Thursday, 9 May 2019

Top Places to Visit in Northumberland

It's been a while since I wrote a travel post, and as we have recently returned from our Easter holiday family travels to the beautiful county of Northumberland, I thought I'd share some tips on top places to visit.

We stayed in a really idyllic spot, just outside of Netherton. As it is very rural and quite remote, we did find we were travelling quite a bit each day, mostly across the hills and absolutely stunning countryside. The views were quite spectacular, and as such, we didn't mind the daily explorations in the car to find nice family friendly places to visit.


Owned and run by the National Trust, and located near the town of Rothbury, Cragside is a large Victorian home, set in over 1000 acres of gardens and woodland. It was the home of Lord Armstrong, a local Victorian engineer and inventor, and the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. The house itself is fascinating to wander around, and children are loaned an explorers bag (with magnifying glass, binoculars etc.) and a map with clues to find, which the boys really enjoyed. The estate is a vast collection of paths, rocky outcrops and pinetrees, it has quite a Canadian feel to it (with areas aptly named Canada Hill and Canada Drive).

There is of course a trusty National Trust adventure playground hidden within the grounds with nearby snack bar (selling shortbread biscuits, huge fruity flapjacks and cinnamon crackle biscuits). It was lovely to sit in the Easter sunshine with a coffee whilst the kids ran around and enjoyed the adventure playground and a wander on the barefoot sensory walk. We went back another day to let the boys explore Nelly's Moss Labyrinth, an area in the woods which you get to via a trim trail. It's literally a labyrinth of hidden pathways through the woods, leading to different wooden carvings and sculptures.

It really was one of the best National Trust places we have visited, and as I mentioned, we went back twice and still didn't manage to and do everything on offer there. It's definitely up there on my list of places I'd love to go back to visit again one day.

We visited three coastal places during the week, two of which were Seahouses and Amble. I personally preferred Amble, maybe because the weather was better the day we went, but also because we found more to do there with the sandy beach, rock pools, and the walk around the sea defences, which when the tide is in and it's a windy day, is quite a sight to see, with huge waves crashing over the top of the defences. There was also a lovely little fish and chip shop as well as an area by the harbour with wooden pods all selling different things from ice cream and sweets to cheese and homewares.

Warkworth Castle
On the way back from Amble we stopped in to visit Warkworth Castle. It's run by English Heritage (it's worth noting you get free entry for you plus one adult and 6 children through Barclays rewards if you bank with Barclays). We went at around 4pm so it was really quiet, and the boys loved running around the grounds, exploring the tunnels and archways, and exploring the castle itself too. It's the perfect place to visit if your children are like my two, and love stories about knights and dragons, or if they're doing a project all about castles, traditional tales or knights at school. The castle itself is located at the top of a mound (covered in gorgeous daffodils in spring) and it overlooks the beautiful town, and then out to the coast beyond.

Wallington, near Morpeth, is another National Trust estate set over 13,000 acres. The Victorian house is set in the middle and surrounded by woodland, gardens, lakes and parkland. We didn't go inside the house here, but instead chose to explore the paths through the woods and around the walled garden area, and let the boys run about in the lawned courtyard while we all enjoyed a coffee. The weather wasn't great when we went, so we didn't make the most of exploring the whole estate, but I do know there are cycle trails and bicycle hire available too.

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne
When we were planning our week in Northumberland, we knew Holy Island was one place we definitely wanted to visit. You access the island across a causeway (which is obviously inaccessible by car once the tide is in) so you do need to check crossing times and plan your day around those, as the island is cut off from mainland twice each day. It is a little bigger than I was expecting, and there were quite a few visitors on the island the day we went. The main attractions are Lindisfarne Castle (looked after by the National Trust) and the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory. I know quite a few primary schools do topics on Vikings, so a trip to Lindisfarne would be fantastic for children who have done or might do a Viking themed topic.
We spent a few hours on the island, walking down to the beach (be sure to look out for lovely pieces of smooth glass pebbles, which are scattered over the beach washed up in the tide). We also went up to the observation tower where you can see the views out to sea and down the Northumberland coastline. In terms of shops, we found a little fudge shop and a little tea room, which you pass on your way into the village from the main car park.

I'm amazed at how many places we got to visit in the week we were in Northumberland. A definite favourite was Cragside, just because the estate was so picturesque and so vast, but I'd love to go back to Lindisfarne on a warmer day to explore a little more, and to get a boat out to the other Farne islands nearby. One place I also wanted to mention was Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden, which we didn't make it to, but which looked really good and I think would be well worth a visit. The castle is the second largest inhabited castle in the UK, and the perfect place for Harry Potter fans to visit as it was the setting of Hogwart's castle in two of the films. The Alnwick Garden is located opposite the castle, and features one of the world's largest wooden treehouse (with restaurant inside!) as well as adventure golf, landscaped gardens, lakes and fountains, definitely one to add to your list of places to visit in Northumberland.

Do you live in Northumberland or have you visited before? I'd love to know of any other places you could recommend to visit as I'm sure we will be back there again some day soon.



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