a north-eastern holiday.

Forget the middle-east…Dubai can wait! The north-east is where it’s at for a family holiday these days!

Now, don’t get me wrong, put me on a plane to Dubai and face me with seven star service and uninterrupted sunshine for a week and I would probably choose that over Alnwick, Northumberland, BUT – we have just returned from a wonderful five days of family time and I can honestly say we would highly recommend it.

We booked a little house called Red Door via cottages.com – a website we use quite regularly, especially since having the children.

It wasn’t the best, being totally honest. But it was clean and a good base from which to travel around Northumberland. And since it took us almost a month to decide what we wanted to do and finally get round to booking something, we were lucky to find anything at all that didn’t cost us a month’s mortgage payment!


Mr O’s family are from Northumberland, and he spent much of his childhood holidaying in the area – something that prompted him to want to take our children up there. So we tootled on up the A1 and found ourselves in Alnwick – a beautiful little market town on the South Bank of the River Aln.

If you’ve never been to Northumberland, you could probably be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is all about. Why would you head so close to Scotland and not cross the border? What is there up there but old coal mines? And you probably think it’s all just about Lindisfarne?

You would be wrong!

We spent the whole week cooing over scenery (OK, I spent the whole week cooing over scenery), enjoying miles of glorious beaches, walking through picturesque little fishing villages, eating the most amazing seafood and discovering history we never even knew existed – it was just fabulous.

The best day by far, in my opinion, was the day that we spent at Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden.

Mr O would disagree – he would say it was the day spent on the beach at Seahouses…but since I HATE sand (see previous post here for more info!) I will not agree with him, even though I felt myself the most relaxed I’ve been in a while on that beach.

It was, actually, if I dare admit it, blissful.

The Alnwick Castle and Garden experience, whilst quite expensive, was a full day of brilliant family fun. We spent hours and hours outdoors (yep, the small ones slept well that night!!) exploring gardens, finding out names for plants, wading through fallen blossom with Ruby taking the opportunity to throw it at us at every turn of the path, and laughing our socks off at the silly court jester who threw fire and genuinely made Ruby fear for her safety Рhilarious to see!!

I quite fancied the ‘On Location’ tour, which showed you all the bits of the castle that had been used in films such as Harry Potter and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves – but since that took place at 3.30pm and Ruby had had all of her fun already, she deemed it “too boring” and so we hot footed it out of there before a huge wobbly/major embarrassment kicked in.

That evening we ate out at a place called The Jolly Fisherman in a teeny little village called Crastor. We tried Oysters for the very first time (and we weren’t sick!) and enjoyed gorgeous fresh fish and lobster in beautiful surroundings – with lashings of Alnwick Gin!

We saved money where we could by making sandwiches for lunch and we ate in the house a couple of evenings, which actually worked out quite well all in all.

If you’ve seen my Instagram feed you will know I’ve already said that I need another holiday to get over this one though.

Whilst my brain switched from overdrive to relax, my body is shattered. We didn’t sleep very well at all with Henry in our room – and not at all most nights as he decided that he couldn’t be without me and clung to me like a limpet (an after-effect of his operation?).

Still – it was a brilliant holiday, and we crammed in enough to make the memories last for some time, I hope.

Worn out but very happy.


A good summary for a lovely time with the family.

Roll on the next staycation…Devon in July!

Speak soon,
K x


a holiday for four.

Way back at the start of the year we booked a holiday.

We hadn’t seen that beautiful ball of light that they call the sun for almost 2 years, and we were weary. So, after much searching of t’internet and many, many disagreements over destination, type of room (sea view/not sea view etc.) and board type, we settled on Tenerife and the Gran Hotel Roca Nivaria through Thomson.

At the time of booking we didn’t even think about it, but as the day of departure arrived to say we were worried about the flights would be an understatement as it’s four and a half hours on the way out and just under four hours on the return leg. Mr O and I have travelled pretty extensively (New Zealand, Mexico, Bali, KL, New York…) and so we’re used to long journey’s on planes, but the children?! Oh the children, yes!

We popped said children into the car at 5.15am on Monday 4th July with the intention that they would sleep all the way to Manchester Airport, where we’d booked the Meet & Greet service – something I would definitely recommend if you’re travelling with small children, as it’s not that much more expensive than normal parking and¬†you’re literally over the road from the terminal, so no waiting for airport bus services¬†or wrangling children and cases on and off!

In reality, the journey was spent continuously asking Ruby to go back to sleep and listening to Henry gurgle and chat to himself.

So, we arrived a bit more dishevelled and tired than expected but thankfully it didn’t cause too many problems on the flight and the looks of fear from people sat in our immediate vicinity soon turned to smiles once they realised that they weren’t going to have to listen to screaming for the whole flight!

Once we arrived in Tenerife we had a private transfer over to the hotel, which was so good as I really didn’t fancy the usual stuffy coach journey after travelling all that way with the smalls.

Henry was shattered and Ruby was restless…so as soon as we arrived at the hotel we went to the room for a rest and to unpack.

I had totally forgotten that we had booked a Superior Double Room, so I was mightily excited when we opened the door and were greeted by a huge room with our own private terrace overlooking the sea…amazing doesn’t even cover it. Very, very lucky indeed!


We took our time exploring the hotel and its grounds…and tried to get the children used to our new surroundings – which was a lot easier for Ruby than for Henry it has to be said.

The week was spent lounging on sunbeds, playing in the pool, drinking copious amounts of cocktails (oops!) and generally laughing and having lots of fun. It was the best holiday and we really were so pleased with this hotel.

We loved the pool areas in particular. There were two huge pools (both infinity), one salt-water and heated and the other non salt-water and definitely not heated! It was absolutely freezing and so, whilst it was the nicer pool in our opinion, we mainly stayed at the top pool and the baby pool as they were just better for the children.


As you already know, food is very important to us Oliphants…so it was a real relief that the 5* status of the hotel transferred over to the food. There are two a la carte restaurants to choose from at Roca Nivaria (one Spanish and one Italian) and a main buffet restaurant serving different themed food each and every night. Lunch was at the pool bar every day and was equally as great as the evening meals with delicious traditional Canarian food alongside the usual stuff that they have to serve to keep everyone happy (Ruby saw chicken nuggets and was happy!).

Henry didn’t eat anything much all week really, which was quite worrying at first. I don’t think that the heat agreed with him at all. He was grumbly and grouchy all week and was sick a couple of times. Poor little lamb seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself when he wasn’t grumbling though…which is just as well, as we couldn’t get up and just go home!

There was always plenty of room by the pool (even with the dreaded towel warriors reserving their sunbeds at 6am and then not appearing until gone 11am!) and on the days when it was really hot and sunny we either chased the shade with the parasol or made great use of the fantastic Mini Club that the hotel lays on free of charge for all its guests.


Mini Club was something new entirely for us…nursery in the sun!? What a marvellous idea! I knew that I’d been to Mini Clubs when I was little (which I now understand all too well, haha!) but I had thought I had been a lot older. Ruby has just turned 4 and was thrilled at the idea of ditching her parents for a few hours a day to rock with her newly formed little friends…whilst we sat there sunken hearted at the thought of being abandoned!

She absolutely loved it, and went pretty much every morning – but we kept the afternoons to ourselves and used them to swim with her, eat ice cream and explore the hotel grounds…including the private black sand beach, which she fell in love with.

Now, if you know me you’ll know that I hate sand. Always have, always will. Doesn’t matter if it’s sand in Mexico or sand in Blackpool…it gets everywhere, it hurts your feet and it scratches your skin and will not go away when you try to wipe yourself off after a swim in the sea. I hate it.

But thankfully Ruby does not share this hatred.

In fact, she told me to stop being silly and just get on the sand and down to the sea.

The beach at Roca Nivaria is accessed through the back of the hotel and then either a long walkway or a short lift journey. Needless to say we chose the short lift journey and had a whale of a time exploring the beach and watching the waterfall near the palm trees (I then showered everyone off whether they wanted to be showered off or not!).

We spent our evenings eating and dancing at Mini Disco, or watching the great entertainment provided by the hotel. There are two different bars at the hotel, both serving well known brands of alcohol that are all included on the all-inclusive deal, and freshly mixed cocktails too…amazing! And I can strongly recommend the mojito. And the tequila sunrise. And the sidecar.

Hmmmmm, I think I enjoyed the cocktails!

I took every opportunity to dress up of an evening. When I remember holidays as a child I remember thinking how posh it all was. How exciting it was to get ready for a meal in the hotel restaurant, Dad putting on smart trousers and a shirt and Mum getting all glammed up in a lovely dress.

We would put real effort into making it special.

I really dislike it when people turn up to dinner in their swimmers, or a t-shirt that they have been wearing all day. Put some effort in people! A holiday usually only comes once a year…make it special!

And we did. We made it special.

Thanks Roca Nivaria for a wonderful time. It truly was the best holiday we have had in some time, and we won’t be forgetting it in a hurry.


Note: We weren’t given anything in return for this blog post, this is just my honest opinion of¬†a fantastic family holiday. Some photos are supplied courtesy of Adrian Hoteles.