10 things to do in Northumberland

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There’s lots to love about England’s northernmost county of Northumberland. Not only does it showcase spectacular coastline, but all manner of mighty castles and ancient relics from its battle-worn past.

Inland, Northumberland National Park offers gloriously unspoiled landscapes for walking while International Dark Sky Reserve status ensures some stellar stargazing opportunities. And when you’re not exploring the great outdoors, spend time discovering picturesque market towns or sampling seafood specialities in traditional fishing villages.  

Whether you’re a hiker, history buff, foodie, or Harry Potter fan, there’s no end to Northumberland’s charms. Here’s 10 ways to spend time in this stunning region.  

Seal on Northumberland beach

Go wildlife watching along the coast

Northumberland’s rugged coastline is a haven for herds of seal and squawking seabird colonies. The Farne Islands lie just offshore between the villages of Seahouses and Bamburgh and offers some fine wildlife watching opportunities. During the summer months there are regular boat trips to these uninhabited isles where Atlantic grey seal haul-up onto the beaches and thousands of black headed gulls and puffins nest between the rocks. There’s also Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, where wildfowl and waders flock to the area, including almost the entire population ofsvalbardlight-belliedbrentgeese. 

A self-guided birdwatching holiday at our characterful country house in Alnmouth offers you the knowledge and experience of an expert who can help you find the best bird-spotting sites and identify your finds.

Northumberland coast path

Walk the Northumberland Coast Path

Stretching from the birdlife-rich dunes of Cresswell in the south to the walled border town of Berwick in the north, the Northumberland Coast Path follows one of the finest stretches of National Landscapes-awarded coastline in the country. Over the course of 62 miles, it showcases long stretches of golden sands, timeless fishing villages, and incredible castles that played a key role in British history. The route also crosses two National Nature Reserves and ends on the ancient and myth-steeped tidal island of Lindisfarne. 

Walk this incredible coastal route on our fully-guided Northumberland Coast Path trail holiday

Visit the smallest museum in Northumberland

Open daily year-round, the Ferryman's Hut (also known as the Ferry Hut) in Alnmouth is the smallest heritage museum in Northumberland - and possibly the UK. It was used at a time when Alnmouth's ferryman would row passengers (usually tourists) from one side of the Aln Estuary to the other (this service dwindled in the 1960s). Thereafter, this cute hut was rented from Northumberland Estates and then restored and turned into a museum. Paid for and maintained by a local resident, it’s filled with all the Alnmouth-related photographs, newspaper cuttings, and memorabilia the space will allow (it’s a tight squeeze for two people to fit). Entrance is free. 

This pint-sized museum is just a five-minute walk from our Alnmouth country house, Nether Grange

Section of Hadrian's Wall

Discover ancient Roman ruins on Hadrian’s Wall

Stretching for 73 miles across northern England, Hadrian’s Wall is the legendary pile of stones that marked the frontier of the Roman Empire for nearly 300 years. This once formidable fortification is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a much-loved walking destination. If conquering all 84 miles of the official Hadrian’s Wall Path is your aim, let an HF Holidays Leader take care of navigation on our Hadrian’s Wall Complete Guided Trail holiday.  

Or try our Best of Hadrian’s Wall break. Highlights include a visit to the incredibly well-preserved ruins of Housesteads Roman fort and staying in the Centre of Britain Hotel - a former 15th century Pele Tower that’s one of the region’s oldest buildings. 

St Oswald's Way

Follow in the footsteps of a saint

One of the most spectacular walking routes in the region is St Oswald's Way. Follow in the footsteps of the early 7th century King of Northumbria – later venerated as a saint – who made it his mission to bring Christianity to the kingdom. His namesake walking trail explores some of the finest landscapes and fascinating history northeast England has to offer. From UNESCO-listed Hadrian’s Wall to the stunning tidal island of Lindisfarne (also known as Holy Island), you’ll journey through miles of glorious countryside and along the best of Northumberland’s National Landscapes-awarded coastline. 

Discover the best of Northumberland’s coast and country as you walk this historic pilgrimage route on our St Oswald’s Way Complete Guided Trail holiday

Alnwick Castle

Experience Alnwick Castle

Known to many simply as Hogwarts for its starring role in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in the country. Home to the Duke of Northumberland’s family, the Percys, for over 700 years, this medieval fortress and aristocratic mansion comes with all the significant history you’d expect; drama, intrigue, scandal, and tales of one of Shakespeare’s best-known characters - Harry Hotspur. Highlights include visiting the State Rooms, exploring the grounds by Northumberland-born ‘Capability’ Brown, and learning to fly a broomstick in the very spot where Harry Potter first took flight. Alnwick Castle is now closed to the public for the winter and will reopen Friday 29 March 2024. 

Join one of our Northumberland Discovery Tours and spend time in the charming market town of Alnwick, famous for its namesake castle that doubled as Hogwarts in two Harry Potter movies.

Spend the day on Alnmouth Beach

Located in a wide sandy bay at the mouth of the River Aln (hence its name), Alnmouth Beach sits just in front of Alnmouth – the picturesque village that was once home to an important harbour until 1806 when a storm changed the course of the river. While swimming here is not recommended (there are even warning signs about paddling), the soft and velvety sands are perfect for strolling. Alternatively, explore the estuary and rock pools, take a picnic in the dunes, and enjoy sandcastle-building (especially in the summer months). Facilities include a small car park, public toilets, and a selection of nearby shops, restaurants, and pubs. Dogs are allowed. 

Admire Alnmouth beach from the attractive terrace garden at Nether Grange, our former 18th century granary turned country house.

Stargaze at Northumberland International Dark Sky Park

Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, found in the Kielder area, is a great place to indulge in a spot of stargazing. The star-studded skies above Kielder Water & Forest Park are believed to be some of the darkest in England. In 2013, the area was granted Gold Tier Dark Sky Park status, (the first in England to hold the accolade), meaning that almost-580-square-metres of sky will be kept free of light pollution. The next Northumberland Dark Skies Festival take place from 12–28 February and includes a packed programme of events across the region’s five observatories. Highlights include family-friendly stargazing and more specialised astrophotography workshops on capturing the Aurora. 

Battlesteads Dark Sky Observatory is just over an hour’s drive from Alnmouth. Or, for stargazing opportunities on the doorstep, Alnmouth Beach is an official Go Stargazing Site – a location identified as a good spot for stargazing based on local light pollution levels and its distance from nearby towns and cities.

Bamburgh Castle

Explore the mighty Bamburgh Castle

One for the history buffs and fans of TV’s The Last Kingdom, Bamburgh Castle has stood guard above the Northumberland coast for thousands of years. Hailed as one of the region’s most iconic sights, the core of the castle was built by the Normans and restored in the 18th and 19th centuries. Winner of North East England’s Large Visitor Attraction of the Year, 2023, it’s ideal for those with children in tow. Learn about its ghost stories, legends, and myths (it is believed to be the site of Sir Lancelot’s fictitious castle, Joyous Garde), watch archaeologists at work during the summer months, and enjoy views across to Farne Islands on a clear day. The castle site is also home to two visit-worthy museums: the Archaeology Museum and the Armstrong & Aviation Museum. 

Bamburgh Castle is less than a 40-minute drive from Alnmouth or you can visit it on several of our guided walking holidays in Northumberland. 

Eat a Northumberland classic in Craster

If you’re looking to eat like a local, make your way to the coastal village of Craster. This tiny fishing village on the Northumberland coast is home to Robson’s Smokehouse, famous for their Craster kippers. Run by four generations of the same family, Robson’s is the last remaining smokehouse in the region and have been using the same smoking ovens for over 130 years. Curing their fish using traditional methods that have remained unchanged for centuries, they sell a range of delicacies including smoked salmon. But if you prefer your fish fried rather than smoked, you can opt for battered cod and chips courtesy of the on-site restaurant.   

Discover the culinary delights of this coastal village with an eight-mile walk from Alnmouth or just a 20-minute drive.

Feeling inspired to explore this remarkable region? Discover our pick of our fabulous holidays in Northumberland below, or browse the full range here

3 Night Gentle Guided Walking

Book now or call 020 3974 8865

7 Night Guided Walking

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3 Night Discovery Tour

Book now or call 020 3974 8865

Published 30th January 2024