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Review: Cairngorm Travel

Escorted Tour - Coach

Goole, East Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Five days in Northumberland with Cairngorm Travel

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2372 reviews

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  • March 2019
  • On your own

60 people found this review helpful

I read the article about Northumberland in the first issue of silver traveller Magazine":https://en.calameo.com/read/00442742359a710b7a3fc for 2019. It brought back many happy memories and also reminded me it is a long time since I was last there. It seemed like fate had taken a hand when a few days later an unsolicited email arrived from Cairngorm Travel for five days in Northumberland, March 2019. I didn’t hesitate long.

Cairngorm Travel are a coach company based in Goole and run short holiday breaks with pick up point across the north of England. I rang to place my booking. Dealings with Cairngorm Travel by phone were good. Calls were answered promptly and efficiently and all my questions answered. They don’t charge extra for use of a credit card, but do ask that you have insurance for the trip. Paperwork and details were sent out a week before the holiday.

I was the only person travelling from Scunthorpe so was picked up by car from Scunthorpe Bus Station and taken to Doncaster Interchange where I joined the main coach. This worked very well, especially when the driver on the return trip dropped me off at home, rather than the bus station.

The coach had other pick ups at Ferrybridge, Wetherby and Durham Services, where people arrived by mini bus.

We arrived at Alnwick about 4pm and were booked into the White Swan for four nights. This is an old coaching inn in the centre of Alnwick. It is a lovely old fashioned place with a lot of character. The revolving door, main staircase and fitting in the dining room (panelling, windows, mirrors and plasterwork) came from the RMS Olympia which was a sister ship of the Titanic and equally as opulent. When the Olympic was scrapped in the late 1930s, the then owner of the hotel bought them to install here. The dining room is stunning and meals more than lived up to the surroundings.

I had a room at the back of the hotel, so the view wasn’t brilliant, but it was a comfortable room with an excellent walk in shower, good towels and plenty of toiletries.

The welcome tray also included packs of Grandma Wild biscuits each day along with bottles of water (still and sparkling). There was a big flat screen TV, hair drier, ironing board and iron. There was an open hanging area with plenty of coat hangers. My only criticism would be lack of drawer space for clothes. This was limited to two small drawers beneath the desk and bedside tables.

I had enough time after registering to go for a walk round Alnwick taking photographs and got as far as the Lion Bridge for the classic view of Alnwick Castle seen across the river.

We spent all of the first day on Holy Island, arriving just before the causeway was covered, and left late afternoon. The advantage of this was there were few visitors. On sunny days in summer when the causeway is open all day, the island does get uncomfortably busy.

I had planned to visit the ruins of the Priory, only to find these were shut (unexpected closure at short notice) so had to admire from over the wall. St Mary’s Church next to the Priory and the parish church was open and nearly everyone visits.

I walked to the Castle which has recently reopened after a massive restoration programme to sort out problems with damp from leaking roofs and windows. Many of the rooms were still unfurnished until the new plaster has dried out. This did mean you see the architecture and structure of the rooms rather than the furnishings.

The next day was a free day for us to spend in Alnwick. I began with St Michael’s Church, an impressive C15th building overlooking the river, but the outside is more impressive than the inside.

Although Alnwick Castle was shut until the end of the month, the Gardens are open all year. I had read a lot about them before visiting and they more than lived up to all the hype. They were the brain child of the present Duchess who wanted to restore a disused walled garden to provide much needed employment and also bring tourists and their money into the area. They have certainly achieved this. Visiting before the leaves come out means you can appreciate the monumental scale of the gardens and the work needed to create them. The cascade is stunning.

I finished the day by visiting Barter Books in the old railway station. This markets itself as the ‘largest second hand bookshop in the country’ and it is huge. In fact there were so many books, I went into overload.

Our final day was a trip to Cragside near Rothbury. This was the home of C19th Tyneside Industrialist Lord Armstrong. It was the first house in the world to be lit by electricity and contained many labour saving devices so essential today. It is said to be the place were modern living began.

It was a nice day, so I decided to do the grounds before visiting the house. I walked along the Debdon Burn to the Iron Bridge with the classic picture of Cragside and then to the Formal Gardens. These are on a southern slope and a sun trap on a sunny day. I then followed the signs to the Power house which produced the electricity needed for the house.

I have visited the house many times but am still amazed by the ingenuity of Lord Armstrong with his dish washing machine, dumb waiter and automatic spit.

The next day was back to Scunthorpe. This is the first time I have been with Cairngorm Travel and I was impressed. The coach was comfortable. The feeder service worked well, reducing the amount of time spend sitting in the coach travelling around the countryside to pick up passengers. The White Swan Hotel was excellent and we had three good days. I felt the trip at £295 including the single supplement represented very good value. I would definitely use them again.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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