Rainy Days

You may not be able to travel far at the minute but we hope that doesn’t stop you dreaming of your next UK staycation. As you know holidaying in any part of the UK isn’t really about lounging by the pool and topping up your tan, but more about getting out there and seeing just how beautiful this country really is. The offer in Northumberland is staggering and you will never be short of things to see and do whatever the UK weather has in store. Rainy days most definitely don’t have to stop play when you holiday in Northumberland and here’s our top tips for where to head if the weather isn’t quite what you ordered.

A day trip North has plenty to offer and could include the delights of Berwick Upon Tweed and surrounding area. Paxton House just west of Berwick offers guided tours of the 18th century country house with impressive galleries and furniture collections. A short drive then takes you to Chainbridge Honey Farm with their lovely visitor centre and shop, you’d ‘bee’ daft not to visit! A drive further south would take you to Heatherslaw Mill where you can experience the sight, sound and smell of a working mill.

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Heatherslaw Mill

The market town of Alnwick is always a popular choice with it’s retail offering, and absolutely no trip to Alnwick would be complete without a visit to the impressive Alnwick Castle which offers plenty of indoor delights with so many artefacts and history to enjoy. Whilst in Alnwick be sure to drop into Barter Books which is an absolute Aladdin’s cave for bookworms.

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Alnwick Castle

The beaches are stunning on the North East coast and can be enjoyed all year round and in any weather, perhaps a bracing or even cathartic walk along a sweeping shoreline followed by a few gentle hours taking in the various exhibitions and treasures at the iconic Bamburgh Castle. The village of Bamburgh itself is small but perfect for a saunter or a stop off for coffee and cake. The village is also home to the RNLI Grace Darling museum which tells the story of this famous and courageous lady.

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Grace Darling Museum in Bamburgh

Nearer to home the local town of Hexham with it’s impressive Hexham Abbey and interactive visitor centre is perfect on a day when the elements are against you. Take in the lovely old streets with plenty of retail therapy and a trip to the Britain’s oldest purpose built jail, The Old Gaol.

Newcastle and Gateshead are only a 25 minutes drive away and hold gems such as The Hancock Museum and the Discovery Museum or if you fancy a spot of culture head down to the Quayside and see the current exhibitions in The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. Further afield in Sunderland is the Glass Centre with various galleries and the opportunity to watch the art of glass blowing.

If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary there are plenty of experience days to choose from, a dairy tour or cheesemaking experience at Northumberland Cheese Company, a spot of falconry with Falconry Days , learn about bee-keeping at Northumberland Honey, or how do you fancy learning the art of sausage making with the Northumberland Sausage Company, you’ll discover that absolutely anything can go in a sausage!!

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Experience Days with Falconry Days

It goes without saying that these North East delights don’t just have to be enjoyed on rainy days and can be enjoyed whatever the great British weather has in store!

Of course, if the weather really is doing it’s worst, you may be tempted to not go anywhere at all, a lazy day of relaxing in Heavenfield Cottage might just be what’s in order. Light the log burner, switch on the fairy lights, wrap up in a fluffy robe, and settle down in front of Netflix or enjoy that long anticipated book or maybe you’d prefer a warm bubbly soak in that extra deep tub! Whatever you choose to do, rainy days on your next staycation may just become a very big bonus!

If we can help to plan your stay or if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch and as always our prices and availability are all on our website.

We look forward to welcoming you here, in any weather!

Stay on a farm

St Oswald’s Farm is where we live, its’s what we are and it’s what we do. But what is it like to stay on a farm, to be a guest here, to come and stay in a holiday cottage on an actual working farm?

A stay here is just what you would expect from a stay in a luxury holiday cottage, it’s welcoming, it’s relaxing, it’s ultra comfortable and it’s peaceful and most importantly it’s your special break from your everyday.

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Heavenfield Cottage

Heavenfield Cottage allows you to enjoy everything you want from your holiday, lazy mornings, day trips, visitor attractions, meals out, leisure time, long soaks and time to enjoy your book. However a stay on a farm perhaps also gives the opportunity to see the countryside in a unique way and take a glimpse into a way of life.

We have over 200 acres of ‘back garden’ to enjoy, there are stunning walks and views to die for without even leaving St Oswald’s. The scenery, the birds and the wildlife around us are fantastic and depending what time of year you visit you may be lucky enough to spot a curlew or lapwing, you may be here when the cotton grass is out or when our preserved hay meadow is in full bloom.

Any walk you take you will undoubtedly see our animals, John’s beloved sheep as they go about their daily business and during the Spring and Summer months you will see our lambs, hundreds of them as they play. You can admire our cattle grazing and visit the hens that provide you with your welcome hamper eggs! You can even collect some eggs if you wish..do just ask us.

You will see our dogs hard at work. Sky & Dot are an integral part of the day to day running of the farm and always keen to do their job. You may see them rounding up the sheep whilst out in the fields listening for John’s call, well almost always listening for John’s call. They are more than eager to please and they don’t care about the weather or the mud and can normally be found within a few yards of John! Unless of course they become distracted by the chasing Titch the farm cat or they have been known to occasionally wander off in search of a tummy tickle!

I don’t think anyone could stay here without seeing the beauty that living on a farm brings or the time and dedication that goes into farming, the love we have for our animals and for where we live. Our guests are able to see at first hand John’s comings and goings as he gets on with his everyday routine.

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Our ladies enjoying summer days

One of the questions John is most frequently asked is “do you get a day off”? The idea of a day off to John is odd, he doesn’t think about days off, and in answer to the question, no he doesn’t not unless we actually go away and manage to employ someone to look after everything on the farm.

John would however tell you that he does get the odd day off, but what he means is he gets up earlier to do all his work before he goes away for the day and then works late when he gets home to get everything done that needs to be done. That’s John’s idea of a day off! I’ll let you decide if you think he’s right.

During March and April a stay at St Oswald’s Farm will mean seeing lots of activity, you will undoubtedly see some lambs born and can feed lambs if you would like to. It’s a busy time of year for us but we’re always more than happy to answer any questions that you may have and you are more than welcome in the lambing sheds. We love that people are interested to know about our way of life.

If you happen to be here at the start of July you might witness John shearing his own sheep, and there’s even the odd chance you might witness me wrapping fleeces, please feel free to have a go, the lanolin is great for your hands!

Of course the summer months are also about making silage and hay for the winter. The tractors, machinery, the mower, the baler, the wrapper are always great to see in action. In fact the distant sound of the bale wrapper in the fields is for me a real noise of summer and it always feels comforting to know that our fodder for the winter is being safely wrapped up for our stock.

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Shearing time

Staying on a farm is without doubt a pleasure, it’s all a holiday should be with perhaps just a little added extra, a real experience of the countryside and a small yet real glimpse into farming life.

If you would like to experience a stay on a farm and enjoy the best of our countryside and all the Heart of Hadrian’s Wall has to offer, then we’d love to welcome you here. For all availability, prices and details of Heavenfield Cottage then please go to our website. Or if you’d like our monthly updates from life on the farm then we’d love if you signed up to our newsletter here.

We look forward to sharing St Oswald’s Farm with you!

Stay and Golf

If golf is your game then a stay in Northumberland means you will quite literally be spoilt for choice with nearby courses offering everything from scenic and picturesque to wild and remote and even some internationally renowned. Our courses are varied and offer something for everyone and Northumberland promises courses suitable for all abilities and budgets. So whether you’re looking to just try your hand at golf or just give your clubs an airing whilst holidaying in Northumberland or if you’ re hoping for a different course and different challenge each day, then we can definitely oblige.

Stay and Golf in Northumberland

Allendale golf course sits amongst the hills in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and at it’s highest point reaches 1374ft and is one of highest courses in England. It’s position ensures a remote yet beautiful aspect with fawn and fauna in abundance so don’t be surprised if the odd hare or deer takes interest if you’re nearing the rough.

The picturesque North Tyne Valley is home to Bellingham golf course, a highly regarded 18 hole, 70 par course which provides breathtaking views over the valley and towards Kielder. With a mix of par threes, long par fives and some challenging par fours, you’re assured variation until the very last putt.

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Tynedale Golf Course, Hexham

The local town of Hexham boasts not one but two courses, Tynedale a 9 hole course that sits neatly on Tyne Green, it provides a small tree lined and almost flat course. To the west of the town you will find Hexham Golf Club which is set in acres of pretty countryside overlooking the River Tyne. The Club offers a stunning and memorable venue, with what is said to be the best opening hole in the County and then follows up with a challenge on every green. If you want to brush up on what’s in store hole by hole, their website provides top tips and even ensures you know where to enjoy the best views.

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Hexham Golf Club course – image credit Hexham Golf Club

Northumberland also lays claim to championship courses, Slaley Hall, a 36 hole golf complex with their USGA standard, multi championship ‘Hunting Course’ and set on higher slightly windier ground their ‘Priestman Course’ which has hosted many European Tours. Both Hunting and Priestman offer a challenging but scenic round.

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Slaley Hall

Matfen Hall lies only a 15 minute drive from St Oswald’s and boasts a stunning 27 hole Championship course across beautiful classic parkland incorporating some challenging water features and is regarded as one of the finest courses in Northumberland.

Further East along the Tyne Valley you will find not one but two Lee Westwood courses in the grounds of Close House near Wylam, the Colt Course and the Filly Course alongside a 9 hole Yearling course. Close House was developed by local businessman Graham Wylie who has ensured it has a place on the global golf map and and has hosted the European British Masters and is the only PGA Academy in the North East of England.

Wherever you choose to play you will be sure of a warm welcome to the course and of course to the 19th hole, you will be playing surrounded by vistas that are so staggeringly beautiful you might struggle to keep your eye on the ball! Book your stay in Heavenfield Cottage, take your pick from our fantastic golfing offer, arrange those tee off times and enjoy golf Northumberland style!

Autumn walks

Isn’t Autumn just the most glorious time of the year? Crunchy leaves, misty mornings, crispy air and with a myriad of colours sweeping over our trees, woodlands, gardens, hedgerows, fields and even across our skies. Autumn is definitely not the time to hibernate.

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Early morning at St Oswald’s Farm

Northumberland is renowned for its walks and trails right across the County from coast to country, from remote moorlands to river walks, Northumberland offers the very best in walking opportunities. For hardened walkers Autumn brings a new dimension to each walk with a kaleidoscope of colours to indulge in and for those who enjoy more of a gentle stroll there’s no better time than Autumn to breathe in the great outdoors. Whatever your walking level or experience we can guarantee Northumberland has a walk for you.

You don’t need to travel far from our back door to enjoy the River Tyne. One of Hexham’s nicest green spaces is Tyne Green and it is the most tranquil of places to enjoy, this long river walk at any time of the year is lovely but bathed in Autumn glory it’s nothing short of beautiful.

Further east, the River Tyne takes you to Wylam and to Hagg Bank which is dominated by an impressive single span arch bridge, this former railway bridge is now a footbridge only. The walk East, Keelman’s Way (cycle route 141), stretches from Wylam to Newburn and can be accessed from either end or you may wish to explore the river stretch from Prudhoe to Wylam taking in sights such as George Stephenson’s Cottage and Prudhoe Castle along the way. A copy of this handy guide of the walks along this river stretch is also available in the cottage.

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Hagg Bank at Wylam

The walks at Allen Banks & Staward Gorge are a must-see in Autumn. The gardens and woodlands are owned by the National Trust and are the largest area of ancient semi-natural woodland in Northumberland. This beautiful wooded gorge that follows the River Allen has many different walks to enjoy with miles of paths, most are signed, however some are fairly steep and in places can be a little uneven. Amongst this ancient and ornamental woodland not only will you discover wildife and fauna but also ancient monuments and perhaps even a summer house! Make sure to grab a map available from the car park to keep you on the right path. For current opening times and to check on any restrictions please check their website before visiting. Top tip – afterwards head to Bardon Mill Village Store & Tearoom for hot drinks, light lunches and cake!

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Allen Banks & Staward Gorge in Autumn

The Simonside Hills in Northumberland National Park are perhaps the most recognisable hills in the County and as the Autumn months approach they bring just an expanse of purple beauty across the heather moorland. There is a circular 7km walk to the summit and although the route across the woodlands and moor are classed as moderate it is oh so worth it. At the summit you will encounter 360 degree view and be able to take in the Cheviot Hills, Coquetdale and over to the North Sea coastline. You will find details of parking and route guidance on the National Park website.

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Simonside Hills

It’s hard to choose our favourite place to visit in Autumn, Gibside with its long tree lined avenue or the charm of Belsay Hall and the colours that appear across the gardens and surrounding woodlands at this time of year. Or perhaps our favourite is Cragside House & Gardens which despite the many evergreens amongst their 7 million trees they just seem to highlight and compliment the display of Autumn colours. Talkin’ Tarn is lovely for a gentle walk around a lake but then so is Bolam Lake and there’s Blanchland …if only Autumn lasted longer. There’s always next year when nature will do it for us all again!

Whatever or wherever you choose to walk during your Autumn stay we can guarantee you will ‘fall’ for the charm of Northumberland.

Heavenfield Cottage is the perfect base for all your Autumn days out and just perfect to return back to following a day in the great outdoors. With underfloor heating, a log burning stove, a deep double ended bath, walk-in rainforest shower, fluffy bathrobes, the biggest most comfortable bed with luxury bedding, oh and there’s even somewhere to dry your boots! Sound good? All our Autumn availability for this year and next year can be found here.

We look forward to welcoming you to St Oswald’s Farm.

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!

Book Direct

Do you always book direct with the owner of a holiday rental or do you prefer to use an online travel agency? Before we started our holiday cottage business like many people we tended to use an OTA to book a stay, it felt ‘safer’ somehow. However through our experience we’ve found this not to be case and we would like to try to dispel some of the myths surrounding booking directly with owners and the differences you may find between booking direct and when you use an online agent. And importantly a few little tips on you how to ensure you can book direct and book with confidence.

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There are of course the very obvious reasons, no booking fee is normally applied when you book direct and prices are less likely to be over inflated than those often charged by an agent. OTA’s tend to have limited knowledge of a property and of the area you are wishing to visit, so there is the chance that the area or the property isn’t quite what you were hoping for. An owner knows their property inside out and knows their area better than anyone and more importantly as owners, we care about our property and your guest experience and we only want you to come and stay if it’s right for you. We absolutely don’t want you to stay if we think you won’t enjoy it or it isn’t going to be what you were expecting.

Book Direct – ‘No-one will care more about your guest experience than the owner themselves’

Sadly, there can be miscommunication between OTA’s and owners, an email doesn’t reach us or isn’t sent, a guest makes a change to a booking and that message just doesn’t get to us. When you book direct it is easy to communicate with us, there is no call centre, no queue and no third party involvement. Should you wish to arrive earlier or later or need to make changes or have a query or you would like to book some additional extras, we are more than happy to oblige in any way we can. OTA’s are dealing with hundreds of enquiries at any one time and it can be so very unfortunate if a message isn’t passed on to us. Likewise, it can be difficult for owners to communicate with future guests as some agents don’t give owners the guests contact details, so should an owner need to contact a guest it can be somewhat of a challenge.

When you book direct – It’s the difference between being chauffeur driven or taking the bus!

One of the not so obvious benefits is that you are very often supporting a small business when you book direct, a family business, a business which is part of a small community, a small business who in turn supports other local businesses. A small business who cares about their area, their property and cares that you have the best stay possible.

As well as the booking fee agents also earn commission from all bookings they take and this can be anywhere up to 25%, and this is deducted before the owner receives their payment, and in some cases isn’t made to the owner until after a guest has arrived for their stay.

So, how do you book direct and know that the business is genuine, how do you know that your payment is safe and how do you seek reassurance that when you arrive it’s going to be the right place for you?

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We would advise that you check us out, find our website, look at our social media, sign up to our newsletter, do we sound friendly, are we engaged with our audience, look at review sites, you’ll soon see if information is consistent and know if it feels right for you. Google us, email us, question us, look at our terms and conditions, look at our privacy policy, look for indicators of quality and industry standards. No legitimate holiday rental business owner will ever mind you checking them out, if they do, my advice would be don’t book with them. Many owner websites now take card payments which gives you further reassurance when you pay. If you still feel unsure, please just give us a ring and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have. We’re a friendly bunch and would be only too happy help.

Next time you’re searching online for a holiday or a weekend away if you can please look past all the paid adverts on your internet search, perhaps even keep going until you get to the second or even the third page, as quite often our lovely little businesses are hiding there, we don’t have hundreds of thousands of pounds to put into search engine advertising, but we’re there all the same just hoping you’ll find us!

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Our websites are there just hiding under the online agents

Booking direct undoubtedly has many added benefits for both parties but ultimately it has to feel right for you, and as owners we want you to feel confident when you book and this has never been more important than it is right now. As tourism starts up again and we begin to think of holidays and time away and we all try to adjust to our new normal you may feel you really want to know what changes will have been implemented and what new measures have been taken to keep you safe. Only the owner themselves will know this about their property and about their new protocols, only they will know what training they have undertaken and they will be ones who will be able to give you the reassurance you need to book with confidence.

If you’d like to book to stay with us and book direct, all our prices and availability can be found on our website. We would love it if you checked us out, we’d happily answer any queries you might have and of course we would look forward to welcoming you here to St Oswald’s Farm.