Joanne Cowdery on 18 September 2021
Are you planning a holiday in England? If you’re looking for an unspoilt landscape, gorgeous villages, breath-taking countryside, fantastic beaches and very friendly and welcoming locals, you must head for Northumberland.

I spent a week in Northumberland, close to the Derwent Reservoir. We stayed in a cottage, which was perfect for unwinding in after a full day of exploring. I’d never realised how lovely the coastline is, or how dramatic the landscape can be. You are never far away from spying a castle, or two!

In fact, Northumberland has more castles than any other region in Britain; and it’s also renowned for its Roman, Viking and Medieval historic sites. There’s literally so much to see and do that it’s hard to know where to start.

Planning your visit

The county is dotted with quaint villages like Blanchland, Hunstanworth and Corbridge. There are lots of lovely walks in and around Blanchland, and don’t forget to stop off at The Lord Crewe Arms for a drink or a meal. This amazing establishment was built in 1165!

I’m not sure if you’d describe Corbridge as a village or a small town. It’s full of small, independent shops and a great place to explore. In Roman times it was a supply base for Hadrian’s Wall and it’s known for the Corbridge Hoard – one of the most significant finds of Roman history, which is on display at Corbridge Roman Town.

Hadrian’s Wall Hadrian’s Wall is well worth a visit. The Roman army started building its wall, forts, turrets, barracks and ramparts in AD122 and it seems amazing that so much has survived. If you’re driving, think about a ‘Hadrian’s Wall Car Parking Pass’ which will allow you unlimited car parking at all of the six car parks along the wall. You can buy a one-day pass, or an annual pass, so it’s well worth investigating. Alternatively, the AD122 Country Bus is a great way to enjoy the scenery and you can hop off at any of the stops. If you’re short of time, there’s a good section of wall to see at Gilsland, where there’s also a free public car park.

Alnwick Alnwick is a famous destination in Northumberland and we spent some time in the wonderful Alnwick Gardens before walking into the town to visit Barter Books, the famous second-hand bookshop that’s located in the old railway station. It’s a great place to visit, if only to see the huge model railway which runs around the top of the bookshelves.

But if you are in Alnwick do go and search out The Dirty Bottles pub. I’d read about this when I was researching our trip and it’s well worth a visit. Legend has it that two centuries ago, when it was called Ye Old Cross, the innkeeper is said to have dropped dead while interfering with the bottles in the window. His widow declared the bottles cursed and they’ve remained untouched ever since, and are now sealed between two windows.

Exploring the coast

Because we were staying inland, we spent a couple of days exploring the coastline. Warkworth has a castle and is a lovely village to walk around, and there’s a great coffee shop called Bertram’s. Craster is famous for its kippers and is another nice place to visit. Both these villages are on the Northumberland Coast Path.

We stopped at Low Newton by the Sea at the end of the day and thought it was a very special and unique place. It’s well worth walking down to the beach and visiting the Ship Inn.

Bamburgh is one of Northumberland’s iconic places. You can see the castle from miles away and the beach is lovely. Sadly, we never had time to visit Holy Island, which is home to its own National Nature Reserve, Lindisfarne Castle and Lindisfarne Priory, which dates back to the 7th Century. The island is only accessible via a causeway so you need to time your visit. It’s also an incredibly popular tourist attraction so get there early if you want to find a parking space.

We did stop at Amble, which is a busy town with shops, puffin cruises, beach huts and everything that goes with the seaside, including ice cream!

More to see

Writing about our holiday I know I haven’t done justice to Northumberland. There’s just so much to see and do, and we didn’t manage to visit all the places we’d wanted to. Holy Island will be at the top of our list when we next visit, as will Cragside, a Victorian mansion that was the first house in the world to be lit by electricity.

But aside from its landmarks, Northumberland has so much else to offer. Unpolluted skies make star gazing awe-inspiring; and the towns, villages, dales and moorlands are amazing. It’s a place of tranquility, truly dark skies and the freshest of fresh air. I can’t wait to go back!