Tag: history

Do you have a Northumberland bucket list?

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.

Highlighting Hexham Abbey

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.

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Hexham Abbey overlooking the lovely bowling green

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.

Exploring Housesteads

If you’re visiting Northumberland you will undoubtedly want to take in some of Hadrian’s Wall and there is nowhere better to appreciate this epic UNESCO World Heritage Site than at Housesteads Roman Fort.

Set high on a dramatic escarpment on Hadrian’s Wall, Housesteads was one of the16 permanent bases along Hadrian’s Wall and is the most complete example of a Roman fort in Britain. The fort is the most well known in the whole of the Roman Empire and is home to some of the most outstanding original features of a Roman fortress.

Although owned by The National Trust the site is run by English Heritage and their interactive museum showcases a great display of objects that once belonged to the Roman soldiers, and the short film that shows in the mini-cinema takes you on a journey through time as you watch the fort brought to life with stunning recreations of the original Roman buildings. You’ll get a real insight into Roman military life and discover the past behind the archaeological remains as you stroll around the barrack blocks, the Commander’s House, the granaries, the hospital and as you peer into the communal and undoubtedly the oldest toilets you’re ever likely to see.

A visit to Housesteads also gives the opportunity to enjoy a 5 mile circular walk which will take you past the site of Sycamore Gap following the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail before circling back to take you along the Roman Military Way.

Due to the nature of the site a visit to Housesteads involves a steep and uneven 750m walk from the car park, however the history of this ancient fortress together with the stunning panoramic views makes the walk worthwhile. A visit to Housesteads will leave you in awe of what the Romans achieved and gives real insight into the life of the soldiers based there and perhaps makes us realise just how tough and resilient they really were!

A National Trust Beauty – Cragside

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.

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Cragside House from The Pinetum (image B Wake)

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.

alt="Rhododedrons on the carriage drive at Cragside"
A riot of colour in the gardens and on the carriage drive

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.

alt="Nelly's Moss lake and picnic bench at Cragside"
Nelly’s Moss Lake

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.

Discover The Bowes Museum

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.

alt="The Bowes Museum front aspect and formal gardens"
Image Credit – The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

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.

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.

alt="Belsay Hall Grecian mansion"
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.

alt="Belsay Hall Quarry Garden"
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.