Walltown Country Park at dusk

Hidden gems in Northumberland

Hidden gems
Discover Northumberland's hidden gems with our list of lesser-known attractions and secret spots in Northumberland. A blog for introverts who like to escape the crowds, we've covered everything from hidden castle ruins to barely discovered beaches.
Get away from the crowds when you visit Northumberland and uncover Northumberland’s hidden treasures. From lesser-known viewpoints along Hadrian’s Wall, to castle ruins that have remained somewhat of a secret, to fantastic family days out that will escape the crowds even during the school holidays, read on for some of Northumberland’s best hidden gems.

1) Ford and Etal


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Ford and Etal is one of Northumberland’s best kept secrets and this hidden treasure is a firm favourite with families, lovers of the great outdoors, and anyone wanting to get away from the crowds when they’re in Northumberland. This working estate has fascinating historical sites such as lesser-known Etal Castle, Lady Waterford Hall and Heatherslaw Corn Mill. Based in the valley of the River Till, its striking countryside setting makes for picturesque viewpoints and fantastic walking routes. Plus, there are a number of eateries here to enjoy before or after your explorations, including cafes, the only thatch roofed pub in Northumberland and a microbrewery serving traditional cask and bottled ale. To top it all off, you can hop on board the steam train at Heatherslaw Light Railway to travel between Heatherslaw Station and Etal Station, something which the kids are guaranteed to love. Ford and Etal attractions close during winter, so check ahead if you’re hoping to visit during the winter months.

Top tip - There are a number of B&Bs and holiday cottages in Ford and Etal, plus a new glamping site made up of bell tents and glamping pods for you to choose from if you are looking for places to stay in Northumberland.

2) Duddo Five Stones


Duddo Five Stones is a stone circle made up of five, 4000 year old stones that sit in rural countryside, accessible only via a 1km walk through fields. Their remoteness adds to their mystery and their striking setting adds to their beauty, as they stand with incredible views of the Cheviot Hills to their south and impressive vista towards the Scottish border, which is only six kilometres away. There were originally seven stones before three went missing, then a further stone was added in 1903, making the five that we see today.

Top tip - The site actually sits a ten minute drive away from Ford and Etal, so the two attractions are great to do in the same day, and it is also only a 15 minute drive to some fantastic coastal spots such as Berwick-upon-Tweed where you can enjoy excellent shops, restaurants and wildlife boat trips, and Beal, where you can head on to Lindisfarne causeway to visit The Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

3) Chillingham


The small village of Chillingham, tucked away on the outskirts of Wooler, holds some fascinating attractions that you should explore when you visit Northumberland. The first is Chillingham Castle, Britain’s most haunted castle, with the highest recorded levels of paranormal activity in Britain and a large collection of spectres and apparition spottings by visitors over the years. You only have to take one step into the torture chamber and you’ll be quaking in your boots. If you’re brave enough, you can meet the ghosts for yourself on a nighttime ghost tour and you can even stay overnight. Pair your visit with a trip to see Chillingham Wild Cattle, the remarkable survivors of the ancient cattle that once roamed Britain’s forests.The animals are regarded as a scientific marvel and have inhabited Chillingham Park for as long as 700 years. Even more secret, there will be a very small number of special tours in Chillingham Park this August. Guiding you into areas normally blocked off for the public, the tour will be led by Chairman Professor Stephen Hall who has been involved with the park for more than 20 years.

Top tip - If ghouls don’t get you going and you can’t handle the haunt, Chillingham Castle is still a splendid attraction. A day time visit allows you to appreciate the astounding medieval architecture and decor, as well as the beautiful gardens onsite.

4) Walltown Country Park


Hadrian’s Wall is a major attraction for many visiting Northumberland, attracting tourists from across the globe to admire its incredible engineering and many popular forts that are scattered along it. However, this unmissable site is a whopping 73 miles long, leaving plenty room for lesser-known spots and hidden gems in its midst. Get away from the crowds and discover the irresistibly peaceful spot of Walltown Country Park, a site that used to be a working quarry until 1976 when it was filled in and landscaped so that, today, it is a haven for wildlife and nature. You can relax and admire the wildlife here, feed the ducks, enjoy a coffee from the visitor centre on site and use the spot as a base to discover some staggering viewpoints in Northumberland National Park and along Hadrian’s Wall.
Top tip - Pick a clear day to enjoy an evening meal in a local village pub before parking at Walltown Country Park and walking to Hadrian’s Wall for the evening. You are guaranteed a spectacular sunset viewing spot and will most likely have the area to yourself.

5) Hauxley


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Northumberland’s coastline is undoubtedly one of its major draws for a holiday. There are staggering castles, miles of pristine sand and a number of bays to explore. But have you heard of Hauxley, a hidden gem on the Northumberland coast just a short drive from some of the more well-known spots? The area is home to stunning, peaceful Low Hauxley beach and one of the best wildlife watching spots in the North East, Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre. Looking out over Hauxley Nature Reserve, this spot attracts a myriad of birds and is one of the easiest places in Northumberland to see red squirrels and tree sparrows. Enjoy the walks and nature trails around the reserve, the tranquil nature hides and a delicious snack or beverage in The Lookout Cafe which offers staggering views over the lake.

Top tip - There is no entry fee for Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre but donations are welcome to help with the upkeep of the site. A small parking charge applies for all visitors.

6) Seaton Delaval Hall


There are a number of stunning stately homes in Northumberland, boasting fascinating history, beautiful grounds and amazing architecture. One that is slightly lesser-known than some of its fellow National Trust properties in Northumberland is Seaton Delaval Hall, based right at the south of the county near the lovely coastal village of Seaton Sluice. One of The National Trust’s most ambitious conservation projects, Seaton Delaval Hall has just had a four-year, £7.4 million renovation and the results are spectacular, including the restoration of stunning cantilevered staircases, transformation of the basement, addition of playful interpretations that tell the story of the house, and building of a cafe onsite. From history-lovers who are fascinated by the hall’s background and architecture, to families coming to enjoy the interpretations and an educational day out, to anyone looking for a peaceful and picturesque picnic spot, this is the perfect place. 
Top tip - You can walk directly from the grounds of Seaton Delaval Hall to the gorgeous, pristine coastline at Seaton Sluice if you want to extend your day out. You’ll also find some excellent pubs here and locally renowned fish and chip shop The Harbour View, which is a must-visit when you’re in Seaton Sluice.

7) Howick


Another lesser-visited spot on the Northumberland coastline is Howick, a tiny, picturesque village nestled between Craster and Boulmer. Those who know Howick well will have a mental picture of Howick Bathing House, which teeters on the coastline here and makes for a beautiful photograph with Dunstanburgh Castle ruins visible in the distance. The hidden cove, Rumbling Kern, is revealed at low tide, with its rocky landscape and tidal pools offering a great family day out rockpooling and discovering the sealife. You can only reach this spot on foot, but it is just a short walk from the available parking on the coast of Howick. Venture slightly further inland to visit Howick Hall Gardens and Arboretum, another of Northumberland’s more secret attractions. This site is the home of Earl Grey Tea, as Charles 2nd Earl Grey lived here and had his namesake tea specially blended for him by a Chinese Mandarin, using bergamot to offset the taste of the water from the well. You can enjoy a cup of traditional Earl Grey here in their tea room before exploring the stunning gardens.
Top tip - Sitting in the heart of Howick is beautiful B&B, Old Rectory Howick. This Georgian Country House is only 400 yards from the seafront and offers beautiful rooms, fresh, local food and an irresistibly tranquil setting.

8) Hareshaw Linn


Northumberland is home to many fantastic waterfalls - some are very popular and clearly mapped out and some are a little more obscure and difficult to get to. One that sits somewhere in the middle is Hareshaw Linn, the lesser-known waterfall in Northumberland National Park that can be easily accessed from the village of Bellingham if you know what you’re looking for. Head to the car park in Bellingham where you will find the well sign-posted, picturesque, woodland footpath to the waterfall which will take you over bridges, past trickling streams, amongst oak, hazel, elm and ash trees until you eventually reach an opening where breathtaking Hareshaw Linn waterfall awaits. Stick around once you reach this magical spot and enjoy a picnic, listen to the birds, admire your surroundings and even go for a dip if you’re brave enough to withstand the cold. *This route may have been affected by Storm Arwen so please check ahead on Northumberland National Park’s website before visiting.
Top tip - We worked with bloggers Brock and Betty on a guide to Northumberland’s waterfalls. Take a look for more waterfall routes and some top tips on visiting waterfalls in Northumberland.

9) Warkworth Hermitage


You may have already heard of Warkworth Castle, an astounding site in the beautiful coastal village of Warkworth that looks particularly charming in spring when it becomes surrounded by daffodils. But did you know that Warkworth is home to a secret medieval hermitage that can only be accessed by rowing boat? Simply book a ticket to the Hermitage on arrival at Warkworth Castle, walk half a mile up the serene River Coquet and join the rowing boat that is rowed back and forth by a member of staff so that visitors can admire this mysterious spot. When you get there, you will see the religious site that is carved out of rock and was probably built as a private chapel for the first Earl of Northumberland.

Top tip - Warkworth village is worth an explore and its winding, cobbled streets, great cafes and independent shops make for a lovely day out. Plus, sweeping Warkworth Beach is another of Northumberland’s quieter coastal spots.

10) Chesters Roman Fort


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Northumberland National Park is home to numerous fascinating Roman forts holding thousands of years of history, with Hadrian’s Wall dipping and diving across its landscape. One of the quieter forts along the wall is Chesters Roman Fort, which is one of a series of permanent forts built during the construction of Hadrian’s Wall. The cavalry fort, known to the Romans as Cilurnum, was built in about AD 124 and housed some 500 cavalrymen until the Romans left Britain in the 5th century. Pioneering excavations in the 19th century exposed the structures visible today and these excavations yielded one of the best collections of inscriptions and sculpture on Hadrian’s Wall. There is a collection of famous finds and some lesser-known artefacts, including delicate glass work and intriguing graffiti. 
Top tip - Before you head home, go and see Brocolitia Roman Temple, which is just a five minute drive away from Chesters Roman Fort. Here you can see the remains of a temple which was dedicated to the mysterious deity Mithras, who inspired a secretive and exclusive cult which was popular amongst Roman soldiers. 

Now you are fuelled with fresh ideas for a day out in Northumberland, go out and explore the hidden corners of this amazing county, discovering the most breathtaking destinations and sampling delicious takeaway food on the go. Make sure to tag us in your adventures at @visitnorthumberland or use the hashtag #visitnorthumberland.

Author: Jenni Meikle
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