I WAS really keen to find somewhere perfect for our Northumberland holiday. The last time we had a summer holiday as a family, we stayed in a cottage in Norfolk and it was just idyllic. I was determined to find something as nice or – dare I hope? – even better.
I get quite stressed looking for holiday properties online and I wasn't having much luck with the Northumberland cottages, but when I found the website for The Granary, I knew it was the perfect place. In fact, it was so perfect that I couldn't believe it wasn't booked up for the whole summer. I rang the owners there and then and when they said it was available the week we wanted, I sent the deposit straight off.
Being a bit on the paranoid side, I wasn't entirely convinced everything would be as perfect as it seemed until we got there. It was in the middle of nowhere, but easy to find – it's just off the main road out of Alnwick, and then up a private road. The cottage itself is one of five properties clustered together at the end of the road. We hopped out of the car, I retrieved the key from the keysafe and we went through the boot room, straight into the enormous kitchen.
Harry, 6, ran in and, after just a few seconds, shouted, "This is the best house I've EVER SEEN!" The owners had left us a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates and there was food in the cupboard, yoghurt in the fridge and tea, coffee and sugar next to the kettle. Having once turned up at a cottage that didn't even have loo roll, this was more than welcome. (Washing powder was also provided.)
Downstairs, as well as the kitchen, boot room, and loo, there was a living room with TV (only four channels, to the kids' horror), DVD player and glorious view (I spent far more time watching the changing sky than watching the TV). The bookshelves were lined with books, boxes of craft accessories for children and a great selection of DVDs.
Upstairs, the master bedroom had an enormous (and enormously comfy) bed and an ensuite bathroom, the second bedroom (which Harry immediately "bagsied") had a double bed and the third bedroom had twin beds and a large toy bear that we moved out of the way to make space for baby Joe's travel cot. There was a family bathroom at that end of the landing – perfect for the boys' to use.
One of the things I'd been both looking forward to and worrying about was the outside space. It wasn't entirely clear on the photographs exactly what there was, but it turned out to be a walled and gated garden with a long lawn and terrace with table and chairs. And, of course, the most incredible view. We spent an awful lot of time out there, eating most of our meals at the table and generally running and rolling about on the grass. Just the other side of the wall is a field full of sheep, so often we ate with a bleating accompaniment, to the amusement of the kids.
Harry spent much of our Norfolk holiday singing, "I want to go ho-o-ome!" but every morning in Northumberland, he asked how many days we had left before saying, "I will be sad to leave this place." In fact when we did leave, we had to promise to try and find a family home with a similar kitchen, bathroom and garden and a big enough bedroom for him to have a double bed. (We'll keep playing the lottery…) Oh and we also had to promise to return to The Granary next year. But that's fine. We were going to do that anyway. It was a fabulous find.
Prices and availability: From £350pw in January to £600pw in JulyAugust
Don't forget to take: The only thing we had to take was our own towels
Nearby facilities: Nothing in the immediate vicinity, but Alnick is just 5-10 minutes away by car
Any issues: Erratic mobile reception.