The Alnwick Garden
Ok, so we’re not exactly guaranteed a dry, pleasant day to end February, but if (by some miracle) the weather does hold out on the 29th, then The Alnwick Garden is the place to go. Nearly 12 acres of magnificent, meandering gardens await here, comprising the world’s largest Tai Haku Cherry Orchard, a Grand Cascade comprising 120 individual water jets and an exquisite Rose Garden. Kids can let off all the steam they need by running freely throughout the gardens or playing on the mini diggers, while the bigger kids among us can kick back on one of the 50 swinging benches and take it all in.
Greenwell Road, Alnwick NE66 1HB
Monteviot House & Gardens
Unlike many other historic homes, Monteviot is not a museum or gallery but a living, breathing family home and has been since the early 18th century. With superb works of art and furniture collected over the generations, the magnificent house is a perfect place to explore whatever the weather, but becomes an even more attractive destination when the sun shines because of the 30 acres that surround it – which spill down over lawn and through woodland onto the flood plain of the river Teviot below.
Jedburgh TD8 6UQ
If you can drive it, shoot it or ride it, then you’ll probably find it at Fury Events in Durham. From quad biking to clay pigeon shooting, race buggies to archery and axe-throwing, and plenty of packages available to mix and match activities, the Fury team of instructors are all thrill-seeking bunch of outdoors lovers and will make you one of their own in no time. You have to be a minimum of 12 years old for all of the activities on offer here, which means it’s a no-go for smaller children but perfect for big kids. And because it’s open seven days a week come rain or shine – and because you already know you’ll leave a little muddier then you arrived – it makes for a perfect drizzly day out.
Broom House Farm, Whitton Gilbert, Durham DH7 6TR
Having an extra day this year also means something else – we get an extra night, too. And sure, you could spend the occasion at the local pub or in the town at one of your regular haunts, but if you’re looking for a hole-ly different evening experience (see what we did there?) then Ghetto Golf if the place for you. Tucked away in Hoults Yard, in the heart of the Ouseburn, Ghetto Golf offers a seriously twisted 18-hole urban golf experience, combined with a weird and wacky cocktail bar serving come top tipples amid incredible graffiti artwork, all complemented by music from live DJs. You’re welcome.
The Clay Shed, Hoult’s Yard, Walker Road, Newcastle NE6 2HL
The reason for leap years all comes down to keeping our calendar in alignment with the Earth’s circuit around the Sun. So it seems only fitting to be spending the extra day the leap year gives us gazing up at the heavens. The Sun is a star, after all, so while we wouldn’t suggest looking directly at it, you’ll be able to see thousands more where it came from at Kielder Observatory. And on 29th February there’s plenty of events to open your eyes and mind up to the wonders above – Introduction To Astronomy is the earliest, starting at 5pm (perfect for younger families), while the two later events, Late Night Dark Skies and Physics In The Forest, both start just before midnight.
Kielder Forest and Water Park, Northumberland NE48 1ER
The Northumberland coastline is renowned for its breathtaking swathes of golden sands and awe-inspiring vistas crowned with medieval castles. But skim over its beaches and across a short causeway and you’ll find yourself on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne – with its Gertrude Jekyll Garden a site of international significance, an exciting array of wildlife to spot in its Nature Reserve, plenty of walking routes, and Lindisfarne Castle forever a source of inspiration and intrigue. And with the Castle reopening for the new season from 13th February, there’s sure to be plenty of new ways to discover the wealth of history between its walls.
Holy Island, Berwick TD15 2SH
Silksworth Ski Slope
We don’t know about you, but we love taking any opportunity we can to get active, and with an extra day we think it’s high time we hit the slopes. And Silksworth is one of the best outdoor options in the country – with two floodlit nursery slopes with uplift and a 160m slope, a mist system and Poma lift making it the perfect place to learn to ski or snowboard, or to hone your existing skills before you head off to the real thing. Tuition is available from beginner to competitive levels all year round here, and if you want to learn fast, there’s even a six-hour course fast-track course. Ski boots, poles and skis are all included in each lesson, but you can just hit the slopes if you’ve got your own gear too.
Sunderland SR3 1PD
Always a popular spot, Durham Cathedral is never a bad shout for a day out with a difference. Catering to children as much as adults with their award-winning museum experience, Open Treasure, the Cathedral promises a place of worship, live music and architectural splendour, all while bringing the history of this magnificent building to life before your eyes. Step into the Monks’ Dormitory to discover the sights, smells and sounds of a medieval monastery, learn something new through the ever-changing exhibitions, and marvel at the treasures of St Cuthbert in the Great Kitchen. Kids of all ages can even dress up to look the part, and younger children will love the explorer backpacks and exhibition trails.
Durham DH1 3EH
A world-famous, open-air museum showing what life was like over 100 years ago, Beamish Museum is one of the most unique places for discovering the heritage of the North East – and a perfect place to while away an extra day come rain or shine. Here you can wander around historically-accurate reconstructions from different eras to really feel what life was like in the region from the 1820s to the mid-20th century – crawling through the coal mines, creating your own proggy mats, riding on the trams and, most importantly, sampling the sweeties of bygone eras.
Beamish DH9 0RG
If you’re the kind of family that want to use your extra day this leap year to get out and about, then is there really any better place than Hamsterley Forest? County Durham’s largest forest boasts adventure play areas, high-octane mountain biking trails and more leisurely walks (including a Gruffalo-themed orienteering course), plus two horse riding trails. And that’s before we even mention their special themed orienteering course which, on 29th February, will be the Shaun the Sheep Farmageddon Glow Trail.
Redford, Co Durham DL13 3NL