Northumberland is a large award-winning county with a heritage coastline (area of outstanding natural beauty), the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hadrian’s Wall and a stunning National Park. There is a lot to do and see for everyone, so to help you get the most of the area during a week’s stay, we have put together suggestions for 7 days out.
1. Seahouses and Farne Islands
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 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.
2. Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle and Embleton/Low Newton Beaches
Head to the pretty fishing village of Craster, (NE66 3TP) home of Craster Kippers and park the car for the day. Take a scenic walk along the coastal path towards Dunstanburgh Castle where you can explore the castle ruins before continuing further along the coastal path towards award-winning Embleton Bay on the heritage coast, one of the best beaches in the UK.
If you continue along the beach 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.
You can walk back to Craster the same way you came, along the beach, or along an elevated grassy section above, near the golf course. There are a few good dog-friendly pubs/places to eat in both Craster and Embleton if you want to eat there before heading back to the cottage. We prefer Embleton as it tends to be a little quieter.
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. Rothbury and Cragside
Rothbury is a pretty, traditional market town with shops, cafes, pubs and amenities including a visitor information centre.
Cragside is a very impressive National Trust place, fantastic grounds and a great Victorian house way ahead of its time; our favourite National Trust place. It was home to Lord Armstrong, the pioneer engineer who lit his house with hydro-electricity, the first in the world. The house itself is full of early inventions and the gardens have sections showing his hydro-electricity infrastructure. In addition to the house and grounds there are places to have picnics or buy food, drink and gifts. You could easily spend a day or two at Cragside.
5. 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 forts 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). 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.
6. 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 local mead. There are a few local shops and places to get food/drinks on the island too.
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.
7. The Cheviot Hills – Breamish Valley
The National Park in Northumberland is one of the least densely populated areas in England, with fewer than 2,000 people. It covers 405 sq miles and consists almost entirely of high fell, moorland and rough pasture. The Park is recognised as England’s most tranquil area, and with more than 700 miles of footpaths and rights of way, you can walk, cycle or horse-ride in complete peace. It also has the UK’s cleanest air and rivers, and the darkest skies!
The Cheviot Hills themselves have lots of walks with hills and valleys to explore. The Breamish Valley (NE66 4LT) is one of our favourites where there is an easy walk to Linhope Spout, Northumberland’s most impressive waterfall.