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With the Easter holidays in full flow, I seemed to spend my time having a look to see which places were holding events which appeal to children.
Being a member of the national Trust, I often visit places in their portfolio, so saving admission costs. Its worth checking out www.nationaltrust.org for more information.
Souter Lighthouse is a place I have passed on many occasions and never visited, but with an Easter Egg hunt going on, it seemed a good choice.
~~~~Bit of History~~~~
We learnt lots of things whilst at the top of the lighthouse, and one of the stories is that the lighthouse was built in direct response to the fact that in the 1860s, 20 boats hit the rocks. At that time, lots of ships were transporting coal, and this was a hazardous stretch of the coastline; Souter lighthouse was the answer.
~~~~Getting there ~~~~
Address: Souter Lighthouse
Its actually very easy to find, and of course, as you drive past, you can see the lighthouse- very red and white striped, so you get an idea that you are in the right place. As you drive along, the car park is well signposted, although it is quite small, but with the option (which a lot of people seemed to take) to park where you like!
So, to get there, head towards South Shields and follow the A183 Coast Road, which is very well signposted and obviously follows the sea.
Once inside the lighthouse, the ground floor is devoted to engines; it being an engine room. Very interesting if you like engines but Im afraid it was rather over my head!
Continue through the lighthouse, and there are rooms set out to look exactly as they would have done 100 years ago, but with a bit of a twist! In these rooms, there are several items which would not have been found 100 years ago- things like tubes of handcream, cds, coke. Little Miss enjoyed looking for the things, and it was strange to see them in an older setting.
There is also a video showing the history of the lighthouse, and people wanting to learn about it can just sit down and enjoy.
The childrens room has a pirates ship, with dressing up clothes, and other sea related activities and books. When we were there, several children were enjoying the morse code activity and the ship, but the room is big enough to accommodate several children without it feeling crowded. One thing I did like is that they had plenty of dressing up outfits, a lot of them related to Pirates of The Caribbean, so giving children something they could relate to.
For those wanting to go up the tower, you have to wait for the guide, but whilst waiting, there are rope tying activities and more sea and pirate related books. Start to walk up the winding stairs, and it is steep; not for those suffering from vertigo. Indeed, when we were climbing, we had a refuser, a lady who once she looked down, had to come down before even getting to the first stage. I think its just as well because the second set of steps were very precarious;holding onto the hand rails at either side, they are almost vertical and you have to haul yourself up. Coming down requires a lot of concentration for little folk, because eyou come down backwards and Little Miss found the footing difficult. Enough of that once at the tyop, the views are amazing, and the guide gives lots of information about the lighthouse and the technology of the time. It not being the kind of thing I am usually interested in, I was surprised at how interesting I found it.
There is a tea room selling lots of freshly made food- in fact they are quite proud of the fact that they grow their own herbs and vegetables in the small garden, and use them to prepare food. The tearoom is very small though, and situated in the entrance and shop area so be prepared to have people wandering round your table.
Toilets are downstairs near the entrance, and its worth reminding children to go to the toilet before they climb to the top of the lighthouse, because once up there, there is no option but to hold on.
~~~~Prices and Opening hours~~~~
The lighthouse can be visited daily except Fridays from March to October, with last admission being 4.30.
It costs £4.40 for an adults entrance fee, £2.80 for children and a family ticket is £11.50.
~~~~Other bits of information~~~~
The lighthouse is about 40 minutes from the centre of Newcastle and 40 minutes from Durham.
Two holiday cottages are available for rent, and although we didnt see them, I understand they can be booked for short and longer stays.
Lots of stairs up the lighthouse, and no lift, so obviously not wheelchair or pushchair friendly, although there is access to the ground floor. There is however cctv so people who cant see the tower are able to see the view from the top.
~~~~What I thought~~~~
The lighthouse lends itself to some interesting walks, and acts as a bit of a base for anyone interested in wildlife and the seaside in general. Get a nice day and its very pleasant to stroll around; bad weather and its seriously cold and windy, standing as it does on the cliffs.
Its important to keep children warned that although there are lots of open spaces around the lighthouse, they do lead to the edge of the cliffs. The barriers at these edges would have no chance to stop anyone falling over.
The lighthouse itself has lots of activities to keep children entertained, and they seem to enjoy the climb to the top of the tower, seeing it as a personal triumph. Little Miss understood a lot of the information given by the guide, mainly because the way she explained things was easy for we uninitiated to understand. She seemed quite taken with the fact that red and white lighthouses shine red and white lights and white lighthouses shine only white We have now solved the mystery of different coloured lighthouses.
We saw lots of birds nesting in the cliffs and on the stacks, and enjoyed the stroll round the lighthouse, although get ready for the fog horn sounding, because it really is loud.
For an interesting day out near the sea side, I would recommend this.
Thanks for reading.