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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Dimmock

Triplets on tour, chocolate and castles

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

After our simply glorious breakfast at the Mason's Arms in Norham, on Sunday 25th July we drove to Durham (86 miles, about 2h), and on the way met up with my lovely friend Ruth and her triplet boys Benji, Sammy and Jakey in Hardwick Park. The last time the boys had seen Tiger was almost a year ago when they looked after her whilst I ran the Great North Run virtually in September 2020! Super cute to see them again though and see them all playing together.

We continued on, and checked into the Durham City Centre (Walkergate) Premier Inn. I had completely forgotten but once we had parked up in the Walkergate Car Park (£7.70 for 24h with the Premier Inn discount), we checked into the most lovely 'Premier Plus' accessible room complete with coffee machine and luxury toiletries and... it was only £49! The Premier Inn is so well situated to go out in Durham, once you can work the lifts out, has a Wetherspoons (where Tiger had her tea) and various other bars and restaurants. I got a sitters babysitter, and Ruth and I had a simply delicious child-free Turkish meal at Arkasu Turkish Restaurant where the whole bill came to just £67 - it is number 4 on Tripadvisor and deservedly so! It was also so wonderful to see Ruth and to have a night out.

On Monday 26th July, we drove around 92 miles (1h40) to York Maze where the advance ticket had cost £15 (adult) and Tiger was free still being in the 0-2 range. It's worth noting though that anyone aged 3 or over are £15 if you book 5 days in advance, £16.50 2 days in advance, and £18.50 for a flexible ticket. And there aren't any family discounts so this was probably one of the priciest attractions we went to. So was it worth it for kids? Tiger was still a little young for a lot of it but we enjoyed the Butlins-esque performances, the pig run, and the bouncy pillows. Unfortunately Tiger was pretty scared of the people dressed up as giant sweetcorn! For older kids, I think you could really make a day of it.

From York Maze it was a hop, skip and a jump to York itself (5 miles, 20 minutes). Parking was, shall we say, interesting though. I had planned to park in the Shambles Q-Park but the car park was full and I ended up taking a bit of a risk and just parking on the double yellow lines. Thankfully, no ticket ensued! I popped Tiger in the buggy and we headed off to the York Chocolate Story where I had booked us into the 4pm slot for £15 (adult) with children under 4 being free. The attraction was ever so well run, and had better live demonstrations versus Cadbury World in Birmingham which we visited earlier on in the road trip. Tiger was quite excitable though, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to keep her quiet-ish so the others on our tour could actually hear what the guide was saying. He also kept his wonderful humour being constantly interrupted with exclamations of "Chocolate Mummy!". At the end of the 'experience' we also were invited to make chocolate lollies which was a great touch. Well done York Chocolate Story - a deserved Tripadvisor traveller's choice award winner I'd say!

Having retrieved the car (thankfully ticketless), we drove the next 86 miles (about 2h) onto Nottingham, parking in the Mount Street NCP car park which with the Premier Inn discount was £11. The Nottingham City Centre (Chapel Bar) Premier Inn was probably our most so-so room as it was a little small but it was still accessible and was £49, certainly very central. I was quite enamoured by the nearby Indian restaurant called '4550 miles from Delhi'. We didn't eat here (dinner was from Subway!!) but it just tickled me, what a fab name!

On Tuesday 27th July, we were just around the corner from Nottingham Castle but after we had checked out and loaded the car up, and actually walked up to the castle we were over half an hour late for our pre-booked time slots. I hadn't thought this would be an issue, but they were super strict at Nottingham Castle! We ran straight to the underground adventure cave tour so as not to miss our slot at 11am (£5, children under 5 free). This was wonderful but possibly one I'd avoid in future with a 2.5 year old as again, similarly to in York, Tiger just shouted over the guide. Hopefully our fellow guests weren't too upset. We had also missed our timeslot for the Robin Hood adventure (£3, under 5s free) but were still allowed in and whizzed quickly around the Paul Smith exhibition! The Robin Hood adventure would be wonderful for slightly older children as you can learn to use the bow and arrow and there are lots of video-type games. We actually never went inside the castle itself (adult £13, under 5s free) though so I'm not sure what I missed but we did get refunded!

After lunch in the cafe at the top of Nottingham Castle, we drove the short 22 mile (40 minutes) distance to Twinlakes family theme park which is near to Melton Mowbray. My adult ticket (booked online) was £20.95 and Tiger, being under 95cm, was free. It's an interesting place, with clearly a good marketing team behind them (fantastic website!), but the reality was slightly shabby. That said, the staff (some dressed as pirates) really tried hard and Tiger did really enjoy going on little indoor rides (first big wheel on her own!), and together we went on our first rollercoaster! After two weeks of non stop sunshine, the rain finally caught up with us but thanks to a lot of Twinlakes being undercover that didn't dampen the experience.

From Twinlakes, we drove onto Warwick (55 miles, 1h20) and checked into the Warwick Holiday Inn Express which was the most expensive place we had stayed at £68.86 but this did include a buffet breakfast. As is now usual, we had our accessible room and Tiger's cot went into the bathroom! There is an adjoining McDonald's so we grabbed "dinner", oh so healthy, from there. I had hunted high and low for anything cheaper and couldn't find anything better, but the upside is that it is right next to Warwick Castle!

Wednesday 28th July was the last day of our holiday, although I had two further days off work whilst Tiger went into nursery to recuperate! We headed off to Warwick Castle just around the corner which had formed part of our Sea Life Birmingham and Lego Discovery Birmingham ticket for £47.95, although you can get adult day tickets from £20 online. Under 3s are free though! The castle is very, very popular but it's a fantastic day out with kids. We saw the Zog the dragon experience (although Tiger doesn't really know Zog yet and was quite afraid of the dragons!), met a princess, saw an archer, ate ice cream, got up close and personal with a peacock, and climbed right to the top of the castle (no mean feat!). My only gripe was that we had to park such a long way away in the overflow car park, such that it was a 20-30 minute walk just to the entrance and it would have been so much easier to have known this in advance and to take the buggy! Finally, exhausted (well, me at least) we drove back home to Witley (120 miles, 2h15) where we found the garden had overgrown in front of my front door! All in all we had travelled 1750 miles, spent £316 in petrol, from Portsmouth to Inverness and back to Surrey. Now that is what I call a road trip! Phew!

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