River Walks

Northumberland is well known for its amazing walking opportunities and with it’s varied, rugged and wild landscape the walks in Northumberland provide fantastic opportunities to enjoy everything from the beautiful coastline to hills and dales as well as high remote moorland, iconic castles and historic monuments. Our water ways and river walks are perhaps less well known but a walk by water in Northumberland incorporates all that is great about our landscape with the relaxing sight and sound of water.

Our river walks offer everything from strolls by babbling brooks to the wonders of finding a waterfall and to the wilderness of the Northumberland National Park. Northumberland offers an abundance of river walks right across the County and we are lucky enough to have so many nearby, Hareshaw Linn, Allen Banks & Staward Gorge but here’s a few more of our local favourites.

The Tyne Green Trail is a 4.5 mile circular walk that follows the course of the River Tyne between Hexham Bridge and the turning point just past Watersmeet which is where the North and South Tyne join, and the river along which the path continues is the South Tyne, flowing from the Pennines beyond Alston, while opposite is the North Tyne flowing out of Kielder Water. The return walk is on quiet lanes and paths and can be extended to Warden Hill which includes the perfect pit stop for refreshment at The Boatside Inn which is just over the river a few hundred yards from the trail. The walk takes in the lovely avenue of mature trees on Tyne Green itself, the 18th century Hexham Bridge which is the perfect spot to stand and gives an ideal view of the weir and depending on the time of year, you may see leaping salmon. Further upstream look out for the remains of the old railway bridge which was built between 1855-1862 and went on to carry the Border Counties Railway. This is an ideal gentle walk and with a very conveniently placed pub!

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Tyne Green Hexham

Dukesfield Arches and Devil’s Water is a walk that uncovers the lead industry heritage of this hidden part of nearby Hexhamshire. There are two routes depending how far you wish to walk, either 6.25 miles or a 4 mile walk. The walks start at the gothic arches that are all that remains of the mill that was built to smelt lead ore brought to the site on the backs of packhorses from the North Pennine hills. The original mill dates back to the late seventeenth century and
was working until 1835. For much of this time it was probably one of the largest such mills in the country. The Devil’s Water route is in no way menacing as it’s name would suggest but offers a lovely peaceful riverside walk through beautiful countryside.

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Dukesfield Arches

Wallington Hall is a well known National Trust property that we always recommend to our guests and as well as the impressive house and grounds, Wallington also offers a superb river walk.

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The Bridge on the river walk at Wallington – credit Helen Avery

Featherstone Castle & Lambley Viaduct walk is a beautiful circular walk that follows public footpaths and bridleways across fields and meadows beside the River South Tyne and joins the South Tyne Trail. The walk is rich in history taking in a 14th-century castle, a prisoner of war camp and an elegant 19th-century viaduct that used to carry the Alston to Haltwhistle railway line. The walk is around 6 miles and classed as a moderate walk but should you find yourself in need of a refreshment after your walk, The Wallace Arms is just up the road.

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Lambley Viaduct

There are just to many gorgeous river walks in Northumberland and each with it’s own unique charm, so whether you enjoy the heritage behind our waterways, want to look out for wildlife or simply enjoy the calming influence a river walk brings then Northumberland will certainly have a walk for you. Book your stay and look forward to enjoying all Northumberland has to offer.

Beautiful Belsay

Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens sit tucked away in the very small but perfectly formed village of Belsay, however there is nothing small about this beautiful English Heritage property with it’s grand Grecian Hall, Medieval Castle and 30 acres of enchanting gardens.

The Grand Hall is an architectural masterpiece, influenced heavily by the temples of ancient Greece, this country house is a true spectacle. Whilst the building itself is unfurnished, beautiful floral print wallpaper from the 1800’s still lines the walls, and from the bedrooms you will enjoy incredible views over rest of the estate. The empty rooms lend themselves to the art installations which are sometimes resident. The Hall with it’s impressive columns was built using rocks from the quarry on the Belsay grounds and was completed in the early 19th century.

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Belsay Hall

The gardens at Belsay are an absolute highlight and with year-round seasonal interest meaning you’ll be impressed whatever time of the year you visit. With one of the biggest collection of rhododendrons in the country you’ll find winter flowering varieties in the Quarry Garden and a magnificent display in the Rhododendron Garden during late Spring. A walk through the ravines cut out of rock bring a jurassic-feeling to the Quarry Garden and with its own microclimate you’ll see all sorts of exotic plants. The formal Yew Garden and Magnolia Terrace bring an entirely different experience and here you will witness the recent restoration by the dedicated garden team who have restored much of the historic fabric of these areas, opening up historic views and restoring biodiversity.

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Quarry Gardens

After visiting the Hall and a meander through the acres of gardens you will find an impressive medieval castle and although in ruins the grandeur of what the castle once was is very evident. Slowly wander through the maze of rooms and you will be treated to traces of elaborate medieval wall paintings. In the manor house style wing you can still see the old cooking range and fireplaces and if your legs are up to it, take the 56 spiral stairs to enjoy the view from the top of the 14th-century defensive ‘pele tower’.

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Belsay Castle

Of course any day out wouldn’t be complete without refreshments and Belsay Hall itself has a Victorian Tearoom which is in the hall’s original kitchen and offers lunches and light bites. Alternatively there is a gorgeous independent coffee shop in the village of Belsay, The Blacksmiths Coffee Shop who provide a wide range of home made produce such as scones, sandwiches, quiches, baked potatoes, pies, salads, tray bakes, cakes and much more, although we recommend that you book in advance to be sure to get a table.

To find out more about Belsay Hall and for information on opening times or if you wish to book your visit please go to their website.

If you enjoy days out and taking in the grandeur of historic houses and the beauty of their surrounding garden then a stay in Northumberland is definitely for you. All our availability is up to date on our website so all you have to do is book your stay and look forward to enjoying all Northumberland has to offer. We can’t wait to welcome you here.

Discovering our Museums – Woodhorn

Woodhorn Museum brings to life Northumberland’s proud mining heritage and is set on the site of what was once the largest pit village in the world. Woodhorn however is more than just a traditional mining museum, the exhibitions, the collections, tours, talks and facilities together with a packed programme of events ensure a great day out.

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Woodhorn Museum

Many of the colliery buildings still remain and are open for you to explore and each of these buildings tell their own fascinating story. Stand above the staggering Heapstead, find out what steam power did in The Jack Engine House, sniff out the Stable Block, see the only remaining Cappell Fan in existence in the Cappell House and Motor Room and discover the vital role of the winderman in The Winding House.

There are many exhibitions and collections of interest on offer at Woodhorn Museum. Coal Town is one of the permanent exhibitions and this interactive and thoroughly moving exhibition takes you on a journey where you’ll discover the true story of coal mining in Northumberland and of a way of life that has disappeared forever.

Take in the unique art collection by the amateur yet famous art group The Ashington Group, also known as the ‘Pitmen Painters’. They began as an art appreciation group in the 1930’s and then went on to meet weekly over the next 50 years and produced hundreds of paintings depicting what life was like for the men and women who lived and worked in the mining communities in Northumberland.

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Pitman Painters Gallery at Woodhorn Museum

You can enjoy the museum at your own pace or if you prefer there are tours and talks that take place daily to help you explore the various parts of the museum. Please check the website or ask staff about times and how to join these tours and talks.

At Woodhorn Museum the much loved heritage blends seamlessly with more modern development and The Cutter Building which is home to exhibitions and collections includes a wall which features a moving sculpture of 98 birds made from moulded miners’ gloves with each one sadly representing the lives lost at the colliery throughout it’s history. Woodhorn Museum is informative, interactive, cultural, hands on and at times really quite thought provoking but more than anything it’s a really enjoyable day out.

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The Cutter Building at Woodhorn Museum

If history, heritage and culture is what you enjoy then look no further and book your stay at St Oswald’s Farm and discover all that Northumberland has to offer.

A Haven for Wildlife

If you’re wild about wildlife then Northumberland is most definitely the place to be. Our diverse countryside of rolling hills, dales, moorlands, woodlands, forests, rivers, lakes and our coastline are teaming with wildlife and any drive or walk through Northumberland will undoubtedly mean you can easily spot some of our slightly wilder residents.

Our nature reserves are second to none, and each one with it’s own unique offering. Kielder Water & Forest Park provides a huge variety of habitats from marshy grasslands and bogs to woodland which attract an impressive amount of wildlife including badgers, roe deer, otters, red squirrels, shrews, pine martins, foxes, several species of bat, woodland birds and birds of prey, including ospreys. Of course the offering doesn’t stop at birds and animals, the insects, grasses and wildflowers come into their own at certain times of year, don’t be surprised to see the likes of yellow rattle, bird’s foot trefoil, and a variety of orchids. 

The Kielder Water website is packed full of information on all their ‘residents’, their ongoing projects, such as the ‘restoring ratty project’, their own Bakethin Nature Reserve and check out their nature calendar for what you’re most likely to spot during your visit.

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Roe Deer

In North Northumberland Hauxley Nature Reserve is right next to the beach and offers one of the best wildlife watching spots in the North East. The reserve is renowned for it’s bird life and regularly attracts 140 different species a year including tree sparrow, reed bunting and bull finch to coot, moorhen and curlew. The summer offers spectacular wild flowers including viper’s bugloss, bloody cranesbill and northern marsh orchid and of course where there’s flowers you will find variety of butterflies and the reserve attracts species such as the common blue and wall brown and you may see dragonflies and damselflies on the ponds, including the common hawker and the common darter. The reserve has a circular path leading to it’s wildlife hides and lots of information boards if you’re unsure what you might have spotted.

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Common Blue

If you’re visiting Holy Island, the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve offers 3500 hectares of dunes, saltmarsh and mudflats and is home to a fascinating array of wildlife. The Reserve can be enjoyed all year round with Winter being the best time to see the visiting waterfowl, Autumn and Spring are the best for spotting rare birds on migration and with Summer best for the stunning flowers, butterflies and insects.

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Ringed Plover

We couldn’t talk about nature in Northumberland without mentioning The Farne Islands. For any bird and wildlife enthusiast a boat trip to The Farne Islands is simply a must. The Farne Islands are home to 100,000 seabirds ranging from Eider Ducks to Artic Terns to Puffins and then if that wasn’t enough there’s the thousands of grey seals. Each Autumn hundreds of seal pups are born there and rangers are on constant ‘pup watch’ as the keep an eye on the numbers born each year! The National Trust wildlife calendar is really useful to check the best times of year to enjoy your favourite.

If you prefer something smaller that can be found while exploring the open countryside there are plenty of small reserves dotted all over Northumberland. Druridge Pools, Cresswell Pond, East Chevington, Falstone Moss, Whitelee Moor, Butterburn Flow, Greenlea Lough, Grindon Lough, Beltingham River Gravels… to name but a few. If you’re looking to pack a flask and sandwich and head on a quiet wildlife hunt then there’s lots of information on where to go and how to access them on the Northumberland Wildlife Trust website.

Even a relaxing day spent enjoying St Oswald’s Farm can bring some wonderful wild finds, heron, curlew, woodpecker, buzzards, lapwing, a huge array of garden birds and if you’re lucky you may spot a barn owl. We encourage and protect our environment however we can and in the Spring it is heartwarming to see our birdboxes being put to good use. A quick peek out of the bedroom window in Heavenfield Cottage might just bring a glimpse of a busy little wren. This year we’re hoping to create a new stumpery and look forward to seeing who’s going to join us and makes St Oswald’s their home.

Dining Out

The beauty of a self catering holiday is undoubtedly that you can pack your slippers and enjoy making yourself well and truly at home, and of course you have the choice of whether to rustle something up in the kitchen after a day of sightseeing or to opt for dining out!

This is the first of a series of blog posts on dining out and we’re starting off our fantastic Northumberland offering of great places to eat with our local pub!

The Crown Inn in Humshaugh is a true country pub in every sense of the word, set in a lovely quiet village, with local cask ales, home cooked food, live music evenings and they are also renowned for their classic vehicle events. This family run pub has a lovely outdoor dining area, real fires, seasonal menus and you will receive a very warm welcome. And all just a 5 minute drive from St Oswald’s Farm.

There’s an array of eateries in the local town of Hexham and if Indian cuisine is your dining out option then look no further than Zyka, a modern boutique restaurant offering exquisite food all expertly prepared under the watchful eye of celebrated chef Khaled Miah. This is no ordinary Indian curry house, but a fine dining experience.

A 30 minute drive over beautiful moorland and you will find The Lord Crewe Arms in the picturesque village of Blanchland. The village and the building are steeped in history, and you will find the setting not only picture perfect but awe-inspiring, this together with a a culinary offer that is second to none makes The Lord Crewe & Blanchland definitely worth a visit.

‘Smitten with seasonal simplicity and sense of place, our food is a culinary collaboration between heritage and landscape.  Guided by the evolutionary imagination of Emma Broom and faithful to the cultures of the north; expect heavenly patchwork feasts, dainty dishes and the occasional fix of comfort food, cooked to the highest order- of course’ –Lord Crewe Arms

If you find yourself at Steel Rigg and enjoying the walk to the iconic Sycamore Gap or you’ve been discovering the delights of Vindolanda and find yourself in need of refreshments then The Twice Brewed Inn is a must and just a 2 minute drive from the Steel Rigg Car Park and 5 minutes from Vindolanda. Enjoy real ales together with classic but quality home cooked food in front of warming log fires.

The Beaumont is an independent Victorian townhouse hotel in the centre of nearby Hexham, which sits within sight of Hexham Abbey and with the Abbey grounds directly opposite. The open plan restaurant with open kitchen offers an exemplary ever changing seasonal menu using locally sourced ingredients and was recently reviewed favourably by food critic, Grace Dent.

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The Beaumont Hotel in Hexham

Our local offer of places to eat is second to none, there is something for everyone and with all tastes and preferences catered for. So many of our restaurants and pubs source the finest of local produce and champion all that is great about the North East through their carefully prepared food whilst all the time ensuring that you have the very best dining out experience when you stay in Northumberland.

A County for all Seasons

We’re sometimes asked when is the best time of year to visit Northumberland, and well the honest answer is absolutely anytime. There really isn’t a best time of year to enjoy all that this County has to offer, each season and month is beautiful for it’s own very special reason. As the seasons come and go Northumberland changes, sometimes dramatically and sometimes even just a small and subtle change in light means we witness a new and spectacular beauty.

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Northumberland skies in October

Let’s begin with Winter, probably the most dramatic of seasons and a one that really shouldn’t not be missed. A visit during our darkest months will bring you an experience that is second to none. You may not be aware that you’re looking for a great ‘night-life’ but perhaps you’re one of the 85% of the population that have never witnessed a truly dark sky. The winter months are the best time of the year to go star gazing, to look up and be in awe of the stars above you.

Northumberland has an International Dark Sky Park status and is home to fantastic observatories where you can book to hear from the experts who will help you navigate the dark skies and leave you in awe of what lies above. If you prefer to explore on your own then there are various dark sky viewpoints across the County or you can of course just grab a cosy blanket, head out onto the patio and look up! The winter months however aren’t just about stars, you might encounter some of the most dramatic skies imaginable, from dark and moody to blue and crystal clear, no two days are the same.

The winter brings fantastic walking opportunities, just as summer walks are gift wrapped in lush green leaves, winter walks take on a whole new dimension as the naked trees and hedgerows expose the vastness of our landscape. If you’re one of those people who like to get wrapped up and enjoy a fresh or bracing winter walk and then head back to the comfort of a log fire and a long deep soak then look no further!

As Winter morphs into Spring Northumberland wakes up and puts on it’s best dress. From as early as February when the snowdrops appear, to the colourful riot of purple and yellow and the sight of newborn lambs right through to the soft fragrant blossom in May, Spring is the time to witness nature just doing it’s thing! Springtime is all about new beginnings, new life on the farms, new buds appearing, the chatter of birds and fresh brand new colours across our fields and hedgerows. Spring is well and truly celebrated across the region with many of our visitor attractions, our towns and villages and gardens putting on a real showcase for you to enjoy. Look out for Spring updates on the snowdrop woodlands and the crocus lawn at Wallington Hall or keep your eye on Alnwick Garden‘s Blossom Watch!

When the Summer months arrive Northumberland just keeps dong what it does best and looks spectacular! Our wide open spaces, our unspoilt landscapes, the rugged moorlands and our rolling hills and farmland become a patchwork of colour. The walks you enjoyed in the sleepy winter months take on a whole new dynamic and our views and big summer skies will once again take your breath away. If you really want to be in awe of our skies then we recommend taking an evening walk right here at St Oswald’s to watch the sunset …it’s nothing short of magical!

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As the seasons change and Summer morphs into Autumn and just when you thought Northumberland couldn’t get any prettier mother nature turns everything up a notch. Misty mornings, lower lazy sunrises, the green shades darken, the air turns crisp, the landscapes begins to change and every colour imaginable begins to appear, from the brightest red to shades of orange and gold. The walks become crunchy, the hedgerows become laden with berries and everything begins to feel a bit, well, cosy! The days shorten, the evenings become darker and before we know we’re looking up at the night skies to see our 2000 stars get bigger and brighter.

Northumberland is definitely not just somewhere for your Summer holidays, each of the seasons is spectacular and when each one arrives we always think ‘this is our favourite season’ but then the next one arrives and we find ourselves saying the same thing! Our recommendation is simple – try them all and enjoy Northumberland in all it’s guises! Book your long or short stay in glorious Northumberland, we promise it really doesn’t matter what time of year you choose.