Day trip to Blackburn (yes, you heard, Blackburn)

bb openwalls18 044

Tourism and Blackburn is a combination about as comfortable as a honeymoon in Mogadishu.

But if you’re looking for a free day out, especially somewhere to take your kids in the summer holidays, then Blackburn could be the highlight of your six-week break.

That’s because of something called Blackburn Open Walls.

And this is what it is:

Blackburn Open Walls is an art project street artists (similar to graffiti artists) have painted art on walls all over the town of Blackburn.

This was done between July 17th and 22nd – but the art remains past these dates for anyone to see. There are leaflets with maps showing the locations of all this year’s art (plus the work from previous years) or you can download a map from the website (Blackburn Open Walls).

The art itself is fabulous. It’s wonderful to see a town like Blackburn transforming itself with wild and wonderful artworks (and little men to try and spot).

Street art is such an accessible form of art for people to enjoy. Why every town and city in Britain is not programming similar works is a mystery to me. I’ve been wanted to do similar work with photography for some time. If any council wants to work with me on this idea, come this way.

BOW also has an exhibition space where artists have smaller pieces on display. It’s on at the BOW Artery (which I think is on Lord Street West – I couldn’t find it mentioned on their website).

Hayley Welsh, originally from Blackburn, is the woman behind the project. So a big thumbs up to her. Alexander Gallagher is the exhibition curator. And there are loads of amazing artists who have taken part in the project.

Try some sightseeing in Blackburn – you’ll have one of those days you’ll never forget.

My six-year-old daughter decided she was going to write a list of everything she saw (pictured). She loved it.

NOTES: I wrote a book about free days out in Lancashire (link in bio or via: It is £6.99 to buy on Amazon (or £2.99 for the kindle version).

There are also updates, extra days out for Yorkshire and Northumberland/North East on the blog https://freedayout.wordpress.combb openwalls18 099bb openwalls18 119bb openwalls18 129bb openwalls18 135bb openwalls18 193bb openwalls18 210bb openwalls18 309bb openwalls18 375bb openwalls18 392bb openwalls18 404bb openwalls18 002bb openwalls18 241 1bb openwalls18 291bb openwalls18 296bb openwalls18 297


UPDATE: Splash Park at Happy Mount Park, Morecambe


Splash Park at Happy Mount Park, Morecambe, is now charging £1 entry fee.

This wonderful place is now so loved by kids that in the past few years there have been huge queues to get in. This has happened quite regularly.

So, the people at Happy Mount have introduced a booking system (since 2017) to try and reduce the queues of screaming kids. It only costs £1 (for adults too, even if they’re not going to get wet). I think the system works really well.

There are four bookable sessions, each lasting 1hour 45mins:

10:30am – 12:15pm
12:30pm – 2:15pm
2:30pm – 4:15pm
4:30pm – 6:30pm


Day Out: Kielder Water, Northumberland


Kielder, Kielder Water, Kielder Reservoir, Kielder Forest. The name of this place is just as complicated as how to visit this place. And it’s a long way to come for everyone who visits this reservoir in Northumberland National Park, so it’s worth getting it right before you set off.

These are the three things you need to know:

  1. Pay £5 for all day parking at any site along the reservoir and your ticket is valid for all car parks, all day. You only pay £5.
  2. Kielder is best for cycling. Cycling round the lake is the best day out you can have here. The route is 27 miles. If you’re with your family I’m thinking teenage children, may nine or ten-year-olds will get away with it. Mountain biking is also very good.
  3. Young children will enjoy being at Kielder Castle the most.There’s a Gruffalo walk, minotaur maze and small playground.

More detail (and two warnings about the Gruffalo walk):

The Gruffalo walk at Kielder Castle is just long enough to be considered a long walk while not too long that young kids will be crying that their legs are tired when you’re only half way round.

On the walk you will find an almost life-size wooden Gruffalo (there are two actually, although one is lying down and may be the Gruffalo’s Child) but the other animals are just printed boards.


Also, while the walk is lovely it’s non-chronolgical. That is, you’ll find the fox first, followed by the Gruffalo then the owl and snake. It’s a bit barmy that the walk is not in order. This may be because the walk has been extended from it’s original location. But it’s still barmy.

The walk and minotaur maze are free.

At Kielder Castle there is also a mountain bike hire shop.

The other sites along the lake often have very little to do other than walks and maybe one of the dozen permanent art features (although half of these are not accessibale by road).

For example, Leaplish has the art-installtion crazy golf and is one of the ferry stops (ferry runs Weds to Sun). But there is not much more to do for the visitor here. There is a walks and there is actually a holiday park (small restaurant, shop, small playground).

Other sites have less amenities. Which is why cycling is the thing to do at Kielder.

You can download a map of Kielder from the website here. The website is quite good.




North East England free days out


_DSC6842_DSC7240FREE Days Out has been back in the north east. We’ve been looking for things to do for kids that during our two-week holiday.

We’re almost half way through. Here is a list of things we’ve done, and things we might do over the next week or so:

Marsden Rock, South Shields
Still our favourite bit of beach anywhere (and also we call this place Marsden, Marsden Bay and Marsden Grotto, which is actually the pub). We’ve been there twice this week already, once when the tide was in and once when it was out.

_DSC7313 1

Penshaw Monument, Sunderland
Easy short and steep walk. Great views at the top.

Herrington Park, Sunderland
Also free (including free parking) is right across the road from Penshaw Monument. There you can walk, cycle and play ball games. There’s also a skate park and playground.

Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street
You have to pay for the car park and it does get busy in high season (overflow is at Durham Cricket Club across the road) but playground is great. There’s also a small water park.

Finchale Priory
Don’t try and get access to this place via Fichale Abbey Holiday Park. Go past Lumley Castle and through Great Lumley. You’ll find roadside parking and get to the beautiful ruined priory down a lot of steps and across the River Wear by a foot bridge.

Northumberlandia, near Cramlington
Fairly new landscaped walk in the shape of a woman’s body sculptured out of an old quarry. I expect this site to get better facilities as it is developed over the coming years.

Durham Cathedral
Most cathedrals this good charge a hefty entrance fee. This place is totally breathtaking and free. You do have to pay to go up to the top of the Cathedral. It’s not expensive. It is worth it. The walk around the River Wear is also fantastic.

Other free places:
Hancock Museum, Newcastle
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle
The Baltic, Gateshead.

There has also been plenty written about north east days out in previous posts on this website.


In the Lake District (Langdale and Borrowdale)

(NOTE: I did this walk with an eleven-year-old and a four-year-old. They did not whinge)

FREE Days Out has been walking in the Lake District. We went on a wonderful watefall walk up to Stickle Tarn in Langdale (and came back down the same way). It was very foggy and a bit wet – but we had a great time. Then, in weather far more glorious, we went on a magnificent four-hour walk in Borrowdale, from Grange (which is a few miles south of Keswick) up to a stunning summit view called Castle Crag.

Stickle Tarn notes

_DSC8633 1

After heading west from Ambleside, keep driving past Langdale/Great Langdale until you pass a pub called Stickle Barn Tavern (on your right, set back off the road). Here there are two car parks – one on your left and a National Trust car park on the right. It’s debatable about which is cheapest. You’re looking at about £7 or £8 for all day parking.

The walk up Stickle Tran is up Stickle Ghyll. It’s a magnificent, quite steep, rocky path which occasionally crosses the waterfall (via bridge or wet feet) and includes some basic scrambling. The view of the tarn (when the weather is nice) and the rest of the valley is amazing.

Kids love scrambling over the rocks. Their legs were feeling like jelly towards the bottom of the descent but they loved it.

When you’re at the top there are various onwards walks you can do, including a perilous path further up the mountain at the other side of the tarn. I wouldn’t do that with young people.

Time: three hours, including picnic stop at the top)

_DSC8659lake district, the lakes, cumbria


Grange (Borger Dalr, Borrowdale) walk notes

lake district, the lakes, cumbria

It’s a very tight road on the drive down to Grange from Keswick, and the village is just as tight to drive through. Good news is there are plenty of places to park for free. Best areas are heading back out of the village towards the Borrowdale Gates Hotel. Park just before you get to the hotel entrance or, if there is no spaces there, keep going for 500m for more roadside parking.

And it is just before the Borrowdale Gates Hotel where you start the walk, heading west along a gently rising path. This walk does a kind of figure of eight. You head south through Hollows Farm, past a camp site down to the river. Then cross the small bridge over the brook and take the path to the right (west) which leads you all the way up to Castle Crag. This is quite a long, beautiful rise. The crag itself is reached by a lovely tight, narrow, steep slate track before you get the fabulous views south across the valley.

You have to go back down the slate path, over a style and then take quite a steep descent down the mountain as you carry on your anti-clockwise circular walk. Eventually you’ll come back to the river, but not before you pass a huge cave – Millican Daltons Cave – which you can walk through and climb out of. You’ll see it on your left just before you go through a stone wall.

It’s a beautiful walk and known as one of the best in the Lake District

Here is the National Trust guide for this walk.

Time: four hours including picnic and rest stops.

Don’t forget you can buy FREE Days Out in Lancashire* (*and the surrounding areas) from Amazon (and for Kindle) now.

lake district, the lakes, cumbria_DSC8900 1_DSC8885

FREE Days Out was in the North East again this summer – Penshaw Monument, Herrington Park (Sunderland) & Marsden (South Shields)

Marsden (and Marsden Grotto) is the most beautiful stretch of beach on the North-east coast. Enclosed by cliffs, with fantastic caves to explore in – including the rock accessible only when the tide is out – Marsden is a mini-piece of paradise in a place you’d least expect it (between South Shields and Sunderland).

The Grotto is actually a pub (with its own lift to get the less agile down from the car park).

TIP: Don’t use the pub car park, the public one 50metres away is just £3 to park all day (free after 8.30pm).

marsden, south shields, sunderland

marsden, south shileds, marsden grottomarsden, south shileds, marsden grottomarsden, south shileds, marsden grotto


Further inland is the iconic Penshaw Monument – a fantastic short steep walk up the hill to see fantastic panoramic views. Right across the road is Herrington Park, with lakes and fantastic easy cycling tracks.

There’s also a decent sized kids playground and coffee shop. Parking is free at Herrington Park.

herrington park, penshaw monumentherrington park, penshaw monumentherrington park, penshaw monumentherrington park, penshaw monumentherrington park, penshaw monumentherrington park, penshaw monument

Kindle edition of FREE Days Out in Lancashire is FREE FREE FREE over a two-day special promotion

Usually £2.99 in the UK, the Kindle edition of Free Days Out in Lancashire will be free to download on Friday, August 5 and Saturday, August 6, 2016.

This book already has the power to save YOU hundreds of pounds during days out at weekends, half-term and summer holidays. Now you can get a digital copy totally free. Please tell people about the book.

You can see the Kindle version of the book on Amazon here.

The paperback edition will remain at £6.99 on Amazon which you can purchase from the same link.

And extra days out are listed on the popular blog/website

You should know that already if you’re reading this. The blog includes guides to days out at non-Lancashire locations including the North East and Northumberland and North Yorkshire.

The only stipulation for a free day out is that there is no entrance charge to attractions. Where there are car park charges, these are mentioned.

garry cook centre of britain 007070 miller park 013002 withy groveFREE Lancashire cover kindle digital book cover garry cook