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Exploring Northumberland’s untold history: A visit to Ad Gefrin this half term

From Anglo-Saxon fancy dress to immersive displays, there’s plenty of family fun to be had at Ad Gefrin Museum during the school holidays – perfect for those cold and wet days.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 21.10.2023

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Half term is upon us, and with the weather turning cold and wet, it can be hard to keep the kids entertained.

But what if we told you there’s a unique historical experience waiting for your family to discover?

Introducing Ad Gefrin.

Just a scenic one-hour drive from Newcastle, nestled within the picturesque Cheviot Hills and the charming village of Wooler, you’ll discover Northumberland’s first whisky distillery and museum – Ad Gefrin.

This hidden gem draws inspiration from a 7th-century royal summer palace, that was discovered just four miles away. Ad Gefrin’s historical significance dates back to the Anglo-Saxon era and now brings to life the untold stories of forgotten kings and queens, uniting people to celebrate a new golden age for Northumbria.

Ad Gedrin Northumberland

As you step into the recreation of the Great Hall, characters from all levels of society come to life on an immersive screen. You can dress in the clothing of the time and even sit on thrones just as Northumbrian kings and queens did 1,400 years ago.

Chris Ferguson, the director of experience, says, ‘This is our chance to tell the untold stories of Northumberland, how the creation of the Lindisfarne Gospels, the story of Cuthbert, and the story of Bede all came from this period. There’s nowhere else in the North East who tells this story.

‘But what makes Ad Gefrin truly special is that our materials are ever-changing, thanks to new discoveries from the archaeological site, ensuring that no two visits will ever be the same.’

UNCOVERING THE HISTORY OF AD GEFRIN

Ad Gefrin Museum is far from your typical museum experience. The name ‘Ad Gefrin’ comes from an archaeological site just three miles north of Wooler, which once served as an Anglo-Saxon Royal Court.

Ad Gefrin was the Royal Summer Palace of the kings and queens of Northumbria around 650 AD. This was a significant time for Northumbria, as it marked the kingdom’s golden age when Northumbria extended from the Humber to the north of Edinburgh and kings and queens of that era moved between various palaces, including Ad Gefrin, Bamburgh, York, and Catterick.

Ad Gefrin Museum stands out as one of the few Anglo-Saxon palaces to have been excavated by archaeologists in Northumberland in the late 1940s, with excavation work continuing from the 1950s until today.

Ad Gefrin Northumberland

INTERACTIVE LEARNING FOR KIDS

What sets Ad Gefrin Museum apart is its unwavering commitment to interactive learning. Kids can embark on a thrilling journey through time, exploring life back in 500 AD through tools, artefacts and everyday objects used by the people of Northumbria in ancient times.

But one of the highlights for the little one’s children is the chance to try on historical costumes and sit on thrones in the Great Hall. Alongside being able to immerse themselves in the past by meeting local Anglo-Saxons from all walks of life through an immersive video display, they’ll get the chance to meet the engaging staff who will bring captivating tales to life through storytelling.

Ad Gefrin Northumberland

DISCOVER ARTEFACTS DATING BACK TO 500AD

The museum proudly displays object loans from national institutions, including the Castle Eden Claw Beaker, dating back to 550-600 AD. This remarkable artefact is a highlight of the British Museum’s early medieval collections. Other materials worn by high-status individuals of the time, such as a Great Square Headed Brooch and Shield Boss, have been loaned from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Some of these materials had not been seen for a century, making this an exciting opportunity us to engage with history in a unique way.

Ad Gefrin Northumberland

SPEND A FULL DAY AT AD GEFRIN 

Ad Gefrin is more than just a museum; it’s a destination where you can spend an entire day during the half-term school holiday. While discovering the region’s rich history here, you can also discover behind the scenes with a distillery tour, with kids over eight years old, witnessing first-hand the magic that unfolds in every bottle. Plus, the best part is you get a tasting experience to try the spirits for yourself.

Not to mention the all-day bar and bistro, serving up afternoon tea, lunches and brunches, pretty grounds to relax in and a shop – an inspiring space where you and your little ones will find treasures to keep and remember your day here.

WHAT’S ON AT AD GEFRIN THIS HALF TERM

Ad Gefrin Northumberland

Myths and MonstersPatrick Townsend Storytelling (Acle Re-enactment Society)

When: 30th October  – 3rd November, 11am – 4.30pm

Explore the myths and monsters of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria.

Within the 7th Century palace of King Edwin at Ad Gefrin, songs would have been sung of great heroes who battled against a wonderous mythological world of gods and monsters, of elves and dwarves and fire-breathing dragons.

Ad Gefrin’s Anglo-Saxon storyteller will retell these heroic tales in the Great Hall of the Anglo-Saxon Museum. He will need a cast to help bring the stories to life and that cast is you.

Book to be part of the storytelling, make a terrifying monster mask and step back into a time when ancient myths, monsters and superstition captivated and inspired one and all.

Storytelling and mask-making sessions will run for one hour at 11-12pm, 1.30-2.30pm and 3.30-4.30pm.

Activities are included in the admission to the museum – Adults £10, Child (8-17 years) £5, family ticket (2 + up to 3 children) £25. 

AD GEFRIN, SOUTH ROAD, WOOLER NE71 6NJ

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