Why Northumberland? Our top ten . . .
A UNESCO world heritage site, Hadrian's Wall still wow's visitors (building began in AD122) to this day. The Roman fortification is 120km long, with a footpath alongside and the reasons for it being built are still being discussed to this day.
No.2 Holy Island of Lindisfarne
This tidal Island has a remarkable religious history, a violent Viking past and more recently has become a centre for the revival of Celtic Christianity. The twitchers among you will also adore the Lindisfarne Natural Nature Reserve.
No.3 Kielder Water & Forest Park
Kielder is essentially an artificial reservoir and the largest human-developed woodland in Europe. It is a centre for outdoor activities, particularly cycling, watersports and adventure sports.
No.4 Historic House, Castles & Gardens
Northumberland's history can't be summed up easily, but visitors will be cast back hundreds, if not thousands of years by the natural and built attractions throughout the area. Alnwick Castle & Gardens, Vindolanda Roman Army Museum, Housesteads, Belsay Hall and Bamburgh Castle are all popular attractions. Drop into a tourist information centre to pick up local information.
No.5 The Farne Islands
Also with an interesting religious history, the Farne Islands have been home to nearly 300 bird species, as well as around 600 grey seals. There's excellent diving to be had here, but hire a dry suit!
No.6 Cultural & bloody links with the Scottish Borderlands
Over the centuries, the border with Scotland has shifted several times, often meaning the split is more political than cultural. Explore our shared and often violent heritage as you tour the area - just watch for the road-signs.
No.7 Farmers Markets
For high quality, local produce with no airmiles at all, get yourself down to a local farmers market. The people are down-to-earth, you'll find some great bargains and the atmosphere can be outstanding.
No.8 Walking, Cycling, Fishing, Golf, Bird-watching & Horse Riding
With scenery like this, you'd be mad not to partake in at least one outdoor activity whilst you're here. Hire a mountain bike, source a local walking guide or try something completely new. Don't forget your camera!
No.9 Agricultural Events & Local Festivals
Historic events, seasonal festivals, music and culture are on display year-round in Northumberland. When you know you're coming, search to see what's on and get a true taste of our heritage and roots.
No.10 A Warm Welcome
It's not just at your accommodation that you'll find a genuine, warm welcome; you'll find local people in restaurants, pubs and at the markets will be happy to offer advice and their local knowledge to help you in any way they can.
Top 10 recommended Attractions to visit:
1. Hadrian's Wall (English Heritage)
Covering 73 miles of the North East and North West of England, this celebrated World Heritage Site is the best known frontier in the Roman Empire. Walk along the wall and discover 2000 years of history at English Heritage's many forts, museums and remains of thriving Roman towns. Places to visit along the wall include: Birdoswald Roman Fort, Chesters Roman Fort and Museum, Corbridge Roman Town, Carlisle Castle, Lanercost Priory and Housesteads Roman Fort.
2. Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum, Bardon Mill
The ancient site of Vindolanda will give you a fantastic insight into what Roman life in Northumberland was actually like. Built in AD 85, some four decades before the construction of Hadrian's Wall, it was occupied for over 400 years, with an estimated 10 forts being built on the site during this time. Today you can see remains of the forts, including bath houses and temples and examine the treasured Writing Tablets, voted Britain's ‘top treasure'. Like postcards from the past, the Vindolanda Writing Tablets give a compelling and fascinating insight into the private and military lives of people living and working at Vindolanda nearly 2000 years ago. The recently fully refurbished museum provides a breathtaking exploration of the Vindolanda Trust's ongoing discoveries and accounts of Roman life. Just down the road next to Walltown Crags, stands the exhilarating Roman Army Museum, where you can see Emperor Hadrian's astonishing Military vision brought to life with reconstructions, life sized figures, Roman objects, films and much more. For a real taste of Roman life on Hadrian's Wall, both these attractions are a must see.
3. Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery is Carlisle's finest visitor attraction, and houses considerable collections of fine and decorative art, human history and natural sciences. It also boasts a wide range of exhibitions and events, brought together in one impressive museum and art gallery. In the main displays we will take you on a journey through the ages, from the present day back to the Romans and before. You will also encounter Wildlife of the Eden valley (set under a changing audio-visual ceiling display) and local history over the past century in the new Carlisle Life Gallery. Set in attractive and well-planted gardens, Old Tullie House (1689) still retains its beautiful Jacobean facade. The award-winning family-friendly restaurant serves a variety of snacks and meals, while the Tullie House gift shop is the perfect place to find unique gifts and souvenirs, featuring locally crafted goods. There is something for everyone at Tullie House, so if you are visiting Carlisle for the day, why not pop in?
4. Kielder Water and Forest Park
Home to northern Europe's largest man-made lake and England's largest forest, Kielder is perfect for families or individuals who love nature, water sports, exploring, walking, cycling and much more. Featuring mile upon mile of purpose-built trails including forest walks and dedicated mountain bike tracks, the Lakeside Way is a 26 mile multi-user trail, suitable for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and wheelchair users, encircling the shoreline of Kielder Water. A haven for wildlife, Kielder s also home to around 50% of England's native red squirrel population. In 2009 three chicks were born to a record breaking osprey couple - the first birds for at least 200 years to successfully raise chicks in Northumberland. So far they have returned to breed every year since. You can also spot otters, roe deer, badgers and bats. Waterskiing and sailing enthusiasts take to the water all year round and the lake offers a huge challenge to keen trout anglers between March and October. You can discover all you need to know about Kielder Water & Forest Park including its history at Tower Knowe Visitor Centre or visit Kielder Castle, the former hunting lodge for the Duke of Northumberland, which now hosts a visitor centre, art gallery and exhibitions. Or explore the darkest and most unpolluted skies from the Kielder Observatory. Leaplish Waterside Park has an indoor heated swimming pool and sauna, restaurant and bar and is home to the Kielder Water Birds of Prey Centre. Visitors are spoilt for choice at Kielder, in what the Campaign to Protect Rural England calls the most tranquil spot in the country.
5. Wallington House and Gardens
Dating from 1688, Wallington was home to many generations of Blackett and Trevelyan families, who all left their mark. The result is an impressive yet friendly house with a magnificent interior and fine collections. The remarkable Pre-Raphaelite central hall was decorated to look like an Italian courtyard and features a series of paintings of Northumbrian history by William Bell Scott. The formality of the house is offset by the tranquil beauty of the surrounding landscape - with lawns, lakes, parkland and woodland. There is an adventure trail for children and the beautiful walled garden, with its varied plant collection and charming conservatory, is an enchanting must-see. Facilities include an adventure playground, gift shop, cafe and farm shop and there is a year-round programme of events including open-air theatre, food and craft festival, guided walks, music, dancing and hands-on activities. Dogs on leads are welcome but in the grounds and walled garden only.
6. Cragside House and Gardens
Built on a rocky crag high above Debdon Burn near Rothbury, Cragside was described in 1880 as ‘A palace of the modern magician'. The family home of Lord Armstrong, Victorian inventor and industrialist, Cragside was the first building in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. A walk around this National Trust property reveals a wealth of ingenious gadgetry including fire alarm buttons, telephones, a passenger lift and a Turkish bath suite. The grounds of the Cragside Estate offer up a host of activities that will keep you and your family busy, with more than 30 miles of footpaths and lakeside walks. Armstrong constructed 5 lakes, one of Europe's largest rock gardens, and planted over 7 million trees and shrubs. Today this magnificent estate can be explored on foot or by car and provides one of the last shelters for the endangered red squirrel. Children will love the tall trees, tumbling streams, adventure play area and labyrinth.
7. Hexham Abbey
Founded by St Wilfrid in AD 674, the original church was constructed of stones taken from Hadrian's Wall. Much of the present Hexham Abbey dates to the 12th century when Wilfrid's abbey was replaced by an Augustinary priory. It is known for several important historical artefacts, including Saint Wilfrid's chair, which was reputedly used as the coronation seat for the kings of Northumbria, and the 'Midnight Stair', used by the canon to reach his dormitory. Since the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537 the Abbey has been the parish church of Hexham and forms the centrepiece of the town. The Abbey grounds feature monastic ruins and recreational facilities and visitors are very welcome. The Abbey shop sells some wonderful gifts and audio cd's. Fronted by the ancient Market Place, Hexham Abbey's wealth of history and spectacular architecture make it a ‘must see' if visiting Hexham.
8. Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden
Two separate attractions in the historic town of Alnwick which make for a magical day out. Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in England, and has been home to the Duke of Northumberland's family, the Percys, for 700 years. Nicknamed 'The Windsor of the North', Alnwick Castle's unique history features kingmakers, rebels, a gunpowder-plotter and passionate collectors, as well as Harry Hotspur, the most famous of all Percys. More recently Alnwick castle played home to Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter films. A day at the Castle is fun for everyone. You can view the collection of fine art and china, and visit the lavish State Rooms with a stunning array of art and furniture collected over the years by the Percy family. There are hands-on fun and games for the younger members of the family: dress as a Knight or Lady of the Realm and follow in the footsteps of Alnwick's most famous battling son, Harry Hotspur. Learn some of his fighting skills and put them to good use in accepting the challenge to defeat the dreaded monster in Dragon's Quest. Exit the Castle through a gate in the wall and you will enter The Alnwick Garden; a vibrant place, with beautifully landscaped gardens, magnificent architecture and unique features, all brought to life with water. The Garden's centrepiece is the Grand Cascade, an iconic structure and the largest water feature of its kind in the country. Inviting pathways lead among beds brimming with plants in the Rose and Ornamental Gardens, while in the intriguing Poison Garden guides share tales of deadly plants. The Serpent Garden is home to water sculptures by William Pye, and there's also the Bamboo Labyrinth and even one of the world's largest tree houses. It has wobbly rope bridges, walkways in the sky and a treetop restaurant.
9. Bamburgh Castle
Standing high on a basalt outcrop, overlooking the North Sea, Bamburgh Castle is one of the most impressive looking castles in England. Its battlements offer views of Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island, the Farne Islands and the Cheviot Hills. Home to the Kings of Northumbria this magnificent coastal castle has a history of occupation dating back to the 1st century BC. In 1464, during the Wars of the Roses, Bamburgh became the first castle to succumb to cannon fire, suffering heavy damage. The present fortress is the result of restoration and expansion over the centuries, and today, Bamburgh Castle is home of the Armstrong family. Housing collections of china, porcelain, furniture, paintings, arms and armour, the building is all in use and maintains a welcoming lived-in atmosphere. With public tours passing through the Museum Room, Grand Kings Hall, Cross Hall, Armoury and the Victorian Scullery, visitors are able to enjoy a great day out at Bamburgh Castle. Refreshments are available in the Clock Tower Tea Rooms, specialising in Northumberland produce and offering range of delicious home cooked meals and light snacks.
10. Haughton Hall Garden Centre
Fancy some retail therapy? Houghton Hall is the North West's largest and premier garden centre, hosting a selection of core gardening ranges and a clothing shop with unrivalled quality outdoor leisure wear. The outdoor plant area has been created from the original walled kitchen garden of Houghton Hall and is the perfect setting for choosing plants. The gift shop is a veritable treasure chest with an array of contemporary, design-led cards and gifts inspired by the latest trends. The Laird's Larder Food Hall offers the finest quality local and regional foods; produce from the Laird's Larder can be tasted within the Topiary Coffee Shop - renowned for its fresh cream cakes - the perfect way to finish off your visit.