The Hidden Gems of Northumberland
Ford and Etal Estates, and the hamlet of Heatherslaw which lies in between, are some of rural Northumberland's best hidden gems. They lie in the valley of the River Till, a few miles inland from Holy Island and Bamburgh with the Cheviot Hills to the south and River Tweed to the north.
Take a ride on a steam train at Heatherslaw Steam Light Railway, the most northerly steam railway in England. With a return journey of 50 minutes, there is plenty of scenery to be admired, it's a fantastic family activity in Northumberland and a great way to travel between Heatherslaw, Ford and Etal.
Commissioned in 1860, Lady Waterford Hall isn’t to be missed during your visit to Ford & Etal. Now the village hall, its walls are donned with Lady Waterford’s Pre-Raphaelite art and there are often activities for those of all ages to take part in, making it a great family day out. Explore the 19th century Heatherslaw Cornmill on the banks of the River Till to truly experience the sight, sound, and smell of a traditional mill. Embrace the 700-year-old history, or just relax at the Heatherslaw Tearooms with a hot drink and a slice of cake. Roam the grounds of Etal Castle, a 14th-century masterpiece built by Robert Manners as a defense against the Scots and now looked after by English Heritage. The castle is also home to an award-winning exhibition and immerse yourself in the Anglo-Scottish warfare of Northumberland’s border castle.
Stroke a heavy horse or enjoy a carraige ride at Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre, the only rare breed approved conservation centre in the country dedicated to heavy horses and home to the largest herd of rare breed Clydesdale Heavy Horses within the north of England. Stroll round the indoor centre at Hay Farm before heading outside to see other rare breed animals.
For those who love the outdoors, horse riding, canoeing, fishing, walking, and cycling, it’s about time you took a trip to Ford & Etal. Walkers can take one of the historic footpaths or bridleways to see phenomenal views across North Northumberland and there are waymarked walking routes and cycle routes to help you discover the area. These can be downloaded from the Ford & Etal website or picked up from the Visitor Centre in Heatherslaw Stumble upon Ford Moss Nature Reserve, a wonderland of flora and fauna for nature enthusiasts to marvel over.
If you are feeling a little more active, canoeing along the River Till is a great way to see wildlife including otters. The River Till is England's only tributary of the River Tweed and is well known for its sea trout from the spring to summer. Night fishing is also available during the summer months. Bicycles can be hired in Ford village.
Ford Village Shop and post office in the heart of Ford village stocks a range of everyday essentials plus Northumbrian gifts and you can purchase fishing permits from here. Ford village, Etal village and Heatherslaw are home to a range of small independent shops selling rare books, handmade jewellery, papercut art and pottery. Within Etal Village Shop is a post office, small gift shop and adjoining tea room.
Kick back and relax at the Black Bull - the only thatched pub in Northumberland. It is welcoming to both visitors and locals to enjoy their beer and delicious food. You can also see Etal Castle from here, giving you a chance to admire the ancient fortress from a distance.
At Flodden Field on Ford & Etal Estates, close to the little village of Branxton, you can walk the battlefield to learn about this historic and bloody clash between English and Scottish forces.