Over 30 miles of coastline and a wealth of border towns mean Northumberland is brimming with beautiful scenery and local history to be explored. From water sports and cycle paths, to relaxing beaches and tea rooms, visit Northumberland for a holiday that won’t soon be forgotten.
There’s a wealth of things to see and do in Northumberland. Lively markets and sandy beaches let you while away the days with the locals, while historical sites reveal stories of the past and the events that moulded the county into what it is today. With so much on offer, it can be difficult knowing where to start. To ensure you get the most out of your stay, we’ve made a list of the top places to visit and attractions to see in Northumberland.
Visit the delightful market town of Alnwick, a bustling community that showcases local produce, art, and music throughout the year. You’ll also find Alnwick Castle, one of the most beautiful in the country, which was used in many film and TV productions including The Hollow Crown, Downton Abbey, and the first two Harry Potter movies. The Alnwick Garden has undergone a transformation into a vibrant public space that families can enjoy, full of floral displays, fountains, and even a bamboo labyrinth. By night, walk the streets and learn of the spooky happenings in the town with a guided ghost walk tour, and don’t forget about Barter Books, one of the largest second-hand bookshops in the country – housed in the town’s former railway station!
Only three miles from the Scottish border, the coastal town of Berwick-upon-Tweed sits at the top of Northumberland and provides an ideal holiday location for walkers and cyclists. Stroll around the Elizabethan walls which were constructed to stave off attackers – the town was a frequent site of conflict between Scotland and England. This rich border history is encapsulated in the Berwick Barracks and Main Guard museums, while the town’s connection with painter L.S. Lowry can be explored with the Lowry Trail, taking you to the inspiration behind some of his most famous paintings. Browse the delightful markets that showcase local cuisine, from farmhouse cheeses and artisan bread, to fish caught in the nearby River Tweed.
One of the best days out in Northumberland is actually just off the coast from it. Board a boat at the local village Seahouses, and take a trip to the Farne Islands, mostly devoid of residents, meaning there is a wide range of wildlife to see. Grey seals, puffins, razorbills, sandwich terns, and kittiwakes are just some of the animals you can spot, all under the protection of the National Trust maintaining the islands as a nature reserve. Staple Island and Inner Farne are open to the public, and you can learn all about the islands’ links to Celtic Christianity as well as Grace Darling, who helped rescue survivors from a stricken paddle streamer in the 1830s when she was only 22 years old. Discover more about Grace’s story at the museum created in her honour, located in Bamburgh.
Formerly stomping grounds for Vikings over 1300 years ago, Hexham is a market town filled with stories to be told and food to be enjoyed. Visit the Old Gaol, which was England’s first purpose-built prison, and learn about its famous inhabitants from the time of the Border Reivers. Then, enjoy a spot of horse-racing at Hexham racecourse, which has experienced over 125 years of fiercely heated competition. Take to the cobbled streets to enjoy the markets with the best local produce on offer, all overlooked by the stunning Hexham Abbey. Visit in April to enjoy the Hexham Book Festival, which hosts workshops and other events around Northumberland.
Don’t miss the chance to see one of the UK’s greatest historical attractions, and learn about the British side of the Roman Empire, with a visit to Hadrian’s Wall. Stretching from deep within Cumbria and across into Northumberland, Hadrian’s Wall was the northern frontier of the Roman Empire for almost 300 years and, upon completion, contained 80 milecastles and 17 forts. Numerous sites exist around Northumberland, including the remains of a Roman town in Corbirdge, the Vindolanda archaeological site in Bardon Mill, and the iconic Sycamore Gap in Henshaw. Bardon Mill is also the home of the Roman Army Museum, an immersive space to learn about the history of the wall, and see life through the eyes of a Roman soldier with reconstructions and artefacts from the Roman Empire.
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
The village of Belsay is home to three spectacular attractions that are not to be missed. The first is Belsay Hall, a Greek-revival mansion full of eloquent rooms, including the impressive Pillar Hall, inspired by a honeymoon trip to Athens by the Middleton family. You can even stop by the Victorian tearoom for scrumptious cakes and delicious lunches. Then move on to the huge gardens that surround the house, packed with luscious flower beds that change with the seasons. Round off the day at Belsay Castle, a 14th-century structure built as a refuge during Anglo-Scottish conflict. The structure still holds impressive medieval wall paintings and, with a trip up to the battlements, lets you see the breadth of Northumberland’s beautiful scenery at its fullest.
Activities in Northumberland
See the stars
Get ready for a spot of stargazing, as Northumberland is the premier location for those looking for the perfect night sky. Thanks to the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, you can enjoy Europe’s largest area of protected night sky and see up to 2,000 stars on any given night. Bring your finest binoculars and telescopes to hunt out far away galaxies and other celestial bodies, millions of light years away. While you can spot stars here the whole year round, we recommend visiting in the winter, when the temperature falls and the sky becomes more transparent, letting the beauty of planets and constellations shine down.
Cast Your Line for a Spot of Fishing
If you’re looking for a relaxing day out in Northumberland, you can’t go wrong with a spot of fishing. With the coastline to the east, a wealth of reservoirs, lakes, and rivers, as well as some of the finest local knowledge in the country, you’re in the perfect place to cast a line and see what bites. Seahouses offers many sea fishing trips from the harbour, or you can take to Alnmouth beach to catch sea trout and salmon. West of Rothbury you’ll find Caistron Trout Fishery, a 50-acre fishing lake filled with all manner of trout. Experts and newcomers are all welcome, as tuition can be arranged to make sure you start off on the right foot while you’re enjoying the idyllic surroundings.
Take to the waves
If fishing isn’t your style, and you’re wanting something a little more active, Northumberland is also a great location to get your feet wet with some water sports. Amble, by the coast, is ideal for sailing, kayaking, and canoeing, with training courses available for anyone taking to the waves for the first time. Beadnell Bay gives you another chance to explore sandy beaches and get out on the blue via boat. Launch your vessel from the harbour and indulge in some wakeboarding and water-skiing, with the Farne Islands off in the distance providing a tantalising destination to sail to and explore. Diving and snorkelling clubs can also be found in the area, as towns and villages all along the coast let you unwind however you want to traverse the water.
One of the top attractions in Northumberland, Falconry Days in Hexham and on the edge of Pennine Way is a privately owned business with 50-acres for birds of prey. Adopting those that have not been properly cared for by their previous owners, over 80 birds are nourished, trained, and flown from Falconry Days – including owls, vultures, falcons, and eagles. Special experience days are available that will teach you how to handle the birds, let you take part in a flying session, and give you the chance to take some breath-taking photographs of the beasts as they soar through the air.
My Perfect Stay
Having spent a lot of time in the North of England generally I have to say that Northumberland has a certain charm with some great traditions. Northumberland is a superb location to explore as it’s within easy reach of the Major cities of Newcastle and Sunderland as well as very accessible to the Scottish borders.
Steeped in history the county once formed part of the Roman Empire and still has many historical sites today. You can visit the spectacular Hadrian’s wall or walk around Vindolanda which is the home of Britain's 'Top Treasure' - the Vindolanda Writing Tablets - and is one of Europe's most important Roman archaeological sites, with live excavations taking place every year. An amazing experience and one I’d highly recommend.
For those animal lovers out there you could visit the Kirkley Hall Zoological gardens in Morpeth which is a great day out, it also has a nice tea room and it’s not too expensive. Also the staff are very friendly which adds to the experience.
Having stayed in some of Hoseasons Lodges within Northumberland it’s an area I’m drawn to and look forward to visiting time and time again!