After a two-year, £16m redevelopment, the former coal mine turned visitor attraction has re-opened, with a new museum tracing the history of Northumberland, study centre, and gallery space, all housed in a huge metallic building called The Cutter. The new structure, with its spectacular serrated-edge roof, inspired by the monster coal-cutting machines used deep underground, has been constructed next to the now listed colliery buildings on the edge of the QEII Country Park, a public space with a 40-acre lake. The opening exhibition has work by the Ashington Group, colliery workers who got together in the 1930s as part of a Workers' Educationational Association initiative and went on to have their work exhibited around the world.
Northumberland's claim to have more castles than any other county inspires Woodhorn's opening exhibition for families, Arty Arty Castles, until April 2007). Under-12s can let off steam on huge colourful inflatables. Young visitors can also try their hand at pigeon racing and pulling champion leeks, via interactive displays.
The Coal Town exhibition travels through time from 1918, taking in picnics and strikes on the way. In the restored pit buildings, visitors can experience life down the mineswith the help of computerised simulations. The Dark Side Tour shows the human cost of coal, going to areas normally off-limits to general visitors. On The Great Woodhorn Tour (booking is essential for both) visitors can discover more about the iconic new building and the archive collection, which includes documents dating from 1172 as well as a huge array of materials from maps to photographs and paintings. Outside, in a temporary structure, "The Big M", a film exhibition currently explores the idea, "An Englishman's Home is his Castle".
The new café offers more than the usual miners' "bait" of cold tea and a jam sandwich. Hearty meals include North Sea cod fillets in beer batter with chips and mushy peas, andchicken-and-leek Cutter Pie with a potato and turnip puree. Full English breakfasts, homemade cakes and children's portions are also served.
Some of theolderbuildings have limited access. Call for details. There is a hearing loop in reception.
Open 10am-4pm, Weds-Sun (Nov-March) and until 5pm (April-Oct). Entry is free.
How to get there
Woodhorn, QEII Country Park, Ashington, Northumberland NE63 9YF (01670 528080; experiencewoodhorn.com).
By train: The nearest station is Morpeth, eight miles away (08457 225225; gner.co.uk). By bus: Half-hourly buses run to and from Ashington (01670 520577; northumbriacoaches.co.uk).
By bike: Woodhorn is to the east of Ashington on the C1 National Cycle Route which runs up the North-east coast.
By car: Woodhorn is signposted from the A189 National Coastal Route. Parking on site costs £2.