Author: St Oswald's Farm

Do you have a Northumberland bucket list?

If you’ve never visited Northumberland before you might be wondering why you’d want to have a Northumberland bucket list, or if you’re lucky enough to have visited before then you will already know just how much Northumberland has to offer.

A bucket list should be filled with things to enjoy, great places to visit and experiences you won’t forget and Northumberland is packed with places and experiences that are definitely bucket list worthy.

  • If you love castles then we’re the County for you with over 70 castles to discover and admire, from castle ruins in the countryside to castles towering above towns and coastline and from haunted castles to castles you will recognise from films and books, Northumberland is king of the castles.
  • Our unspoilt coastline is quite simply breath taking with it’s vast sweeping beaches, undulating pathways and dunes, hidden rock-pools and coves, there is no better place to enjoy the beauty, peace and the tranquility that you will find on the Northumberland coast. Time it right and you may find you have the whole beach to yourself, there’s no fighting for beach space here.
  • Our history is everywhere you look and you’ll spot it around every corner, this County is quite literally a history buff’s dream destination. Northumberland’s geographic location bordering Scotland has shaped a history of violence and conflict and this can be seen across the region through it’s ancient sites, museums, homes of grandeur, churches, battle sites and in the villages and towns.
  • The culture and arts across the North East are second to none with extensive galleries, architectural pieces, exhibitions and events and with music and festivals thrown in to ensure there is always something for everyone.
  • The Northumbrian countryside is more than impressive at every time of the year, it’s wild, it’s rugged, there are hills, crags, woodlands, waterfalls, forests and rivers but most of all it’s unspoilt and with stunning views that will leave you in awe.
  • The diverse landscape means that the wildlife offer here is out of this world with the opportunity to spot seals, dolphins, puffins and birdlife aplenty, red squirrels, osprey, deer and even wild cattle and goats. There are designated sites for watching bird and wildlife or take a trip to one of the superb nature reserves or you may just spot our wilder residents going about their business when you’re out and about in the Northumbrian countryside.
  • Northumberland offers every type of garden imaginable, from grand estates to hidden retreats and from naturally wild to neat and manicured. Visit some of the well known gardens that are bold and spectacular or if you delve a little deeper you’ll find some small but perfectly formed gardens all beautifully doing their thing to ensure every inch of Northumberland is glorious.
  • We couldn’t write about a Northumberland bucket list without mentioning the famous and epic World Heritage site of Hadrian’s Wall. Stretching 73 miles from coast to coast Northumberland is home to the most famous and spectacular sites along this Roman masterpiece. The sheer scale of the monument is impressive in itself and a visit to any of the Roman sites Housesteads, Vindolanda, Chesters or Corstopitum will leave you in awe of what the Romans did for us!
  • The walking and cycling opportunities are second to none, Hadrian’s Wall National Trail, Northumberland National Park, Northumberland Coast National Landscape and the huge network of paths, trails and routes mean you will never be short of places to enjoy on foot or on two wheels.
  • Northumberland has an International Dark Sky Park status and that means we have some of the most pristine dark skies in England making it one of the best places to go stargazing. Our skies are quite literally out of this world with over 2000 stars to admire and there’s the possibility of seeing an aurora. Even for us the wonder of our night sky is staggering and it’s easy to forget that not everyone has had the privilege of witnessing a truly dark and starry sky. Will our stars be on your bucket list?
  • Northumberland has some of the best food producers in the UK and with such a huge natural larder to choose from it’s no surprise. Across the whole of the County we are spoilt for choice with pubs and restaurants that boast menus carefully chosen from an array of local produce. Fish and seafood including the famous Craster kippers, beef, game and poultry, fruit and vegetables, award winning cheeses and dairy produce, jams, chutneys, bread, eggs, confectionary, soft drinks, real ale and of course Northumbrian lamb reared here on our own farm that is available to buy and take home.

This Northern and sparsely populated County boasts so much and we hope we’ve given you a taste of what a trip here could hold and why everyone should have a Northumberland bucket list. Book your stay at St Oswald’s Farm and start your Northumberland adventure.

Highlighting Hexham Abbey

Hexham Abbey sits proudly at the heart of the historic market town of Hexham and with a long history and so much to see and so much to admire it’s definitely a must for places to visit during your stay.

Hexham Abbey is one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in the country and was founded back in AD674 as a Benedictine Abbey by St Wilfred and through it’s long history has seen periods of immense turmoil, destruction and change and this is reflected in the fascinating and wonderful church we see today.

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Hexham Abbey overlooking the lovely bowling green

There is a wealth of treasures to discover and admire when you visit the Abbey, the bright and colourful stained glass windows that adorn the North and South Transept, the Great East window situated behind the High Altar and the windows in the Nave that feature a variety of themes from the Northern saints to the armed forces. The Phelps Organ is magnificent with it’s beautiful polished oak and is quite a dominating sight and as you would expect plays a huge part in Abbey life. One of our favourite parts of the Abbey is the night stair and you can almost feel the history and the stories they could tell as you climb the 35 worn steps. At the bottom of the night stair is Flavinus’ Tombstone, a memorial slab which stands nearly nine feet high that was found in 1881 under part of the floor of the Abbey and is the largest example of its kind to have been found in England. A visit to the Saxon Crypt is a highlight for many visitors and takes you down to the earliest days of Christianity in England. The Crypt is open to visitors daily and although there is small charge one of the wonderful Abbey stewards will talk you through the history.

As you wander the wonders of this majestic building admire artifacts such as the Frith Stool and Acca’s Cross, discover what the banners mean and look out for the 7th century ‘Hexham Lion’. In the chancel you’ll find a fascinating collection of 15th century painted wood panels which are made up of three distinct series and in the choir you’ll encounter the rood screen which dates from the late 15th or early 16th century and features paintings of saints, including St Oswald, St Etheldreda and St Andrew.

In 2014 restoration of the medieval monastery complex, the Priory Buildings, was completed and this work reunited all the buildings on the Abbey site for the first time since the Reformation, and gave the opportunity to create a new permanent and interactive exhibition, The Big Story which tells 1300 years of history. The restoration also allowed for a new cafe within the Abbey buildings and you will find the Refectory Cafe perfect for coffee, light lunch or a delicious afternoon tea.

The Abbey is just as beautiful outside as inside and it stands within it’s own grounds which includes a pretty park area and recently restored bandstand. The grounds are lovely for a stroll and make sure you walk as far as the beautifully manicured bowling green and gardens of Hexham House.

The Abbey isn’t just about it’s fascinating history, the Abbey plays a huge part in the local community today and offers a wonderful programme of events and exhibitions alongside it’s regular services and to find out more about visiting the Abbey or about the events please check their website.

A visit to the Hexham Abbey is a wonderful experience with its’s peaceful atmosphere and ancient architectural treasures, and of course gives the opportunity to enjoy the lovely and historic town of Hexham.

Exploring Housesteads

If you’re visiting Northumberland you will undoubtedly want to take in some of Hadrian’s Wall and there is nowhere better to appreciate this epic UNESCO World Heritage Site than at Housesteads Roman Fort.

Set high on a dramatic escarpment on Hadrian’s Wall, Housesteads was one of the16 permanent bases along Hadrian’s Wall and is the most complete example of a Roman fort in Britain. The fort is the most well known in the whole of the Roman Empire and is home to some of the most outstanding original features of a Roman fortress.

Although owned by The National Trust the site is run by English Heritage and their interactive museum showcases a great display of objects that once belonged to the Roman soldiers, and the short film that shows in the mini-cinema takes you on a journey through time as you watch the fort brought to life with stunning recreations of the original Roman buildings. You’ll get a real insight into Roman military life and discover the past behind the archaeological remains as you stroll around the barrack blocks, the Commander’s House, the granaries, the hospital and as you peer into the communal and undoubtedly the oldest toilets you’re ever likely to see.

A visit to Housesteads also gives the opportunity to enjoy a 5 mile circular walk which will take you past the site of Sycamore Gap following the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail before circling back to take you along the Roman Military Way.

Due to the nature of the site a visit to Housesteads involves a steep and uneven 750m walk from the car park, however the history of this ancient fortress together with the stunning panoramic views makes the walk worthwhile. A visit to Housesteads will leave you in awe of what the Romans achieved and gives real insight into the life of the soldiers based there and perhaps makes us realise just how tough and resilient they really were!

A Walk Around Walltown Country Park

Walltown Country Park lies on the line of Hadrian’s Wall and within the stunning Northumberland National Park.

Up until 45 years ago Walltown was still a working quarry where the whinstone (that forms the crag along which Hadrian’s Wall runs) was blasted with dynamite to provide road stone for the expanding road network of the early 20th Century. After it closed in 1976 the quarry was filled in and landscaped, planted with trees and flowers, and today is a haven for wildlife.

Walltown is just a mile from Greenhead and around 6 miles from The Sill Discovery Centre and Vindolanda and only a stone’s throw from The Roman Army Museum making it really accessible if you’re exploring other parts of Hadrian’s Wall. There’s plenty parking, EV charge points, loos, a visitor centre and there’s really handy information boards making it easy to decide which walk or route you might like to take once you get there. Choose from short 10 minute or 25 minute walks or a longer 40 minute nature trail where you will discover the park’s wildlife, birdlife, ponds and a peace labyrinth which was planted in 2011 with 2000 willow trees which once fully grown will form a giant labyrinth.

The car park at Walltown also gives access to the Thirlwall Castle Walk which is an easy 2 mile circular route which takes you along the Tipalt Burn and past the ruins of Thirlwall Castle. This relic of troubled times dates back to the 12th Century to when John Thirlwall built this defensive home to protect his family and of course it was a well chosen spot as he had a plentiful supply of dressed stone from a nearby very large wall.

From Walltown Country Park you can walk along Hadrian’s Wall to Walltown Crags to see one of the most dramatic views of Hadrian’s Wall. The wall is so well preserved at this site and the sheer volcanic rock edge plunges into the landscape along the crags of the Whin Sill creating a spectacular viewpoint.

A day time visit to Walltown Country Park is all about woodlands, walking and wildlife, you’ll find it perfectly peaceful and wonderfully scenic and yet as night falls it is also the perfect place to see the amazing dark and starlit skies of Northumberland. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Charming Villages – Alnmouth

Alnmouth is a beautiful coastal village in North Northumberland that lies just 4 miles from the nearby town of Alnwick. Alnmouth is a pretty and sweet little village that offers fantastic views, a beautiful beach, a diverse selection wildlife and some wonderful walks that take in the stunning North East coastline.

Alnmouth is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it’s pretty obvious why as soon as you arrive. The village itself sits neatly within a sweeping curve of the Aln Estuary and is surrounded by a vast but very tranquil beach which is backed by golden sand dunes. The sand dunes are the perfect habitat for birds and that together with the mud flats that the tide creates mean there are superb bird watching opportunities. From Alnmouth there are views to Coquet Island which lies just a mile off the coast and is an RSPB wildlife sanctuary, as well as being home to over 35,000 seabirds it is the only UK breeding site for Roseate Terns. It is a protected site which unfortunately means the public are unable to set foot on the island but there are boats trips over to view the island from nearby Amble.

The village centre itself is home to a small selection of gift shops, a deli, a gallery and a small selection of pubs and restaurants too. Alnmouth is well known for it’s row of colourful houses which are an eye-catching sight, think the Tobermory of Northumberland, they are a favourite subject with photographers and artists alike. This little village boasts a lovely golf course which enjoys spectacular views over the coast and is one of the oldest golf courses in England, dating back to 1869 and it is also home to the smallest museum in Northumberland, The Ferryman’s Hut, which you will find in the harbour. It was originally used by ferrymen when they would row their passengers back and forth across the River Aln and it is thought that the last ferryman stopped working in the 1960s and the museum shows pictures and stories of him and his predecessors in this tiny piece of Northumbrian history.

Alnmouth has a few treasures too such as The Friary that holds open garden days and events throughout the year, Alnmouth Gun Battery dating back to 1881 which you may come across as you saunter along the vast sands. St Cuthbert’s Cross stands on the very steep Church Hill and looks out over the estuary and although little is known about the cross it is thought that it was the location where St Cuthbert agreed to become The Bishop of Lindisfarne. There is a walk which takes you up the hill to the cross although you may find it is more of a hike, if you do take the walk look out for the ruins of a small Mortuary Chapel.

If you really want to embrace those sea views then walk a stretch of the Northumberland AONB Coastal Path or enjoy the Alnmouth Circular Walk which takes in both coast and country.

Northumberland really does have something for everyone and the beauty of the County isn’t just found in the larger tourist attractions. If you’re looking for a quiet day away from it all then Alnmouth is definitely worth a visit and for more of Northumberland’s smaller hidden gems then take a look at our blog posts on the villages of Allendale and Otterburn.

Even More Dining Out

Dining out is a great way to really enjoy your time away from home, no preparing, cooking and no washing up. Where to dine out is one of our most frequently asked questions and we are so lucky to have so many fantastic eateries in our local area.

We have not only one but two Michelin star restaurants both just a stone’s throw away. One of which is Restaurant Pine located at Vallum Farm who offer an exceptional yet relaxed dining experience with a generous tasting menu using locally sourced ingredients and those grown in their own onsite kitchen garden. Sit back and enjoy the magnificent views of surrounding Northumberland countryside or watch all the action as your tasting menu is carefully prepared in the bespoke open kitchen. Booking are released quarterly so you’ll need to plan your visit in advance of your stay with us. For full details of Restaurant Pine and how to book please go to their website.

Another wonderful dining out option is The Valley restaurant near Corbridge which promises a unique and pleasurable dining experience in luxurious surroundings. Superbly presented authentic dishes from Bangladesh and the Indian subcontinent are served with impeccable style by attentive waiters. The Valley Corbridge has a fantastic reputation and you may have spotted it on Michael Portillo’s ‘Great Coastal Railway Journeys’ where he boarded the renowned Passage to India or The Curry Train as it is more affectionately known. To book your table pop over to their website.

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The Valley, Corbridge

The Valley’s sister restaurant Cilantro sits in the heart of Hexham Market Place and again here you will receive an impeccable and friendly service but find a menu that offers something a little different from your usual Indian cuisine as they also offer a fusion of Indian and Latin American food in tapas style. It’s one of own favourite places to dine out. For more details and to book please go to their website.

If good hearty English pub food is more your taste then look no further than The Black Bull in Corbridge which in a traditional building that dates back to 1755 and offers a real country pub welcome. Whether you’re looking for a lazy weekend brunch, a midday lunch, a refreshing afternoon drink, a three course evening meal or a Sunday roast then the Black Bull has it all. Full details can be found on their website.

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The Black Bull, Corbridge

The Lion & Lamb in Horsley is another great option for really lovely classic food and is only a 15-20 minute drive away. It is situated in the heart of the village and enjoys superb views of the Tyne Valley from the outdoor patio area, indoors you will find a relaxed atmosphere, a friendly service and superb food. They offer a lunch menu, an a la carte menu and Sunday lunch menu together with steak and burger nights and weekly offers. To take a look at their menus or to book please go to their website.

Our local area has a great selection of wonderful places for dining out and for more ideas please see our earlier blog posts here and here.