Top things to do in Northumberland

Days out

Posted by Clare Willcocks on 17th November 2020

Puffins in the Farne Islands

Northumberland is a county like no other. Studded with majestic castles, swathed in amazing natural scenery and blessed with a wild and romantic coast, it is an exciting destination for a holiday.

There’s no question of running out of things to do in Northumberland – around every corner is a new adventure and we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite experiences and places to visit on your trip. If you’ve already set your heart on a holiday in the northernmost county of England, browse our collection of cottages in Northumberland…

Cottages in Northumberland

…otherwise, read on to see what delights await!

Bamburgh Castle

1. Discover an ancient castle

Northumberland is awash with castles, from atmospheric ruins to goliath constructions which would have struck fear into the hearts of invaders. One of the most iconic, and arguably most impressively located, is spectacular Bamburgh Castle.

Standing guard over the Northumberland coastline, set atop a rocky plateau, it is a formidable sight and makes for a day out full of interest and intrigue. With ghost stories and legends aplenty, learn about its role as a Norman stronghold and Royal Seat, and discover the fascinating collection of inventor, industrialist and philanthropist William George Armstrong.

The awe-inspiring views alone are enough to secure this sprawling historic landmark a position on your holiday itinerary!

Location: Bamburgh, NE69 7DF

Information: Adults £11.75, Children (5-18) £5.75, Family pass £29.95, Disabled visitors £9.40 (carers free). Open all year – seasonal opening times apply, please see website.

Stay nearby: Pepperclose Cottage, Bamburgh | Sleeps 4

You might also like: Dunstanburgh CastleLindisfarne CastleAlnwick Castle

Hadrian's Wall

2. Walk Hadrian’s Wall

The epic barricade of Hadrian’s Wall was built to guard the northern frontier of the Roman Empire in AD122. Peppered along its almost 80-mile length were castles, barracks and settlements, some of which are now important historic sites and open to visitors.

There are numerous walking routes which take in some of the ancient attractions, snaking through wild countryside and offering up astonishing views to reward your efforts. If you are serious about completing the various stages of the walk, you can collect a Hadrian’s Wall Walkers Passport to be stamped at waypoints en route.

Some of the must-visit sites along the wall include Housesteads, the best-preserved Roman fort in the country; Vindolanda Roman Army Museum and Segedunum, the most Eastern fort on the wall.

Location: From the west coast to the east coast of northern Northumberland.

Information: There is a Code of Respect for walkers, designed to protect the wall and archaeological remains. Visit the Hadrian’s Wall Country website for more information on routes and attractions.

Stay nearby: Gatehouse Cottage, Hexham | Sleeps 2 + 1 dog

You might also like: Our favourite walks in Northumberland, Northumberland Coast Path, A guide to Northumberland National Park

Farne Islands

3. Go island hopping

A wildlife-rich cluster of between 15 – 20 islands lies off the coast of Northumberland, some fully submerged at high tide. The Farne Islands are a veritable haven for seabirds, home to 23 species and an astounding 43,000 pairs of puffins. The endearing black and white birds with their vibrant beaks and large orange feet are a fascinating sight, even for the novice birdwatcher.

Other inhabitants include terns which plunge into the water to pick off fish just below the surface in the summer months around Stable Island. There are also seals, and a fluffy, roly-poly bundle of seal pups born every autumn. Razorbills, guillemots and eider ducks are just a few of the other birds which make up the seasonally changing population.

A visit to the islands is a true adventure, and sure to be one of the highlights of your holiday.

Location: Off the coast near Seahouses.

Information: Inner Farne open April – October, Staple Island open May – July. Four private companies offer trips from Seahouses, landing on Inner Farne and Staple Island. Golden Gate Farne Island Tours are the only boat allowed to land at Longstone Island.

Stay nearby: Riley’s Retreat, Seahouses | Sleeps 4 + 1 dog

You might also like: Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Coquet Island

Alnwick Gardens

4. Admire incredible gardens

Whether you’re green-fingered yourself or simply appreciate a beautiful garden, there’s little more good for the soul than a wander through a flourishing idyll. The Alnwick Garden is just that – and more. A magnificent 12 acres of carefully tended gardens, encompassing a Taihaku Cherry Orchard, a Grand Cascade and a humongous treehouse – the stuff of fairytales!

The garden is divided into several areas, including the Rose Garden, Serpent Garden and Poison Garden, which, true to its name, is packed with plants that can kill! A fantastic day out for the whole family, there’s plenty to keep little ones occupied, not least the 13-hole Adventure Golf Course.

It’s the garden itself though which captivates the hearts of those young and old – children are encouraged to run free and explore with their families. There’s a daily street theatre throughout the summer and plenty of activities and discoveries to keep everyone entertained, so it’s among the top things to do in Northumberland for families.

Location: Alnwick, NE66 1HB

Information: Seasonal opening times and prices, please see website for details.

Stay nearby: Tisson Townhouse, Alnwick | Sleeps 8 + 3 dogs

You might also like: Howick Gardens and Arboretum, Cragside Estate, Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens

Woodhorn Museum

5. Visit a museum

Northumberland’s history is a colourful patchwork stitched with Viking attacks, murderous raids and territorial battles. Scattered across the county are a diverse array of important sites, not least the epic Roman feat of engineering, Hadrian’s Wall. There is no better way to learn about the past than to explore what remains today, and a fantastic place to get to grips with recent history is at the Woodhorn Museum.

This dog-friendly attraction celebrates Northumberland’s coal-mining history, at a site where 600,000 tonnes of coal was mined each year at its peak. You can visit the winding houses, view the artworks of the ‘Pitmen Painters’ in the Ashington Group Collection and take part in an ever-changing programme of events ranging from car shows to cos-play.

Location: Ashington, NE63 9YF

Information: Open 10am – 4 pm Wednesday – Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday.

Stay nearby: Olive’s Cottage, Morpeth | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

You might also like: Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum, Vindolanda Roman Army Museum, Berwick Museum and Art Gallery

Kielder Forest

6. Enjoy the great outdoors

Northumberland is awash with beautiful, natural scenery, not least in the spectacular 400-square-mile expanse of Northumberland National Park. Scenic valleys and hills, ancient forests and crashing waterfalls are just some of the highlights you can expect to see here, and getting out into nature is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Northumberland.

If you’re looking to get out and explore, Kielder Water and Forest Park is a great place to start. Encompassing the largest man-made lake in Northern Europe, the park is a top spot for walking, wildlife watching, sports and even art. A unique collection of art and architecture sits within the natural landscape, from futuristic shelters and nature hides, to thought-provoking sculptures.

Cycling, mountain biking, water sports and horse riding can all be enjoyed here and, when night falls, the fun doesn’t stop. A designated International Dark Sky Park, there’s nothing quite like turning your gaze skyward and soaking up the incomprehensible beauty of the firmament. Head for Kielder Observatory to find out more.

Location: Three visitor centres – Tower Knowe NE48 1BX, Kielder Waterside NE48 1BT and Kielder Castle NE48 1ER.

Information: Visit the Kielder Forest website for more information.

Stay nearby: Kielder Kip House, Kielder | Sleeps 6 + 3 dogs

You might also like: Guide to Northumberland National Park, The Allen Valleys, Coquet Valley

Stay in Northumberland

Planning a Northumberland holiday? Take a look at our collection of holiday cottages in Northumberland. Set close to attractions and places to visit throughout the county, you’re sure to find your perfect home-away-from-home for your adventures in the North of England.

Cosy cottages for two, dog-friendly family homes, large houses for group get-togethers – there’s something for everyone.

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.