A guide to Northumberland National Park

Days out, Rural, Activity

Posted by Ed Roberts on 23rd October 2020

Spanning more than 400 square miles, Northumberland National Park, found in the upper reaches of England, is a spectacular and tranquil landscape where all kinds of adventures can be had. With so much to see and do, it’s difficult to narrow down exactly how to spend your Northumberland holiday, so we’ve put together this guide showcasing the best of the county’s national park.

And if you're already excitably reaching for your walking boots, why not have a browse of our holiday cottages in the Northumberland National Park by clicking the button below?

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History

Northumberland National Park has a history dating back thousands of years, and though it's best known for its Roman sites, there are plenty of lesser-known historical sites to check out.

Hadrian’s Wall – remnants of this historic wall built by the Romans as a border between England and Scotland stretch for 73 miles. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can walk along the length of the wall on the Hadrian’s Wall Path.

Housesteads Roman Fort – Britain’s best-preserved Roman fort, where the remains of a settlement, hospital, barracks, granaries and latrines can be seen. More insights can also be gained at the on-site museum.

Thirlwall Castle – The ruins of a stronghold built in the 14th century by John Thirlwall, where his descendants lived in safety from the Border Wars for 300 years. A Scheduled Ancient Monument, several original features still remain.

Harbottle Castle – A 12th century castle commissioned by Henry II to defend against the Scots. Today it stands in ruins, but it was once an important refuge site, surrounded by slopes and a deep moat.

Catcleugh Hut – Catcleugh Hut is a typical example of a Victorian timber cabin which would be have been used to house workmen and their families, who were building the nearby Catcleugh Reservoir. Visits can be arranged by appointment.


Walking

With remote and dramatic valleys and several hill ranges, including the Cheviots, Simonside Hills and the Otterburn Ranges, the national park isn’t short of places to go for casual walkers and serious hikers alike.

College Valley – Starting from Hethpool, this circular route takes you through the tranquil College Valley, past sights such as the Wester Tor, the War Memorial, Cuddystone Hall and the wild Cheviot goats.

Hareshaw Linn – Taking you over hills and across bridges, this easy walk takes you through a Site of Special Scientific Interest to a spectacular waterfall. Various kinds of mosses, squirrels and birds can be seen along the way.

Steel Rigg and Crag Lough – Suitable for families, this walk is perfect for soaking up the sights, as it passes Hadrian’s Wall, Sycamore’s Gap and Crag Lough, a peaceful glacial lake.

Kilham Hill – This challenging walk has plenty of steep climbs, but the views from the top of Kilham Hill over the valley of the Bowmont Water are outstanding. Part of the route follows a section of the former Alnwick to Cornhill railway.

Linhope Spout – Taking you through the Breamish Valley, this moderate walk leads you to Linhope Spout, a 60ft-tall chute of water, which lands in a plunge pool. Excellent views towards Great Standrop and Hedgehope Hill can also be enjoyed.


Activities

With such a varied and open landscape, Northumberland National Park is also great for active holidays. Take a look at these ways you can find the perfect adrenaline rush.

Climbing – There are many fantastic crags for climbers to scale – try Selby’s Cove at Simonside, Thrunton Crag (north of Rothbury) and Sandy Crag (west of Rothbury) on for size.

Horse riding – Ride for hours over open heathland and grassland and discover hundreds of miles of bridleways across the park, taking you up into the hills. Riding lessons and guided rides are available at the area’s local riding schools, which included Redesdale Equestrian and Kimmerston Riding Centre.

WatersportsKielder Water is northern Europe’s largest manmade lake, spanning 11 square kilometres, and several water activities, including canoeing, sailing and water-skiing, are provided here.

Cycling – The area is rich in cycling routes, and you can make a real holiday out of cycling here with the long-distance cycling routes. These include Hadrian’s Cycleway, leading to and following Hadrian’s Wall, C2C Sea to Sea, a coast-to-coast route, and Pennine Cycleway North, taking you through the hill range at the heart of Northern England.

Running – If you’re fit enough, Northumberland is perfect for fell running, covering rough, rugged and steep terrain. Many fell running races are held across the year, including The Chevy Chase, scaling the Cheviot, while many marathons and half-marathons also take place, such as the Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon and the Thrunton Thriller.


Stargazing

Home to the darkest skies in England, Northumberland National Park is truly a haven for stargazers. On a clear night, the Milky Way and even the Andromeda Galaxy can be seen with the naked eye in some starry spots.

Kielder Observatory – In the heart of the Kielder Forest, this excellent observatory invites the public to get involved with astronomy, with stargazing events held every night. Special events cover meteor showers and even other planets coming into view.

Northumberland International Dark Sky Park – At 572 square miles, this Dark Sky Park is the largest area of protected night sky in the whole of Europe. Low in light pollution, it has been given the Gold award by the International Dark Sky Association.

Cawfields – A picnic site by day, Cawfields is found near Hadrian’s Wall and where the Romans lived almost 2,000 years ago. Although civilisation has changed greatly since, it’s an extraordinary feeling to know that the stars have very much stayed the same.

Ingram – Located in the beautiful Breamish Valley, this designated Dark Sky Discovery Site on the fringes of the National Park has amazingly clear skies.

Walltown Country Park – Also a designated Dark Sky Discovery Site, the starry night skies can be seen above the tall crags, woodland and lakes.


Wildlife

With such a range of diverse habitats, it’s no surprise that the national park is a haven for wildlife. Here’s just some of the wildlife you may discover while exploring the park.

Red squirrels – Extinct in many parts of England, Kielder Forest has done an excellent job in protecting red squirrels, who can be seen scurrying between the broadleaved woods and conifer trees.

Large heath butterfly – More than 70% of the UK’s population live in Northumberland, and it can be found fluttering across boggy areas especially. They can be recognised by their orange whites, tipped with white detail and black circles.

Curlews – Seen in the National Park’s logo, curlews can be seen on the edges of moorland in the wet areas. In the spring, in particular, you can hear their cries across the moors as they return from migration.

Otters – Clean water and a good supply of fish has meant that otters are thriving in Northumberland. They are very shy, however, so you’ll be lucky to spot one, but you’re sure to see their footprints in the mud.

Barn owls – Found in woodland and rough grassland, you may spot these owls on the hunt for mice and voles. Nest boxes have been put up across the park to attract more and protect barn owls.


Stay in Northumberland National Park

Pheasant Cottage

Pheasant Cottage - Low Alwinton | Sleeps: 3 guests plus 1 dog

Book a stay at this Scandinavian-style log cabin in the National Park. Pheasant Cottage is located in a great, remote location which is perfect for watching the clear night skies through a telescope. It's close to some handy amenities like a friendly local pub and some pleasant walking routes in the surrounding area.

Pheasant Cottage


Bridge End Cottage | Sleeps: 5 guests plus 2 dogs

Situated in the gorgeous Coquet Valley area of the Northumberland National Park, Bridge End Cottage is a stylish country cottage for five guests and two dogs! Within driving distance of the coast, this is a wonderful prospect for those looking for a peaceful holiday in the North East of England.

Bridge End Cottage


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

There’s so much to explore across Northumberland National Park that 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 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.