Northumberland is a perfect destination for taking a break of any length. There is an abundance of charm and beauty around every corner with attractions to suit every visitor’s tastes and hobbies. Home to the beautiful Cheviot Hills, historic Hadrian’s Wall and the Northumberland National Park, with its award-winning Dark Skies, this Northernmost county is a super place for a getaway. With miles of countryside, glorious fresh air, exhilarating walks and plenty of wildlife you’ll be spoiled for choice when deciding what to do.
With over seventy castle sites spread across the county, Northumberland has the most in the country; evidence of its turbulent and historic past. Many of the buildings are long gone, some are romantic ruins and others have been carefully restored. There truly is a castle for everyone. Towering above the coastline, Bamburgh Castle began life as a Celtic fort, although it’s been destroyed and rebuilt a few times since. Today most of what can be seen was built by the Victorian industrialist Lord Armstrong and his descendants still live in the castle today. Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in the country after Windsor. It’s been home to the Dukes of Northumberland for over 700 years, as well as featuring as a double for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. If ghosts and torture are your thing then a visit to Chillingham Castle is in order. With a reputation for being the country’s most haunted castle; a visit to the dungeons and torture chambers will bring this to life! Surely the most romantic ruined castle is Dunstanburgh. Stunningly situated on a windswept coastal headland, the walk from Craster is a stroll not to be missed.
Northumberland’s unspoiled, unpopulated beaches, covering over thirty miles of coastline, are one of the county’s key attractions. Perfect for long, exhilarating walks with the dog there are miles of vast golden sands. Try Bamburgh beach with its pristine white sands, backed by dunes and towered over by the castle. Or take a walk on the perfectly formed cove at Embleton Bay – a perfect spot for a family picnic, beach cricket or bodyboarding. For bird watchers and nature lovers check out the hides at Druridge bay or the nature reserve on Holy Island. The coastline is a paradise for walkers as the Northumberland Coastal Path stretches from Cresswell in the south to Berwick in the north - perfect for both peace and adventure.
For truly appreciating the dramatic beauty of Northumberland, the National Park is an essential part of any itinerary. The dramatic landscape of the Cheviots presents an abundance of pretty, hidden valleys, waterfalls and woodlands. Walking opportunities are everywhere – the National Park alone boasts more than 600 miles of marked footpaths. By night the Park is equally spectacular as it forms part of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. It is Europe’s largest area of protected night sky and thus fantastic for stargazing and astronomy enthusiasts. To discover more about the region’s extensive Roman past, Hadrian’s Wall is a must-see. Starting from Steel Rigg, try a fantastic, scenic walk along the wall, taking in some of the best sections and including the famous Sycamore Gap. Situated by the Wall, visit The Sill, a brand new visitor attraction to explore the landscape, history, culture and heritage of Northumberland.
A holiday to Northumberland wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the National Trust owned Farne Islands. Located a few miles off the coast from the bustling village of Seahouses, this group of islands is a birdwatcher’s paradise. During the summer months around 150,000 pairs of seabirds populate the islands. While the cute puffin is a particular draw, around 23 varieties of other birds can be seen. The islands are also home to a large colony of Atlantic or Grey Seals. From late October fluffy seal pups can be seen with around 1,000 being born each autumn. Getting to the islands couldn’t be simpler. A selection of operators can be found in Seahouses harbour with boats running daily in the summer holidays and at weekends and in the school holidays during the rest of the year. The islands also have strong links with Celtic Christianity. St Cuthbert retired here to Inner Farne in the 7th century, living as a hermit until his death. In the 19th century, another famous resident, Grace Darling, and her father rescued 9 sailors from the shipwrecked steamship, Forfarshire.
One of the county’s biggest attractions, Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle, possess a rich spiritual history dating back to the 6th century, not to mention a whole range of exciting wildlife. Situated in the north of the county near Berwick-Upon-Tweed, this tidal island is accessed by causeway and is twice daily cut off from the mainland. Lindisfarne Priory was once home to St Oswald and is the home of the Lindisfarne Gospels; one of the world’s most important and precious books. Lindisfarne Castle was built in 1550 as a fort, although in the early 20th century it became a holiday home for Edward Hudson, refashioned by the architect Edward Lutyens. Today it is looked after by the National Trust and visitors can enjoy the restoration work which took place in 2017.
Northumberland is a fabulous all-year-round destination. Historic towns such as Alnwick or Hexham, or the bustling Morpeth are always open for shopping, eating out or wandering the winding cobbled streets. Be sure to visit one of the Northumberland markets on your stay to soak up the atmosphere and sample local produce. Attractive coastal villages such as Alnmouth, Craster and Bamburgh are well worth a visit at any time of year, whether to enjoy their seaside charm or sample the local art or cuisine.