Ten of the best attractions in Northumberland

Days out, Family, Activity

Posted by Hannah on 6th November 2020

Kielder Water

This phenomenal landscape is renowned for its coast which lays claim to being an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the magnificent national park filled with towering mountains, clear rivers and dark skies ideal for stargazing. Spectacular castles line the coast, and gardens, market towns and family attractions await across the county.

In this guide, we reveal a host of the best attractions in Northumberland so you can enjoy fun activities and adventures in the great outdoors. Below you'll find ancient landmarks you'll feel the need to explore, island escapes overflowing with a colony of puffins, and gardens hosting secret places where children can let their imaginations run wild. 

Northumberland has a whole host of fantastic days out and experiences to enjoy during your next holiday, so take a look and see which of these attractions catches your eye. 

Whether you’re a history buff or seeking an adventure, these things to do in Northumberland will ensure a fun-packed break. Head over to our cottage collection if you're ready to book your next Northumberland holiday. 

Northumberland cottages


Cragside House and Gardens

Cragside House and Gardens

Located near Rothbury, this stunning manor house was the former home of Lord Armstrong, a Victorian inventor and industrialist. Lord Armstrong put his creative mind to both the house and gardens alike, with Cragside House and Gardens being a truly unique and special place to visit. 

Cared for by the National Trust, throughout the property there are signs of Armstrong’s genius, and the building was the world’s first to be lit by hydroelectricity. In the surrounding gardens, Armstrong constructed five lakes and planted more than seven million trees and shrubs, with more than 30 miles of footpaths criss-crossing the estate. Families will also love the waterfall, Trim Trail ability course, play area and rhododendron maze.

Prices: Adult £8, child £4

Facilities: Visitor Centre with toilets, multiple on-site car parks, play areas and tea room. 

Access: Some challenging terrain and distances, accessible parking and toilets, car access to viewpoints in the outer pleasure grounds.

Stay at: Bridge View Retreat, Rothbury | sleeps 4 and 1 dog


Falconry Days

Falconry Days

Based on a farm near Hexham, Falconry Days gives people of all ages and abilities the chance to meet birds of prey and try their hand at falconry. Perfect for children is the Owl Encounter Experience, where they can handle and fly owls from around the world. 

While with a Falconry Experience Day you can fly not only falcons and owls but also hawks, eagles, buzzards and vultures. Get to know these beautiful birds and enjoy a truly memorable animal encounter. Falconry Days also offer more advanced experiences, including Hunting Experience Days and Intensive Bird Management Courses.

Prices: Beginning at £10 for a guided tour. 

Facilities: Parking and toilets on-site. Tea and coffee offered with some experiences.

Access: The majority of experiences take place on an uneven grassy field, however, do give them a call and they may be able to tailor the experience to you. 

Stay at: The Falding Studio, Nr Hexham | sleeps 2 


Bailiffgate Museum

Bailiffgate Museum

Located in St Mary’s Church in the heart of historical Alnwick, the Bailiffgate Museum is the perfect place to visit to learn about the local area. The museum caters for everyone from small children to the more serious history buffs with its mix of hands-on exhibitions and wealth of interesting information and artefacts for all to enjoy.

Telling the stories of the people of Alnwick and the surrounding area across the centuries, the museum contains a range of historical items, photographs, domestic items, agricultural items, industrial artefacts and paintings. Special exhibitions change regularly, while there is also a gallery showcasing the work of local artists.

Prices: Adults £4, child £1

Facilities: Shop and toilets on-site. Street parking and railway station nearby.

Access: Wheelchair/pushchair access to all areas, accessible toilet, lift to all floors.

Stay at: Vasey Townhouse, Alnwick | sleeps 6 and 3 dogs


Vindolanda

Vindolanda

Based just south of Hadrian’s Wall, the ancient border of England and Scotland, Vindolanda is an excellent example of a Roman fort where more than 40 years of archaeological excavations have unearthed some fascinating insights into Roman history. Described as a smaller Pompeii, some of Vindolanda’s discovered artefacts can be seen at the on-site museum, including the unmissable wooden tablets. 

A short drive away in Greenhead is the Roman Army Museum; a visit here is included in the admission to Vindolanda. One of the highlights is the exhibition on Hadrian’s Wall, transporting you back 2,000 years to see the structure in its heyday.

Prices: N/A

Facilities: Visitor centre, tea room and toilets at the main site, the museum has a cafe, toilets, car park and bus stop/train station nearby. 

Access: Accessible parking, toilets and outdoor spaces. There's a long hill climb to the remains but you can take your car to West Gate to avoid this.

Stay at: Holiday Hideaway, Northumberland National Park | sleeps 2 


Go Ape! Maften

Go Ape! Matfen

Within the grounds of Matfen Hall near Morpeth is Go Ape!, a great day out for all the family offering all kinds of treetop adventures. High up in the trees, surrounded by 300 acres of parkland, you can tackle all kinds of obstacles, including 36 crossings, Tarzan swings, high ropes and zip wires. 

Suitable for children aged ten and up, a day out at Go Ape! is the perfect way to burn off some energy, although there is also a café on-site if you feel the need to refuel.

Prices: N/A

Facilities: Food and drink, and parking on-site.

Access: There are great descriptions on their website of what goes into each activity, and there is parking on-site. 

Stay at: Clara View, Wylam | sleeps 6 and 2 dogs


Kielder Water and Forest Park

Kielder Water and Forest Park

Home to the largest forest in England as well as Europe’s largest manmade lake, Kielder Water and Forest Park is perfect for spending a day in the great outdoors. The park boasts 26 miles of trails, which walkers, wheelchair users, cyclists and horse riders can all enjoy, while on the lake you can also try water sports including sailing and water-skiing. Kielder is a haven for wildlife, and is in fact home to half of England’s native red squirrel population. 

As well as being a joy to visit during the day, Kielder is a delight by night thanks to having some of the darkest night skies in England. Visit the observatory to get a closer look at the thousands of stars in the night sky.

Prices: Entrance is free although parking is £5. 

Facilities: There are three visitor centres with shops and parking across Kielder Water Park.

Access: There's a choice of trails to explore but The Lakeside Way is the best multi-use track ideal for wheelchair users. 

Stay at: Kielder Castle Cottage, Kielder | sleeps 4 and 2 dogs 


Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens

Open at weekends and during school holidays, Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens is home to more than 130 different animal species. Among the wildlife visitors can see up close are alpacas, wallabies, ring-tailed lemurs and a variety of reptiles, while feeding and handling sessions with domestic animals are held throughout the day in the petting barn. 

Visitors are also free to roam the grounds’ woodlands, ornamental gardens and river and forest trails, while the kids will also love running wild in the play area, on the high ropes and down the 120-metre zip wire.

Prices: Adult £6.95, child £4.95

Facilities: On-site car park, toilets, gift shops, picnic area and cafe. 

Access: Wheelchair-friendly site - call ahead for details. 

Stay at: Eastfield Lodge, Morpeth | sleeps 4 and 1 dog


Farne Islands

Lying less than 3 miles from the Northumberland Coast are the Farne Islands, and these can be easily accessed via the boat trips that regularly run from Seahouses. Pay a visit to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to see the historic priory, or simply enjoy a walk around these natural havens for wildlife; several species of sea birds call the Farne Islands home, as well as a large colony of Atlantic seals.

Billy Shiel’s Boats also operate special cruises and experiences on the Farne Islands, which include birdwatching and photography tours, as well as deep-sea diving days.

Prices: Prices vary on the company and experience you choose. 

Facilities: None! 

Access: The only access is by boat and the islands themselves have plenty of uneven terrain and steep slopes to tackle. 

Stay at: Little Cottage, Seahouses | sleeps 3 and 1 dog 


Hexham Old Gaol

Hexham Old Gaol

Built in 1330, Hexham Old Gaol is one of the oldest prisons in England and with it comes a rich history and several intriguing tales of its former prisoners. A visit takes you through the history of the building as well as some of the punishments that criminals were subjected to over the centuries and some of the more unusual laws enforced throughout the land in years gone by. 

The variety of displays on offer are sure to entertain all the family, and range from hands-on displays to period costumes; you can even put your family in the stocks! For more in-depth information, check out the music archive and the Border Library Collection, while there is also a gift shop where you can find a memento to take home.

Prices: Adults £5, child free!

Facilities: Gift shop, toilets, street parking.

Access: Fully accessible with a central lift for access to all floors. 

Stay at: Gatehouse Cottage, Hexham | sleeps 2 and 1 dog


Alnwick Garden

Alnwick Garden

Changing throughout the seasons yet dazzling visitors year-round with its ambitious displays featuring more than 4,000 plant varieties, Alnwick Garden is one of the UK’s most beautiful garden attractions. As you walk through the grounds you will discover highlights such as the Rose Garden, Ornamental Gardens, the Serpent Garden, with its innovative water sculptures, and the Poison Garden, which is home to dangerous plants from across the world. 

Prepare to be amazed at the Grand Cascade, a tumbling mass of water with shooting jets, as well as the enormous treehouse. One of the largest in the world, visitors can even dine at the treehouse, as well as enjoying the rope bridges and the walkways in the sky.

Prices: Adults £14.30, child £5.50

Facilities: Parking, shop and The Treehouse cafe.

Access: Accessible parking, toilets and wheelchair hire. 

Stay at: Tisson Townhouse, Alnwick | sleeps 8 and 3 dogs


Need some more inspiration?

There are so many things to do in Northumberland, so we have created a series of informative guides to help make the most of your stay:


Stay with us in Northumberland

With so much to explore across Northumberland, it is well worth booking a holiday here to experience the delights on offer. If you’ve been inspired to plan your next break here, take a look at our self-catering Northumberland cottages to find the perfect place to stay in the area.

Northumberland cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.