20 for 2020: Northumberland Adventures for the New Year

New Year, same you - but with a desire to make this your best year yet. We have rounded up some of Northumberland’s must-dos to add to your bucket list this New Year and plan a holiday filled with endless experiences. So, what are you waiting for… try one, some or all of our list of 20 for 2020 when you visit Northumberland:

1) Car Gaze

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There are few places in the UK where you can pull over, turn off your headlights, allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness and admire the dazzling sight of Gold Tier Status Dark Skies. In Northumberland, 572 square miles of Gold Tier Dark Skies await your arrival, so fill your boot with a deck chair, flask and binoculars and venture to one of the county’s Dark Sky Discovery Sites. If the conditions are right and the sky is clear, you can gaze at dazzling stars and admire Orion or The Milky Way with the naked eye.

2) DO n’t go chasing waterfalls

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Wander into the wilds of Northumberland and you just might find an unexpected opening where a whimsical waterfall tumbles into a bottomless plunge pot. Linhope Spout, Roughting Linn and Hareshaw Linn all wait at the end of hidden trails and off-the-beaten-track routes, making perfect picnic spots and even invigorating wild swimming spots! (Please check whether wild swimming is permitted in advance of visiting and do so at your own risk).

3) Al-paca your walking boots

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Quirky, cheeky and charming alpacas are the perfect companions for a walk in Northumberland. Hemscott Hill Farm and Ferny Rigg Alpacas offer fluffy field walks as you (literally) take the lead and trek through stunning landscapes with an alpaca by your side. Just try NOT coming away from the experience with a smile on your face.

4) Much Ado about Puffins

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Head to Seahouses between March – October and book a Farne Islands boat trip at one of the wooden huts on the harbour. Adorably clumsy puffins and lolloping seals reside at The Farne Islands, where birds rule the roost and humans are in the minority. The arctic terns in particular like to dive-bomb visitors once their eggs have hatched (so wear a hat!) and seals are regularly spotted lazing on the rocks.

5) Wake up on the bright side of the bed

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Watch the sky become emblazoned with oranges, pinks and reds over Northumberland’s staggering coastline and capture it on camera if you can. Northumberland’s sunrises are well worth the early wake up, so just remember that when your alarm disturbs your slumber. While the experience is spectacular year round, people fall for the horizon most in autumn as the colours are simply magical.

6) Whatever floats your goat

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Go wild cheviot goat spotting at College Valley and keep your eye out for the feral goats that scale the Cheviot Hills. They are a rare find and are currently being GPS tracked by Newcastle University, so don’t be surprised if you see one donning a large collar! Tucked away in Northumberland National Park, the pristine and peaceful College Valley allows access to only twelve cars per day. You can book your permit ahead of time here, or access the valley by foot or bike to explore.

7) Find your Porpoise

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The romantic River Tweed is a sight to behold, as Berwick’s three iconic bridges stand proudly over its shimmering water. Hop on board The Border Rose with Berwick Boat Trips and sail out to sea in search of the dolphins that are regularly sighted at the mouth of the river. David and crew will open your eyes to Berwick’s tumultuous history while you keep them peeled for the water’s wildlife.

8) See the Rolling Stones

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Northumberland boasts the longest stretch of Hadrian’s Wall, the fascinating Roman remains that delve and dive across the rolling Northumberland National Park landscape. Step into your hiking boots and explore one of the National Park routes where iconic sites such as Sycamore Gap, Roman Forts and ancient temples can all be discovered and the wall is with you every step of the way.

9) Slide into Kielder Water & Forest Park

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This one is a beginner adrenaline-junkie’s dream; Calvert Kielder’s ZipCoaster has you soaring through the air in roller-coaster-esque ups, downs, twists and turns. Securely strapped into a harness, the thrilling ride gives you a free-flying sensation and, like all of Calvert Kielder’s activities, is completely accessible, so users with a disability can enjoy the ride.

10) Get to know a telescope

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As well as doing some independent stargazing, you might want a bit of guidance when you’re gazing into the galaxy. Northumberland’s observatories are here to help, offering everything from beginners’ workshops to experienced astronomy events. Kielder Observatory, which sits directly below the International Dark Sky Park, and Battlesteads, the award-winning, sustainable hotel that has its own observatory, are two excellent examples.

11) Bag yourself a bothy

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Bothies are built especially so that explorers can camp out and keep dry… for free! Staying in one is essentially camping without the tent and most are completely without facilities, purely providing a roof over your head for the night. Others, however, have a little more to offer, like this oh so cosy-looking bothy with a log fire and a bunk bed. Sitting beneath Northumberland’s International Dark Sky Park, they’re also excellent, remote places to stargaze. Just visit the Mountain Bothies Association website to find the best bothy for you.

12) Be OAR-some

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Paddle past Warkworth Castle or into the estuary (depending on tide levels) with a two hour canoe tour along the River Coquet. The perfect combination of peaceful and active, you can drift along the river and admire its surrounding nature as well as the stunning village of Warkworth. Canoeing season runs from 1st March – 31st October and, if you do it in spring, you get the added highlight of the abundance of daffodils that surround Warkworth Castle at this time of year. Check out Adventure Northumberland’s website for more details.

13) Hang out in Thrunton Woods

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Admittedly, not everyone owns a hammock, but if you do then we would highly recommend hanging out in Thrunton Woods… literally. We spotted @katiehenery on Instagram relaxing in the woods with a book in-hand and now it’s next on our bucket list. A great way to rest your legs mid-walk and spend a peaceful hour or two feeling pretty Zen in the great outdoors. If you don't have a hammock, these enchanted woods are still worth a visit; walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders take advantage of the breath-taking trails that wind through lichen clad trees and offer spectacular views over Northumberland National Park.

14) Let your Thursdays be-GIN

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Head to Hemscott Hill Farm’s for ‘Thirsty Thursdays’ at their pop-up gin bar on the coast. You can choose from over 30 gins to enjoy with a zesty mixer or sip on refreshing gin cocktails beneath reams of fairy lights in their beautiful, rustic barn. Its position beside Druridge Bay makes it perfect to pair with an evening beach stroll. The bar is only open throughout summer and its opening hours vary so check their blog ahead of visiting.

15) Have your pick of the bunch

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Pick your food straight from the National Park and onto the plate with one of Northern Wilds’ Wild Food Forage Feast courses. Their emphasis on gut health, wellbeing and the benefits of eating fresh, natural produce will make you come away wanting to escape to the wilderness and live on wild mushrooms and berries. On their full day tour, they prepare the day’s harvest in a wild food wagon and turn it into a delicious feast so you can taste your picks there and then.

16) Coast, castles and kippers

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You will smell Craster before you see it, as the delicious, charcoal scent of L Robson and Sons smokehouse drifts through the village. It’s the only working ancient smokehouse in Northumberland, so treat yourself to a paper bagful of their traditionally-smoked kippers. Take them to the harbour and savour them by the sea, or munch while you meander to nearby Dunstanburgh Castle, the pocket-sized site of romantically ruinous remains that teeters on the coast.

17) Fifty shades of Earl Grey

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Howick Hall was the home of Charles Grey who, in the 1830s, received a tea blend from a Chinese mandarin as a gift. The tea had been specially blended with bergamot to suit the water from the spring at Howick Hall and, after Lady Grey served it to numerous guests, it became so popular that British tea merchants requested permission to replicate it. Today, it is known as Earl Grey, and it is pretty much essential to stop at Howick Hall Tea Room for a pot of the refreshing beverage in what was once the ballroom of the Grey family’s residence.

18) Blossoms and broomsticks

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Visit the cobbled market town of Alnwick in spring and spend a magical day amongst The Alnwick Garden’s cherry blossoms and Alnwick Castle’s grounds. The Alnwick Garden has a short window between the end of April and the beginning of May where their collection of Taihaku cherry blossoms (the largest in the world) blooms. Relax on one of the swinging benches amongst the fluttering blossom trees before heading to Alnwick Castle, known for its starring debut as Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, for a Harry Potter-themed tour or a broomstick lesson.

19) Love is ale you need

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Tucked away in the heart of Ford & Etal Estate sits the only thatched pub in Northumberland, The Black Bull Inn. Managed by the brand new Cheviot Brewery who brew real ale just up the road, you can taste local tipples and enjoy a pint or two in the cosy, stone interior and by a warming open fire.

20) Watch a film that ends in ruins

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Staggering, iconic and magnificent no matter when you visit, Bamburgh Castle dominates Northumberland’s coastline as you approach the village of Bamburgh. Stay in the castle grounds after sunset for one of its magical and spell-binding outdoor cinema viewings, where towering turrets are the back-drop and crashing waves are the soundtrack.