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Explore Northumberland, the most northerly and sparsely populated county of England, and for many a best-kept secret.
Northumberland has all you could wish for and more – spectacular scenery and wildlife, a stunning coastline, empty roads, friendly people, superb food and peace and quiet. Its past, however, is far from peaceful and its turbulent history is evident throughout the county: the Romans, the Vikings and the Border Reivers have all left their mark and the countryside is dotted with strategically placed castles, more than any other county in England. It is also known as the “Cradle of Christianity” due to its many significant religious sites. But it’s not only the past we can learn from in Northumberland. Future space exploration will be helped by the exciting programme of stargazing events on offer throughout the year. Rural Northumberland has recently been designated International Dark Sky Park gold status and is the largest protected dark sky area in Europe. This road trip encapsulates some of the region’s highlights over a leisurely week of travel.
Based in a picturesque village, your hotel is an excellent location from which to explore the National Park with Hadrian’s Wall and Kielder Water both within a half-hour drive.
Your hotel in Northumberland
The hotel is a traditional inn with beautiful gardens and superb locally sourced cuisine. Your hosts will extend you a very warm welcome and will be delighted to show you the extensive kitchen garden, a source of much produce for the restaurant. Your stay includes a Dark Sky Experience, exploring distant stars and galaxies, in the hotel’s on-site observatory.
Your holiday includes a full-day guided walk with a local historian who will bring the fascinating history of Hadrian’s Wall to life. Forming the North West Roman Frontier for 300 years, Hadrian’s Wall stretches 80 Roman miles (73 modern miles) from the Solway Firth to the North Sea. Completed in AD128 to defend the Roman Empire against the Picts, the Wall consists of a continuous line of defence with vallum ditch, mile castles, turrets, forts, temples and civilian settlements from the cities of Carlisle in the west to Newcastle in the east. It sits majestically on top of the Whin Sill, an ancient layer of igneous rock, and provides countless opportunities for stunning walks amid the spectacular Northumbrian landscape. Along with its length, visitors can choose to visit the Roman settlements of which there are many or simply enjoy the views and imagine what life must have been like for the Roman foot soldiers standing guard in the bleak mid-winter! The main visitor attractions on the Wall are the Roman Army Museum, Vindolanda where live excavations take place and Housesteads Fort.
An area of superlatives! Kielder boasts the biggest man-made lake in Northern Europe, which provides water for the whole of the North East population, the largest working forest in England and is in the heart of one of the largest Dark Sky Parks in the world. A day at Kielder can be as active or inactive as you like. Thanks to an award-winning programme, Kielder Water & Forest Park has become the largest open air space in the UK to experience art and architecture: explore one of the many trails that wind through this open-air gallery. The Kielder Observatory buildings can be visited during the day for spectacular views across the forest and lake. Dark Sky events run all year round and the inspirational astronomers will take you on a journey beyond the stars, creating wonder for both absolute beginners and visiting astrophysicists alike. If it’s tranquillity that you seek then it’s very easy to find: with 600 square kilometres of forest and 27 miles of shoreline on offer, there is always a secluded spot with your name on it. Sit back, relax and enjoy the abundant fauna and flora including roe deer, otters, shrews, seven species of bat, badgers, many woodland birds, birds of prey and even wild goats! Kielder is home to 60% of native red squirrels in England and has a growing osprey population.
Today, make the drive to your next base on the Northumberland Coast. On arrival, there are ample things to do. Depending on the tide times, we suggest spending today visiting Holy Island of Lindisfarne. This tidal islet is not only a site of special Christian significance but also a stunningly beautiful place to explore with abundant bird life, pristine dunes and charming village community. The drive across the causeway is exhilarating if the tide has only just turned as the sea may still cover the road. The 16th-century castle sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the harbour with its upturned boat sheds and gives a marvellous view across the sea to Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands a few miles to the south. The dramatic ruins of the 11th-century Benedictine Priory lie at the edge of the village. This is where the world-famous Lindisfarne Gospels were created, probably England’s most valuable and treasured books. An interactive facsimile is on display in the museum.
Your accommodation in Seahouses
Your next base is a small, but perfectly formed, guest house on the main street in Seahouses, just a few minutes’ walk from the harbour. Your hosts will be happy to advise you on several walks from the village to make the most of your stay.
No trip to Northumberland is complete without a visit to Bamburgh Castle, one of the most magnificent sites in the whole of England. It is frequently the star of major TV and film dramas, most recently welcoming Michael Fassbender as Macbeth. Standing proud on the edge of the Whin Sill (the very same volcanic rock that Hadrian’s Wall sits upon) Bamburgh Castle dominates the skyline for miles around. The small village beneath it is quintessentially English with a cricket pitch just below the castle walls and a path through the dunes to one of Northumberland’s finest beaches. Find mile upon mile of fine white sand and usually only a few dog walkers for company.
Seahouses is the departure point for your boat to the Farne Islands, one of the UK’s most spectacular wildlife habitats. The Farnes consist of 30 islands and are home to many species including puffin, eider, razorbill, guillemot, shag, kittiwake and fulmar plus a large colony of grey seals. You may even be lucky enough to spot minke whales, dolphins and porpoises that frequent the area.
Head inland today to sample life in the Cheviot Hills. It’s a stunning area simply to drive around and enjoy the view but there is so much to see and do. Here you may wish to visit the horned white cattle, rarer than the giant panda and said to be the only survivors of the wild herds which once roamed Britain’s forests. You may also choose to visit Chillingham Castle, reputed to be one of England’s most haunted. A few miles further north lies the family-owned estate of Ford & Etal which has some remarkable hidden corners. History enthusiasts may wish to visit the Flodden Battlefield. It’s hard to imagine the bloodiest battle in Britain’s history took place in this peaceful field 500 years ago; the detailed visitor information boards will help you picture the terrible scene. This remote part of Northumberland was a prehistoric stronghold with a high concentration of standing stones and hill forts: look out for Bronze age cup and ring markings on stones and boulders.
Time to say goodbye to the beauty of Northumberland as you embark on your onward journey home.
Your week’s stay in Northumberland takes in two distinct areas: the first three days are spent deep in the heart of the National Park with time to enjoy Kielder Water & Forest and the Unesco World Heritage site of Hadrian’s Wall. The second half of the week will be based at the Coast in Northumberland’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with easy access to Holy Island, the Farne Islands and the Cheviot Hills.
£795 per person for March, £815 per person for April & October, £835 per person for May to September.
Price is based on two adults sharing a double or twin room for 6 nights in our hand-picked selection of small hotels and inns, on a bed & breakfast basis. The holiday includes an evening Dark Skies observatory experience, a full day guided walking tour of Hadrian’s Wall, as part of a small group, and boat trip to the Farne Islands (seasonally until the end of September).
Car rental is not included, but we would be delighted to help with this any other travel arrangements.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions, recommended routes, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
All itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
Please note that the above pricing does not include stays over Christmas or New Year. If you are interested in taking this holiday across those dates, please get in touch for a bespoke quote.
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This holiday can be arranged from April to October.
Availability is individually checked for a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses and other independent businesses, so please bear with us and we will respond in 1-2 working days.
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All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.
We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.
I may be a little biased as I have lived in Northern England all my life, but I have truly enjoyed researching holidays for McKinlay Kidd on my own st...
Well organised to meet our requirements, and very informative as usual. Our favourite memory is the boat trip to the Farne Islands.Jean & Michael, Bedford, England