Come rain or shine, you can rely on Northumberland to provide a stunning winter walk. Find the perfect Boxing Day walk in Northumberland with a pint waiting for you at the end, or a frosty New Year’s Day walk in Northumberland to blow away the cobwebs with our list of some of the best winter walks in Northumberland.
‘The one with the waterfall’
Nestled above the fork where the River Rede meets the North Tyne, the rural village of Bellingham
is the starting point for a walk to one of the most magical places in Northumberland: Hareshaw Linn
The first part of the walk takes in several key areas of Bellingham’s industrial past. Much of the landscape itself was shaped by the 19th century ironworks, mine and quarry. Keep an eye out for the bubbling spring which appeared when miners were drilling for coal.
Further along the route, you leave industry behind once you walk through the kissing gate and into the ‘Linn’. The dark and damp conditions of this ancient woodland of oak, hazel, elm and ash lend an ethereal atmosphere. Could pixies be watching you as you walk? We couldn’t possibly say, but we do know the conditions create the perfect environment for some rare flora and fauna.
To warm up, head to nearby Battlesteads
for some good grub and a chance to relax in front of a roaring fire.
Things to note: The route is considered moderate difficulty and the uneven terrain means it is not accessible for all. It is suitable for older children and teens and it is dog-friendly, as long as dogs are kept on a leash.
‘The one that feels like a film set’
In terms of breathtaking scenery, you’re spoiled for choice in Northumberland, but Steel Rigg in Northumberland National Park
is one of the most iconic spots. This natural phenomenon is part of a line of rock known as the Whin Sill running like a spine down Northumberland. The ever-resourceful Romans used it to their advantage, incorporating the cliff into their defenses by running Hadrian’s Wall
directly over the top of it.
This circular route runs from Steel Rigg car park, following the Wall to Housesteads Roman Fort
before circling back around Crag Lough through farmland at the base of the crag to Steel Rigg car park. It is an exposed part of the county, so in winter be sure to layer up with thermals and waterproofs. Don’t forget to charge your phone to take an obligatory photo of Sycamore Gap.
Once you get back to the car park, you might be in need of a warm up or dry off, so head down the hill to the Twice Brewed Inn
for some hearty food and a glass of ale from their microbrewery.
Things to note: The route is considered moderate difficulty and the uneven terrain means it is not accessible for all. It is suitable for older children and teens and it is dog-friendly.
Amble to Warkworth
‘The one for when you’re short on time’
Walking in Northumberland doesn’t have to mean waterproofs and hiking boots. There are plenty of shorter walks scattered around Northumberland with just as much to see as the more challenging paths. If you’re in need of a quick route to stretch your legs or your mobility limits how long you can be up and about, how about a stroll from Amble
You can start this pretty little stretch at Amble Harbour Village, heading north out of the town. Most of the route does run along Beal Bank (A1068) which can be busy, but the path is set back from the road by a wide grass verge and you’ll be too busy admiring the Coquet Estuary on your right to notice. Once you’ve explored Warkworth and indulged in some retail therapy at the independent shops, you can either walk back or hop on the X18 bus. On your return to Amble, you can catch your breath as you quench your thirst at The Amble Inn
If you like what you see and you’re in the mood for a longer walk, this route is part of the 62-mile Northumberland Coast Path
which runs from Cresswell
. Taking in Northumberland’s sandy beaches
, rocky outcrops and pretty coastal villages
, there’s something new to see with every step. Be sure to order a Northumberland Coast Path Passport to log your journey by collecting stamps from local businesses known as ‘Welcome Ports’.
Things to note: Aside from a slight incline as you enter Warkworth village, this route is flat and of even terrain so it is suitable for both pushchairs and wheelchairs. It is also dog friendly, you’ll find plenty of locals walking their dogs along the route.
Heatherslaw to Etal
‘The one where you step back in time’
There aren’t many places in Northumberland like the Ford and Etal Estates
. It’s a place where history lives and breathes. In season, you can ride a steam train, stroke a heavy horse and see the inner workings of the last remaining watermill in Northumberland. But the sleepy rural charm also belies a darker past. Just a stone's throw from the Scottish Borders, the landscape once saw centuries of Anglo-Scots conflict such as the Battle of Flodden.
One way to enjoy the quiet beauty of this rural spot is by walking the path between Heatherslaw and Etal Village. The usually bustling Ford and Etal Estates are a little quieter this time of year as attractions such as Heatherslaw Mill and Etal Castle are closed for the winter. However, you’ll still find a warm welcome in Etal at the Lavender Tearooms
and The Black Bull, Northumberland’s only thatched pub.
The route begins at Heatherslaw Light Railway car park and ends at a peaceful spot in Etal on the banks of the River Till. On the way, the route takes you past Tillside Cricket Club pitch - one of the prettiest in Northumberland - and the impressive ruins of Etal Castle
. To return to Heatherslaw? Simply retrace your steps.
Things to note: This walk is considered an easy linear route. The terrain is flat and on a designated path so it is accessible for all including wheelchair users and families with young children and pushchairs. Dogs are also welcome.
‘The one to put you in the Christmas spirit’
To really ramp up the festive spirit this year, be sure to visit Wallington Hall
to see it in all its Christmas glory. There’s something for the whole family to enjoy with crafts in the Servants’ Parlour, carols in the Central Hall and storytime with Mrs Christmas.
You can work off the prosecco and mince pies with a walk in the grounds. There are miles of footpaths and trails in the grounds of Wallington House and Gardens, but one of our favourites is the route along the banks of the River Wansbeck. Beginning in the Courtyard, the route follows both natural and surfaced footpaths so it’s the perfect stroll whatever the season. Keep your eyes peeled for two big oak trees near the Garden Pond - they’re the oldest on the estate - and take care over the stepping stones.
If you’ve got the time, take a short car journey to Kirkharle Courtyard
. Once the birthplace and childhood home of Capability Brown, this 18th century courtyard is now a hub for artists and independent shops. Feeling peckish? Make a pit-stop at the Kirkharle Coffee House.
Things to note: This walk is considered an easy route and accessible for all thanks to a couple of well-signposted deviations in the route to avoid the stepping stones. Dogs are also welcome on a lead.
Featherstone Castle to Lambley Viaduct
‘The one for history buffs’
For those in the know, the South Tyne area of Northumberland is a true rural idyll. Once home to a thriving lead mining industry, today the area features some of the most unspoilt landscapes in the UK. It is home to a section of the North Pennines AONB
which is the UK’s first UNESCO European and Global Geopark. You can take your pick of walking routes, each with their own unique insight into the area.
History lovers can’t go wrong with this trail beginning at Featherstone Castle. Once home to generations of the Featherstonehaugh family as far back as the Norman conquest, part of the present-day castle consists of a 14th century pele tower built to defend the family from Scottish Border Reivers.
Further along the walk you pass through a WW2 prisoner of war camp used to house thousands of German officers until 1948. The concrete Nissen huts and guard house are a sharp contrast to the lush green countryside and a sobering reminder of recent history, but these days it is a haven for wildlife such as buzzards.
If you came prepared, Bellister Estate Orchard is a great place to take a detour for a lunch break whilst you take in some glorious views of the North Pennines and South Tyne valley.
Things to note: This is a moderate walk of 6.4 miles. Due to the terrain of this route, the walk is not considered accessible for all.
‘The one for all the family’
With a plethora of routes to choose from, the Simonside Hills
is a staple for walkers. You’ll find trails to suit all abilities, but if you’re looking for something for the whole family, the Simonside Family Walk is for you.
This easy to follow circular trail through the forest gives you plenty to see along the way, including spectacular views of the Coquet Valley
and the Cheviot Hills
as the route nears the edge of the forest. It’s easy to see why it is so beloved by Northumberland walkers, but it can be slippery in the winter months so you need to take care.
On the route, a short detour to Little Church Rock is sure to be a winner with younger members of the family. Cup marks in the stone are thought to be man-made and over 4,000 years old - the perfect inspiration for some mythical storytelling.
Once you’re back in the car, journey north towards the picturesque town of Rothbury. Take a walk along its bustling high street of independent shops, pop into Coquetdale Art Gallery above the library then head to the Newcastle House Hotel for some delicious pub grub.
Things to note: This walk is considered an easy route and accessible for all. Dogs are also welcome on a lead.
‘The one that looks good in all seasons’
Cragside House, Gardens and Estate
is a feast for the eyes, whatever the season. Lush green in spring, a riot of colour in summer, russet shades in autumn, every season has its moment. In winter, the stark grandeur and scale of the coniferous forest comes to the fore.
Much is known of Cragside’s original owner, renowned Victorian inventor Lord William Armstrong, but did you know it was his wife who designed much of Cragside’s landscape? Fuelled by a love of geology, botany and horticulture, Lady Margaret Armstrong created a series of outdoor ‘rooms’ including the Pinetum and the Formal Garden.
Soak up Cragside’s winter wonderland beauty with a walk around Tumbleton Lake on the Armstrong Trail before enjoying a light bite or sweet treat in The Still Room.
Things to note: The section of walk outlined above is considered to be accessible for all including wheelchair users and families with young children and pushchairs, though there are some steep inclines. Dogs are welcome on a lead.
Author: Bethany Gallacher