Destination of the Week: Northumberland

Out of all of the corners of the UK, the southern coast of England tends to get the most love and attention – it’s time to fight the north’s corner.

From scenes of wild, salty waves crashing against cliffs upon which jagged, crumbling castles have stood for centuries, to snug fishermen’s pubs serving frothy ale and the freshest catch, we present just some of the reasons why Northumberland reigns over the rest of the British counties.

Seahouses and the Farne Islands

 

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On the surface, Seahouses might look like your typical seaside town. It’s teeming with fish n’ chip restaurants in cheerful competition, sanguine scenes inside sweet shops and ice cream parlours, and more than enough bloody seagulls – but its proximity to the Farne Islands is what makes it really worth the stop.

This cluster of 28 islets is where, each year, crowds of fluffy seabirds including puffins, Arctic terns, shags, guillemots and razorbills return to breed. Languorous grey seals and their pups also call the archipelago home, and even dolphins and whales have been spotted flouncing around this part of the North Sea! There are a number of cruises that depart from Seahouses harbour, including those that catch the sunset, those that have been in business for over a century, and those that allow you to disembark and explore Inner Farne. The largest of the islands, 16-acre Inner Farne is home to a tiny chapel, a Victorian lighthouse and reams of history. St Cuthbert was a hermit on the island in the seventh century, and 22-year-old Grace Darling – a keeper’s daughter – helped to rescue shipwreck survivors in 1938, which made her something of a celebrity at the time!

Craster and Dunstanburgh Castle

 

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Boasting seascapes that inspired JMW Turner, this part of the Northumberland coastline is particularly enigmatic and makes for an atmospheric hike.

The village of Craster is huddled around a typical fishing harbour and is famous for its smoked kippers – the L. Robson & Sons smokehouse has been producing this delicacy for over a century and four generations! Another bustling spot for a bite to eat is The Jolly Fisherman – its crab sandwiches are raved about for miles, and its beer garden offers captivating views over the harbour and Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance.

Built in the 14th century, this decaying fortress appears both eerie and romantic as it looks out wistfully beyond the raucous waves below. You can venture inside the ruins, and even climb to the top of its remaining towers – the views from which are spine-tingling.

Bamburgh Castle and the Holy Island of Lindisfarne

 

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Bamburgh is watched over by its monumental castle that spans nine acres and is filled with grand halls, winding hallways and artefacts from throughout history. Wide shimmering sands and miles of grassy dunes stretch out beyond the elevated citadel.

Drive a short distance northwards from Bamburgh and you’ll find the Lindisfarne causeway – timing is key when visiting the island as the access road is covered by the tide twice a day. This spiritual spot is shrouded in myths and legends: it is the birthplace of the precious Lindisfarne Gospels, which were created by monks at Lindisfarne Priory circa the seventh century. The manuscripts – which survived Viking invasions and reports of flying dragons – are now kept under lock and key in the British Library.

Alnwick

 

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Alnwick’s main draw is… Yes, another castle – however this one is particularly enchanting. As one of the filming locations in the first two Harry Potter movies, fans will delight in activities such as broomstick training. Parents might also recognise some of the elaborate state rooms from Downton Abbey. The Alnwick Garden is equally abundant with magical scenes, featuring the infamous poison garden and a treehouse restaurant that brings childhood fantasies to life.

The rest of the market town, with its narrow stone streets and ancient arches, is lovely to wander through – step inside antique treasure troves and the beguiling Barter Books. Housed in a converted Victorian railway station, this legendary second-hand bookshop is brimming with novels, maps, vinyls, cookbooks, children’s stories and valuable first editions. Devour a chapter or two with tea and cake in the warren-like station buffet, which is adorned with glossy dark-green tiles and warm, vintage lighting, or indulge in a couple of scoops from the newly-opened ice cream parlour – the ultimate accompaniment to an al fresco summer read.

Kielder Observatory

 

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The county of Northumberland boasts many accolades. It is home to England’s largest forest, northern Europe’s largest manmade lake, and the second largest area of protected night sky in Europe – in fact, you’ll find all three in Kielder Water & Forest Park.

One of the area’s biggest draws is Kielder Observatory, which hosts hundreds of events throughout the year that revolve around the sparkling carpet of night sky above – painted with galaxies and astronomical wonders. Book into a forest cottage (ideally with a hot tub), and marvel at some of the clearest star-filled skies you’ll ever see.

Newton-by-the-Sea

 

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For a secluded seaside escape – one with very little phone signal – look no further than Newton-by-the-Sea. In this quaint village you’ll find local shops and pubs, a golf course, and the spectacular Embleton Bay. This expansive swathe of soft golden sand leads towards Dunstanburgh Castle in the south, and some well-loved watering holes to the north. The Ship Inn is flanked by whitewashed fishing cottages and boasts a grassy square with uninterrupted views of the sea. From June to October, fresh lobster is hand delivered by the ‘lobster man’ each day, and there’s even a micro brewery onsite.

A little walk across a field of sheep will lead you to The Joiners Arms, which is a sumptuous boutique inn as well as a well-loved local pub and eatery. From here, explore the Newton Pool Nature Reserve and search for shells on the spectacular nearby beaches, then settle into a spot outside one of the pubs and watch the tide roll in and out with your nearest and dearest.

Hadrian’s Wall

 

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Game of Thrones author George RR Martin claimed that UNESCO-protected Hadrian’s Wall inspired the famous structure at the heart of his much-loved fantasy world. Stretching for 73 miles, the Roman wall is punctuated by turrets, bathhouses, and forts, some of which are still being excavated! One of the most famous photo opportunities along the way is undoubtedly Sycamore Gap, where a scene from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was filmed.

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About Marianne
Marianne

When Marianne isn't writing about all the wonderful places you can visit through dealchecker, she enjoys exploring London, visiting scenic spots within the UK and adventuring further afield whenever possible!

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