Things to do in Northumberland

Our favourite things to do in Northumberland

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When you’re England’s least densely populated county, it’s fair to say you have scenery in abundance. Northumberland has that and much more.

A crisp coastline looks out to the North Sea in this north-eastern corner of England. The peaceful surroundings that play host to you on a present-day visit here mask the turbulent history the county’s land experienced as the frontier of Scotland and England. The remnants of this are seen in the abundance of castles and forts that dot the landscape, each with their own back story. They're best represented by the marvellous Hadrian’s Wall, a magnet for visitors far and wide. You’ll never be stuck for things to do in Northumberland. Here are some of our favourites.

Bamburgh Castle and Beach

Bamburgh Castle and Beach

Very few places in Britain combine contemporary scenic beauty with immense historical context like Bamburgh Castle and its beach. Undoubtedly one of the top coastal experiences the UK has to offer, the area is a fantastic showpiece all-year round. The sand looks out to the unspoilt coastline, offering a refreshing change from the regular serving of densely populated coastal towns.

You’ll spot the magical Farne Islands in the distance, uninhabited by humans but a haven for birds. The 1,400-year-old castle understandably keeps watch over the sand. It’s stood in various forms over the centuries, but today’s structure is known to originate in the 14th-century, impressive longevity by any standards. It gives you an insight into the strategic importance of the area, patrolling the coastline in all its glory to the present day.

Chain Bridge Honey Farm, Berwick

Chain Bridge Honey Farm, Berwick

Chain Bridge Honey Farm sits right on England’s border with Scotland on the banks of the River Tweed. Established in the early 1990s, it gives visitors in a unique insight into the importance of bees to the ecosystem and the wider world. Extraordinary education awaits you, putting into perspective just how bees operate and make the delicious honey we enjoy.

The visitor centre enables you access to a living colony of bees behind glass, seeing the fascinating way they interact with each other. Information and context is dotted around the place, and there are several artistic exhibits for you to enjoy. When you’re done here, step across the Union Bridge, England’s link with Scotland across the River Tweed.

Heatherslaw Light Railway

Heatherslaw Light Railway

Heatherslaw Light Railway is a magnificent miniature line that takes you a three-mile distance from Heatherslaw to Etal through rural Northumberland. Scottish territory is just a stone’s throw away, with the line offering a great link to Etal Castle. There are cute turntables at both ends of the track allowing the tiny steam locomotives to face the right way.

The affectionately named Bunky and Binky provide an hourly service back and forth, and santa specials in December. All in all, the train is a great way to get out of the car and experience the beautiful surroundings. When you’re done, head into Etal village for a drink and snack at The Lavender Tearooms.

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall is nothing less than an historical masterpiece. Sitting along what was the border of England and Scotland, its building began AD 122 under the guise of the emperor Hadrian. It separated Roman Britannia from unconquered Caledonia. In vanity, the emperor named the structure after himself and defence mechanism was born. Head for Brampton to see the wall in its contemporary glory.

Although many sections of the wall remain, much of the stone that forms it was plundered in places to create new buildings. The wall has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, joining a prestigious list of places around the world. It’s also been named as one of the ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire’, joining an international list of historic sites.

Holy Island

Holy Island

Holy Island sits off the Northumberland mainland, exposed to the crashing waves of the North Sea. Encompassed by water at high tide, a lower level reveals a scenic road that connects it by land to the rest of the county. Home to less than 200 people, there are secluded beaches and lush greenery in abundance in what must be one of the most remote parts of the country.

The journey here is an experience in itself, brought to life by the Snook Peninsula. Also known as Lindisfarne, the island is home to some great beaches that often feel like they are yours to own. Sheltered from the often-high winds, Coves Haven is our pick of the bunch, giving you a great place to play with the kids and bring the dog along for the ride. Holy Island is a great way to round off our favourite things to do in Northumberland.