Review of Beamish, Living Museum of the North, a family day out in County Durham
Like most little boys, my son loves transport of all kinds – tractors, trains, cars and planes are among his favourite things.
But regular visits to Beamish museum have seen trams added to that list, too.
Open air and set in 300 acres of fantastic countryside, Beamish is called the “living museum of the north” thanks to its working exhibits of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian times, which can be freely explored.
Beautifully restored trams traverse the site and you can hop on and off for free to get around.
So, on a blissfully warm day recently, my boy Kasper, my sister, my husband and I set off for a day out at Beamish.
Staying nearby, we were able to walk down to the museum, but there is ample parking and regular bus services connecting with nearby public transport hubs such as Newcastle.
Once inside, the first thing Kasper always wants to do is to take a ride on the trams and my sister was happy to take him on one of his choice while my husband and I walked to our first meeting point – Home Farm.
With pigs, horses, ducks and geese, it is a great place to start, especially for visitors with younger children, and includes a farmhouse kitchen to explore.
From there, we walked towards a large grassed area near the Railway Station.
We joined others to find a spot to enjoy a picnic, from where we could hear the whistle of the train and see its steam rise towards the blue sky.
It was enough to tempt Kasper for a ride and after a quick game of frisbee, we walked towards the station, stopping at a small fairground area on the way.
With traditional carousel and swing boats, it was the “cokernut” shy that took Kasper’s fancy and he amazed us with his accuracy and technique – hitting a coconut square with his final ball.
He didn’t have the power to knock it off but the stall-holder, witnessing his prowess, declared him a winner anyway and he proudly carried away his prize.
Getting there: Beamish is in County Durham, 12 miles north west of Durham city and eight miles south west of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. From the north and south, follow the A1M to junction 63 (Chester-le-Street exit) then the A693 towards Stanley for four miles, following the signs. From the west, take the A68 to Castleside, near Consett, and follow the Beamish Museum signs along the A692 and A693 via Stanley. For sat-nav users, the postcode is DH9 0RG.
Open: Open for the summer season daily, from 10am to 5pm, until November 3.
Prices: Adults £17.50, senior/student £13, children (five to 16) £10, free entry for under-fives. Family, one adult and two children £32, or two adults and two children £46.
Call: 0191 3704000.
From there, we headed to the railway station, where we made the short journey on the steam train.
Taking about ten minutes, the train heads out of the station before reversing back again on the same track.
Kasper could have stayed on it all day but with the promise of an ice cream, we jumped off and went to the Town.
Here is the hub of the museum, with shops, houses, a park and even a pub.
With the hot weather giving us a thirst, we bought a couple of pints to take away from the Sun Inn – which was moved brick-by-brick from nearby Bishop Aukland – and sat in the sunny park while Kasper ate his ice cream.
No visit to Beamish for us is complete without a visit to the sweet shop and we loaded up with quarter pound bags of our favourites while my husband found out how things used to be done at the newspaper office and printers further along the street.
From there, we took another tram ride back to the entrance and made our way home, having seen just a small portion of what Beamish has to offer.
There is also the Pit Village where you will find a school, chapel and a not-to- be-missed chance to go down a mine as well as Pockerley Old Hall – representing the home of a wealthy farmer – and Pockerley Waggonway.
But with family living nearby and tickets valid for 12 months for unlimited visits, we are regular visitors and therefore didn’t feel under pressure to do everything in one go.
And there always seems to be something new to enjoy – Hetton Silver Band Hall opened this year in the Pit Village, for example, and a bakery is due to open in the Town in the autumn.
We have never failed to have a lovely time there and even though the museum is open air, we have had fantastic days in the cold, wind and rain.
Earlier this year, for example, we trudged down in inches of snow and enjoyed a hot chocolate and a go on an outdoor ice rink before warming up in the fantastic Pit Village fish and chip shop, which serves traditionally cooked “dab and chips” in beef dripping on coal- fired ranges.
It is always a pleasure to be able to treat Kasper to something he really loves and even better when there is plenty for the grown-ups to enjoy, too.