Category: Hadrian’s Wall Area Attractions

Visit Hexham

The town of Hexham is only a short 10 minute drive from St Oswald’s Farm and lies in the heart of the stunning Tyne Valley.  This picturesque town is the perfect destination for a day out in beautiful surroundings whilst taking in the rich history which you will find around every corner of this ancient market town.

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Handsome Hexham

Hexham is as handsome a market town as you will find anywhere, and the imposing priory is a central part of what makes it memorable”  

Bill Bryson, Best Selling Travel writer.

Hexham Abbey undoubtedly takes centre stage in this town and dominates the historic Market Place. This flourishing place of worship was founded by the Northumbrian saint and bishop Wilfrid in 674. Hexham Abbey is home to a wealth of artifacts from the Anglo-Saxon crypt to the tombstone of a Roman soldier, from exquisite sculpture and stained glass windows to the frith seat and from a medieval painted screen to the night stair, a set of time-worn steps. With so many stories, discoveries and with an interactive museum to explore you might find you need to take some time out to reflect and relax with a piece of cake in the lovely Refectory Cafe. To visit Hexham Abbey or attend a service please do check their website for times.

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Hexham Abbey & Bowling Green

Hexham certainly isn’t short of impressive buildings and Hexham Old Gaol is no exception, this large square stone structure was built in 1333 as England’s first purpose-built prison. The building’s history and the story of its infamous inhabitants including the Border Reivers is told in full and gruesome detail across the four floors of the museum you see today. All floors are fully accessible with a glass elevator to transport you effortlessly back through time.

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Oldest purpose built gaol

Hexham is fortunate to have its own cinema which is centrally located in the Market Place. This community owned cinema dates back to 1937 and has been brought right up to date with the latest 3D technology. They offer a wide range of up to date films, hold exhibitions and have regular live music events, stream live performances and have a licensed cafe so you can enjoy your favourite tipple with that all important popcorn! Visit their website to find out what’s on during your stay.

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Forum Cinema – a community owned cinema in the heart of Hexham
image credit Forum Cinema

The Queen’s Hall on Beaumont Street is a striking Victorian building, once a Corn Exchange before becoming a dance hall, it is now a 350 seat theatre and home to two galleries. The programme is varied and combines a selection of the finest theatre performances including a wide variety of drama, comedy, musicals and more. Top tip…make time for a bite to eat in the cafe…best cheese and bacon scone you will ever taste!

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Queen’s Hall Arts Centre
(image credit Queen’s Hall)

Hexham however isn’t just about the history and the impressive buildings, it also boasts Northumberland’s only racecourse and England’s most scenic and highest National Hunt racecourse! Located high above the town with outstanding panoramic views, Hexham racecourse has been in operation for well over 100 years and has an annual programme of race meetings. The views are outstanding and well worth a drive up there for the views alone or of course if you fancy a flutter all meeting dates can be found on their website.

Never short of green spaces Hexham undoubtedly has some of the nicest parks and walks. The grounds of Hexham Abbey with it’s Grade II listed bandstand, the wide open space of the Sele, the beautifully kept Bowling Green with lots of park benches to sit and enjoy your surroundings, or if you fancy a river walk there’s nowhere nicer and more tranquil than the Tyne Green river walk which can be reached by car just before heading east out of the town.

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Parks, walks & green spaces to enjoy

A trip to Hexham wouldn’t be complete without a saunter around the retail offer where lovely independent gift shops and art galleries compliment some high street favourites. Do try to wander off the main high street and find some of the small independents tucked away on some of the quaint side streets with their interesting quirky shops and galleries. Explore Market Street, Hallstile Bank and the cobbles of St Mary’s Chare, oh and remember to look up, you might just spot a little piece of history peering down at you!

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A warm welcome in Hexham

Hexham is a warm and welcoming town and was even recently voted the happiest place to live and in this town you won’t be short of places to stop for something to eat or drink with lots of coffee shops to choose from. You might want to plan your trip to coincide with the fortnightly Hexham Farmers’ Market or plan your stay when one of the many events are taking place. Hexham is a town where there really is something for everyone. To find out more about what’s on and when, take a look at the Visit Hexham website

A visit to Northumberland can take you from town to country to remote hills within a matter of minutes with unrivalled beauty and scenery wherever you choose to go. Many of our guests arrive here wondering what this northern most County holds for them, and within a few short days find they have fallen for it’s charm. Of course you don’t have to take our word for it, book your stay with us and discover Northumberland for yourself.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

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 although there was a young replacement sapling sycamore tree planted nearby this no longer remains, perhaps it succumbed to the locals (sheep) nibbling 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.

Did you know waterfalls make you happy?

Legend has it that waterfalls can make us HAPPY so what better reason than to take a stroll to the prettiest of waterfalls which can be found at Hareshaw Linn in the Northumberland National Park and only a short half hour drive from our holiday cottage here at St Oswald’s Farm.

Hareshaw Linn lies just a couple of miles from the village of Bellingham and is the perfect destination for a morning or afternoon walk. The Linn is signposted from Bellingham and there is a free car park. The overall walk is around 3 miles and it would be best to allow 2 hours, although you may want to stay longer in this tranquil and beautiful setting!

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Although now very hard to imagine Hareshaw Linn was once the site of two blast furnaces in the 1800’s and at the peak of its operation it contained 70 coke ovens, 24 roasting kilns for calcining the iron ore, a range of coal stores, a blacksmiths shop, wagon shed, stables and stores. The iron works were in continuous production until 1848. However it would seem a distant memory and nature has proved it recovers quickly and it is hard to believe that this stunning ancient woodland once raged with noise, people and smoke!

As you begin your walk some reminders remain of the history and the past story of this beautiful part of the Northumberland National Park. You will walk over mounds which are left from the spoil from the ovens and further on and once you’ve climbed the steps you will see the entrance to an old mine shaft.

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Meandering paths

The kissing gate takes you into the Linn itself, Linn being the old English for Waterfall. This fantastic ancient woodland is made up of elm, ash, oak and hazel and there are rare plants and wildlife in abundance! You may be lucky enough to see spotted woodpecker, red squirrels and wood warblers going about their daily business.

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You might spot a red squirrel

This area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and has been given this designation because of the rare ferns and lichens which can be found. There are over 300 types of moss, liverworts and lichens which are at home and thrive in the perfect damp conditions that the Linn provides.

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Mosses, lichens, wild flowers and ferns and a carpet of wild garlic!

The walk criss crosses over the water and you’ll find yourself crossing no less than six little bridges on this magical walk through this dense gorge which is in stark contrast to the often sparse and open Northumberland countryside. The path eventually brings you to the waterfall itself, where you will be met with the spectacular site of this 9 metre waterfall.

Every good walk should end with cake and once you’ve meandered you’re way back to your car, a 2 minute drive will take you to Carriages Tearoom which is the perfect place to have morning coffee, a lunch or of course the ultimate afternoon tea.


This unusual and aptly named tearoom is housed within 1957 Mark I Carriages which were brought to the site in 2011 from Devon.
The restoration project took a year and saw the carriages restored back to their former glory to be enjoyed once again. The Carriages still contain the original seats and many of the original fixtures and fittings from when the train was last used for public service. Anyone for tea on Platform 1?


Book your stay with us at St Oswald’s Farm and discover the beauty of Northumberland, and if you can take a trip to Hareshaw Linn. We very much hope you find it as magical as we do and discover that waterfalls really do make you happy!

A Northumberland must see ……Wallington Hall!

One of the best parts of running our holiday cottage is undoubtedly getting to meet our guests, hearing why they’ve come to Northumberland and what they hope their visit will hold for them.

Part of the charm of Northumberland is undoubtedly the sparse and often remote countryside which can mean that towns and the picturesque villages and the visitor attractions are relatively spread out.

We know first hand that some guests are uncertain where to begin to ensure they make the most of their stay and with so much to see and do in our lovely County and with such a huge offer of places to visit it really is no wonder that choosing can be difficult.

One of our all time favourite days out has to be Wallington Hall, a National Trust beauty that we quite simply love to visit. This elegant 17th century mansion is built around the core of an earlier medieval house and pele tower and is set in acres of beautiful gardens, woodland, nature trails, ponds and even a hidden walled garden and restored Edwardian greenhouse.

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Wallington Hall South Drive (c) Raymond Purvis

Wallington Hall is just a 30 minute drive from St Oswald’s Farm, leaving you time to indulge with a lie-in before setting off to enjoy a relaxing day out. Heading north-east on the B6342 will take you on a scenic route through some lovely rural countryside and small hamlets.

Twenty minutes into the journey you’ll spot Kirkharle Courtyard, and with a small number of craft shops, galleries, a lakeside walk and a cafe it’s the perfect stop for coffee or a late breakfast, they open at 10am and serve a delicious brunch menu.

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Kirkharle is in fact the birthplace of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, an English Landscape Architect born in the early 18th century and once described as the Shakespeare of Gardening and as England’s Greatest Gardener! The courtyard at Kirkharle holds an exhibition of his life and work and you can even admire a recently created piece of Capability Brown’s design which has now been made a reality.

Following the discovery of long forgotten plan by Brown, the past 10 years have seen the creation of a serpentine lake surrounded by swathes of new planting. The project began in 2009 and visitors can now enjoy the 1km walk around the lake and there are several benches and viewpoints to sit and take in the design and landscape as once envisaged by Lancelot Brown himself.

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A further 10 minute car journey takes you to Wallington Hall itself, and as the Mansion comes into view with its Ha-Ha and Griffin Heads it’s unmistakable. A visit to this impressive and once home of Sir Charles Trevelyan gives insight into this remarkable man and his unconventional family.  You can explore the history of Northumberland in huge pre-Raphaelite paintings around the Central Hall or take time to admire the furniture and occasional quirky curiosities in every room.

alt="Hadrians Wall Area Days out in Northumberland National Trust Wallington Hall Griffin Heads"

The Trevelyan family loved being outdoors and close to nature, and the house and grounds are testament to that. The natural yet landscaped gardens are in the style of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who schooled just around in the corner in the village of Cambo, and the gardens compliment the rural Northumberland setting. There are plenty walks to enjoy, lakes, farmland and woodlands to admire, with lots of places to sit quietly and take in the abundant beauty. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for wildlife hides, as you never know what you might spot!

The path through the East Wood is a mass of towering trees, colourful shrubs and huge ponds, and is also home to red squirrels, otters, bats and great spotted woodpeckers. Whichever path you take through the East Wood, whether it’s the Serpentine Path, the Centenary Walk with views over to Paine’s Bridge or the longer path that loops around the China Pond and past the impressive Portico House, you can revel in the nature and soak up the tranquility of the landscape.

alt="Hadrians Wall Area Days out in Northumberland National Trust Wallington Hall Pond"

When you reach Garden Pond, a mini-lake often covered in waterlilies and home to a family of geese, you will catch a glimpse of the jewel in this very large crown, the enchanting Walled Garden.  Hidden beyond Neptune’s Gate at edge of the wood, the Walled Garden is an unexpected treat. Although originally built to grow fruit and vegetables, this irregular shaped Walled Garden is now filled with colourful planting & decorative shrubs. Stone steps runs down either side of the Mary Pool, a pond of clear water which feeds the stream that continues down through the garden.  Further on yew hedges hide a small nuttery with spring bulbs and ornamental trees, while the cut flower borders erupt with colour through the summer months.

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As with most National Trust properties there are toilets, a cafe and gift shop. There are plenty of walks to choose from and all signed so you can pick the one suitable for you, a gentle 1 mile stroll or even a 6 mile hike if you need to burn off that indulgent brunch! With the house and grounds to explore it would be easy to spend 3 to 4 hours at Wallington Hall or you may need slightly longer if you’re going on a longer walk or looking to soak up the atmosphere with coffee and a piece of cake!

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Walled Garden Lower Terrace (c) Raymond Purvis

Wallington Hall is truly a joy to explore, you’ll find picnic benches and areas to pop down a rug to soak up the summer sun, the colours are something to behold during autumn but yet the displays of snowdrops and crocuses in the Spring ensure a visit to Wallington Hall is a great day out all year round. We hope you love it as much as we do!

If your day out in this breathtaking part of Northumberland has left you in need of refreshment and you’re looking for a pub, real ales, log fire and great food, make your way back but take a quick detour at Chollerton and on to Barrasford and head to the Barrasford Arms where you will find a warm welcome and superb food.

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There really is no end of wonderful days out to be enjoyed in Northumberland, whether you’re planning your first visit, you’re visiting for the second or the hundredth time you’ll be sure to leave with fond memories of your time here. If you’d like to enjoy all that’s on offer in Northumberland and stay in an award winning 5* cottage here on top of Hadrian’s Wall itself you can find all prices & availability here. We look forward welcoming you to Northumberland and to St Oswald’s Farm!

A Canopy of Stars

I was somewhat shocked to discover that 85% of the UK population have never seen a truly dark sky or had the chance to experience the sense of wonder a dark sky can bring, so imagine how guilty I felt that I had always taken our starry Northumberland skies for granted!

In December 2013 Northumberland International Dark Sky Park was unveiled, it has a gold tier designation and at 572 square miles is the largest Dark Sky Park in Europe.  The recognition by the International Dark Skies Association means Northumberland is officially and without doubt the best place in the UK to star gaze.

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The stars in the Northumberland night sky are brighter and bigger and it is astounding to think that stars and objects 2.5 million light years away can be seen with the naked eye.
The best time for stargazing is during the autumn and winter months, when the nights draw in and are longer and darker. On a clear night up to 2000 stars can be seen, an experience which is quite literally out of this world.

The best place to go? Well you can just step outside and look up or there are several designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites perfect for viewing the stars. They offer good sightlines of the sky and have good public access, including firm ground for wheelchairs. Twenty Dark sky Discovery Sites are dotted throughout Northumberland, in village halls, car parks and picnic sites!  If you prefer a little more guidance on what to look for, then book onto one of the guided evenings offered at Kielder Observatory or The Battlesteads Observatory, both offering the perfect compromise between the beautiful majestic dark skies and state of the art facilities.  Both venues are accessible, and the evenings suit anyone from the absolute beginner to the professional.  However, you will need to book beforehand and all details can be found on their websites.

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Kielder Observatory (c) H Williamson

One of the most spectacular sights has to be The Northern Lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis, which are a natural phenomenon caused by charged particles colliding in the Earth’s atmosphere and are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemisphere.

They appear as large areas of colour including green, pink, shades of red, yellow, blue and violet in the direction due north. During a weak aurora, the colours are very faint and spread out whereas an intense aurora features greater numbers of and brighter colours which can be seen higher in the sky with a distinct arc. It’s nothing short of an extraordinary spectacle!

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Northern Lights (c)Ian Wylie

Of course a visit to the dark skies park isn’t just about looking up as the park is abundant with a variety of wildlife with the dark skies and reduced light pollution enhancing the habitat for many of the woodland species such as birds, bats, moths and insects.  The Northumberland Dark Sky Park truly is a remarkable place both day and night.

The nature and dark skies at Kielder inspired a local celebrity architect to bring his TV series Amazing Spaces to Northumberland.  George Clarke together with William Hardie Designs created a unique and inspirational treehouse.  The installation allows budding astronomers to lie back and look up at the stars with its spectacular opening roof.  Set amongst the woodland, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect place to be as darkness falls!

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Kielder Sky Den

The International Dark Sky Park status brings a wealth of benefits to what is the most sparsely populated County in England and has in itself brought thousands of visitors to this remote, yet undeniably beautiful part of the Country. The dark skies are just one part of a whole host of gems Northumberland has to offer, all just waiting to be discovered and to be remembered fondly.

We’re delighted that St Oswald’s Farm has a Dark Sky Friendly status, which means we are dedicated to helping preserve our dark skies and minimising light pollution.  We encourage and help our guests to get the most from the skies above.  The holiday cottage is equipped with the basics for guests to enjoy all that’s overhead with red torches, binoculars, star gazing charts and books and guides on what to look out for.  In addition to this we provide rugs in case the nights are chilly and even flasks and hot chocolate, all the ingredients for a perfect night under the stars.

The Northumberland skies are quite honestly a sight to behold, but don’t just take my word for it, come and experience the darkness and the wonder for yourself.  Book your stay with us here at St Oswald’s Farm and we’ll be delighted to share our star-studded show with you!  

As for me, I won’t look up and take our starry skies for granted ever again!

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