Yaya and Lloyd, creators of Hand Luggage Only, have pulled together their top five Northumberland sites, activities and recommendations. Use their ideas as inspiration to make the most of our stunning county and explore the magic of Northumberland for yourself. 

Their new book, Hand Luggage Only, the ultimate travel guide for exploring Britain’s best destinations, is out now and available from local bookshops Waterstones and Amazon. Make sure to bag yourself a copy after you’ve enjoyed this blog!

A HOLY-MOLEY HABITAT

 

The tidal island of Lindisfarne is perched just off the coast of Northumberland and several times a day it gets cut off from the mainland when the tide rolls in and the road to the island disappears beneath the water. In the 8th century it was raided by the Vikings – its importance as a Christian centre meant this raid in particular marks the start of the Viking Age in Europe. Nowadays, you can explore the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory and pop into the 500-year-old Lindisfarne Castle

Once a defensive fortification between Scotland and England, the castle dates back to the 1500s and is positioned perfectly on a mound with a rather steep, albeit relatively short, climb to get up to. There are a few shops on the island, too – be sure to pick up some of the famous mead (an alcoholic drink made from honey).

Tide and time wait for no man: Be sure to pay particular attention to the tide times (they will be signposted before you get on the road and also available online, so check on the day you plan on visiting), as it comes in very fast and you can get in trouble really quickly. 

A LEGENDARY HISTORY

 

Northumberland has no shortage of castles – it’s home to more than any other county in England – but even with all that choice, Bamburgh Castle stands out and absolutely has to be visited. 

For starters, it has a written history dating back to 420 CE, making it one of the country’s oldest. In the years since, it’s been ransacked by Vikings, been home to kings from Henry VI to James I, and was the first castle in the world to be destroyed by gunpowder in the War of the Roses. (Did you know author George R. R. Martin based his Game of Thrones book series on this ongoing struggle for the English crown?) Explore the staterooms, grand hall, grounds and beach beyond at your leisure. 

Arthurian legend has it that Bamburgh is the site of Sir Lancelot’s castle, Joyous Garde. 

STARRY SKIES AND ROMAN HERITAGE

 

Hugging the border between England and Scotland, Northumberland National Park is home to part of Hadrian’s Wall.

Stretching all the way from the North Sea to the Irish Sea, this fortification was built in 122 CE to guard the Roman Empire’s northern frontier. Along the wall, explore the Temple of Mithras (dedicated to the god Roman soldiers adored), Vindolanda (a vast ruined fort) and Housesteads Roman Fort, where you can see remains of the barracks, hospital and some pretty old toilets. The latter is more interesting than it sounds! 

For night owls: Northumberland National Park is great for stargazing. It contains an International Dark Sky Park – one of the biggest areas of protected night sky in all of Europe. You can even spot the Andromeda Galaxy with your naked eyes! Just keep your fingers crossed for a clear night. If you really want to stretch your legs, scale the Cheviot, the park’s highest peak. Although this is not not an endurance-style hike, you will need a good level of fitness to reach the very tippy-top. From here, on a crisp and clear day, you might even be able to see Edinburgh in the distance. 

HUFFIN AND PUFFIN

 

Just off the coast of Northumberland lie The Farne Islands, an archipelago of 28 islands, of which three are accessible to visitors. Often referred to as the ‘Galapagos of the North’, there’s an abundance of wildlife here (whales, seals, dolphins and lots of sea birds), and it’s easily one of the best places in England to spot puffins. Depending on when you visit, you’ll probably get up close and personal with the thousands of non-human residents. Make sure you pack a pair of binoculars to look the part. 

If you’re looking for maximum cuteness, the first seal pups start to arrive in September, so plan your visit accordingly. Birdwatchers will have a field day – many sea birds (guillemots, kittiwakes and razorbills, to mention a few) call this beautiful part of England home. The best way to make the most of it is to hop aboard one of the boat tours leaving from Seahouses. Four private companies offer boat trips between April and October from Seahouses Harbour.

Don’t forget to make a back-up plan: Have some alternative ideas to explore the local area – like a visit to nearby Bamburgh Castle- in case the sea is too choppy to travel. 

SEA FOOD, EAT FOOD

 

Stretching 62 miles (100 kilometres) in length, the Northumberland Coast Path is one of the best British hiking routes for history buffs. Along the route from Cresswell in the south to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north, you’ll see historic remnants from the last 7,000 years dotted all across this coastline. 

We recommend setting aside a week to complete the trail or dipping in and out at your leisure to enjoy the sections that intrigue you most. As you ramble along the unspoilt coastline, be sure to stop off at the totally pristine Bamburgh Beach where, just shy of the shore, you’ll spot Bamburgh Castle. From here you’re just a short walk at low tide to Holy Island.

Hankering for a bite to eat? Pop into the historic fishing village of Craster with its picturesque harbour and country pubs, which offer some amazing local seafood. It’s like heading back to the 1800s, but with much better fish and chips.

Remember, Hand Luggage Only is out now, available from local bookshops, Waterstones and Amazon. Pick up a copy and plan your next adventure.