Author: Lorraine

Northumberland Coastal Path

The Northumberland Coast has to be one of the most stunning in the UK and with it’s own dedicated Coastal Path it couldn’t be easier to enjoy and offers some of the most spectacular walking in Europe.

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Northumberland Coastal Path – Image Gavin Duthie

As you would expect there are huge expanses of gorgeous sweeping beaches but the path takes you on a journey to discover so much more. Ancient castles, spectacular cliffs and rocky outcrops, wild sand dunes, secluded coves, friendly villages and fishing ports, a national nature reserve and the opportunity to take in the wildlife and bird life and undoubtedly has an unspoilt yet majestic beauty.

The 62 mile linear route through the Northumberland Coastal Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty runs from Cresswell in the South to the historic border town of Berwick Upon Tweed in the North. It is well signed and a mainly flat walk with only a few steep climbs giving you the opportunity to concentrate on the constantly changing landscape around you.

The whole route is broken into 6 stages with many of the stages taking in some of our Northumbrian highlights. Section one enjoys Druridge Bay, Hauxley Nature Reserve, views of Coquet Island before arriving in Warkworth, a picturesque village sitting in the shadow of its impressive Castle and Hermitage.

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Warkworth Castle

Section two visits Alnmouth and Boulmer before reaching Craster where an obligatory visit to the smokery is a must and perhaps refreshment at The Jolly Fisherman! Section three takes you past the dramatic ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle and onto Embleton Bay and Low Newton which offer a haven for birdwatching & wildlife before the route continues on to the fishing port of Seahouses.

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The fishing village of Craster
Image Gavin Duthie

Section four takes you from Seahouses to Belford and section five from Belford to Fenwick both only a short 6-7 mile walk with the final leg of this magnificent walk taking you 12 miles to the border town of Berwick Upon Tweed.

The Coastal route isn’t just for those wishing to complete the whole walk, there is a bus service that enables you to enjoy shorter sections and there is a helpful video about the X18 Coast and Castles which services the route of the Northumberland Coastal Path between Amble and Berwick. It’s ideal if you’d like to enjoy short linear routes and return to your starting point.

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The impressive ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle

Also ideal for day visitors are the circular walking routes, choose from 4 miles routes from Craster to Howick Hall (famously the home of Earl Grey Tea) or Craster to Dunstanburgh. If you have a little longer to spend then there is a walk of just over 10 miles from Belford to St Cuthbert’s Cave which is reputed to be where the monks of Lindisfarne brought St. Cuthbert’s body to rest for a short period in AD875.

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Enjoy a cup of Earl Grey Tea at Howick Hall

To enjoy the circular trails it is well worth obtaining the trail leaflets from a local Tourist Information Point and the Northumberland Coastal Path Official Guidebook & Path Passport can both be purchased from Northern Heritage.

Northumberland has no end of fantastic walking opportunities, each one as unique and diverse as its neighbour. We hope that when you visit you get to enjoy some of our walks and the see the very best of our lovely County.

We’re always happy to recommend walks and days out to our guests and there are books and guides in the cottage to help you choose. For all details of our accommodation here at St Oswald’s Farm and our current availability please go to our website

We look forward to welcoming you here and sharing our walks and our magnificent coast with you!

Discovering our Museums – Vindolanda

St Oswald’s Farm is so well placed for days out in Northumberland and there really is so much to see and do across the County and the whole of the North East. So whether you stay for a weekend, a week or two weeks you won’t be short of places to visit and enjoy. If you like to soak up the history and enjoy discovering museums during your time away then you most definitely won’t be disappointed!

The wealth of museums is endless from the Aviation Museum at Bamburgh Castle to the National Trust property Cherryburn which was the birthplace of artist Thomas Bewick, to Blyth Battery, the Grace Darling Museum and of course the many museums along Hadrian’s Wall boasting more Roman artefacts than you can begin to imagine. The Ferryman’s Hut in Alnmouth is said to the be the country’s smallest museum and the nearby town of Hexham boasts the oldest purpose built Gaol in England with the market town of Morpeth holding claim to a dedicated bagpipe museum!

Of course any trip to Northumberland wouldn’t be complete without delving into our vast Roman history and we are lucky enough to have the Roman Vindolanda Fort & Museum only a short 20 minute drive from St Oswald’s Farm. This is one of Europe’s most important Roman archaeological sites and is situated on the Stanegate Road, one mile south of Hadrian’s Wall and is set in a stunning landscape which really allows you to feel and connect with this inspiring historic site.

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Vindolanda – Nine forts over nine centuries

Vindolanda comprises of nine forts built on top of each other over nine centuries with the visible stone fort dating back to the third century. The site includes a modern world class museum which tells the vast and interesting Roman story and the museum is constantly updated and changes with annual archaeological finds added as a result of the ongoing excavation programme.

The Vindolanda tablets are perhaps Vindolanda’s greatest discovery and have been voted as ‘Britain’s Top Treasure’. These delicate, wafer thin pieces of wood covered in spidery writing were were found in the oxygen-free deposits in the floors of the deeply buried early wooden forts at Vindolanda and are the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain.

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Replica Roman Temple at Vindolanda

The Vindolanda Excavations take place every year between April & September and attract hundreds of volunteers from all over the world and visitors are welcome to watch the excavations as they take place, you might be lucky enough to be there when the next major Roman artefact is discovered and dug up from the ground. Of course if you want to get stuck in yourself you can book to take part in the excavations but they do book up quickly. More details can be found here with the 2021 dates released at the end of this year.

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Excavations underway at Vindolanda Image credit :Vindolanda

You could easily spend more than half day embracing all that’s on offer at Vindolanda and with an on site café offering a range of hot and cold drinks as well as snacks, lunches and afternoon tea it’s the perfect way to spend a day out come rain or shine! 

Whatever your interest you’ll be sure to find so much to see and do in Northumberland and of course if you need any help or guidance on where to visit you just need to ask and we’ll be happy to help.

For all availability and details of Heavenfield Cottage please go to our website. We hope to see you soon.

The most famous tree of all!

It’s thought to be several hundred years old and is one of the most photographed trees in the country, Sycamore Gap is undoubtedly a instantly recognisable landmark and is one of the most iconic places to visit whilst in Hadrian’s Wall Country.

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This famous Sycamore tree or Acer Pseudophatanus to give it’s official name, was catapulted to fame in 1991 when it appeared in the blockbuster film ‘Robin Hood Price of Thieves’ and is only a 20 minute drive west from St Oswald’s Farm and a considerably longer way from those White Cliffs of Dover! Don’t let Kevin Costner fool you!

The tree itself, which was crowned ‘Tree of the Year’ in 2016 by the Woodland Trust, is set a dramatic dip in the landscape with Hadrian’s Wall stretching up both sides away from it and is near to Milecastle 39 otherwise know as Castle Nick.

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Sycamore Gap can be reached on foot and is only a 15 minute walk from Steel Rigg car park and with Housesteads and Vindolanda both only a short 5 minute drive away it’s the perfect destination for those perhaps on a shorter stay or for who would like to only spend a day seeing some of the highlights of Hadrian’s Wall!

The landmark is cared for by The National Trust and Northumberland National Park and there is a young replacement sapling sycamore tree planted nearby within a protective circular wall and this is to ensure the locals (sheep) don’t nibble it!

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This is a spectacular walk and a stunning destination with dramatic views and whatever time of year you visit the surrounding countryside is rugged yet wildly romantic! If you can plan to be there on an early autumn evening as the sun starts to go down then you will be lucky enough to see something that resembles the whole of Northumberland bathed in a golden glow!

Of course no walk is complete without refreshment and if all our lovely Northumbrian air leaves leaves you with an appetite for either a light bite, dinner or just a quiet drink by a warming fire then The Twice Brewed Inn is perfectly situated just a stones throw away from Sycamore Gap. Here you will find seasonal menus of hearty home-cooked meals and their own superb selection of ales, brewed on site in the Brew House. There is also the opportunity to see how these ales are created with a tour of the Brew House itself. Full details of opening times and tours can be found here

Book your stay in Northumberland and at St Oswald’s Farm and discover the true beauty of England’s most northern county. We can’t promise you Kevin Costner but we can promise you a relaxing, peaceful, scenic, breathtaking and the most memorable of stays! We look forward to welcoming you here.

We love where we live

We spend a lot of time promoting the place that we call home. St Oswald’s Farm is the place we live, the place we work, the place we have chosen to bring up our daughter and the place our grown up Sons come ‘home’ to. It’s also the place we spend more or less every waking moment and the place we feel so passionately about, that we want to share it with our guests. We love them to see what we see here at St Oswald’s Farm and in the surrounding Northumberland and to enjoy what we are lucky enough to enjoy every day.

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St Oswald’s Farm

So what is it exactly that we love? It’s all very easy to say we love something, but the why we love something is a bit more personal.

Perhaps it’s just the sheer beauty of where we live, the vast views, the open countryside and the peace and tranquility that that brings. I have lived here for over 10 years and John has lived here all his life but yet we’re continually astounded by the views, John still comes into the house from being outside checking the stock with a new photograph he’s taken, frosty, dewy, misty, snowy, sunny, clear, eerie, cloudy, starry….”look at this photo”! We never tire of it!

St Oswald’s Farm not only sits in a beautiful location but a very unique one, we are right in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, our farmhouse and cottages sit on top of Hadrian’s Wall itself, one of our fields is an old battle site and a preserved hay meadow and within that field sits a church, St Oswald’s Church. Hadrian’s Wall National Trail runs along the front of our property, we are surrounded by a vast history, and it makes where we live even more special and we love that!

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Hadrian’s Wall National Trail at St Oswald’s Farm

Although we are in the open countryside, we are only a short drive away from so much, 10 minutes from our nearest town of Hexham and in less than hour we can be in Newcastle or Durham, the North East coast, Cumbria and even be into the Scottish Borders or on the edge of the Lake District.

Maybe we love where we live because we love watching the seasons unfold, watching them develop and change. Each season brings a new pattern, a different daily routine and each season prepares for the next, whatever that may hold.

Each season can bring challenges but the seasons also remind us very much of our connection with the land, with nature and with new beginnings. Who wouldn’t love that!

Our Sons had, and now Isla enjoys a 217 acre playground, go-kart racing, football playing, tree climbing, camp building, mud plodging, bike track building, chicken feeding, log chopping, lamb holding sort of upbringing. They also have seen new life come into the world and seen when a life leaves. They know where food comes from and the work that goes into producing it and we think that’s important.

St Oswald’s Farm was bought by John’s Mam & Dad over 50 years ago and that brings with it a huge emotional attachment and we feel privileged to have a family legacy to carry forward. Farming is without doubt challenging in many ways, it has to be one of the most difficult, all consuming, tying, stressful, emotional, unpredictable and very often lonely ways to make a living. We have no idea what the future holds for farming and that can feel scary, but when we look around St Oswald’s Farm, at our tiny little piece of Northumberland, and take in what we have right here right now, we wouldn’t have it any other way!

If you’d like to stay in Northumberland and stay in Heavenfield Cottage
we’d love to welcome you here and you will see for yourself what we love about where we live!

Our Heritage, Traditions & Culture

In Northumberland we are undoubtedly proud of our history, however we are equally passionate about our heritage and our culture and you will find Northumberland is steeped in many traditions. From our own tartan to our unique small pipes, from our flag to our sword and clog dancing, and not to mention our well known accent and dialect!

Our wonderfully colourful and distinct yellow and red flag dates from the 7th century, it has a chequered history and the pattern is thought to represent the interlocking stones of Hadrian’s Wall. The flag is quite rightly, only allowed to be hung within the County of Northumberland!

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Northumberland flag

A lesser known of our traditions is the Northumbrian Rapper Sword dance with the dance originally performed by miners in the pit villages of Northumberland and County Durham, however this traditional dance is now performed and can be seen worldwide. The Northumbrian traditional clog dancing was first performed by mill workers back in the 19th century and mimicked the noise of the looms going back and forth and then subsequently taken up by miners where it became a more distinctive ‘pedestal style’ dance with little upper body movement meaning that sometimes the top of a beer barrel would used as a tiny stage.

It’s smart and it’s ours! The black and white Shepherd or Border plaid is the official tartan of the Northumberland. It was actually originally woven with natural black and white sheep’s wool, before natural plant dyes were later used to produce the distinctive check we see today. The pattern itself is thought to be one of the oldest known tartans and is even thought to date back to roman times. You will find some lovely Northumberland Tartan gifts in many local shops….the perfect keepsake to take home to remind you of your visit!

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Proud of our Northumberland tartan

The Northumbrian small pipes are a melodious bellows-blown bagpipe, and they have been an important factor in our local musical culture for more than 200 years. They are rather quiet and more softly spoken in comparison to other bagpipes and are normally played indoors. The full history to this small part of our heritage can be found in the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum

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Northumbrian Small Pipes

I’m born and bred Northumbrian and I have the accent and the dialect that goes with that. Officially, the Northumbrian dialect was one of Old English spoken in the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria. It is today a dialect with a long tale to tell which is full of tradition and now even with it’s own Society to ensure that part of our culture doesn’t disappear.

We know that to many we’re just Geordies or Scottish and I’ve even heard it confused with Irish, we are however most definitely Northumbrian. Following a couple of confused looks from guests wondering what I meant by “you’ll need to wear your boots because the gateway is clarty”, I’ve put together a small selection of local words and phrases in the hope that they’ll help you when you visit us!

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  • Canny – pretty, nice or good
  • Clarty – muddy
  • Howay – come on
  • Howay man – general term of encouragement to hurry up
  • Hoy – pass or throw (not to be confused with Gannin’ on the Hoy which is to going out to consume vast amounts of alcohol)
  • Bubble – to cry
  • Hinny – wife or female
  • Gadgie – adult male
  • Stott – to throw an object (not to be confused with stottie which is large flat bread used to make a large sandwich
  • Clamming – really hungry
  • Hacky – dirty
  • Haddaway – go away
  • Plodge – wade, splash or paddle (often in the clarts)
  • Chocker – full
  • Bait – food
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Our daughter proudly demonstrating plodging in the clarts

Of course across Northumberland the dialect, the sounds and pronunciation alter, and there are four main dialects you will find across our region. Tyneside the classic ‘Geordie’, Southern which is known as Pitmatic and heard around Ashington and south-east Northumberland. There’s Northern which is North of the Coquet through Alnwick and up to Berwick, and of course our own area, Western, which is from Allendale through Hexham and up to Kielder.

Our history and heritage is rich, our culture is unique and we hope when you visit us, you enjoy all Northumberland has to offer. Each year in April, our heritage and culture are celebrated, The Morpeth Northumberland Gathering is a true gathering of people who come together to enjoy the traditional culture of Northumberland and the wider NE region. It features concerts, dance, crafts, battle re-enactments, dialect, stories, drama, workshops, sessions, singarounds, competitions, stalls, bell-ringing, orienteering, tours, walks, talks and street performances. The 2020 event will take place from 17th-19th April and will be a true Northumberland spectacle…why not join us and revel in our heritage and culture…’Howay man, BOOK NOW, it’ll be a canny good weekend!’

Rediscovering Blanchland

One of the unexpected pleasures of running our holiday cottage has been rediscovering many of the fantastic places there are to visit in Northumberland. I’m sure we are all very familiar with often visiting attractions in other areas but not actually taking the time to remember and enjoy just what is on our very doorstep. We are now thoroughly enjoying some day trips very close to home and a recent visit to nearby Blanchland reminded me without doubt how lucky we are to have so many superb places to enjoy.

Blanchland is the prettiest of villages, and it is almost like stepping back in time, a quaint and peaceful village in the most tranquil of settings. Blanchland straddles the border between Northumberland and Durham and sits within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Built from the remains of a 12th century abbey the village and the surrounding countryside are truly beautiful.

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The quaintest of villages

The drive from St Oswald’s Farm takes about 35 minutes and is a really lovely scenic route that crosses the fells to this tiny village. Once there parking is easy as there signposting to a large car park which relies on donations of £1 in an honesty box, this is definitely a clue to the laid back and relaxed atmosphere you will find here.

Blanchland (White land) got its name from the white habits worn by monks of the Premonstratensian order who founded Blanchland Abbey in 1165. Although the whole of the abbey doesn’t remain, the pretty parish church which is a Grade 1 listed building is well worth a visit.

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The Lord Crewe Arms sits prominently in the ‘Square’ and is one of the oldest hostelries in the country dating back to the 12th century. It is a charming building steeped in history and with lots of features giving clues to its history and boasts the most magnificent fireplaces. This award winning hotel and restaurant are a definite must see, but it’s worth booking in advance if you wish to dine there.

We visited a lovely craft and gift shop, Jaspah Crewe, and were very tempted by the large range of handcrafted gifts, Blanchland isn’t the place for retail therapy as the only other shop is the pretty little post office which sits untouched by time.

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Stepping back in time at the village Post Office

If you’re looking for morning coffee or perhaps afternoon tea and are tempted by very large pieces of cake definitely head to The White Monk Tearooms. The tearooms are in the very grand old school building, there’s loads of tables inside and if you visit on a warm sunny day there is space outside to sit as well.

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The White Monk Tearooms

Blanchland today is entirely owned by The Lord Crewe Trustees, a charity established in 1721. The village was previously owned by the family of the Bishop’s wife, Dorothy Forster, whose nephew was General Tom Forster and co-leader of the English Jacobite army of 1715. The ghost of Tom Forster’s sister, also called Dorothy is said to haunt the Lord Crewe Arms as she waits in vain for her brother’s return from exile. Eeek!

The houses in the Square all with dark red painted doors looks uniform and neat and very pretty and so well kept. The village has been used as a set many times for films and TV series…you never know you might just bump into a famous face!

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Moorland & Derwent Reservoir

The surrounding countryside just makes you want to see more and there are many short walks, circular walks, the Blanchland Geotrail and plenty more to enjoy. Details of all the walks in the area can be found on the North Pennines AONB website. Alternatively the post office has lots of leaflets about the area and details of the walking routes.

Nearby is Derwent Reservoir which is the second largest reservoir in Northumberland. The reservoir is a popular place to fish for trout and you will also find a picnic area, bird hides and an easy access path.

Look out for Mallard, Tufted Duck, Greylag Goose, Teal, Goosander and Grey Heron

In Northumberland we really are spoilt with some of the best places to visit and as we rediscover our favourites we look forward to sharing them with you. Or of course you could book a stay in Heavenfield Cottage and discover all Northumberland has to offer for yourself, we promise you won’t be disappointed! All our prices and availability can be found here.