Wide sandy beaches, ancient meadows, stargazing in the UK’s largest Dark Sky Park, and home to more castles than any other county in England, Northumberland is a great choice for a holiday adventure any time of the year! The landscape of this huge county has been used as the backdrop for many TV series such as Downton Abbey as well as Harry Potter and Marvel films, one of which we were lucky enough to stumble upon during our visit to this beautiful area.
Staying at Chainbridge Touring Caravan Site, a small but perfectly formed “Tranquil Park“, a short drive from the historic town of Berwick-On-Tweed, we were ideally placed to enjoy our Northumberland adventure. The site itself was welcoming, complete with 16 flat pitches, quirky touches and a lovely view of the fields beyond. It offered a peaceful place to stay for adults on 4 wheels. A mere 30 minutes’ drive and Cherry could scamper along the sandy beaches in front of Bamburgh castle, whilst other landmarks such as Lindisfarne, Alnwick Castle, Northumberland National Park, Kielder Forest and St Abb’s Head were all under an hour’s drive away. Added to this heady mix, was a sweet treat of a visit to a honey farm next door to the site, meaning that our break in this northernmost county of England was truly the “bee’s knees!”
We loved the diversity of Northumberland, and its very friendly people. From jaw dropping coastal views to wild moorlands, massive forests, islands and plenty of castles to keep any historical buff entertained, it seemed to offer everything we needed for an active break. What made our holiday even more special was the space that we felt we had during the entire holiday. According to ONS figures, Northumberland is the least densely populated county in England. Although, busier in several more popular locations such as Bamburgh Castle, the places we visited never felt as busy as other locations which we have visited elsewhere, meaning that we had plenty of opportunity to enjoy time to ourselves and not have to queue up to visit the attractions which we wanted to see.
Why else did we love Northumberland? Here are some highlights and ideas for holidays to this wonderful area of the UK.
Buzzing about the location
We loved the novelty of walking to Scotland every morning, mostly due to the border with England being located across the historic Union Chain Bridge, across the River Tweed, a few minutes’ walk from the site. Built in 1820, it was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world at the time at 137 metres long, (like the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol which was built later). It is currently closed for renovation but it’s due to reopen in 2022.
What’s more, next door to the Touring Park was Chain Bridge Honey Farm, complete with as much bee related skin care, lighting, polishing, edible and gift products as you could imagine! They also have an online store during lockdown which can be found here. The farm itself, houses an observation hive where I have never been so thankful of glass separating me from the thousands of bees living in the colony! The highlight for us though, was the cool cafe on a double decker bus where we enjoyed a honey related cream tea on you guessed it, top deck!
From the beautiful harbour locations of Seahouses and Craster to the wildlife rich Farne Islands, there are enough coastal gems along this stretch of coastline to fill several trips, let alone just one! We were lucky enough with our caravan’s location to be able to reach rugged cliffs, rocky islands and expansive golden beaches within 30 minutes by car.
The Farne Islands, is the name given to the rocky outcrops which were once dangerous to ships but are now one of the largest sanctuaries for seals and seabirds, including puffins, in the UK. They can be reached in the summer season by daily boat trips from Seahouses, a picturesque harbour town. Further north along the coast is the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, an English Heritage site complete with an iconic castle and monastery ruins. It is believed that the priory was built 1,400 years ago and became an influential centre of Christianity due to the influence of St Cuthbert, a bishop of Lindisfarne, and one of the most popular saints in Britain before the Reformation. It was also the scene of a dramatic Viking raid in the 700’s. This beautiful coastal island offers visitors plenty of space for relaxation and exploration and is accessed by a causeway from the mainland at low tide.
Further north of the border with England, and we were into the stunning south east Scottish coastline around Eyemouth and St Abb’s Head. It was here, where we stumbled upon some filming for Marvel’s “Infinity Wars.” The town of St Abb’s, (a.k.a. the “New Asgard” for the purpose of the film), and surrounding countryside it seemed, had been adopted by Hollywood royalty. Had I known that I was close to none other than “Thor,” (Chris Hemsworth), I might have rethought my clothes choice for the day, but despite the excitement of seeing various camera crews and actors from afar, we were not successful in star spotting as we made our way along the jagged and spectacular Berwickshire Coastal Path. However, the beautiful views were awe inspiring enough for me!
From one famous series of films to another…. The Harry Potter film series captured the imaginations of fans throughout the world and Alnwick Castle was the film location for Harry Potter’s “Hogwarts” school. This grand castle is the second largest inhabited castle in the UK and dates from the Norman Conquest. It is a justifiably popular place to visit, but don’t worry, Northumberland boasts 70 different castle sites, so there are plenty to choose from if you prefer to explore without the crowds.
Other wonderful castle options are the lovely Dunstanburgh Castle which is a picturesque walk from nearby Craster, Bamburgh Castle, (famously set against a backdrop of vast sandy beaches and another popular TV and film location), and less well known Prudhoe Castle and Aydon Castle which are both fabulous spots for a picnic after a day out exploring.
In addition to the aforementioned double decker cafe experience, there are plenty of activities different to the norm which you can indulge in as part of your holiday to Northumberland. You could walk on “Northumberlandia” or The Lady of the North on the southernmost tip of Northumberland, a unique piece of public art in the shape of a reclining lady, designed in 2010 by architect and artist Charles Jencks. Alternatively, you can rock climb, swim, scramble and jump along the coast, as part of a coasteering experience, courtesy of Adventure Northumberland. Or you could even try your hand at Segway, canoeing, zip wires or star gazing at the Kielder Observatory in Kielder Water and Forest Park. There is a huge variety of activities for every taste and budget within its 250 square miles. Check out its website for more information.
One of the things which we loved most about our holiday was the fact that that Northumberland and its surrounding countryside is so vast and so varied. You have the stunning AONB coastline to your east and over 1000 square kilometres of National Park incorporating the Cheviot Hills, and beyond that, Kielder Water and Forest to your south and west. If you venture even further north, you have the beautiful Scottish Borders region to explore too. It really felt that it was easy to get away from the crowds and Cherry loved gallivanting on all of our walks across the ever-changing landscape. There are many amazing moorland walks to try on the Northumberland National Park website, as well as the scenic coastline walks of the Northumberland Coast Path. For those, who prefer to explore on 2 wheels, there is a good range of both short and longer routes to discover the coast on a bike on the Northumberland Coast website.
It really does seem that Northumberland has it all!
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