We visited Northumberland over Spring May bank and came back mesmerised by the area. The scenery was stunning, there is so much history across the whole county and a vast amount of wildlife to see and appreciate. There are so many activities available to suit all age ranges from adults to teenagers to families with young children and more importantly to suit everyone’s budgets. There’s literally so much that you will find it hard to decide what to do and what to leave out. The people were lovely and the weather was glorious. Here’s some of the best things to do in the area.
The beaches and coastline in Northumberland are vast, rugged but breathtaking all the same. We stayed in Berwick and the local beach (about 5 minutes drive from the wigwams) was Cockleburn. It was lovely and so peaceful. Given that we there over half term holidays and the sun was out, we were one of a few families out there. The kids had literally the whole beach to themselves. But the number of beaches is so vast that you can easily drive on a little further down the road and you will find another secluded spot. These aren’t the beaches where there will be hoards of people, these are the type of beaches where the children can actually enjoy the sand and go as imaginative as they want without you worried that they would impinge on other people’s areas. We didn’t visit Bamburgh Castle, but the beach around this area is supposed to be really nice too. Its on the list for the next visit. Given that the beaches are so relaxing, you can easily spend a whole day there. But remember, if you are going on a chilly day, its always colder on the coast. The day we arrived was overcast and rainy and it was literally freezing at the beach. We had coats/hats/gloves on and met a couple who were touring the country for 3 months. They told us we still weren’t prepared enough for the weather and to go home before we get ill 🙂
Pond dipping / Rock Pools
Whilst at the beach, there are lots of pond dipping/rock pool areas. The beaches have various rock pools and there are places like Holy Island where you are able to ask the National Trust rangers to provide your youngsters with some equipment. Over May the rangers were running some free sessions so families can have a more in depth experience of the creatures within these rock pools. However, this did not coincide with our visit which was a real shame.
Our Zayn is a little too adventurous and we thought he would be a little bit of a hazard so we didn’t try this. Pond dipping nets are readily found in local shops and were reasonably priced if you fancied giving it a go. One aspect I like about rock pool exploration is that it can be done in rainy weather too. Just remember the waterproofs and the wellies and your good to go.
National Trust (NT) / English Heritage Sites
The North East and the Northumberland area is rife with historical sites. The NT have several fantastic sites including Cragside which was absolutely stunning. The site is HUGE and you cannot see it all in one day. There are beautiful walks, grounds, and setting foot into the area its like your transported far away from England. The trees and woods and extensive and you can easily spend a whole day here without feeling that you have done much of the property at all. There was a science quest on when we visited which was nice as the little adventurers had to find the clues and it kept them energised whilst walking around the grounds. Cragside is often considered to be the jewel in the National Trust’s crown but there are other sites in the area which are worth a visit. Here are more details.
In addition, there are a number of English Heritage sites in the area, the Priory site on Holy Island looked stunning, however, we aren’t members of the English Heritage so didn’t visit (plus there was a likelihood that our adventurers may climb onto some historical monument and break it so we decided to look from afar!). There are loads of other historical sites in the area including Hadrian’s Wall and countless other sites.
One cannot discuss Northumberland and not mention the C world. Castles are everywhere in this area and following the launch of the Harry Potter films, Northumberland’s castles have again been put on the map. Alnwick castle is the setting for the films and is probably the most famous of them now. The castle run great activities like broom lessons for the children and other linked activities to engage with any Potter fans out there. I am an avid Potter fan (and really wanted to visit) but we decided to leave the visit to the castle until the little adventurers had read the books so it would be a fab adventure for us all. However, that is not the only castle of note. Bamburgh Castle is supposed to rival and better Alnwick Castle. The setting of the castle is supposed to breathtaking and from the reviews, it is again another fab day out. We didn’t visit any castles during our stay in Northumberland as our children used to visit Warwick Castle on a weekly basis when we lived there, so we are waiting a while to get the castles back into our days out.
I personally loved the idea of this island and loved telling Maya how you can only access the island at certain times during the day dependent on the tide. So when the tide is in, the island is no longer accessible from the mainland. Apart from the great educational aspects for teaching young children about tides, how they are controlled etc, it also has an element of magic (well it did for me as a 32 year old!). Maya was engrossed and was talking about princesses being kept on the island so no one could find them (she is a Tangled fan!). The drive to Holy Island is not as fun as I thought it would be, but the signs (including the Landrover covered in water) saying you cross at your own risk made me smile. The climb up to Lindisfarne Castle is lovely, we were too late to go inside the castle but it had great views and was a good experience for the little adventurers. I would recommend that you have drinks/snacks with you as all that walking makes for hungry adventurers. Also, pack some coats/jumpers as it can get cold at the top (sorry Raihan!) The walk up to the castle is free as is entry to the grounds. However, entry inside the castle is chargeable but is free for National Trust members. There is one car park on the island which is chargeable to everyone visiting.
When researching about things to do, I came across the Farne Island. The Island sounds fantastic with such an extensive Puffin population but there are lots of other wildlife that can be spotted in and around the island from seals to a huge array of sea birds. We had really considered going and I even researched what was the best tour to take and what it included. However, some reports say as it was breeding season and the birds are very protective and can often land on people’s heads if they are threatened. These sites advised that hats should be worn at all times during the visit. Our youngest has a particular dislike for any type of headgear and I know we would really struggle with this, so given that they are so young we decided against a visit and it will be something we can do when they are all a little older. It does sound like an amazing experience and if you have any animal lovers out there (young and old) it sounds right up your street. One thing that really struck me was the NT Rangers on Farne Island were really passionate about their work and the Island. I was in touch with them a few weeks prior to our visit and they were all very responsive and you can feel their passion for their jobs literally through their tweets. I think it would be fabulous to go and speak to the Rangers as they seem to be a wealth of knowledge!
The northumberland skies are supposedly some of the clearest in the UK if you are in the mood for some star gazing. The Keilder area is the most famous and supposed to truly breathtaking. However, whilst we were there in May it got dark too late for our adventurers and after long, tiring days, by 11pm, both Doc and I were out for the count so didn’t actually manage to do any star gazing. But some of the photos I have seen look truly spectacular… Star Gazing is also on the list for 50 things to do for children and I think it would be awesome to sit and gaze at the night sky with your children.
I am big on getting my children outdoors wherever possible, especially when we are away. There is lots to do outdoors in this area and you will be spoilt for choice to decide what to do, fishing amongst other activities is readily available. We spent our days on the Beach, Paxton House (we didn’t go inside the House but the grounds and the playground area were fantastic), Holy Island and Cragisde. We were in the very north of the county and dependent on where you are, there will be lots of activities to do. We are considering a visit again over October Half term and were looking at the southern part of the County (near Keilder and Hexham)
Fish & chips
You can’t go to the beach and not have some Fish & Chips. Seahorses is apparently the place to go for some lovely fish and chips but we were happy with ours from the local chippy!
When we visited Northumberland we decided to book a wigwam/camping pod instead of staying in a hotel. We had such a great time in these pods and would highly recommend them. Here’s the post about our stay. I think this added to the whole experience of being out in nature and seemed very fitting for the feel that I got of Northumberland. It allowed us to let the children run around in the evenings before bedtime and also let them make friends which is a lot harder when you are in hotel rooms. I always try and look for unique experience and we saw some other fabulous accommodation here are Wild Northumbrian. Maya now wants to stay in a yurt and the accommodation at this place has a glamping feel whilst still retaining a real natural and getting back into the wilderness edge. I would love to stay in these tipis too. The reviews sound great and the owner Rob is great for contacting if you have any questions.
I truly fell in love with Northumberland. As you have gathered I am one of those people who likes to be busy doing things, I was so impressed with the number of options that were available. I keep looking at different places we could visit and the amount of things to do in each area is quite staggering. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to any families out there.
We hope you enjoyed reading, do get in touch if you have any other suggestions. We would to hear from you! 🙂