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My Northumberland ‘Vancation’

As you may know, in 2012 I was chosen to be Visit England’s blogger during the Olympic Torch Relay which involved spending three months travelling the length and breadth of the country in a vintage VW campervan called Rosie. I loved the experience but unfortunately had to hand back the campervan at the end of my epic adventure.

Three years ago with Rosie!

So when the lovely people at Benfield Motor Group asked if I’d like to be a guest blogger and head out on a ‘Vancation’ in one of their swanky new Volkswagen California’s, I jumped at the chance!

The first thing I noticed as I slid open the door was how luxurious it was. In comparison to Rosie the vintage VW, it was like entering a 5 star hotel!

Travelling in style!

Travelling in style!

I was staggered at how spacious and modern it was. There were so many innovative features, like a picnic table and chairs that could be stored away neatly into perfectly designed nooks and crannies and a moveable worktop to make mealtimes easy! I was hugely impressed by the electric roof which opened smoothly at the touch of a button.

benfield 2

We could have headed to the Lake District or Yorkshire but Newcastle really is the gateway to Northumberland, one of my favourite parts of the world, so we decided to make the most of our weekend by staying fairly close to home and cramming in as much as possible.

craster1

Our first stop was the pretty coastal village of Craster where we had a delicious lunch overlooking the sea at The Jolly Fisherman followed by ice cream from the van in the harbour.

We also couldn’t resist buying kippers from the famous smoke house after seeing Robson Green enjoy them on his TV show ‘Tales from Northumberland’. Smoked kippers probably weren’t the best thing to cook in a campervan (whiffy to say the least!) but they sure were delicious.

jolly fisherman view

The view from the Jolly Fisherman in Craster

icecream

eating outside

Our base for the first two nights was Springhill Farm, a secluded retreat near Seahouses and Bamburgh. We’d booked a special offer, two nights for £20, a bargain considering we got a hard standing pitch with electric hook up and the showers were lovely and hot. The views were pretty spectacular too.

breakfast

We also took the opportunity to experience some of Northumberland’s best loved local attractions including Alnwick Garden and Cragside, both of which are a great day out. I’d also recommend Bamburgh Castle, Holy Island and the Farne Islands, all wonderful places to visit and really easy to get to from Geordieland.

alnwick

cragside

In the evenings the campervan became a home from home, albeit without a telly. That was fine by us though and we embraced the back to basics lifestyle, passing the time by cooking our own meals from scratch and challenging each other to Scrabble.

dinner

scrabble

There were two options for sleeping arrangements, we could either roll forward the passenger seats in the main part of the van or sleep in the spacious upper berth. We tried both and found them to be much comfier than expected.

kielder

For the third and final night of our adventure we made our way to Kielder Water and Forest Park. This is another beautiful part of the North East with loads to experience, bike roads, boat trips, fishing, wildlife spotting and the award winning Kielder Observatory to name but a few. I’ll be writing in more detail about Kielder soon but the fantastic indoor pool and sauna was definitely a highlight of our stay!

We had the indoor pool at Leaplish all to ourselves!

We had the indoor pool at Leaplish all to ourselves!

The caravan park at Leaplish boasts excellent facilities (including proper hairdryers in the bathrooms) and is staggering distance to a waterside pub and restaurant called The Boathouse. Sadly it had closed early on the Sunday we were there but I’d heard great things about the food at the nearby Pheasant Inn so I offered to be the designated driver and we enjoyed a delicious three course meal in the cosy pub before turning in for the night under the International Dark Sky Park.

kielder view

We slept incredibly well that night, it was very peaceful. I had to pinch myself when I awoke the next morning, the water was so still it made the view look like a beautiful painting. We were kicking ourselves that we’d not brought our bikes along, we’ll have to remember that for next time.

DCIM103MEDIA

DCIM103MEDIA

This blog post is an amended version of a post originally written for the Benfield Blog. Click HERE to find out more about hiring a VW California from Benfield’s sister company ‘Vancations’.

If you have any questions or comments about this post I’d love to hear from you, please leave a comment below.

By Rachel Kershaw
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About Author

Rachel Kershaw

I'm a proud ambassador for all that's great about Geordieland and love sharing the best of what NewcastleGateshead has to offer. I may not be a Geordie born and bred but I've lived here for a over a decade and am proud to call this fabulous region my home!

13 Comments

  1. Great blog! I’d have preferred this to Olive for our adventure as it seems like an easier drive 🙂

    • I have to admit Emma that as much as I loved Rosie, life was much easier and more comfortable in a new vehicle! The only downside is you don’t get as many admiring glances from passers by!

  2. I always wondered about campervans, they really don’t look like they would be comfortable but it seems I was wrong. Looks like you had fun

  3. Martha Reply

    It is slightly amusing to see and read aboiut people getting excited over a VW California. My dad has had one for several years and I can say with utmost certainty, they are the most spacious things, but my bum muscles have toned so much because the seats have zero shape.

    M x

  4. I’ve always dreamed of a traditional campervan holiday but after reading this I may re-think – this van looks very modern and comfortable in comparison – it looks like your drivers seat is a comfortable armchair!

    I holiday in Northumberland every year (in fact I’ve already had 4 mini breaks in Northumberland this year come to think of it!) – it is such a fabulous place and I am proud to call it my home!

  5. Wow this was such a good read … loved it! We are on staycation in 2 weeks (counting down the days!) – we will be hiring a car which is such a novelty when we still don’t own our own wheels – and I’m currently trying to decide where we’ll visit, there’s just too much choice! At the moment I’m thinking Alnwick Garden, Kielder and Beamish … but I also want to head up to Bamburgh, do a puffin cruise, see High Force, climb Roseberry Topping … think I need another week!

  6. This really does look like loads of fun. Heading off into the sunset in a campervan has always been on my list, ever since my friend at school went off to New Zealand with her parents and toured all summer. I’m still jealous! This does look more luxurious than an old traditional vanilla split screen, but I think I’d still like to go for the old style at least once.

  7. Commenting again to say thanks for linking to #LoveNorthEast – such a fabulous way to see our gorgeous North East!

  8. I’ve never really thought about caravaning as a holiday but yours looks like you have everything you need to get on the road, see a lot of places and have a lot of fun! A tick-list of must-sees in the North East. they’re all worth a visit. I especially like Kielder (despite all the midgies!) 🙂

  9. Haha! Less character than Rosie but I’m sure this van would’ve been easier to spend three months in 😉

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