A guide to Northumberland National Park

Days out, Activity, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Courtney And Ed Roberts on 9th July 2021

Stunning Northumberland by Hadrian's Wall

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. Luckily, we’ve put together this guide showcasing the best of the county’s national park.

With remote and dramatic valleys and several hill ranges, the national park isn’t short of places to go for casual walkers and serious hikers alike. And, with such a varied and open landscape, it’s great for active holidays if you want to find the perfect adrenaline rush. It’s also home to the darkest skies in England, making it a true 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.

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?

Holidays in Northumberland


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The best walks in Northumberland

Waterfall at Linhope Spout

Linhope Spout

Situated in the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, this walk takes you through the Breamish Valley, and leads you to Linhope Spout, an 18-metre-tall chute of water, which lands in a plunge pool. If you’ve brought a picnic with you, take a stroll along the burn past the ‘bottomless’ plunge pit and set up in the attractive glade. Keep your eyes peeled for fractured hazelnut husks and gnawed pine cones: this could be a sign of red squirrels in the area. Their grey brethren may have conquered much of the country, but the reds are in abundance in one of their last refuges in the nation. Excellent views towards Great Standrop and Hedgehope Hill can also be enjoyed from this trail.

Distance: 3 miles

Difficulty: moderate

Good to know: at 5m deep, the plunge pool is ideal for wild swimming 


Steel Rigg walk with Crag Lough in the distance

Steel Rigg and Crag Lough

Suitable for families, this walk is perfect for soaking up the sights. Steel Rigg is one of the best viewpoints along Hadrian’s Wall, and with wheelchair access and a footpath all the way from the car park, it means everyone can enjoy the panorama. As you move off the footpath, the terrain can become muddy with swift inclines so be sure to bring appropriate footwear. As you continue to venture forth adjacent to the Wall, imagining yourself amid the Roman cohorts, take the time to stop and appreciate the Sycamore Gap, an elegant depression in the landscape where the eyes are naturally drawn to the single sycamore tree standing its ground. Perhaps the most photographed tree in the country, you won’t want to miss it. Finally, on to Crag Lough, a peaceful glacial lake, formed in the last Ice Age. Avid climbers might fancy a go at scaling the crag precipice.

Distance: 4 miles

Difficulty: moderate

Good to know: dogs are not permitted on this walk; if getting the bus, get off at The Sill


Tumbling water at Hareshaw Linn

Hareshaw Linn

Taking you over hills, through ancient woodland and across six bridges, this moderate walk gives you access to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as you arrive at a spectacular 9m waterfall. The reason for its SSSI status is the various kinds of mosses and lichen that are to be found here – over 300 types! This may sound rather uninspiring but once you get there and witness the flourishing foliage, you’ll understand why it’s rumoured fairies and pixies dwell here. You are, however, more likely to see red squirrels and a whole host of birdlife, including great spotted woodpeckers, wood warblers and spotted flycatchers.

Distance: 3 miles

Difficulty: moderate

Good to know: head to the Carriages Tearoom for a cream tea after your walk, just a short way from the car park

More Northumberland walks


The best things to do in Northumberland

The Dark Sky Park is great for stargazing

Stargazing at Northumberland International Dark Sky Park

Once the sun goes down, Northumberland National Park is the perfect place to gaze at galaxies and get curious about the cosmos. At 572 square miles, this Dark Sky Park is the largest area of protected night sky in the whole of Europe and has been known to glimpse the Northern Lights on occasion. In the heart of the Kielder Forest, the Kielder 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. You could also visit Cawfields which is found near Hadrian’s Wall, where the Romans lived almost 2,000 years ago. Although civilisation has changed greatly since then, it’s an extraordinary feeling to know that the stars have very much stayed the same. Low in light pollution, this Dark Sky Park has been given a Gold Tier status by the International Dark Sky Association.

Cost: Kielder Observatory event prices vary from £15-£30 approx

Best for: appreciating the omission of light pollution and reflecting on our place in the ether

Stay nearby: Kielder Kip House | sleeps 6 and 3 dogs


Water sports aplenty at Kielder Water

Water sports at Kielder Water

Here you’ll find the largest manmade lake in the north of Europe, spanning 11 square kilometres, and several water activities, including canoeing, sailing and waterskiing, are provided here. Instructor-led paddleboarding is also on offer but please be aware that independent paddleboarding is not permitted. You can perch up on the banks with a picnic and watch the bravest of your group take to the water on skis behind a speed boat, or if you want a gentler experience, why not enjoy a guided tour around the reservoir in a canoe and see Kielder from a unique angle? Afterwards, head to Kielder Waterside, a nice development showcasing a restaurant, bar, crazy golf and a bird of prey centre.

Cost: canoeing £40 pp; paddleboarding £35 pp; waterskiing day membership £10 pp

Best for: getting out on the water surrounded by spectacular vistas

Stay nearby: Kielder Castle Cottage | sleeps 4 and 2 dogs


Cycle routes to suit all in Northumberland National Park

Cycling

The area is rich in cycling trails, 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. If you prefer a more leisurely ride and want to bring the family along, including some little ones, then the Dragon Cycle Trail in Wallington is a great option – this easy, 3-mile route takes you through luscious woodland and boasts wide-ranging views of the national park.

Cost: free (as long as you have your own bikes!)

Best for: covering some miles and seeing more of the vast national park

Stay nearby: for Hadrian’s Cycleway - Hadrians Wall Escape | sleeps 2 and 1 dog

Other things to do in Northumberland


The best pubs in Northumberland

A great atmosphere and great food at The AngelPhotos courtesy of @angelcorbridge

The Angel of Corbridge, Corbridge

The Angel has it all: homely log fires, delightful outdoor spaces, welcoming staff and good food. Set in the heart of the Roman market town of Corbridge, this historic coaching inn was built in 1569 and is a haven for travellers to the north throughout the day and into the evening. You can make yourself at home in either the bar or the lounge area in front of the cosy fires, or on warmer days sit outside and watch the world go by on the pleasant, south-facing roadside tables. You can, of course, eat indoors or outdoors off the menu, but if you’re in a rush you can grab a takeaway from their award-winning chippy located at the back of their car park. You can even order their homecooked food direct to your door from their online shop. How’s that for a little slice of fried gold?

Menu pick: handmade ‘Gofton’ Wagyu beef burger with tomato and pepper relish, crisp lettuce, smoked bacon topped with Lockerbie cheddar, homemade bun, house slaw, hand-cut chips

Are dogs allowed?: they are in the lounge, but not in the bar 

Good to know: less than 20 miles from Hadrian’s Wall, you can fuel up here before going on a hike


Enjoy a drink in front of a fire at The Percy Arms

The Percy Arms, Chatton

Nestled adjacent to the beautiful Cheviot Hills, Chatton is an idyllic chocolate-box village and a perfect place to visit if you want to get away from it all. The hub of this village is the Percy Arms, a traditional pub with style. It’s got comfy sofas to sink into, a warming fire and even a family room for the little ones. You can grab a local ale or a Northumbrian-made gin in the bar whilst you eat, or if you are after a more refined experience, book in the restaurant and try one of their sophisticated dishes, where presentation is everything. You can order a good deal of their menu to take away too (collection only).

Menu pick: The Percy Platter: smoked salmon pate, king prawns, homemade sausage rolls, black pudding, chutney, sourdough, butter, hummus and olives 

Are dogs allowed?: in the bar, yes

Good to know: there are walking books available to borrow and wet boots and clothes can be dried in the pub


Exquisitely prepared food at the Pheasant InnPhotos courtesy of @thepheasantinn_kielder (top and bottom left)

Pheasant Inn, Nr Kielder Water

A true focal point of the village, even to the extent that the community used to have their post delivered here in the 1600s, the Pheasant Inn is a 17th-century inn not far from the banks of Kielder Water. It’s kept a lot of its traditional charm, from the brass beer taps and dark wood furnishings to the original beams and exposed stone walls. You can cosy up next to the open fires with a cushion at your back and order up some delicious fare with produce either grown in the pub’s own garden or sourced locally from the national park surrounding it. If you’re flexible, try booking ahead and heading there on a Sunday. Not only will you be able to enjoy the views of the Northumbrian countryside as you eat, but you can enjoy what The Observer readers voted as ‘The Best Sunday Lunch in the North’.

Menu pick: Slow roast shoulder of Northumbrian lamb with rosemary and redcurrant

Are dogs allowed?: unfortunately not

Good to know: there’s not much phone signal here but that’s ok, as you can take the time to study the 100-year-old sepia photos of the community, horse brasses and farming tools

Food and drink in Northumberland


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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.