There’s a lot to be excited about when May comes around; the sun tends to linger for longer, there are a couple of bank holidays to look forward to and, most importantly, it’s National Walking Month!
That’s right, if you hadn’t already heard about it, there is a full month dedicated to walking. Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, are encouraging people everywhere to step into their trainers and increase their own mileage, and with excellent reason. Increasing numbers of studies show that walking is one of the most beneficial activities for physical and mental health. Plus, walking reduces carbon emissions and congestion on our streets.
As well as walking for personal health benefits, many now use National Walking Month as an opportunity to raise money for charities such as The British Heart Foundation, in support of the 7 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK.
Now that you know why to walk, the next questions is where to walk. The great thing about walking is that you don’t need to be an avid hiker to enjoy some of the best walking routes. Northumberland is basically one big bundle of walking trails with staggering views, hidden waterfalls, historical artefacts, and pubs and inns to end your walk with some refreshments. Here are our suggestions that cover some of the best, short walks that Northumberland has to offer (and all of them are dog friendly!):
1)From Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle – This easy walk along the coast offers fantastic views out to sea. An incredible view of Dunstanburgh Castle, photographed above, acts as your guidepost for the duration, and can only be reached by foot. You can enter the castle for a fee upon arrival, or, if you have a dog, they cannot enter the castle but they are more than welcome up to and around the castle. Many visitors with dogs enjoy refreshments at The Jolly Fisherman pub after their walk, where canine friends are welcome. The walk to the castle is around 1.3 miles long, and you can either turn back and return to Craster, or those wanting to extend can continue past the castle to Embleton Bay - a quiet, pristine beach that is largely unknown by tourists.
Getting here – A popular option is to park at Craster Tourist Information Centre where a large car park is conveniently located for the walk. From here, you head past The Jolly Fisherman, past the quaint harbour and towards the castle.
2)From Seahouses to Bamburgh Castle - This beach walk is a slightly longer option, and the route to Bamburgh is roughly 3 miles long. Predominantly with golden sand underfoot, you can admire the coastline and the castle that perches on a rocky plateau ahead. On the approach to the castle, its dramatic presence and sweeping beach are simply breath-taking. Once you arrive, dogs are welcome in the castle grounds, and from here you can admire the enchanting fortresses and some impressive views of the surrounding coastline. You can also stop for a drink in Bamburgh village, and many dog walkers visit The Copper Kettle where dogs are welcome in the courtyard.
Getting here – There are several car parks to choose from in Seahouses, including a sea front car park, parking at the harbour wall and parking behind the Tourist Information Centre. Various bus routes also stop at Seahouses if you are taking public transport.
1)Sycamore Gap - Northumberland National Park is an extremely popular route for walkers, and this circular route (ideal for getting back to your car!) takes you to Housesteads Roman Fort, then along the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hadrian’s Wall and to the National Trust-protected Sycamore Gap. The walk begins at Housesteads Information centre, and along the way you will walk through woodland, wander past magnificent, panoramic views of the wall and, of course, approach the iconic sycamore tree standing in the dramatic dip in the landscape. This circular route is around 5.2 miles in total.
Getting here - The AD122 Hadrian’s Wall Country Bus stops at Steel Rigg car park and The Sill car park. You can also park at either of these in order to access this walking route.
2)Walltown Crags - Northumberland National Park is one of the most spectacular places to see Hadrian’s Wall, as it dives and undulates through dramatic, sheer landscape and sweeping, volcanic rock edge. The variety of trails in this area feature woodland, meadows, wildlife lakes and lengthy views across the lush greenery of the National Park. There are circular routes to choose from, and the area has trails that are marked out as suitable for wheelchairs.
Getting here - There is a spacious car park here that guests requiring wheelchair access have found useful and the AD122 Hadrian’s Wall Bus stops at Walltown. This service has ramp access and ‘Easy Access Guarantee’ meaning that a complimentary taxi will be arranged should any problems occur.
1)Kielder Water & Forest Park Lakeside Way – On this stunning, waterside route, you can walk along the 27 miles of shoreline around Kielder reservoir and past open-air art pieces and nature-hides where ospreys, red squirrels and other wildlife are spotted regularly. Kielder Dam and Kielder Castle are also en-route, and you can do as much or as little of the route as you choose as its circular nature makes it extremely easy to navigate. Many walkers choose to stick to either the north shore or the south shore, and some routes even incorporate the Osprey ferry along the way.
Getting here - Parking is available at Tower Knowe Visitor Centre, Kielder Waterside and other spots.
2)Rothbury Riverside Walk – This easy walking route is extremely popular with families, as it can be done as more of a stroll along the beautiful River Coquet. The route is also dog friendly and there are pubs and cafés in Rothbury that welcome dogs and are great for a refreshing break before heading back to the car.
Getting here – Most walkers choose to park at Beggars Rigg car park or Cowhaugh car park in Rothbury.
Now, take a walk on the wild side in Northumberland and enjoy National Walking Month! Please be sure to check any chosen route before you go and make sure you have the appropriate clothing and footwear for the conditions.
There are so many walking trails in Northumberland that narrowing them down into one blog post is extremely difficult – for ideas for longer walks and hikes, click here.