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A Haven for Adventure-Seekers… The Northumberland National Park covers an area of 405 square miles between the Scottish border in the north, to just south of the UNESCO World Heritage site, Hadrian’s Wall. Officially known as the most tranquil National Park, Northumberland is remote and has a low population, making it the perfect escape.
Although many are drawn by the extraordinary 73 miles of Roman-built wall which carves the land from coast to coast, there is so much more to attract visitors to walk, cycle, fish and camp in this glorious landscape. Here’s our list of must-see landmarks including popular and lesser-known attractions made for adventure.
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Come with us as we explore the wilds places of Northumberland which are Made for Adventure. The landscape is dominated by lush undulating hills, historic wonders and hidden gems - there's something for everyone.
You can't talk about Northumberland without mentioning Hadrian's Wall. Stretching a whopping 73 miles from coast to coast, Hadrian’s Wall was built to cut across the landscape and guard the Northern frontier of the Roman Empire in AD122. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a magnet for walkers, cyclists and campers looking to travel part way or along the entire stretch of the wall. Standing as the largest Roman archaeological feature in Britain, this ancient wall lies entirely within England. Hadrian’s Wall was more than just a blockade, it was a bustling trading route and home to thousands who lived close to the wall in barracks, settlements and zones which can still be seen today. There are over 20 historic sites including the Roman forts of Housesteads, Chesters, Corbridge and Birdswald. Able to spend an extended period of time in the area? Walking the entire route usually takes around a week with a series of campsites and B&Bs accessible in the area.
Steel Rigg is one of the best viewpoints along the central section of Hadrian’s Wall. The area can be accessed from a nearby car park along a dry gravel footpath suitable for families, although it is a bit of a steep climb. Steel Rigg is a popular starting point for many walkers and Steel Rigg to Crag Lough walk is a popular, moderate route lasting approximately 4 miles which passes Sycamore Gap tree. The epic scenery from the top of Steel Rigg is memorable, giving you incredible views over the regimented shape of Hadrian’s wall which cuts through the landscape like an enormous python. Looking for spectacular views of the wall but just have a few hours to spare? Then make your way to Steel Rigg.
A myriad of exhilarating cycling and walking trails dart through ancient lichen-clad trees across the woodland landscape of Thrunton Woods. Whether you seek tranquillity and peace when walking your dog, or want to whiz through the forest on a mountain bike, Thrunton Woods has a range of trails for all abilities and adventurers. Planted around the sandstone ridges of Thrunton Crag to the north and Long Crag to the south, the trails of Thrunton Woods weave through the forest and at points open out to reveal breath-taking views across open moorland including Whittingham Vale and towards the Cheviot Hills. The enchanted woodland is believed to play host to deer, birds, red squirrels and even mischievous hobgoblins.
Sycamore Gap Tree
For many photographers and adventures, the intriguing Sycamore Gap tree is a snap everyone should take. The magnificent tree stands alone within a dramatic dip in Hadrian’s wall in the Northumberland National Park. These dips or nicks are common along the wall and were made thousands of years ago by erosion, created by channels of meltwater beneath the ice sheets that once covered the landscape. The famous gap shows us the inventive engineering of the Romans to build a stone wall despite dramatic changes in the landscape. The Roman Milecastle 39 just to its left and can be reached along the World Heritage Roman wall footpath. The tree was famously used in the 1991 film ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’, and ever since the tree has been referred to as The Robin Hood Tree.
St. Cuthbert's Cave
Nestled in the remote landscape of Belford is St. Cuthbert’s Cave. St. Cuthbert was an influential Anglo-Saxon saint of the early Northumbrian church who possessed the power of spiritual healing. The story goes that in 875, as Danish raids ravaged the Northumbrian coast, monks abandoned the priory and carried the body of St. Cuthbert around the north-east of England, taking refuge in this cave which was possibly a place where he once had lived as a hermit. Known locally as Cuddy’s Cave, the unique rock formation is an overhanging outcrop of sandstone rock, supported by an isolated pillar of stone. Signposted from the nearby National Trust car park, the cave is accessible by a short uphill walk to a peaceful wooded area with stunning views over the Cheviot hills or coastline.
A true gem in the crown of British scientific discovery, Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electric power. The combined vision of Lord William, an engineer, inventor and businessman, and Lady Margaret Armstrong, a natural sciences enthusiast. This Victorian mansion's exterior is a true site of green energy heritage, originally using water from man-made lakes and a turbine to generate electricity in 1878, today it still runs off hydropower but with a modernised turbine. Cragside provides you with a visual demonstration of this process. More than just science, taking a step outside you’ll find 1000 acres of land to explore, including 14 dog-friendly, waymarked routes, three acres of formal gardens and an unmissable Pinetum that is home to non-native trees creating a mini ‘North America in Northumberland!’ Alongside this, there is an excellent café for a respite stop and the house offers a fantastic window in to Victorian life, boasting a collection of contemporary British art, furniture and ceramics. Fun fact! It was also a filming location for blockbuster movie, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
Howick Hall Gardens & Arboretum
The home of Earl Grey Tea! Howick Hall Gardens and Arboretum is the ancestral seat of Earls Grey since 1319. Situated just off from the spectacular Northumberland coast, the House gives an insight into the Grey family history and the Hall Gardens and Arboretum is an oasis for gardening enthusiasts and nature lovers. The 65 acre grounds offer walks ranging from 1 to 3 miles and in 2018 they introduced a sensory garden in partnership with the National Autistic Society. An unmissable hidden gem here is the Romanesque-style Church, built in 1849. After a day of exploration, settle down for - you guessed it, a cup of Earl Grey tea and refreshments in the Grey Tea Room.
Linhope Spout Waterfall
Nestled in the Breamish Valley, fondly called the ‘Valley of the Waterfall’ is Linhope Spout, a 60 foot (18m) chute of water which lands in a plunge pool 6ft (2m) wide and 16ft (5m) deep. Like something out of a fairy-tale the cascades of water are surrounded by rocky edges and tree coverage flowing into the pool that local legend refers to it as ‘bottomless’. After completing the 1.5 mile walk from Hartside Farm parking NT 976 163, the waterfall makes for the perfect picnic spot for the family on long summer days. It is also an ideal place for wildlife spotting, birdwatching and stargazing, sitting within Northumberland’s International Dark Sky Park.
Sunset Cruise to the Farne Islands
Jump aboard Billy Shiel's boat for an unforgettable sail along the Northumberland coast! The Farne Islands are the showstopper in this adventure. Located just a few sea miles off the Northumberland coast midway between the fishing village of Seahouses and the Castle of Bamburgh, they are made up of an incredible 20 islands visible depending on the state of the tide on the given day. Between the months of April - July, these islands are inhabited by a huge settling of sea bird colonies totalling 23 species, including around 43,000 pairs of puffins! Today, the only permanent residents of these Islands are a colony of Atlantic & Grey Seals, with more than 2000 pups born out at the islands each year. An incredible site to take in whilst getting your sea legs. Soak in the sunset views whilst listening to the crashing of the waves and if you’re lucky you may be in for a visit from the elusive dolphins that swim in these shores. Have a four-legged friend? No problem, dogs are welcome on board!
Northumberlandia (The Lady of The North)
One of the world’s largest land sculptures, Northumberlandia doubles up as an impressive piece of artwork from the sky and a great collection of short walks in the 47-acre park on the ground! The sculptures form is of a reclining woman, fondly known as the 'Lady of the North'. A vision from Architect Charles Jencks, she was constructed from clay, dirt, and slag-waste from the nearby Shotton Surface Mine as a way to help offset the damage done to the area by stripping the land for coal. With free entry and a fantastic visitors centre and café onsite you can enjoy a full day of exploration with the family. Chuck on the walking boots and take a climb atop the Lady of the North!
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Northumberland is made for adventure. So where will you explore first? Share your snaps and tag us in your adventures using #mymillets.