7 top things to do in Northumberland (indoors and out!)
Northumberland stretches north of Newcastle upon Tyne, right up to the Scottish border. Famous for delicious fish suppers and beautiful unspoilt beaches, here are the top seven things to do, inside and out.
1. Get up early and have the Northumberland coast all to yourself
Northumberland's rugged coastline has some of THE most beautiful beaches in the UK. They are unspoilt and boast dramatic views of ruined castles. If you get up early, you may have it all to yourself. I visited a few weeks ago, and the weather was grey and cloudy around 9am on a weekday. There was the occasional dog walker or jogger but I had moments of blissful solitude, and then the sun came out! Remember to take both warm layers and sun factor, as it is unpredictable... but totally worth it. Northumberland's beaches are the top thing to do in this region, so don't forget to download your free pocket guide below:
Just me and a dog walker on Embleton beach :)
2. When it's raining outside, linger in a Northumberland literary haven, and a slice of living history in Barter Books
If it's raining outside, seek refuge in Barter Books. This has got to be one of the most beautiful, and welcoming bookshops in the country. Housed in a restored Victorian railway station, the owners, Mary and Stuart Manley, have taken great care to preserve the fabric of the building. You can cozy up by the fire in the old waiting room (now a cafe serving hearty North-Eastern fare). Help yourself to tea, coffee and biscuits (there's an honesty box as you walk in) and browse thousands of vintage, rare and secondhand books. If you have some books you would like to donate, you will receive credit to spend in the shop.
Fans of the stoic 'Keep calm and carry on' wartime posters, will be fascinated to learn that Barter Books, was responsible for unearthing the WWII poster (which was never distributed as it was designed for use in times of imminent invasion), in a dusty box of second hand books bought at auction.
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3. Have a fishy on a little dishy
(It's a North-Eastern folk song :) and when you're in Northumberland, you cannot escape the abundance of fresh seafood available. Sample smoked kippers from the Smokehouse in Craster, or across the road, try the famous crab sandwiches in The Jolly Fisherman. If you visit in the evening, book a table in the restaurant, which has views out to the North Sea, and serves up delicious fish platters of crab, kipper pate, oysters and salmon. This candlelit spot has possibly the best views in the region.
4. Sea kayak from Northumberland to Scotland
Active4Seasons run informal sea kayaking gang trips in north Northumberland for all levels of ability. More experienced paddlers can take a trip to the Farne Islands, for an up close view of a variety of seabirds and if you're lucky with your timing, grey seals. Check their website for trip dates.
5. Join the Northumberland Puffirazzi on The Farne Islands
Yes, 'Puffirazzi'. This summer, the National Trust are monitoring Puffin's habits on The Farne Islands. You can get involved with their science project by submitting your pics of Puffins feeding. The Farne Islands are home to some enchanting wildlife, such as Puffins, Grey Seals, Guillemots and Razor Bills. You can catch a boat from Seahouses (check the link for the right trip for you).
6. Step into Hogwarts and stir all of your senses in magical Alnwick Garden
The town of Alnwick boasts two of Northumberlands top attractions. Alnwick Castle has been home to the Duke of Northumberland since 1309. If you take look around the State rooms, they are refreshingly homely, with framed family photos of the current Percy family. The family take up residence in winter, and you can see evidence of their cozy living room - which functions as both a beautiful ornate library, and placed to relax, with a large tv and a comfy sofa (which you definitely won't see in Buckingham Palace ;)
The castle was also used for filming in Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone. You can even take broomstick riding lessons!
Just next door, is the delightful Alnwick Garden. Huge formal fountains sit side by side with rambling rose gardens, 8ft bamboo mazes and a 'poison' garden. Absolutely everyone is catered for here, whether you're looking for adventure, secret corners or a zen-like oasis.
Below: The peaceful Rose Garden, and Alnwick Castle, looking moody...
You can buy either a joint ticket, for both the Castle and the Gardens, or if your time is tight, either one. Allow a full day if you want to do both.
7. Make a pilgrimage to Holy Island
Holy Island (Lindisfarne) has held religious significance since 634AD, when Saint Aiden founded a priory. It was the centre of Anglo-Saxon Christianity until Vikings invaded in the 8th Century. Holy Island is cut off from the rest of the world, apart from a few hours twice a day due to high tides covering the causeway (over zealous drivers sometimes still get caught out!). If you plan on driving (or even walking) over the causeway, check out this timetable first. For a nearby stay, Fenham Farm offers super comfy, spotless rooms in converted farm buildings, with views across the water to Holy Island, and perhaps the best breakfast in the region :)
Is there anything I have missed? Would love to hear your Northumberland tips in the comments section below :)