April called. She said to pack your bags.
Spring is on the way, and it’s a wonderful time to celebrate the picture-perfect beauty of our island’s coast and countryside and the reopening of many of our favourite local attractions. Bring on the longer, warmer days, nature’s colourful displays and put Northumberland on your ‘to-visit’ list for April.
And our two rural boltholes Eshott Hall and Doxford Hall are perfect to relax after a day’s sightseeing and to enjoy warm hospitality and award-winning cuisine.
Here’s our round-up of suggested activities when staying in Northumberland.
Famously home to 55,000+ pairs of puffins and an array of other seabirds, the Farne Islands offer one of the best wildlife experiences in the UK – they’re a firm favourite of Sir David Attenborough’s. Did you spot The Farne Islands in his latest Wild Isles series?
April is an exciting time to visit the islands. The first puffins arrive, eider ducks return and many other seabirds including sandwich terns, razorbills, guillemots, and kittiwakes start to make an appearance. From your boat you’ll be able to spot shags, cormorants, and grey seals. The puffins will also be parading, pairing up and displaying dominant or submissive behaviour; the shags with their beautiful breeding crests looking like dragon-punk hybrids.
The islands also have the largest breeding colony of grey seals in England and you’ll often see them hauled up on the rocks or bobbing in the sea. You can park in Seahouses and take a boat -we recommend Billy Shiels Tours – to get up close to the action!
Heritage & History
Alnwick Castle, home to the Duke of Northumberland, reopens on 31st March, after their annual winter closure and it’s always deservedly at the top of our ‘to-visit’ list.
Made famous as the film set for Harry Potter and Downton Abbey, it’s popular with young and old alike. Tour the castle, taking in the State Rooms and collections of fine art – or try your hand at broomstick training and the Dragon’s Quest.
After pottering around the castle, spend time getting to know Alnwick and its pretty cobbled streets and remarkable architecture. No visit to Alnwick is complete without a stop at Barter Books, housed within the town’s old Victorian railway station. Here you’ll find one of the biggest collections of antiquarian books in the UK as well as a model railway, a station buffet and a children’s room.
Dunstanburgh Castle. The ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle tower over the Northumberland coastline on a remote headland, reached by a stunning 1.5-mile coastal walk from Craster. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the most photographed sites in the county. The Castle was built on the most magnificent scale and rivalled any castle of its day. Today visitors can explore the great gatehouse and the imposing Lilburn Tower, which commands stunning views north towards Bamburgh Castle. Entry is free to National Trust and English Heritage members and dogs are welcome on leads.
Parking is at Craster, home to the famous smoked kippers, some lovely art galleries and a choice of dog friendly pubs.
Lindisfarne Island (Holy Island), Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Just a few miles off the Northumberland coast, Lindisfarne Island is a must-see destination. Although cut off twice a day from the rest of the world by fast-moving tides, you can drive, walk or cycle over the dramatic causeway to Holy Island (after checking the safe crossing times). The epicentre of Christianity in Anglo Saxon times, the Lindisfarne Priory is one of the region’s most revered treasures and the island remains a place of pilgrimage today. Although dogs aren’t allowed in the 16th century Lindisfarne Castle itself, staff will watch them while you browse the rooms and artefacts. You can walk all the way around the castle, spend time in the Lindisfarne Museum and potter around the pretty village. The Lindisfarne Nature Reserve is home to rare plants and an exciting array of wildlife. You’ll often see seals hauled up on the sand as well as puffins and dolphins.
Bamburgh Castle, Bamburgh
Standing 150 feet above the sea, the magnificent Bamburgh Castle is an icon of the Northumberland shoreline and has been the film set for many blockbusters. Set amid sand dunes bursting with wildflowers and with views out to the Farne Islands, it’s a location that’s hard to beat. The castle is full of myth, legend and over 1,400 years of history to explore. Although dogs aren’t permitted in the castle’s fine state rooms or the Clock Tower Tea Room, dogs are welcome inside the castle grounds, Armstrong & Aviation Museum, Tack Room Café and Victorian Stables.
After your visit we thoroughly recommend a walk along the wide sandy beach from Bamburgh to Seahouses (3 miles in one direction). With grassy dunes to one side and far-reaching views to the Farne Islands on the other, it’s a gem of a beach walk. But do wrap up warm – whatever the season!
Cragside Estate, Rothbury
Located just a mile or so outside of Rothbury is Cragside Estate, original family home of Lord Armstrong, Victorian inventor and industrialist, and the birthplace of green energy. The first building to be lit by hydroelectricity is now a National Trust property offering a truly awe-inspiring day out. Inside the main house you’ll find wonderful works of art and paintings, one of the first hydraulic lifts in the world and an impressive ten-ton marble fireplace in the Drawing Room that was ingeniously built into the crag-side itself to support its immense weight. Aside from the main house itself, there are over 30 miles of paths to explore and a magnificent display of rhododendrons and azaleas. The gardens are at their most spectacular in late spring when literally tens of thousands of rhododendrons are in full bloom.
There is also a fantastic Adventure Play Area and labyrinth for children. Dogs are welcome on to the estate but must be kept on a lead at all times. Dogs aren’t allowed in the National Trust Shop, the cafe or the toilets but there are plenty of picnic areas as well as outside seating for the café.
This magnificent Northumberland fortress crowns the hilltop above the River Coquet. From the almost intact 600-year old keep to the lavish gold-patterned leather-lined walls of the Dukes Room there’s plenty to keep you occupied, if you’ll excuse the pun. Walk half a mile up river to find the Hermitage, a religious building carved out of the rock, and return by boat to the castle. The castle and hermitage are closed for part of the year; please check their website for details.
With some 200 miles of scenic, and relatively flat cycling, the Coast and Castles cycle route hugs the coastline from Newcastle to Berwick-upon-Tweed and offers a great way to get up close to many of the famous natural and historic sites of Northumberland.
A cycling tourist’s dream, this route passes through areas of outstanding natural beauty, world-famous landmarks such as Lindisfarne Castle/ Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle with history at every turn.
The best way to explore Northumberland is on foot and you’ll likely get up close to some wonderful native wildlife while you walk. If you’re heading to the coast, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Think wide sandy beaches, often with only a handful of dog walkers for company, interspersed with mighty castles and seaside villages offering local delicacies.
Inland, the walks are no less stunning. The Northumberland National Park which takes in the uplands of the Cheviot Hills and the dramatic landscapes of the border valleys to the Scottish border, is blessed with some of the finest scenery the UK has to offer. You’ll find plenty of trails to suit those wanting a strenuous hike as well as those wanting something a little more sedate.
Northumberland is a pooch paradise, and you’ll find no shortage of dog friendly sandy beaches (30 in fact) to explore as well as plenty of attractions you can visit with your canine companion in tow.
Beadnell Beach, NE67 5BN
Golden sands running along a wide, horseshoe-shaped bay, backed by grassy dunes – just perfect for a bracing coastal walk with your dog at any time of year. Please note there are some seasonal restrictions in Beadnell Bay during bird breeding season when dogs must be kept on a lead or at heel. You’ll find a pay-and-display car park on the outskirts of the village, with access to the beach via a slipway. There are also public toilets here and variety of shops in Beadnell itself.
Embleton Bay, NE66 3XQ
A natural beauty. Fine golden sand, big skies and with the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle in view this beach doesn’t disappoint. It was voted Best Beach in the UK by BBC Countryfile Magazine’s readers. Park in the village of Low Newton, where you’ll find a couple of shops and a pub and walk towards Craster for a decent leg stretch.
Seahouses, NE68 7SU
A vast stretch of sandy beach with low grassy dunes to one side and far reaching views to the Farne Islands on the other. Popular with dog walkers and wildlife spotters alike courtesy of the UK’s largest colony of grey seals, puffins and other native sea birds seen from the Farne Islands. You’ll find plenty of shops, eateries and other amenities in the town of Seahouses.
Craster Beach, NE66 3TR
Home to the famous smoked kippers, some lovely art galleries and the starting (or finishing) point for some fabulous coastal walks with your dog. You’ll find a small, sandy beach within the harbour with shingle beaches on either side. Head north to Low Newton across National Trust land to the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, one of the most photographed sites in the county and named as one of the top ten walks in the whole of the UK. Toilets and a pay and display car park are located behind the Tourist Office.
Bamburgh Beach, NE69 7DF
A pristine, and often wind-swept, sandy beach with arguably the most iconic backdrop of all Northumberland’s beaches: the majestic Bamburgh Castle. Sand dunes offering a diverse mix of flora and fauna, interesting rock pools and views out to the Inner Farne Islands: this beach has it all. But do wrap up warm whatever the season!
Alnmouth Beach, NE66 2RW
A wide, sandy beach that is seldom busy (and very often empty) where dogs are free to run, unrestricted, year-round. The village of Alnmouth offers a small selection of pubs and shops.
As England’s last great wilderness Northumberland boasts an incredibly diverse array of wildlife and landscapes. From the puffins and grey seals of The Farne Islands to the wild cattle at Chillingham and the rare wild goats in the Cheviots you’ll be astounded by our local nature. The Northumberland National Park is the least populated of all the UK’s national parks making it a perfect place to see nature at its best.