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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Northumberland has some great National Trust properties to enjoy, from tiny houses to magnificent estates and you will find each and every one fascinating and an absolute joy to visit. Cragside sits within the Northumberland National Park near the market town of Rothbury and the house, the gardens, the estate and even the drive from St Oswald’s over to Cragside is impressive on the biggest scale. Cragside House and Estate was created by Lord William and Lady Margaret Armstrong, William who was a visionary Victorian inventor and Margaret a keen gardener and together their vision and their passion for engineering and natural sciences transformed a baron land into what we see today.
The Victorian mansion was a pioneering home, perhaps the first ever ‘smart home’, it was the first house to be powered by hydroelectricity generated using hydraulics which harnessed power from nearby lakes. Throughout the house you will see many of the ‘mod cons’ that the Armstrongs and their guests enjoyed and their staff used, an early dishwasher, rotating spits, fitted sinks with hot running water and even central heating. The library houses four of the inventor Joseph Swan’s original incandescent lamps and the house shone with electric light, which was powered by Armstrong’s expertly integrated hydroelectricity system.
The gardens are just as impressive, enjoy the formal garden which covers three acres and lies over three levels and enjoys views to the South overlooking the Coquet Valley and the Simonside Hills. There are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the formal garden and it includes the Orchard House, The Clock Tower and The Quatrefoil Pool although the centrepiece has to be the Italian Terrace.
Enjoy a stroll through The Pinetum which is made up of a collection of non-native coniferous trees all planted especially for their scale and size and is home to some of the tallest of their kind in the UK. Planted 160 years ago, the original trees still stand today and as you gaze upwards they create such a majestic feel and remember to keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels as you saunter. From the Pinetum a walk along the waterside brings you to iconic iron bridge and beyond that the Rock Garden, a rockery on a monumental scale that is filled with azaleas and rhododendrons. Cragside is renowned for it’s annual show of over a million rhododendrons and June is wonderful time of year to see this spectacle.
There are over 40 miles of footpaths at Cragside and there are some great walks and trails to help you navigate your way around, choose from The Armstrong Trail, The Gun Walk, Nelly’s Moss Lakes Walk or the Inspiration Walk, all the trails are downloadable on the National Trust website.
To fully appreciate the Armstrong’s creation then be sure to take the Carriage Drive which is a 6 mile route around the Estate with plenty of places to stop and admire the view or park up in one of the many car parks and explore on foot on one of the waymarked walks. Look out for caves, sculptures, the timber flume, boathouses and of course the wonderful wildlife that is resident in this beautiful part of Northumberland.
As you would come to expect from a National Trust property there are all the usual amenities and there are three eateries offering breakfast, lunch and plenty of cakes and bakes. Cragside is a full day out but please bear in mind that many of the paths are steep and can be rough in places so do wear appropriate footwear. Cragside is one of our favourite days out and we hope you love it as much as we do.
In Northumberland and the North East of England there are gardens galore all just waiting to be discovered, there is everything from grand estates to hidden retreats and from naturally wild to neat and manicured and you will find there really is something for everyone to enjoy.
Howick Hall in North Northumberland, best known as the home of Earl Grey tea, is a garden lover’s dream and offers extensive gardens with everything from formal gardens with their impressive herbaceous borders and rockeries, to the bog garden, Silverwood, the sensory garden and the woodland walk. The Arboretum at Howick Hall covers around 65 acres and amazingly has almost virtually all been grown from seed collected in the wild since 1985. It boasts about 11,000 trees and shrubs and holds one of the largest collections of wild origin plants in the UK and there are paths and way markers to help you navigate your way around this wonderful botanical garden. To find out more about Howick Hall please go to their website.
If you prefer something on a much smaller scale then The Garden Station at Langley is just a 20 minute drive from St Oswald’s and is a destination for a peaceful afternoon in tranquil surroundings. This woodland garden and beautifully restored wooden Victorian railway station sits on the former Hexham to Allendale railway. What you will find here is a rather quirky garden together with a small cafe along with a woodland walk that was created in 2003 along the old railway track between two arched bridges and it is bordered by plants which thrive in this pretty woodland. There is outdoor seating in the garden which is just perfect for sitting soaking up the peace and tranquility of these lovely surroundings that sit within the Northumberland National Park. The Garden Station does close when it hosts private events so do check they are open before you visit.
Birkheads Secret Garden is another small but perfectly formed North East gem and is located in rural Gateshead halfway between Tanfield Railway and Beamish Museum. The garden sits on a sloping 3 acre site and has been divided up into 14 smaller inspirational gardens and each with a different theme to suit the planting conditions and displaying a wide variety of hardy plants to provide something for all the senses and to create year round interest. This small family run garden and nursery has been developed and grown by the owners with love and with care and has sustainability and bio-diversity at it’s core. Opening times vary throughout the year and more information on this gorgeous garden can be found on their website. Oh and if you have an old and unused key take it along and all your wishes might just come true!
Holy Island is a well known visitor destination but perhaps lesser known is the Gertrude Jekyll Garden which lies beside Lindisfarne Castle and is located where the Castle’s garrison originally had it’s vegetable plot. This delightful walled garden was designed by gardening guru Gertrude Jekyll for her friend Edward Hudson in 1911 and was re-established by the National Trust using Jekyll’s original planting scheme when it was restored in 2003. The garden has a geometric layout of paths and beds containing hardy annuals, stunning perennials and even vegetables that ensure the garden is interesting all year round. The garden was designed to be particularly stunning during the summer months when Edward Hudson was said to visit the garden and to show it off to his visitors. Don’t forget to always check the safe crossing times when visiting Holy Island.
The Bowes Museum is a hidden treasure, a jewel in the heart of beautiful Teesdale. The magnificent building stands proud in the historic market town of Barnard Castle housing internationally significant collections of fine and decorative arts. Purpose built in the 19th century by John and Joséphine Bowes, this Museum has a wonderful story to tell.
The Museum is a unique cultural icon and is one of the most important museums outside London, it’s wonderful history and it’s outstanding collection of treasures span three exquisite floors.
The walls of the picture galleries are covered with a huge collection of world class paintings, many of which are priceless masterpieces, ranging from the smallest and oldest, Sassetta’s Miracle of the Eucharist (c1423) to the eye-popping sized Canaletto-double.
The fashion collections take you on a journey from the 17th to 20th centuries with the displays fashioned in a manner which enable you to get a sense of time. The treasures include The Blackborne Lace collection, one of the largest and most important lace collections in the world. Shoes and garments are displayed on transparent acrylic mounts which enables a glimpse into the making of the garments with a view of the linings and labels which are normally hidden from sight.
Amongst the many collections there are a number of mechanical toys, music boxes and watches with automaton movements but perhaps the most well known and popular attraction is the clockwork Silver Swan which has been resident at the museum since it opened in 1892 apart from when packed away for safety during World War II. Unfortunately The Swan was a casualty of Covid regulations and due to the lack of use at that time is now undergoing maintenance, hopefully she will be performing and delighting visitors again soon.
The permanent collections are complemented by an eclectic exhibition and events programme and there are guided tours most days that you may wish to take advantage of, but places do need to be booked in advance.
Whatever time of day you visit Cafe Bowes is perfect for a quick bite, a leisurely lunch or delicious afternoon tea, and a day at The Bowes Museum wouldn’t be complete without a walk around the 20 acres of gardens, take in everything from woodland walks to the formal parterre garden which completes the look of this stunning French Chateau style building. If you love museums then a visit to The Bowes Museum will not disappoint.
We look forward to welcoming you to St Oswald’s Farm and hope you enjoy all the North East has to offer.
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