Located on the south banks of the River Tyne, Hexham is an attractive riverside town rich in history, dating back to the 1300s. It is your typical idyllic English town displaying a network of pretty streets scattered with galleries, coffee shops, boutiques and bistros.
With our lovely collection of self-catering holiday cottages, you can enjoy a brilliant base from which to explore and spend some time in this pretty Northumberland town. Set west of Newcastle and on the edge of Kielder Forest Park, you have the best of both worlds when staying here, easily nipping into the big city or escaping into the wilderness when you need to. Read on to find out all about Hexham and what there is to do and see in the area.
What to do and see in Hexham
This abbey is one of the earliest seats of Christianity in England and it has witnessed many periods of turmoil and change. It was originally built in AD 674 but was developed in the 12th century to the structure it is today, with small additions being added subtly over time.
- The stained-glass windows are to be admired, four of which are the work of the Jersey-born artist Henry Thomas Bosdet. The first window was installed in 1907.
- There is a stone crypt which was built by Roman workmanship and consist of a chapel, two side passages, vestibules, and stairways. Many of the stones used to build it are carved or show inscriptions which will fascinate any history buff!
- There is a café, shop and story exhibition, so you can take your time to learn all about the abbey and grab a refreshment whenever you need.
Hadrian’s Wall is one of the largest historical remnants of Roman life in Northern Europe and it stretches 80 Roman miles from coast to coast, bringing in tourists from all over the world to admire its impressive structure. Although the wall no longer stands as high as it once did, there are still sections which are well preserved and intact, and some people like to walk the whole wall, discovering ancient forts and signs of history along the way.
- The wall was built to create a border between the Romans and the Pictish tribes in Scotland. It allowed the Romans to control who was crossing in and out of their land.
- Emperor Hadrian ordered his army to build the wall following a visit to England in 122AD. It was built by Roman masons and the auxiliary soldiers were on hand to help with the transportation of supplies.
- The wall is 73 miles long and people have been known to walk the length of the wall in six or seven days – a week well spent!
You can read more about Hadrian's Wall in our helpful guide which will help you plan your next visit to Hexham.
Northumberland National Park
Visitors come from far and wide to experience the peaceful pace of Northumberland and one of its biggest attractions is the National Park which is a big network of woodland, rivers and hills, covering 400 square miles, making this one of England’s biggest outdoor adventure playgrounds.
The park offers up a huge variety of things to do which can cater to the needs of lots of different interests. Whether you are into walking, gorge walking, horse riding, sightseeing, cycling or adventure activities, this is the place to spend your time. Throughout the park there are activity centres, equipment hire companies and businesses looking to make your stay as memorable as possible.
Read all about it in our guide to Northumberland National Park.
Chesters Roman Fort
Just outside Hexham lies this Roman fort which gives you a great insight into what life was like at one of the Roman Empire’s most northern outposts. It is the most complete cavalry fort in Britain which still has preserved officer’s quarters, baths and even a steam room – very different to the steam rooms we are spoilt with today!
The museum is a nice place to revisit history in peace; it might be a good idea to do this bit with the kids after they have taken on the takeover trail – an arranged activity for the youngsters to try some cavalry role play! Here you will find ancient artefacts relating to the period, including examples of Roman homeware, tools, clothing, and ancient armoury. You can read information on how the forts were constructed and laid out, and the history behind Chesters Fort.
Fascinating fact: Chesters Roman Fort housed a garrison of 5 cavalry troops here for about 300 years!
Hexham Old Gaol
This is a great museum in the historic Tyne Valley that lets you delve into the past and find out what life was really like for prisoners in the 1300s. It is the earliest purpose-built prison in England, having been built in 1333 using stone from the Corebridge Roman site just 3 miles away.
Find out all about the Border Reivers, who were the local families famous for causing trouble – the Charltons, Dodds, Milburns and Robsons. If you are into browsing historical artefacts there is a whole library of photographs, books, poetry, and music related to the border territory which will keep you occupied for hours. This would be a great place to take the youngsters to teach them a bit about the historical culture of the area.
Prices: Adult £5, children under 16 go free. Visit the website for more information and opening times.
If you are visiting Hexham Abbey you should definitely extend your visit to a Hexham park. The perfect one would be Sele Park, on which the abbey sits. The park ranges from formal gardens displaying pretty flowers and shrubs and a traditional bandstand, to woodland walks and open grassy lawns to stretch the legs on.
Set right in the heart of Hexham, the park is fantastic for families and those who want to get out and do some exercise throughout their stay. There is a great play area for the kids where they can swing, slide and jump their way to being tired and there is also a skate park for the older teens who need to burn off some energy! You'll also find a neighbouring bowling club which is open to the public, and the surrounding cafes can offer light bites and take-away food to enjoy on the grass. This is an ideal spot to relax with family, enjoy a picnic and explore with some gentle strolls.
Falconry days - Hexham Bird of Prey Centre
This is an activity centre celebrating birds of prey, training and flying around 70 birds which you can come and meet, admire, and learn about. The birds are managed and flown in rotation on a daily basis, on and off-site, but also at country shows, schools for education and even weddings.
Falconry days provide a range of different experiences that will suit everyone including a guided tour where you can meet all of the birds that are in their care. You can even book a session where you can spend two hours handling and flying owls from around the world! Get up close and personal with little owls, barn owls, tawny owls and snowy owls amongst other species.
For information about what’s on in Hexham, make sure you pop into the Hexham community centre where you will be able to pick up information on local seasonal events that are up and coming.
Walking in Hexham
There is no better way to take in a new area than by foot. There are some lovely walks in and around the town of Hexham. Here are some walks in Hexham that you could try out…
Try a shorter walk in and around Hexham on the heritage trail
The heritage trails are a collection of three themed circular walks around the town’s historic heart. The routes are easy to follow and suitable for everyone, so get you trainers on and take in these pleasant cultural routes.
Take part in a guided walk through Hexham town
You can learn about the history and heritage of Hexham by joining a guided walking tour through the town. All you have to do is turn up at the Abbey for 2pm and the walk last between 1 and 1.5 hours. You can enjoy an easy pace as you take in all the interesting history provided by your guide.
Get more active along Hadrian’s Wall
Walk all or part of Hadrian’s Wall trail from coast to coast following the World Heritage Site past Roman settlements and forts. You can access the wall easily just 5 miles north of Hexham. This would be a good challenge to take on when staying in the area.
Places to eat in Hexham
Enjoying a meal out is an exciting part of any holiday; it gives everyone a night off from not only the cooking, but also the washing up. Hexham has a great variety of pubs, restaurants, cafes, and bistros for you to sample during your stay. Here are some of the best places to eat…
This is a lovely Italian restaurant serving up pizza, pasta, risotto, and steaks. Location: NE46 1PQ
Here we have a family-run restaurant with flair offering delicious dishes ranging from Mediterranean dishes to British cuisine. Location: NE46 1BH
We all need a pitstop now and then and this is the place to be. All locally sourced, you can enjoy a great selection of baked treats like traybakes and scrumptious cakes. Pair them with a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate! Location: NE46 3PB
This is one of the best Hexham pubs set in the heart of the town, offering up fine quality pub grub in a friendly environment. Think sausage and mash, fish and chips, steak, and all the hearty meals. Location: NE46 3NS
Places to stay in Hexham, Northumberland
Hopefully, after reading this guide we have inspired you to come and visit Hexham for yourself - in which case, you will need to arrange a great place to stay where you can retire to after long days out exploring. We have some fantastic self-catering cottages in Hexham which can provide lovely places to call your own for the week.
Here are some of our favourites…
Duck House at Devil’s Water - Sleeps 4, 1 dog welcome. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Granary at Devil’s Water - Sleeps 6, 1 dog welcome. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Barn at Devil’s Water - Sleeps 10, 2 dogs welcome. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Courtyard Cottage - Sleeps 2. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
For more inspiration on accommodation in Hexham, make sure you browse the full collection today.
If you are interested to find out about more great towns to visit in Northumberland, have a read of our guide to the pretty Northumberland villages.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.