Flag and Britain’s Best Park. The park offers a whole range of facilities for the whole family to enjoy including ornamental and woodland gardens, a boating lake, bowling greens, play areas, a maze, Pet's Corner, Rose Garden, educational centre and the stunning Saltwell Towers - a gothic mansion is surrounded by ornamental gardens which has been sympathetically restored to its former Victorian glory to provide a well-equipped visitor centre and tea room.
A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East + Map


Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

At the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens discover Sunderland’s fascinating history in one place. With a collection dating back to 1846, there are plenty of surprises at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens. You’ll also find hundreds of amazing object like the first Nissan car to roll off the production line at their Sunderland factory in 1986 and Wallace the Lion. Galleries cover the shipbuilding, glass and pottery making industries the Anglo-Saxon period and many other aspects of the city’s past. The Winter Gardens, a 21st Century addition to the museum is a tropical paradise. Over 2,000 plants thrive in the glass rotunda and from the tree top walkway, visitors have bird’s eye view of beautiful Mowbray Park.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East



Tynemouth is located at the mouth of the River Tyne. In the late 18th century, sea-bathing became fashionable in Tynemouth from its east-facing beaches. Today Tynemouth village is a popular place for people from far and wide to come for a variety of reasons. It is steeped in history, has some fabulous attractions, great shopping and a vibrant nightlife. A perfect destination for a day trip, the charming village has something to offer everyone with Longsands, King Edwards Bay, Tynemouth Pier and lighthouse and the Collingwood Monument all to explore for free.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Ushaw College, County Durham

Ushaw College is genuinely a hidden gem. This incredible building is full of fascinating history and surrounded by stunning gardens. Entry to the Main House and Chapels open to the public from Wed-Sat 11am – 5pm. Ushaw College trained men for the Roman Catholic priesthood for more than two centuries, from its establishment in 1808 until 2011. Formerly a catholic seminary for the training of priests and now operating as a business college, it is open for the public to enjoy free of charge including the wonderfully ornate and breathtaking St. Cuthbert's Chapel, the lovely gardens and extensive grounds, the old college building with their beautiful small chapels. The café also serves very reasonably priced meals and snacks taken in the lovely old refectory. It's elevated position on high ground ensures wonderful views from the grounds.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Vallum Farm, Northumberland

Vallum Farm located on the Military Road in Tynedale is a farm community of artisan producers with a tea room, ice cream parlour, restaurant, patisserie and delicatessen close to Hadrians Wall. It also has an outdoor play paddock with chunky climbing frames, swings and slide, wildlife walks and a little lake but best of all it has 16 different ice cream flavours available every day, which means there’s something for everyone.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland

Hadrian's Wall stretches across the north of England from the west Cumbrian Roman coastal defences at Ravenglass, through Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport to Bowness-on-Solway, along Hadrian's Wall through Carlisle to Hexham in Northumberland and on to Newcastle upon Tyne, Wallsend and South Shields. Hadrian’s Wall is the best preserved and most formidable of Rome’s great frontiers. In all, over 100 miles of inspiring encounters with our Roman past can be found at a multitude of key sites and attractions, transporting visitors into the proud, pioneering heart of Rome. Our favourite things to do is to take a walk from Steel Rigg along to Sycamore Gap – voted the UKs favourite tree – you may have seen it appear in Robin Hood with Kevin Costner many years ago now!


eXhibition Park

Exhibition Park is a short walk from Newcastle City Centre. Recently restored the great expanse of outdoor space in the city now has a new children’s play area, which includes outdoor gym equipment, a new skate park, resurfaced the tennis courts, restored bandstand, swans on the former boating lake, a new café and is also home to Wylam Brewery.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Yeavering Bell, Northumberland National Park

Yeavering Bell is located in the Northumberland National Park, the least populated National Park in the UK. With its clear air, clean waters and dark skies, it is also one of England most tranquil locations perfect for a relaxing family day out. Just 5 miles from Wooler, you’ll find Northumberland’s most spectacular Iron Age Hillfort. The Hill of the Goats is a hill on the very edge of the Cheviot Hills. On it lie the remains of the largest Iron Age hillfort in the region. The tumbled stone rampart would originally have been two-and-a-half metres high and more than three metres thick. Within it, you can see the platforms of more than one hundred timber-built roundhouses and an inner fort excavated out of the rock. Some of the walking is strenuous, with a steep descent too.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


Zetland Lifeboat Museum, Redcar, Tees Valley

Zetland Lifeboat Museum located on the Esplanade in Redcar just steps away from the beach, houses The Zetland. Built in 1802 she is the oldest surviving lifeboat in the world and saw 78 years of service and saved over 500 documented lives from the treacherous Redcar coast. The Zetland was originally purchased by the Redcar people, for the use of the Redcar people, She remains today, very much a peoples boat and is still the pride and joy of the Redcar folk. The museum is open every day between May & September, then weekends from October through to April.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East

If you know of other places let me know and I'll add them to the list!
What are your summer plans?

Deb x

P.S. Parking charges may apply at some destinations.

A-Z Free Family Days Out in the North East


  1. Great ideas Debbie. How about Hamsterley Forest, Saltwell Park and Chester-le-Street Park with the Splash Pad?

    1. Great suggestions Janet. Thanks! All added :)

  2. Now if you could just do one for the south west that would be fab! 😂 This is brilliant, so much info in one post x

    1. Thanks. Might try and cover the whole country eventually :)

  3. Love this post, so many of my favourite places and some I've yet to discover x

  4. Can you do one for north west please

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Shiremoor adventure playground