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Day 1: Arrival in the Lake District
Your base for the first three nights is a welcoming country guest house, immaculately presented in the heart of the valley. Your hotel is family run and the owners pride themselves on the most fantastic cuisine. Breakfast is delicious and we thoroughly recommend booking for dinner. There are a variety of walks direct from the door: a gentle stroll or a full day out, whatever the weather. An easy two and a half mile stroll along the river brings you to Grange and the banks of Derwent Water. From here you can walk around the lake shore or take a trip on the Keswick Launch which stops at various points around the lake including Ashness Bridge, the Lodore Falls and Cat Bells. The nearby Honister Slate Mine offers an insight into industrial heritage as well as a challenging Via Ferrata experience for those of an adventurous spirit, climbing to some of the best views in the Lake District.
Day 2: Exploring the Lake District
For a scenic drive take the Honister Pass up and over to Buttermere and Crummock Water and on to Loweswater in the Vale of Lorton. Only a mile long and half a mile wide, this often bypassed lake offers a delightful circular walk. Take the road through Whinlatter Forest on your way to Keswick and back to Borrowdale to complete the circuit. A lengthier drive takes in three rugged mountain passes and will take much of the day but the reward is breath-taking views, reaching places that most visitors fail to find. We’ll provide plenty of recommendations of pretty places to stop for refreshments along the way.
Day 3: Exploring the Cumbrian Coast
Maybe due to its remoteness or perhaps because the Lake District draws the crowds, Cumbria’s coastline offers peace and tranquillity far away from high season hoards. Explore the Georgian port of Whitehaven, the pretty beach resort of St Bees with its important cliff top nature reserve and Ravenglass – from here you could let the train take the strain on a round trip on the little narrow gauge railway through magnificent scenery, pulled by a heritage steam engine.
Find out how your favourite tipple is made – visit the Jennings Brewery near Cockermouth or Keswick Brewery, or the brand new Lakes Distillery, the largest whisky distillery in England!
Day 4: Drive north to the Scottish Borders
Meander further north into Scotland – we suggest taking a cross-country route, perhaps stopping off to visit one of the impressive Borders Abbeys on the way. Your home-from-home for the next two nights is a restaurant-with-rooms, beautifully presented within a grand Edwardian house and featuring lovely views over the Tweed and Tweed Valley. With just six very comfortable rooms, each appointed with the highest-quality furniture and fittings, this is the perfect place to relax and unwind, as well as an ideal base from which to explore the many attractions in this largely undiscovered corner of Scotland.
Day 5: Exploring the Scottish Borders
The surrounding area is filled with great natural beauty, sites of significant historical and geological interest and, off the beaten-track, some spectacular driving roads that are sure to delight the keen driver. Nearby Abbotsford House offers an ideal introduction to the life of the area’s most famous son, Sir Walter Scott. This splendid house, formal gardens and visitor centre contain a treasure trove of intriguing objects and unusual artefacts which inspired Scott’s greatest poems and novels – you could easily spend half a day here, visiting the house and gardens and dallying over lunch in the modern restaurant.
Day 6: Drive south-east into Northumberland
Your hotel is a small but perfectly-formed guest house with garden in the centre of the ancient coaching village of Belford, situated just inland from Holy Island. Your hosts will be happy to advise you on several walks from the village and will assist with return journeys where necessary!
Day 7: Exploring and Boat Trip to the Farne Islands
After a sumptuous breakfast with home made jams, we recommend a coastal tour today. 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.
Just four miles south of Bamburgh you will find the village of Seahouses and the harbour from where you take the 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 also be lucky enough to spot minke whale, dolphins and porpoise which frequent the area.
Day 8: Exploring Holy Island
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 birdlife, 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 atop 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 Benedictine Priory, dating from the 11th century, 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.
Time permitting there is a 4 mile circular walk via the nature reserve and northern beaches for seal spotting and back via the castle. There are several good pubs in the village for refreshment.
Day 9: Drive to Hadrian’s Wall
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. You could seek out the Chillingham Wild Cattle: rarer than the giant panda, this herd of about 100 cattle have lived on the estate for 800 years and are 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.
At the end of the afternoon, journey south and inland. Your base for the next two nights is a most impressive former 12th-century priory, now an award-winning hotel.
Day 10: Hadrian’s Wall
The north-west Roman Frontier for 300 years, the 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, it 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 this spectacular Northumbrian landscape. Along its length you 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. You may wish to explore by car, taking in several sites or choose one location and do a circular walk with a picnic. The main visitor attractions on the Wall are the Roman Army Museum, Vindolanda, where live excavations take place, and Housesteads Fort. Guided tours are also available with knowledgeable local historians – we can easily pre-book this for you.
Day 11: Drive to York
You complete your holiday with a couple of nights in the compact, yet impressive, city of York. Your guest house is a comfortable modern building amid a street of traditional Victorian architecture. The welcome is warm and friendly, with the added bonus of a parking space right by the door. We recommend leaving the car and exploring the narrow streets on foot from here.
Day 12: Exploring York
A good starting point is Clifford’s Tower, a mott & bailey castle built by William the Conqueror to subdue the rebels of the north. From the wall-walk you will enjoy panoramic views across the city and countryside. No tour of York is complete without a visit to the Minster, situated in the centre of the old city, it is one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals. You can even climb the tower, only 275 steps! Medieval York is perfect for wandering, enjoying the multitude of shops and cafes and beautiful architecture. For a more in-depth history you may wish to join a walking tour – there are numerous options available depending on your special interests.
Day 13: Depart for Home
Start in the Lake District, then head to the Scottish Borders. Return to the Northumberland Coast, head inland to Hadrian’s Wall and Kielder, before finishing up in the city of York.
£1150 per person for March & November, £1215 for April & October, £1245 for May to September.
Price is based on two adults sharing a double or twin room for 12 nights on a bed & breakfast basis in our hand-picked selection of small guest houses and four star hotels and includes a boat trip to the Farne Islands.
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.
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.
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This holiday can be arranged from March to November.
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