Days out from Eshott this Autumn & Winter
Northumberland: where wonderful walks and stunning scenery are a given whatever the season. As winter approaches we crave the simple pleasures of a bracing frost-nipped walk, returning to a crackling fire and top-notch food. When it comes to walks we’re blessed with choices – seemingly endless blustery coastal routes and moorland stomps. We recommend visiting Northumberland National Park’s website for their extensive list of route suggestions. But this being Britain, it’s always good to have a plan B for the days when you need to sit out the weather. So, we’ve pulled together a list of some of our favourite haunts to keep you entertained, come rain or shine.
There aren’t many Northumbrian itineraries that don’t include this beauty for it really is a sight to behold – even in deepest darkest winter. The third most visited public garden in the UK is well worth seeing in the autumn and winter months when the swarms of summer visitors have cleared, and the gardens burst with the vibrant reds and oranges of the season. Open daily, there are 26 acres to explore, home to some 4,000 varieties of plants- including a few deadly and dangerous ones in the securely guarded Poison Garden. Head to the gardens between 13th November and 7th January 2024 and you can experience the Winter Light Trail through magical illuminated gardens. Guaranteed to give you all the Christmas feels. Tickets must be bought in advance and are likely to sell out quickly.
After pottering around the gardens, spend time getting to know Alnwick and its pretty cobbled streets and remarkable architecture. Housed within the town’s old Victorian railway station, you’ll find Barter Books. Containing one of the biggest collections of antiquarian books in the UK, a model railway and a station buffet it’s easy to see why its appeal isn’t limited to bookworms. With real fires in the winter, it’s a great spot to hole up and find a cosy corner to escape for a while.
Wallington Hall and Gardens
A belter of a National Trust property, Wallington Hall, near Morpeth, sits in 13,500 acres ‘surrounded by an informal landscape of lawns, lakes, woodland, parkland and farmland’. Step inside and explore handsome rooms that are home to treasured collections of ceramics and books and ornate furniture. Highlights include the Central Hall where eight vast pre-Raphaelite wall paintings showcase the story of Northumberland, capturing 2,000 years of local history, and the dolls’ house room celebrating life in miniature. Then lose yourself in the grounds – the hidden walled garden tucked away in the woods, the wildlife hide for spying resident red squirrels and birdlife as well as several well maintained walking paths perfect for nature spotting. Of course, there’s also the obligatory gift shop and café offering a good selection of warming treats.
Cragside House, Gardens & Estate
The original family home of Lord Armstrong, Victorian inventor and industrialist and the birthplace of green energy Cragside House offers an awe-inspiring day out. The first building to be lit by hydroelectricity is now a National Trust property. From the ingenious gadgetry in the main house including fire alarm buttons, telephones and a passenger lift to the estate itself with more than 30 miles of paths, lakeside walks, play areas and a Trim Trail, it’s a much-loved day out. Entry is free of charge to National Trust members.
Twice besieged during the War of the Roses, Dunstanburgh stands in romantic ruin on a remote headland a short walk from the fishing village of Craster. During the winter months the castle ruins are open only at weekends, but if you’re visiting the area midweek during low season you’ll still be able to get close enough to see the castle – built on an impractically massive scale – to understand what an imposing structure it once was. Despite being heavily ruined, the sight is of great architectural and historical significance, and it is the largest in Northumberland – though it’s most definitely not a ‘stay dry on a rainy day’ option due to said ruins. It does however offer a fabulous there and back walking route from the small sandy beach in Craster harbour across National Trust land towards Low Newton and is one of the most photographed sites in the county.
The magnificent fortress set amid sand dunes with views out to the Farne Islands is one of the county’s finest and most famed castle and well worth a visit. The castle regrettably closes for general admission between 5th November and mid-February; however, this is for good reason. From 11th November to 7th January, the castle plays host to The Christmas Kingdom and sees its state rooms transformed under a sea of fairy dust and fantastical creatures in a festive inspired retelling of Northumberland’s myths and legends. The Christmas Kingdom is free with general admission and promises to be a dazzling festive experience.
Grace Darling Museum
Bamburgh is always on our list of recommended places to visit in the area. The majestic castle, the vast sandy beach and views to the Farne Islands, often peppered with puffins make it a must-see, year-round. But don’t visit without a detour to the Grace Darling Museum. RNLI run, the museum is a treasure trove of letters, personal items and stories about Victorian Britain’s greatest heroine and the famous coble used in the rescue. Admission is free, open daily except Saturdays.
A Wee Dram
New for 2023, Ad Gefrin is an Anglo-Saxon Museum and English whisky distillery in Wooler that breathes life into the stories of the area’s forgotten kings and queens and shows off the unique heritage, arts and produce of the county. Just under five miles from the archaeological site of Gefrin where Anglo Saxon kings Edwin, Oswald and Oswiu held court, the museum shines a light on the history of the area and the Royal Court. The distillery, the first to open in Northumberland for 200 years, offers superb tours and tastings as well as a very good on-site bistro. This is a must for all history buffs as well as those who like a wee dram or a cracking cheese scone!
Just a few miles off the Northumberland coast, Lindisfarne Island is a must-see destination cut off twice a day from the rest of the world by fast-moving tides. Drive, walk or cycle over the dramatic causeway to Holy Island (after checking the safe crossing times) to what was the epicentre of Christianity in Anglo Saxon times. During the winter months you’ll likely experience a real sense of the wild on the island – layer up and prepare for gusty winds – but there are plenty of places to take refuge during inclement weather. Visit the 16th century Lindisfarne Castle and browse the rooms and artefacts, spend time in the Lindisfarne Museum and potter around the pretty village – we’d recommend hunkering down in front of a fire in one of the village’s many pubs or cafés to watch the North Sea waves crashing in against the shoreline. And don’t leave the island without stopping at St Aidan’s Winery and sampling some of the island’s mead!
2023 marks the tenth anniversary of England’s first and largest international Dark Sky Park right here in Northumberland and there are a number of events planned over the winter months to celebrate this gold tier designation. There are now five observatories in Northumberland, including the multi award-winning Kielder Observatory, but even if you’re not planning to get involved in an organised event you can still experience the wonder of our dark skies with very little in the way of technical equipment. Eshott Hall has been accredited as a Dark Sky Friendly business and we offer a Stargazer Package with everything you need to get you started.