The Big Five - Top Days Out Northumberland
We have put our 'thinking caps' on and come up with our absolute favourite days out - we hope they will help trigger some ideas for you when you're planning your trip! These are not necessarily in order of our favourite as they're all very different, so it's hard to pick just one to be top!
Alnwick Garden and Alnwick Castle Both of these would easily fill a whole day. The origins of the Castle date back to the Norman period and the history of both the Castle and the Percy family, who still live there, are intertwined down the ages. Check out whatever activities they have going on for particular days; they range from "Harry Potter" broomstick training (the Castle was used in the films) to archery or tours of the State Rooms. The multi-award winning Gardens are the brainchild of the current Duchess of Northumberland; take a towel with you as some of the water features prove irresistible to little ones! There's plenty of car parking plus lots of cafes and wagons with all kinds of food and drink available at both sites. If you're pushing the boat out, you could have lunch or dinner at The Treehouse; set within the gardens and nestled in the treetops, but don't forget to book! Actually, it's worth booking up in advance for the Castle and Gardens too.
A trip to the Farne Islands is a must. Book your boat tickets in advance and park in Seahouses; the boats leave from the harbour. There's lots of different trips, ranging from the straightforward trip there and back, seeing the seals and puffins and hearing about the history of the area, including the story of Grace Darling. This trip is excellent and in recent years many people have also seen dolphin, which is obviously an unexpected bonus. There's other trips eg. some allow you to alight onto the Farnes themselves, if you're particularly interested in ornithology, apparently eating your butties on there is challenging, with all the bird life! A particularly special trip, is the sunset cruise, which takes in some of the coast and is a photographers dream on the right day! As you would imagine in a seaside town, fish and chips are the 'must have' cuisine! Our favourite is 'Pinnacles' restaurant, but they're all good and you can go and eat down by the harbour and watch the activity there. All three restaurants do 'take away' or you can enjoy the more 'retro' eat-in experience, complete with bread & butter and a pot of tea!
Holy Island (Lindisfarne) In 635 AD St Aidan came from Iona and chose to found his monastery on the island of Lindisfarne. This delightful tidal island is reached at low tide by a causeway and has a small population of 160 people, but that is swelled by the volumes of tourists each year. Our top tip (if tide times allow) is to go onto the Island near to the time it would close as the causeway is impassible and the tide is coming in. This means that there will then be a minimal amount of people on the Island and you will be able to take the time exploring for the next six hours before it's safe for you to leave again. During that time you can wander right around the Island and explore the village, church and monastery. You MUST check out the crossing times and ensure it's safe for you to cross both ways and work out what supplies you need to last for the six hours. It is not permitted to camp or stay in a camper van overnight, but there are places to get something to eat. We also like 'The Barn At Beal' a restaurant, cafe and bar overlooking Holy Island, which is a lush place to visit en route or on the way back.
Bamburgh Castle and The Grace Darling Museum are set in the village of Bamburgh, with the Castle high overhead built into the rocks, where it has stood guard for 1400 years. Visionary philanthropist William George Armstrong bought Bamburgh Castle in 1894 and set about transforming it into his vision of the archetypal castle! The Castle houses his unique collection of artwork, ceramics and objet d'art. To see more of the philanthropists work and interests you could visit Cragside, an extraordinary Victorian house, gardens and woodland, run by the National Trust, on your way to or from Northumberland.
A visit to Northumberland isn't complete without some great walking along the Northumberland Coastal Path The beautiful coastline is best known for it's wide open expanses of sand with the dunes rising up behind. The path is steeped in over 7000 years of history, leaving incredible landmarks for you to find along your walk. There's 100km of coastal path, so you could literally fill your week by walking different parts of it each day and not be disappointed as each bay is different to the last. It starts in the North, just outside Budle Bay and travels all the way down to beyond Alnmouth. Our favourite and the part that's nearest to our properties is the stretch from Dunstanburgh Castle to Low Newton, home of The Ship Inn - if you want to walk a little further you could walk to High Newton, the home of The Joiners Arms. We have arrangements with some of the restaurants, so do check with us as there may be a special treat available for our guests!
We have so enjoyed reminiscing about our life in Northumberland (at the time of writing we're in Lockdown!) There's so so much more on offer in this amazing County, but it's helpful to have a starting point. You should probably know that our lives revolve around beach walking, great food and drink and meeting people, so our criteria to get into our 'Big Five' would be heavily influenced by those life choices!! Enjoy .....