Northumberland: a remote corner of England with vast, open skies along with miles and miles of horizon and history.
This beautiful county borders bonnie Scotland to the north, Cumbria to the west and County Durham to the south, and is festooned with unforgettable views and some very special glamping spots.
A friend and I travelled to Northumberland from Yorkshire along the fabulous A1 coastal route with the aim of visiting Holy Island along with Lindisfarne Castle and Priory.
Before attempting to cross the causeway that connects Holy Island to the mainland, check the tide times. Holy Island gets completely cut off by the treacherous, powerful North Sea. We made it safely across, knowing there was plenty to explore before being able to make the return traverse.
As the name suggests, Holy Island is a serene place including Lindisfarne Priory, the ‘epicentre’ of Christianity in Anglo Saxon times. Once home to St Oswald, the site is also the birthplace of the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the most precious books in the world.
Now in a ruinous state, the Priory has lost none of its peacefulness and is still a place of pilgrimage today. For walkers of the St Cuthbert’s Way, the island forms the final footrest, where, at last, you can rest your weary feet.
We explored Lindisfarne Castle, part of the National Trust. This elegant yet rugged castle was given a beautiful makeover by renowned architect Edward Lutyens in the early twentieth century. The castle looks down upon delightful gardens, designed by Gertrude Jekyll, who designed over 400 gardens around the world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
This timeless part of Northumberland is just one aspect of this fascinating county. Visit Northumberland, offers a comprehensive look at the county, while This is Northumberland spreads its reach a bit wider, incorporating Newcastle and the Scottish Borders into its remit.
Perhaps not the best known of our National Parks, Northumberland National Park is set in 400 square miles (about one quarter of the county’s overall size) with the lofty Cheviot Hills to the north of it and magnificent Kielder Forest Park to the west. So cyclists and walkers will be in seventh heaven: prior to arranging your visit, cyclists can find lots of information from the Northumberland Tourist Website, while willing walkers can head to Walking Northumberland for a list of easy to difficult routes.
Northumberland is also known for its incredible night skies. As someone who’s been fascinated by all things astronomical since being knee high to a grasshopper, the autumn and winter months are the ideal time of year to wrap up warm, grab your binoculars and head out to see the great northern hemisphere. So, the Dark Sky Park for me is a must, as is the Kielder Observatory.
You can’t mention Northumberland without referring to Hadrian’s Wall a World Heritage Site and testament to those hardy Roman soldiers who no doubt wondered how the ‘natives’ survived such savage weather!
So, what about accommodation? Given the openness and unspoilt beauty of the county, it seems a shame to retire to a hotel room after the day’s exertions, so I would suggest going for ‘camping made comfy’. Not a tent peg in sight, how about trying a Wigwam or two:Waren Mill not far from the iconic Bambrugh Castle; Springhill Farm Wigwams, near the picturesque village of Seahouses; Herding Hill Farm Wigwams, just 10 minutes from Hadrian’s Wall and where star gazing events take place. Rest weary feet at Northside Wigwams, just metres from the Hadrian's Wall trail, the footpath which follows the historic wall; or how about going that bit further north to Pot-A-Doodle-Doo Wigwams, close to Berwick Upon Tweed. Of course there are numerous options if you want to ‘go for the glamp’ so, check out.
And if you think the weather can be a wearisome obstacle to visiting Northumberland, fear not: don’t let the tales of the wild winds, rain and snow put you off this part of the British Isles. I’m a hardy northerner, so it goes without saying that I’m not horrified by the white stuff, the wet stuff or even the windy stuff! Northumberland is well and truly an all-year-round destination with accommodation to match, at which you can sense the seasons and nature ‘in the raw’.