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Kielder Water is the biggest man-made lake in Northern Europe and has a wealth of sights and activities. Set in one of the more remote parts of Northumberland, this lovely stretch of water is surrounded by forest (at over 250 square miles, the largest working forest in England) and is a great place for a day trip or longer visit. Activities on offer include:
~ miles of trails through the forest and beside the water
~ boat trips on the lake
~ wildlife spotting (this is one of the few places in England where you can see red squirrels)
~ mountain biking
~ and even star-gazing
There is an excellent Birds of Prey Centre and very good Visitor Centres, with lots of information to enhance your visit, as well as several places to eat and to shop. Or you can simply relax, take in the scenery and appreciate being somewhere so relatively accessible and yet so tranquil.
To get here from Newcastle follow the A69 west to Corbridge and then north on the A68. Ignore the first left turn for Bellingham as this isn’t a suitable road for most vehicles and instead look for the brown sign to Kielder Water and Forest a few miles further down the road. In Bellingham, look for more brown signs which will lead you to the C200 and thus to Kielder.
Once you arrive you can park in any of the several visitor areas marked on the downloadable map of the park. These operate a “pay and display” system, with a fee of £1.50 for an hour or £4.00 for the whole day. Your ticket for the latter is valid in every car park so hang on to it. As there is no entry fee for the park this represents very good value as a whole family can visit for this £4.00.
And for lots more information about Kielder please visit my separate page here on VTRelated to:
- Sailing and Boating
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
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Warkworth is arguably one of the prettiest towns in the county, with its attractive (but steep) main street leading up to an impressive castle, and the lovely waters of the River Coquet making an almost complete loop around both town and castle.
There has been a settlement here for at least 1,300 years and it is easy to see why. The castle hill commands extensive views of sea and countryside, and the river forms a natural moat at its base. The castle itself dates back to the 12th century but the buildings seen today include later ones from various restorations in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is managed and maintained by English Heritage, and you can go inside for a fee of £5.00 (adult price current in April 2013, concessions £4.50, children £3.00). It is a while though since we have done so – something for our next visit to Warkworth perhaps.
From the foot of the castle hill you can follow a footpath along the Coquet to the bottom of the village where you will find the Norman church of St. Lawrence. Beyond this the main road bends to cross the river. It does so via a modern bridge but alongside that is a medieval one which still retains its old gatehouse. Pedestrians can still walk out on to this bridge to enjoy the tranquil views of river and village beyond.
There are several B&Bs on the main street and small hotels, and although I have never stayed in any of them I am sure Warkworth would make a great base for a Northumbrian holiday.
I have written about the town’s attractions in a little more detail on a small separate Warkworth page.Related to:
- Castles and Palaces
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The village of Amble lies on the Northumberland coast, at the mouth of the River Coquet, about a quarter of the way up from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It grew up around a small harbour from which coal was exported, mainly during the 19th century when mining was at its height in the region. The harbour was not of a size to compete with the major ports but did provide a useful additional outlet for exports. But the village declined as the coal industry did, although it was sustained to some extent by a small fishing fleet and the building of traditional Northumbrian fishing boats known as cobbles.
Today some ship-building remains but the local economy is founded mainly on tourism. There is a marina just outside town, and boat trips to see the puffins and other sea birds on Coquet Island just off-shore are popular, though we have not yet got round to trying one of these. But on a recent spring visit we did enjoy a stroll round the harbour and taking photos of the boats on the river and the lovely light on the dunes beyond. We also had a good light lunch at the traditional pub, the Harbour Inn, located nearby on Leazes Street. If you’re looking for something more substantial there are a couple of seafood restaurants nearby, and for a treat the local “boutique” ice cream maker, Spurelli is based here, also very near the harbour – highly recommended and a fitting end for a pleasant stroll in Amble.
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Holy Island, or Lindisfarne, is, in my view, one of the most magical places in England. A small “semi-island” (that is, an island only at high tide), it has been a centre of spirituality since St Aidan founded a monastery here in the seventh century AD.
Whatever your religion, or none, you will surely be captivated by the unique charm of a place that seems largely untouched by the modern age. Yes, there are cars, and phones, and even wifi – but there are no chain coffee shops, no bank or ATM, no supermarket. And with the exception of the small stone-built village clustered around the ruins of the priory, the island is undeveloped. No roads serve its northern shore, and the dune-fringed beaches are visited mainly by birds, not people.
To experience Holy Island at its best, you must see it as the locals see it – without the hoards of visitors that descend at low tide. So plan to stay overnight, and as the cars stream away over the causeway and the sea closes above it, the island will become a different place – one of peace and tranquillity, the haven it has been for centuries.
But why “Holy” Island? You will also hear it referred to as Lindisfarne, the name given to its small castle. But locally the island is rarely referred to by this old Anglo-Saxon name. Following the murderous and bloodthirsty attack on the monastery by the Vikings in 793AD, it obtained its local name from the observations made by the Durham monks: “Lindisfarne - baptised in the blood of so many good men - truly a 'Holy Island'”.
The main sights are the ruins of the Priory that was destroyed as a result of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, and the castle, restored by Edward Lutyens to serve as a holiday home for Edward Hudson, the founder of Country Life magazine (though rather grand by the standards of most holiday homes!)
There is much more information about Holy Island on my Lindisfarne page.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
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One of the grandest sights on the Northumbrian coastline is that of Bamburgh Castle. It is a view that I never tire of. The castle stands on a massive outcrop of rock and towers over the sands below. Unlike many castles on this coast, it is still a family home, and thus far more complete than the ruins elsewhere. It is truly an impressive sight.
There has been a castle at Bamburgh since the sixth century, when the site was chosen as the Royal capital by the kings of Northumbria. The present castle dates from Norman times, though it has been much restored and added to over the years, most extensively during the 18th and 19th centuries.
But there is more to Bamburgh than its castle, dominant though that is. There are wonderful beaches that even on the sunniest of summer days are relatively uncrowded, and in winter are almost deserted. There is an excellent museum devoted to local heroine, Grace Darling, and some quaint old cottages, as well as a sprinkling of tea shops, pubs and gift-shops. It is a great place to spend a day, or to use as a base for a holiday in this lovely region of England.
There is a little more information about the town on my Bamburgh page.Related to:
- Castles and Palaces
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This is a great place to come to get a good dose of sea air within reach of the more built-up Tyneside area. It is far less developed and more wild than the seaside resorts closer to Newcastle, such as Whitley Bay or Tynemouth, but not too far for a short outing from the city, though you’ll need a car to get here.
The beach stretches for seven miles and is designated as a country park, affording it a degree of protection. So although you will see signs of industry close to here, on the beach itself you will feel pleasantly cut off from the modern world. There are rock pools to explore and some great views along the coast. It’s an excellent place for kite flying as it is nearly always windy, but when the sun shines, winter or summer, it makes for a wonderful walk, whether you just stroll a few hundred yards or walk the whole seven miles (which we never have, I should add!)
There are several places to park along its length, so don’t necessarily stop in the first place you see, as that is likeliest to be the busiest (although in winter, “busy” means that you may see only a few other people). From any parking area, a very short path will take you over the dunes and on to the sands. As you arrive on the beach, you may spot some large concrete blocks half-buried in the sand. These are anti-tank blocks, placed here during the Second World War when Druridge was seen as a likely place for any German invasion.
Behind the bay is the country park itself. We have never visited this, but last time we were in the area I spotted that it appears to have been nicely developed, so I think we’ll go in next time. It has a lake with surrounding meadows and woods which has been restored from an old opencast coal mine – the lake seemed to be attracting a large number of sea-birds and waders so could be good for bird-watchers. There is also a visitor centre which has information about the park, toilets, a cafe and gift shop (apparently open most weekends and school holidays). Check the website below for contact details if you want to find out more about what’s going on there when you plan to visit, and for a map showing the location.Related to:
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The small town of Rothbury is one of my favourites in Northumberland. Its setting in the lovely Coquet valley is hard to beat, and the wide main street with its expanses of village green makes a good backdrop for a stroll. There’s not a huge amount to see, but that’s part of its charm. Its few shops range from the truly old-fashioned, that you might have thought had disappeared from even the most remote of English towns some years ago, to several high-quality butchers and a couple of more tourist-orientated gift shops. There are plenty of pit-stops along the way, whether your taste is for afternoon tea, a pint of real ale or a substantial lunch (I can recommend the Sunday roast served in the Newcastle Hotel, where even the so-called “small” portion is enough to satisfy all but the hungriest!)
If the name rings a bell, you may have heard of Rothbury on the news in 2010. The town achieved a brief and unwanted spell of notoriety when gunman Roald Moat holed up here when on the run from police, following a number of shootings in Newcastle. The footballer Paul Gascoigne put in an appearance, keen to mediate in the stand-off between Moat and police, and bearing gifts of chicken and a fishing rod! Eventually the episode ended with the shooting dead of Moat, and after a few more days of journalists’ attention Rothbury was able to return to the somnolence it prefers.
A better reason to come here would be for music. There is an annual festival which is very well-regarded on the English folk circuit. A friend of ours sometimes plays but we have not yet managed to get to the festival ourselves. However we have several times enjoyed another of Rothbury’s musical traditions, the New Years Day pipers. On January 1st each year this group of musicians does the rounds of Rothbury’s pubs, playing for a while in each and of course enjoying the landlord’s hospitality. Visitors to the town on that day can join them in this musical pub crawl, or simply settle in their favourite bar and wait for the music to come to them.
Rothbury would make a great base for a holiday in Northumberland. There are a number of B&Bs in the town itself, as well as in more rural properties in the area. And there are several of the county’s best attractions within very easy reach, including magnificent Cragside.
Morpeth is a traditional Northumberland market town about 30 minutes drive north of Newcastle, and has plenty to keep you occupied for a day, or even several. The pretty River Wansbeck runs through the town, although the severe flooding of 2007 made the river more of a threat for a while than an attraction, and some buildings still bear the scars. There is a weekly market, several interesting independent shops among the high street chains (do go into Rutherford’s to see how department stores used to be), attractive pubs and cafés, a craft centre and even a bagpipe museum.
One of the most dominant buildings in the town centre is the Clock Tower in one corner of the market place. It was built in the early 17th century from medieval stones thought to have come from a gatehouse that previously stood at the west end of Oldgate to protect the town from raiders marauding from the north. It is one of only eight secular towers in England never to have been associated with a Church, and during its time it has served a variety of functions for the town, including a gaol and a meat store. The tower contains the oldest peal of bells in Northumberland, and the curfew is still rung every evening at 8.00 PM as it has been for 300 years.
Famous past inhabitants of Morpeth include the landscape gardener “Capability” Brown. Emily Davison, the Suffragette who was killed by the King’s horse in the Derby of 1913, is buried in the churchyard of the 14th century parish church of St Mary, and Lord Nelson's deputy commander, Admiral Lord Collingwood, whose statue stands proudly above the Tyne estuary at Tynemouth, used to live in Oldgate.
Seaton Sluice is one of several interesting little villages north of Newcastle. It lies right on the southern border of the Northumberland coastline at the mouth of the Seaton Burn, 3 miles SE of Blyth. These days Seaton Sluice is a quiet village but it has an important industrial heritage. Salt production was established here before the 16th century, and in the late 17th century the local landowner Sir Ralph Delaval built a sluice at the harbour mouth as both the salt and coal trades were increasing and the harbour was too shallow and small to cope with the higher demand. A new entrance to the harbour mouth was created in 1764, by blasting an opening out of solid rock – once again to facilitate the growing coal trade. This “Cut” was one of the most important engineering feats of its day and can still be seen at Seaton Sluice. There was also a glassworks here, established in 1763, as all the requirements for the manufacture of glass were on hand (sand, kelp, coal – and the improved harbour). Bottles from The Royal Hartley Bottleworks were transported all over the British Isles, and it is said that John Wesley preached from the steps of the old granary in Glassworks Square in 1744. The glass “cones” can no longer be seen, having been demolished in 1897.
The village makes a good destination for a sea-shore walk. You can explore the area around the Cut and walk along the banks of the Seaton Burn. There are small fishing boats in the harbour to photograph, and several good pubs for lunch or just a refreshing pint.
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On our arrival in Rothbury, the sun was blazing so we decided to stop and have a look at the place. We even parked in the pay and display carpark (not some thing we do a lot of!!) which was the princely sum of 20p per hour. Amazing. And there were toilets and recycling facilities.
There is a footbridge from the carpark, over the River Coquet to the village. It's literally a minute or so. Along the river are pleasant grassy banks, great for messing about by the river, picnicking etc.
The village itself is quaint, truly old-fashioned and a delight. Traditional shops line the hill, along with a typical village Co-op and a Spar. Service is traditional, ie, village paced so don't be in a hurry. There is also a great butcher, selling exotic meats like alligator and ostrich, as well as a wide range of interesting sausages. We tried the pork and leek and the ?Cracker, which we BBQed. They were extremely meaty, if perhaps a little dry owing to the lack of fat. Still, very enjoyable and excellent cold and sliced to nibble at every so often.
There is parking on the street side as well, encouraging people to stop and shop, unlike a lot of places I could name.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Family Travel
- Food and Dining
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Bamburgh is one of my most favourite places to visit. It is the ancient capital of Northumbria and is steeped with history. The village is dominated by Bamburgh Castle which stands on an ancient rocky outcrop overlooking miles of beautiful sandy beach and and boasts stunning views over to the Farne Islands. Bamburgh is also the last resting place of the most famous heroine Grace Darling the daughter of the keeper of longstone lighthouse on the Farne Islands who on the stormy night of 7th September 1838 along with her father rowed a boat through the howling gale and lashing rain to the scene of the wreck of the Forfarshire,a a steamship bound for Dundee with 39 passengers, which had been swept onto the rocks of Big Harcar, one of the outer Farnes. Grace and her father succeeded in rescuing nine passengers. The people of the village are very friendly and welcoming. There is a variety of accomodation to be found in the village, hotels, bed and breakfast and self catering, guesthouses. There is also Caravan and camping facilities to be found nearby.
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Farne Islands Boat Trip
The Farne Island boat trips run from the fishing village of Seahouses and lie two to three miles off the Northumberland coast midway between the village and the magnificant Castle of Bamburgh. I will always have wonderful memories of the day I went on the boat trip as it was a birthday present from some very special friends of mine and a day I really enjoyed. There is a choice of boat trips and the one we went on was aboard the boat called the Golden Gate which took us to Longstone Island made latterly famous by Grace Darling daughter of the Lighthouse Keeper who rescued nine survivors from the paddle steamer 'Forfarshire' which ran aground on Big Harcar's Rock during a violent storm on the 7th September 1838. The lighthouse was manned for 164 years before automation was introduced in 1990. We had a guided tour of the lighthouse with commentry telling the history of the lighthouse and its workings. On the return trip we passed Inner Farne and Staple Islands which I will do another time on a different boat trip. Another highlight was seeing the seals but rough seas prevented us from getting too close. The trip took approximatley two hours.
MV Golden Gate does four sailings per day 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, 4.30pm
Times - dependent on tides, weather and sea conditions.
Landings usually on Staple Island in the mornings and Inner Farne in the afternoons during breeding season, on other boat trips..Golden Gate always does the Longstone and is the only boat to do a guided tour of the lighthouse interior.
Another of Northumberland's coastal towns. It is a small, traditional fishing port, most definitely a working one as you can watch the boats land their catch.Amble sits at the mouth of the River Coquet and has the most beautiful beaches.
A mile out to sea, with it's lighthouse, is Coquet Island, RSBP owned. There are boat trips here, but I don't think you are allowed to land, just view the birds from the boat.
Amble also boasts a marina where you can hire boats from.
The town is undergoing modernisation and tourism is now well and truly on the up. And why not? It's a lovely little place This is where we did most of our shopping when we were in this area, at dear old Walter Wilson.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
Lindisfarne - Holy Island
Although we have lived in Northumberland for many years, we stayed on Lindisfarne for the first time in July 2008. We enjoyed it very much and will stay again.
To get to Lindisfarne, you have to cross a 3 mile causeway, so you have to consult the tide tables to make sure you have your timing right!
This is such a tranquil place, even when there are lot of people there, but especially when the causeway is closed!
I have placed a separate listing for Lindisfarne on my travel pages.
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Wildlife Sanctuary Ulgham Northumberland
The Sanctuary has approximately 200 animals including foxes, badgers, snakes and lots more rescued animals.
We fed goats, donkeys and chickens and then my granddaughter enjoyed herself in the playground. She played on the toy tractors, the trampoline and enjoyed the arts and crafts in the indoor play area.
We took a picnic, but there is a small tearoom serving light refreshments.
There is also a gift shop where they sell fresh eggs from the hens at the Sanctuary.
Opening Times for 2008.
Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays only
11:00am - 4:00pm (5:00pm May onwards) until the end of October.
We will then be open on Saturdays only until the 13th December.
We are also open on the following dates:
Friday 21st, Saturday 22nd, Sunday 23rd and Monday 24th March (Easter weekend)
Every Bank Holiday weekend Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Monday.
Every day during the Northumberland school holidays, as follows:
Easter holidays - Friday 4th April – Sunday 20th April
Summer mid-term - Friday 23rd May – Sunday 1st June
Summer holidays - Friday 25th July – Sunday 7th September
Autumn mid-term - Friday 24th October – Sunday 2nd November
The Sanctuary will thereafter be closed for the winter.
5.00 Adults and £4.00 Child/Concessions
£16.00 family ticket (2adults/2children)Related to:
- Family Travel
- School Holidays
Cornhill-On-Tweed, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, TD12 4UU, u
Good for: Business
On arrival at this hotel, having paid in full by credit card in advance, we were told there was no...more
Right by the Bondgate, so 'Alnwick central'. Private parking at the rear (steepish drive to get into...more
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