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.
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!
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.
Dining out is a great way to really enjoy your time away from home, no preparing, cooking and no washing up. Where to dine out is one of our most frequently asked questions and we are so lucky to have so many fantastic eateries in our local area.
We have not only one but two Michelin star restaurants both just a stone’s throw away. One of which is Restaurant Pine located at Vallum Farm who offer an exceptional yet relaxed dining experience with a generous tasting menu using locally sourced ingredients and those grown in their own onsite kitchen garden. Sit back and enjoy the magnificent views of surrounding Northumberland countryside or watch all the action as your tasting menu is carefully prepared in the bespoke open kitchen. Booking are released quarterly so you’ll need to plan your visit in advance of your stay with us. For full details of Restaurant Pine and how to book please go to their website.
Another wonderful dining out option is The Valley restaurant near Corbridge which promises a unique and pleasurable dining experience in luxurious surroundings. Superbly presented authentic dishes from Bangladesh and the Indian subcontinent are served with impeccable style by attentive waiters. The Valley Corbridge has a fantastic reputation and you may have spotted it on Michael Portillo’s ‘Great Coastal Railway Journeys’ where he boarded the renowned Passage to India or The Curry Train as it is more affectionately known. To book your table pop over to their website.
The Valley’s sister restaurant Cilantro sits in the heart of Hexham Market Place and again here you will receive an impeccable and friendly service but find a menu that offers something a little different from your usual Indian cuisine as they also offer a fusion of Indian and Latin American food in tapas style. It’s one of own favourite places to dine out. For more details and to book please go to their website.
If good hearty English pub food is more your taste then look no further than The Black Bull in Corbridge which in a traditional building that dates back to 1755 and offers a real country pub welcome. Whether you’re looking for a lazy weekend brunch, a midday lunch, a refreshing afternoon drink, a three course evening meal or a Sunday roast then the Black Bull has it all. Full details can be found on their website.
The Lion & Lamb in Horsley is another great option for really lovely classic food and is only a 15-20 minute drive away. It is situated in the heart of the village and enjoys superb views of the Tyne Valley from the outdoor patio area, indoors you will find a relaxed atmosphere, a friendly service and superb food. They offer a lunch menu, an a la carte menu and Sunday lunch menu together with steak and burger nights and weekly offers. To take a look at their menus or to book please go to their website.
Our local area has a great selection of wonderful places for dining out and for more ideas please see our earlier blog posts here and here.
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.
Northumberland boasts many lovely towns but none perhaps as remote and picturesque as the traditional market town of Rothbury which sits in the heart of the Coquet Valley and within the stunning Northumberland National Park. Both the town and the surrounding area are perfect for a day out enjoying rural Northumberland.
Known as the ‘capital of Coquetdale’, Rothbury is a thriving market town with welcoming pubs, cafés, art and craft galleries and boasts a number of traditional independent shops along it’s quaint high street. There’s two car parks, loos, picnic area and if you fancy a stroll by the river then there’s a lovely riverside walk that takes you along the banks of the River Coquet.
Rothbury is fantastic place to access all types of walks so if you’re looking for something more a leisurely walk then the Simonside Hills must not be missed and as a Special Area of Conservation you may encounter wildlife such as the curlew, red grouse, mountain bumblebee, and even red squirrels and there are marked walking trails to keep you on the right path. Get to the top of the Simonside Ridge walk and you will enjoy a spectacular 360 degree view encompassing the Cheviot Hills and North Sea coastline.
The area surrounding Rothbury is full of surprises, and no more so than Lordenshaws which is just a short drive out of Rothbury and where you can take in the impressive remains of an Iron Age hillfort built 2,000 years ago. You will see burial mounds and intriguing cup and ring rock carvings that our ancestors left behind and in fact this site has one of the largest clusters of ancient cup and ring marked stones in the country.
The house is a showcase of Victorian gadgets and inventions for efficient and modern living and witness for yourself how this grand Victorian mansion was powered by hydroelectricity and hydraulics. Outside is just as impressive and with around 1000 acres there’s a lot to enjoy, the Formal Garden, Pinetum, The Rock Garden, the Carriage Drive and the opportunity to discover more of the science and engineering behind how William Armstrong harnessed the force of water.
Whatever you’re looking to do during your stay in Northumberland, be it gardens or walking or shopping or history, the lovely market town of Rothbury offers it all.
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