What to Do in Northumberland

Updated on July 27, 2017
stereomike83 profile image

Mike loves to travel around his home country of the UK with it's rich history and wonderful landscapes and great days out.

The Flag of Northumberland. When travelling the region expect to see this everywhere as the local people are rightly, very proud of their region.
The Flag of Northumberland. When travelling the region expect to see this everywhere as the local people are rightly, very proud of their region. | Source

Northumberland

The most northern county in England, Northumberland occupies a unique position bordering Scotland. This position has led to hundreds of years of history nestled among some stunning scenery. Both my wife and I studied at Durham University, and whilst the beautiful city of Durham isn't technically in Northumberland, it is right on the door stop so we would regularly jump in the car and drive north just a little to experience. Now we go on holiday there each year and this page has been written to show the best places to visit in this region and how to get there.

Beaches

The Northumberland Coastline is about 100 miles long with numerous beautiful beaches which include, in my opinion, some of the best in the entire UK. If you are in the region then you should definitely check some of them out.

My personal favourite place to go is the small village of Beadnell that serves up two unique but equally enjoyable beaches. Beadnell Bay as pictured offers up a massive, unbroken stretch of sand, backed up by sand dunes that are great fun to sledge down. On a busy summer weekend the beach will be busy with everyone from sun-worshipers (less likely in the north) to kite surfers and scuba divers. Rest assured though there is always room and the rest of the time the beach can be deserted and great for walking dogs. This beach is so good that Alberta, Canada tried to claim it as their own for an ad campaign a few years back (see http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/apr/25/ottawa-northumberland-advert).

Beadnell's other beach does have a small stretch of sand that my young children love to play on and is actually closer to where we stay. However, its biggest selling point is its rock pools. Turn up at low tide and find hundreds of crystal clear pools, home to a real variety of small sea creatures that you could spend hours looking for!

Beadnell isn't the only place with great beaches though and you can pretty much guarantee there will be a nice stretch of coastline within reach of wherever you stay in the region.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Sandy beaches of Beadnell Bay under an evening skyLooking across Beadnell Bay, a view so picturesque that the Alberta Tourist Board in Canada tried to claim it as their own!The rock pools of North BeadnellRainbow at sunset over North Beadnell Bay
The Sandy beaches of Beadnell Bay under an evening sky
The Sandy beaches of Beadnell Bay under an evening sky | Source
Looking across Beadnell Bay, a view so picturesque that the Alberta Tourist Board in Canada tried to claim it as their own!
Looking across Beadnell Bay, a view so picturesque that the Alberta Tourist Board in Canada tried to claim it as their own! | Source
The rock pools of North Beadnell
The rock pools of North Beadnell | Source
Rainbow at sunset over North Beadnell Bay
Rainbow at sunset over North Beadnell Bay | Source

Castles

With the UK basted in thousands of years of history you will probably never be too far from a castle or other historical building. However, some parts of the country are better than others for visiting such monuments and in my opinion Northumberland is right up there with Wales (the self styled "Castle Capital of the World"). There are over 70 castles and sites of old castles in the region, primarily due to the proximity to the Scottish border and historical battles between the two countries and I have only visited a handful but there will be something for everyone.

From the ruins of Dunstanburgh that are accessed by a lovely mile and half coastal walk from the village of Craster, to the elegant Bamburgh which dominates the coast line (especially when cycling along the coastal road), there are some fascinating coastal castles. However, move in-land and you won't be disappointed either. One of the best known is Alnwick Castle that is still habited in parts today and is a great day out. This is especially true for any Harry Potter fans as several scenes in the early films were filmed here, including the iconic first time that Harry steps on a broom so you can have a photo pretending to do the same too!

It's not just the big, well known castles that shine either. The photos below also include a smaller, lesser known Castle, Chillingham, which is in fact where my sister in law was married and there are many similar properties dotted around the region.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Dunstanburgh CastleBamburgh CastleAlnwick Castle - Home of Harry PotterChillingham CastleBamburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle | Source
Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle | Source
Alnwick Castle - Home of Harry Potter
Alnwick Castle - Home of Harry Potter | Source
Chillingham Castle
Chillingham Castle | Source
Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle | Source

Hadrian's Wall

It would be remiss of me when talking about Northumberland not to mention its very own UNESCO world heritage site. Built in Roman times, Hadrian's Wall runs from coast to coast and was originally built to keep the Scottish Barbarians out. It doesn't all sit within Northumberland but all of the parts that I have personally walked are in this part of the country with its beautiful views. I have found the best place to head for an easy but enjoyable walk is the village of Once Brewed where you can park up and then walk along the wall itself. One day I would love to walk the full distance but in the mean time I would usually head here.

Hadrian's Wall at Once Brewed
Hadrian's Wall at Once Brewed | Source

Berwick-upon-Tweed

England's northernmost town, Berwick is almost as much Scottish as it is English. Indeed, being just a couple of miles from the current border it has at times in history been part of both countries and even today the towns football team plays in the Scottish League rather than south of the border. When visiting Berwick among other things, you can walk around the towns defensive walls and picturesque selection of bridges over the River Tweed.

There is an urban myth that for many years Berwick was technically at war with Russia due to a mix-up between Declarations of War and subsequent Peace Treaties, but unfortunately a read of Wikipedia seems to debunk this. None-the-less, maybe you shouldn't walk around in a bearskin hat just to be on the safe side!

Multiple Bridges crossing the River Tweed in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Multiple Bridges crossing the River Tweed in Berwick-upon-Tweed. | Source

Seafood

I'm personally not a big fan of seafood but if you are, then Northumberland is a great place to go. Traditional smoke houses will serve you up smoked kippers and on the Quaysides of the harbours, such as that in the town of Seahouses, you will be able to eat food fresh from the sea. My in-laws rave about the cockles, crabs, and various other seafood snacks you can buy right off of the quayside.

That said, the fish & chips are also very good and more to my taste, and whilst many parts of the country claim to have the best, I think my favourite 'chippie' is in the Northumbrian town of Seahouses. Pinnacles is endorsed by TV cooks, the Hairy Bikers and I would have to agree too, their chips are just so crispy!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Beadnell Harbour Crab Pots lined up at Beadnell HarbourPanoramic View of Craster Harbour
Beadnell Harbour
Beadnell Harbour | Source
Crab Pots lined up at Beadnell Harbour
Crab Pots lined up at Beadnell Harbour | Source
Panoramic View of Craster Harbour
Panoramic View of Craster Harbour | Source

Cycling, Running, and Walking

As one of the least populated places in the country, Northumberland is the perfect place to go for walkers and cyclists of all abilities. From the Cheviot Hills, to picturesque coastal pathways, through to Hadrian's Wall above, there is a walk for everyone irregardless of fitness. The region is also home to miles of ideal cycling conditions. Every year my brother in law and I will throw our bikes on to the backs of our cars when heading to Northumberland on holiday, just so we can go out for a few rides. We stick to the roads but I know through friends that live in the region that it is also great for mountain biking if that is your preference. I also love to go out running along the coastal roads, it's just a little windy sometimes that adds to the effort!

A couple walk along the shoreline with Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island in the background.
A couple walk along the shoreline with Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island in the background. | Source

The Locations of Places Referenced

A
Beadnell:
Home of some of the best beaches in the region

get directions

B
Bamburgh Castle:
Visible from miles around

get directions

C
Dunstanburgh Castle:

get directions

A walk from Craster to these ruins is a great day out

D
Chillingham Castle:

get directions

This lesser known castle is where my sister in law got married

E
Hadrian's Wall:

get directions

Hadrian's Wall stretches across the country but I would head to Once Brewed if you only have a day

F
Berwick upon Tweed:
Berwick-upon-Tweed, UK

get directions

Getting There

So having read to this point, do you now have a desire to visit the region? I'd be surprised if not!

One of the best parts about Northumberland is the fact that it is remote but this does also mean that it is a little harder to get to. If you are visiting the region I would say that a car would be a necessity as public transport isn't great from what I have observed (although I have always had a car so can't say for sure). In a car you will come in to the region on the A1 and whilst this can be frustrating in parts where it drops to a single lane, it is a good road.

However, if sticking to the bigger towns of Alnwick and Berwick you could get by as both towns have good rail links to London, Newcastle and Edinburgh, all of which also have international airports if you are flying in from outside the UK.

Durham

Ok, I know any Northumbrian purists will shoot me down for mentioning Durham as it isn't in the region itself but after four years living there myself, and the fact that you are likely to pass through either by road or rail, it is well worth stopping for some time in what I personally feel is one of the nicest cities in the UK. As Bill Bryson wrote in his book Notes From A Small Island:

"If you have never been to Durham, go there at once. Take my car. It's wonderful."

Do you blame me for waxing lyrical when my view each morning was the below?

Durham Cathedral as seen from St Aidan's College
Durham Cathedral as seen from St Aidan's College | Source

Questions & Answers

    What Would You Do in Northumberland?

    Submit a Comment

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      22 months ago from UK

      Thanks Alun. I love to travel overseas but like you there is still so much of the UK I haven't yet visited that I really should although gradually trying to tick off all the corners!

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      22 months ago from Essex, UK

      Nice to read of these attractions in Northumberland stereomike83, and particularly for me the castles, and the advice about Hadrian's Wall (parking up in Once Brewed - worth doing that just to be able to say you've visited a village called 'Once Brewed! :) )

      I've never been sufficiently adventurous in my own country and I've never travelled as far north as Northumberland. Now I'm no longer working and I have time on my hands, I will have to make the effort and visit some of these places. It looks to be a very appealing county. Cheers, Alun

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      Many thanks @radhikasree! It is a lovely part of the country and I hope that one day you are able to visit it.

    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 

      3 years ago from Mumbai,India

      This hub is inspiring me to visit Durham. If I had ever the fortune to visit Europe in my lifetime, I'll never miss visiting this paradise.

      Voted up, awesome and interesting. Sharing in Hubpages.

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      I mean artistic, stupid auto correct on my phone!!

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      Try as I might I usually fail with statistic shots but that one just seems to have worked on that evening!

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 

      3 years ago from Kansas

      Certainly looks like a very interesting place to visit. Liked the evening sky look at the beach photo.

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      Indonesia doesn't look too bad either!!

    • kharismaperkasa profile image

      Kharisma Arya Perkasa 

      3 years ago from Indonesia

      Would love to visit the UK someday ... :)

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      Thanks. There are some lovely parts to our country!

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      3 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Some rich imagery, love the beaches and the cathedral in Durham. Thanks for encouraging us all to visit this very special part of England. Shared your hub!

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      That reminds me! I meant to put in a bit about Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands and forgot so will try to do that soon!

    • BrianRS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      3 years ago from France

      Love this part of England (and almost Scotland) we holidayed near Holy Island one year and couldn't believe how gorgeous it was all around the region. Must try and go back sometime.

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      The roads can be "interesting" in parts!!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      3 years ago from USA

      If I ever get a chance to visit I would have to see the sites by car. We like taking our time and this way we could see the beautiful land.

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      It really is which is why we keep going back again and again!

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      Thanks! Well worth checking them out if you ever get the chance!

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 

      3 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Looks like a wonderful place to visit

    • cesily profile image

      Cecilia Karanja 

      3 years ago from Nairobi

      The images look unbelievably gorgeous

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      It is a beautiful place to visit although I would imagine it's quite nice in your part of the world as well?

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      It looks so beautiful there. Love your photos. The English countryside is an area I would love to visit. Thanks for sharing!

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      It really is. The only downside can be the weather but even when it's cold and wet it's still beautiful. I remember getting soaked on Hadrian's Wall once but still loving it

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      3 years ago from Canada

      Northumberland does look like a great place to visit!

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      Thanks Colin. I agree about Durham Cathedral and I am eternally thankful that I was able to graduate there with Bill Bryson as chancellor

    • profile image

      Colin323 

      3 years ago

      I did a month work placement at Berwick when I was younger and explored the county then and later in life. I like the vastness of it, particularly the coastline, and the warm, down to earth qualities of the local people. The interior of Durham cathedral is awesome, too - my favourite of all British Cathedrals. You do justice in your article to a great, unspoiled and beautiful part of England, Mike.

    • stereomike83 profile imageAUTHOR

      stereomike83 

      3 years ago from UK

      Thanks! It is a beautiful place to visit!

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Carrie Lee Night 

      3 years ago from Northeast United States

      Voted Awesome and Beautiful ! :). I hope one day to visit the UK. The beaches look just like my speed. Thank you for sharing :)

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