You are planning a day out and you aren’t sure where to start. What should I do first? What will I regret missing when I visit Northumberland? The dilemma is understandable, as narrowing down your options can be difficult when you’re heading to officially the best place to visit in the UK. That’s where we come in…
The Alnwick Garden is a day out that people travelling from far and wide make sure that they tick off their bucket lists. The stunning, award-winning gardens are home to a spectacular Grand Cascade, one of the largest wooden treehouses in the world, a bathing giant and, in the spring months, the largest collection of Taihaku (white cherry blossoms) in the world. Some great activities for families here include the mystical, forgotten garden ‘Adventure Golf Challenge’, and ‘A Giant Adventure’ using the garden’s app to follow the giant’s footprints across the gardens.
Northumberland is also home to many local farms that welcome visitors to see their animals, try their organic produce and enjoy a family day out. Northumberland’s largest, family-run farm is Whitehouse Farm Centre, and one of their many highlights is that you can feed their greedy goats, their bleating alpacas, their tiny Shetland ponies and more. Families can pile onto the trailer pulled by Trevor the Tractor for a ride around the farm, and kids can zoom around on mini racing cars, swing and climb through the adventure playground. All of this can be followed by a bite to eat at The Hungry Pig Café.
Anyone visiting Northumberland cannot miss the opportunity to immerse themselves in the peaceful nature that we have on our doorstep, and one of the best places to do so is Kielder Water & Forest Park. The area is so vast and every corner leaves you in the middle of a forest, by a lakeside or in a nature hide. You are very much encouraged to re-connect with nature here, and small signs recommending that you, for example, walk barefoot over the springy, moss-covered forest floor, have been placed throughout the forest. Kielder Waterside offers panoramic views of the tranquil reservoir and pieces of art and architecture can be found amongst the nature. There are no limitations here; you can explore every corner and the further you go, the more you are likely to find.
For the history buffs wanting to mix nature with heritage and culture, Hadrian’s Wall runs through the heart of Northumberland National Park, meaning that surrounding views provide a breath-taking backdrop to this archaeological wonder. World-famous excavations at Vindolanda take place annually and visitors can watch archaeologists uncovering new finds during, what many believe, could be one of their best seasons yet. Follow this with a visit to The Roman Army Museum where futuristic methods bring the past to life. Meet their holographic Roman teacher, try interactive archery and view a film that takes you on an eagle’s eye journey over Hadrian’s Wall.
Another of our most iconic historical sites is Bamburgh Castle, perched on a rocky plateau on the coast and spanning over nine acres of land. Evidence of life at the castle dates back as early as 10,000 BC, and its heritage echoes through the towers, the state rooms and the wards. Dogs are welcome in the castle grounds and, although your pooch can’t enter the castle, exploring the grounds alone is an enchanting experience. Not only can you admire the impressive fortress from them, but they also act as a panoramic viewpoint for the astounding surrounding coastline. There is also a picnic area in the West Ward, and refreshments and hot food are served in the Clock Tower Tea Rooms.
Ford & Etal estate also offers a fascinating trip back in time. Home to the 14th century Etal Castle, the almost 500 years old Flodden Battlefield, Duddo Standing Stones which are carbon dated at 4,200 years old, and Lady Waterford Hall dating back to 1860, there is so much heritage to immerse yourself in. The estate is also a beautiful and quiet area for cycling or a leisurely stroll, and you can ride on the steam railway from Heatherslaw and along the River Till, admiring views of the lush countryside and the Cheviot Hills as you travel.