Northumberland is a large county with lots to see and do so we have put together a week’s two-centre camping trip which allows you to see some of the best of the coast and country this award-winning county has to offer.
Three Nights in the Country – Bellingham Campsite
Located in the Northumberland National Park and Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, this is a well maintained campsite with modern facilities including a shop, short dog walk, children’s play area, warm indoor social space, kitchen, drying room, family wet room and games room. The campsite is well located for the village of Bellingham, just a short walk away where you will find a few shops, pubs and restaurants.
1. Bellingham and Hareshaw Linn Waterfall Walk
There are lots of local walking, cycling and wild-life spotting opportunities in and around Bellingham. One of our favourite family-friendly walks is a 3 mile easy walk to see Hareshaw Linn, a waterfall with lots of interesting wildlife and plants on the way. There are also some lovely riverside walks, along the North Tyne, which is very near to the campsite.
2. Hadrian’s Wall Country, its Forts and Museums
Hadrian’s Wall is a World Heritage Site and was once the edge of the Roman Empire. There is a lot to see and you could easily spend a week walking along sections of the wall and visiting its sites and museums. We have tried to provide some ideas for ‘Hadrian’s Wall in a Day’ by highlighting the most interesting parts (in our opinion).
Start off at the Roman Army Museum first thing in the morning (CA8 7JB), about 40 minutes from the campsite. It’s a fairly small, interactive and modern museum where you can experience life as a soldier on Hadrian’s Wall, and starting off by watching its 3D film really does put the rest of the wall and its history into context. There is a cafe and gift shop in the museum as well.
From the Roman Army museum, head over to Steel Riggs carpark (NE47 7AN) and walk the most spectacular section of Hadrian’s Wall, along the top of the crags to Sycamore Gap (and beyond for even better views of a loch), the famous tree from Robin Hood and UK Tree of the Year 2016. Many people have a picnic at this spot before heading back to the carpark at Steel Riggs. It’s not a particularly long walk but is quite hilly in places!
From Steel Riggs, head over to Vindolanda (NE47 7JN), a short drive away. Here you will find an ancient Roman fort, an archaeological site with a modern museum. You could spend a long time here as it’s a large site with walks around it, but you can ‘see enough’ in just a few hours if you’re pressed for time. You can get food/drink here or take your own picnic. If you’re planning to go to the Roman Army Museum and Vindolanda, you can buy a discounted ticket, which covers both.
Housesteads (NE47 6NW) is also worth a visit if you want to spend another half day exploring Hadrian’s Wall Country, or instead of going to Vindolanda. Here you will find a visitor’s centre, a small interactive museum and a good example of Roman fort ruins. You can also walk on sections of Hadrian’s Wall around Housesteads Fort.
Doing all of this will be quite a long day so you may want to look at the Vindolanda website to see their day planner recommendations too. There is a good micro-brewery pub that does food nearby, The Twice Brewed Inn (NE47 7AN), which you could visit after your day exploring Hadrian’s Wall Country.
3. Kielder Water, Forest Park and Observatory
There are many reasons to visit Kielder Water and Forest Park in Northumberland (NE48 1ER), about 30 minutes from the campsite, home to northern Europe’s largest man-made lake, Europe’s darkest skies and England’s largest forest – watch the video to see what it’s all about. There are midges at Kielder, so take some insect repellent with you!
You could easily spend a few days at Kielder, if not longer. It is worthwhile visiting the Kielder website for some ideas to plan your visit. It is possible to cycle all of the way around the lake on a family-friendly bike path (26 miles), or part thereof, walk through the forest to spot gruffalos or go looking for wildlife. There are plenty of places to get refreshments, including Kielder Castle coffee shop and The Anglers Arms pub in Kielder Village.
There is a fabulous astronomical observatory at Kielder if you would like to see some of the darkest skies in Europe. You can find out more about it here – it is essential you pre-book for this as it is very popular.
The attractive market town of Hexham is worth a visit, about 30 minutes from the campsite. Hexham Abbey is impressive and there is family-friendly Hexham Gaol Museum, the oldest purpose built jail in England. Hexham also has a race course and all of the amenities you would expect to find in a market town, including a wide range of shops, pubs, restaurants and tea-rooms.
Four Nights at the Coast – Dunstan Hill Campsite
Located very close to the beach on the impressive Northumberland coast, this well maintained campsite is well placed for unspoilt sandy beach walks and fishing villages, as well as exploring the ‘castle coast’ of Northumberland. Facilities are clean and tidy – toilets and showers, parent and baby room, a laundry and separate washing up area and a children’s play area.
The small, pretty fishing village of Embleton is within walking distance of the campsite where there are a few dog-friendly pubs with good decent food.
1. Embleton to Craster Coastal Walk
If you continue along the beach beyond Embleton (turn left when heading onto the beach from the campsite), you will come to the small village of Low Newton and The Ship Inn pub, which is dog-friendly. Its beer garden overlooks the sea and is a lovely spot for a drink or snack – it has very good kippers, crab sandwiches and other local food.
2. Seahouses and Farne Islands
Start your day from Seahouses harbour (NE68 7RN), about a 20 minute drive from the campsite, where you can board a fishing boat trip to the Farne Islands for some great views of seals and many seabirds including puffins.
There are a few different companies operating with trips of different lengths and destinations. One of our favourites is by Golden Gate, which takes dogs, and stops off at Longstone Lighthouse on Longstone Rock Island, once the home of Grace Darling. The trip takes 2-3 hours and dogs are allowed onto the island. You can climb up the lighthouse for great views and there is a public toilet in the small tourist information building. We recommend checking a few days before that the boat trips are sailing as adverse weather can mean they are cancelled. You may also have to pre-book in peak holiday season.
Seahouses itself has shops and restaurants – a great place for fish and chips or ice cream before heading back to the campsite! We can also recommend the The Craster Arms pub in Beadnell village, which is dog-friendly, has a very nice beer garden and good food.
3. Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden
Alnwick Castle (NE66 1NQ) is home to the Duke of Northumberland and is the second largest inhabited castle after Windsor Castle. It was also the castle used in the Harry Potter films! The castle and Alnwick Garden are worthy of a visit and there are often events held there so it’s worth checking out their website during your stay in Northumberland; the Duke and Duchess really do invest in it – recently opened is a crazy golf course. There is also a fantastic treehouse with restaurant in the Alnwick Garden, which is well worth a visit. We strongly recommend booking it if you’d like to eat there though.
Alnwick itself is a pretty, traditional market town with shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and other leisure amenities – a nice place to wander around or stop for a drink and something to eat.
4. Holy Island of Lindisfarne and Bamburgh Castle
Holy Island (TD15 2SD) is approached by a tidal causeway so you will need to check the tide times on their website. It’s a lovely place to visit although the castle is currently closed for restoration. It does however have a monastery and a heritage centre with a gift shop where you can buy mead and other local foods. There are a few local shops and places to get food/drinks on the island too. It is easy to spend an afternoon or a full day on Holy Island as there are some lovely walks along the coastline as well as its historic village, castle and monastery.
As you are in the general area, you could also visit Bamburgh Castle, once the home to the Kings of Northumbria. Lord Armstrong of Cragside invested a huge amount of money in this castle to help restore it during his lifetime – it’s a large castle so you could spend a long time here, although you can do a quick walk around it, or even just walk around the outside of it or view it from the beach. Bamburgh is a small town with a few shops and places to eat/drink, also the Grace Darling museum and an impressive church.