Updated for 2020
If you’re looking for things to do in Northumberland, you’ve come to the right place. This vibrant, culturally rich county is packed with one-of-a-kind activities, historical sites and much-loved local events. With so many places to visit, organising your Northumberland holiday couldn’t be easier – and we will help you create the ultimate itinerary.
Northumberland is home to breathtaking castles, remarkable wildlife, striking coastline, spectacular gardens and the renowned Hadrian’s Wall, there’s plenty to explore in a county full to the brim with unique and spectacular experiences. From serene seaside trips and mornings on the golf course to adventure-junkie escapes and days spent out on the ocean – uncover an extraordinary adventure that’s tailored just for you.
Situated in the North East of England, the popular county of Northumberland is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It is an enchanting corner of the country overflowing with history – for example, there are more castles in Northumberland than in any other county in England, including Bamburgh Castle and world-famous Alnwick Castle. With beautiful, golden, sandy beaches, rolling hills, craggy moorland, popular market towns and fishing villages such as Seahouses, Beadnell and Bamburgh, visitors wondering what to do in Northumberland will be spoilt for choice.
There is always a year-round calendar of extraordinary attractions and ‘once in a lifetime’ activities on offer. Bursting with character and beauty, holidays in Northumberland make for lasting memories.
Fun on the beach
The Northumberland coast is a sight to behold, with no less than 39 miles of unspoilt coastline to explore and a calendar packed with exhilarating water sports events. To indulge in a spot of surfing, kayaking or powerboating, take a trip to one of the many beautiful Northumberland beaches - where dogs love a good walk and spectacular local seafood is never far away.
Our feature beach: Nestled between the formidable castle and the stunning Farne Islands, Bamburgh Beach is an essential part of any holiday in Northumberland. With long stretches of golden sand and the chance to watch local kite surfers in action, this seaside hotspot is the ideal route to take to see the epic fortress of the same name.
Here are 5 essentials that you should take with you for a fun day out on the beach:
- Sun cream – you don’t want to be caught off guard if the sun comes out strong.
- Wind breaker – sometimes the British weather can be unpredictable; having a wind break with you stops your belongings getting blown away, and the sandwiches getting sandy!
- Binoculars – if sea life and sea birds decide to make an appearance, you want to have the option of having a close-up look.
- Bucket and spade – hours and hours can pass with the simple purchase of a bucket and spade. Sandcastles, sand sculptures and sand holes can all be achieved with these basic tools. They bring adults and children together over fun sand activities.
- Bat and ball – you want to have a few beach games up your sleeve if the weather gets a bit chilly. There is nothing like a game of rounders, cricket or catch to pass the time and warm everyone up. The ball comes in handy for a game of fetch too, if you happen to have a four-legged friend.
Other beaches to check out
- Druridge Bay – Morpeth NE61 5BX
- Beadnell Bay – Chathill NE67 5BL
- Cheswick Sands – Berwick-upon-Tweed, TD15 2RW
Escape to the country
Northumberland is a walker’s paradise, blanketed in miles upon miles of rolling hills and rugged landscapes. For a refreshing walk in the crisp country air or a challenging hike to test your mettle, there’s no better place in the UK.
Home to the beautiful Cheviot Hills and the historic Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland National Park is renowned for its open spaces, award-winning Dark Skies and stunning rural backdrops - and is the least populated national park in Britain. Here are some countryside-based activities that you can do in Northumberland which will help you to get outside and enjoy your surroundings in a different way.
Horse riding in Northumberland
These schools are based on the coastline of Northumberland where we have many self-catering holiday cottages, so why not plan a break, saddle up and gallop your way to fun?
- Slate Hall Riding Centre. Bamburgh, NE68 7UL. Specialising in beach rides, they take you past the historic Bamburgh Castle along to Seahouses beach where you can enjoy views over to the Farne Islands.
- Kimmerston Riding Centre. Wooler, NE71 6JH. Here you can go on supervised rides around the coastline and countryside and, for the more experienced riders, there are exclusive beach and moor rides. They welcome all skill levels.
- Townfoot Riding School. Alnwick, NE66 2HG. This stable offers lots for children on school holidays from one-day riding courses to five-day courses. They can also organise group rides, and 1 to 2-hour-long treks for experienced riders.
Rock climbing in Northumberland
Rock climbing has become more and more popular over the years with many turning to this vertical activity to improve fitness and strength. Using your hands and feet to pull and push yourself up a steep rockface or climbing wall would surely shed the pounds pretty fast? Whilst many do it for fitness, a lot of people do it for leisure, and there are a few places in which you can climb in Northumberland too.
- Clip’n Climb. Cramlington, NE23 6YB. This is an exciting new leisure concept for all ages (well, not suitable for children under 4) where there are lots of courses and walls set up to challenge you. This can be fun for all the family, so be prepared for everyone to get strapped into a harness! Open Monday – Sunday during school holidays.
- Adventure Northumberland. Alnwick, NE66 2DD. This company provides a vast range of activities to families, schools and groups. Activities include coasteering, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, navigation awards, Duke of Edinburgh expeditions and much more.
There are also lots of rural and natural places to climb throughout the countryside of Northumberland, and this is the way a lot of experienced climbers like to do it. Why not browse our collection of countryside cottages and see if there are any good climbing spots?
Cycling in Northumberland
Cycling is another way to see the countryside at a slow and relaxed pace, or a fast and vigorous one if you are a keen sportsman! Northumberland has many countryside lanes and roads for you to explore which take you through small local villages and farmland. There are lots of rolling hills if you fancy a challenge, and the great Kielder Forest in the National Park is an adventure playground for mountain bikes. Cycling is an all-year-round sport and can suit any level.
Here are some cycle hire companies that can sort you out with the right kit:
This can be a great activity for the whole family, getting you out and about in the fresh air before returning to your family-friendly holiday cottage.
Explore historic castles
Northumberland is home to more than 70 castle sites: some mere ruins, others well-preserved reminders of their defensive beginnings. Legacies of Northumberland’s turbulent past, these atmospheric fortresses make for a fantastic family day out, so here are some of our favourites.
- Alnwick Castle - The second largest inhabited castle in England is now also famous for Harry Potter and the Alnwick Garden project. Location: Alnwick, NE66 ING
- Bamburgh Castle - Spanning 9 acres of land on its rocky plateau high above the Northumberland coastline, Bamburgh is one of the highest inhabited castles in the country. Location: Bamburgh, NE69 7DF
- Dunstanburgh Castle - Standing on a remote headland, this romantic ruin is most dramatic when viewed from Northumberland’s wave-battered coastline. Location: Alnwick, NE66 3TT
- Warkworth Castle - Experience what it would have been like to be king or queen for the day at this mighty fortress that crowns a hilltop above the River Coquet. Location: Morpeth, NE65 OUJ
- Lindisfarne Castle - Owned by the National Trust, this 16th-century castle located on Holy Island boasts breathtaking coastal views, picturesque walled gardens and well-preserved examples of Lime Kilns from the 19th century. Location: Holy Island, TD15 2SH
- Chillingham Wild Cattle and Castle - A magnificent 12th-century medieval castle, home to the only herd of wild cattle in the world who have lived in the castle’s grounds, unhindered by man, for over 700 years. Location: Chillingham, Northumberland.
All of these castles offer a day of history and heritage as you explore their walls and grounds. For a more in depth into the famous Harry Potter castle, check out our full guide on Alnwick Castle or read about them all in our guide to the six best Northumberland castles.
Discover Hadrian’s Wall
One of England’s greatest landmarks, Hadrian’s Wall is the best-preserved frontier of the Roman Empire and the nation’s finest Roman monument. In Northumberland, great stretches of the wall remain intact and are a must-visit when you are in the region. The notable writer, George RR Martin, used Hadrian’s Wall as inspiration for his own wall in his bestselling books and hit TV series, Game of Thrones.
All along the wall are a plethora of ruined forts, museums, milecastles and archaeological sites to explore.
- Roman high street at Corbridge Roman Town – here you will find the Corbridge Hoard, one of the most significant finds from Roman Britain.
- Housesteads Roman Fort – The most complete example of a Roman fort anywhere in Britain.
- Birdoswald Roman Fort – The best place to see the longest continuous stretch of Hadrian’s Wall.
- Chesters Roman Fort and Museum – Full of interesting finds and incredible history to discover through exhibitions and a historic fort to walk around.
Explore beautiful gardens
Scattered across Northumberland are a fine array of fragrant gardens ablaze with colourful blooms and teeming with wildlife. Quite often in the grounds of large historic houses, these gardens make for a pleasant day out with your friends and family. Here are three of the best gardens in Northumberland.
The Alnwick Garden
This is a vibrant place to visit, with beautifully landscaped gardens, outstanding architecture and unique features, all brought to life with water. Location: Alnwick, NE66 ING
Howick Hall Gardens
These gardens have been rated by the BBC Gardener's World Magazine as one of the top five coastal gardens in the country and rated by the Independent Magazine as 'one of the Best 10 Gardens to visit this spring'. Location: Alnwick, NE66 3LB.
Cragside House and Gardens
This is a magnificent example of a Victorian garden created by Lord Armstrong, a landscape genius. Location: Morpeth, NE65 7PX
Ten plants and flowers commonly found in Northumberland
- Bugle (Ajuga reptans)
- Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)
- Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense)
- Welted Thistle (Carduus crispus)
- Hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum ocinale)
- Goat’s beard (Tragopogon pratensis)
- Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
- Common comfrey (Symphytum ocinale)
- Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus)
- Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)
Meet the local wildlife
The Farne Islands lie 2 to 3 miles off the Northumberland coast, midway between the pretty fishing village of Seahouses and the imposing Bamburgh Castle. As well as being the most famous bird sanctuary in the British Isles, they also have a large colony of Atlantic Grey Seals. During the breeding season, around 150,000 seabirds vie for space on the islands and they are remarkably tolerant to visitors, allowing you to get up close and take some extraordinary photographs. Regular boat trips from Seahouses Harbour mean that you shouldn’t have to wait long for your chance to view the local wildlife in its natural habitat.
The Kielder Water and Forest Park allows you to get up close to nature on a grand scale and have some unique outdoor adventures. Home to the biggest man-made lake in Northern Europe, at 250 square miles, along with the largest forest in England, there are bountiful opportunities to glimpse some of the park's remarkable residents. Between late March and early September, visitors are able to observe ospreys, an extraordinary bird of prey, making the most of the parks’ telescopes, live webcams and ‘osprey ferry’. Also keep an eye out for red squirrels, roe deer, otters, seven species of bat and a variety of woodland birds.
Other species found throughout Northumberland:
- Red grouse and black grouse
- Roe deer
- Wild goats
Play a round of golf
In recent years, Northumberland has developed into one of the most popular regions for golf in the UK. Boasting a variety of courses including links by the dozen along the coast and award-winning parkland tracts further inland, there is a course to suit all levels and abilities of golfers.
Here are some of the best courses to enjoy a round on:
- Bamburgh Golf Course - one of the most scenic golf courses in Britain sporting views of Lindisfarne, the Farne Islands, the Cheviots and Bamburgh Castle. Location: Bamburgh, NE69 7DE
- Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Course – an 18-hole course designed by the great golf course architect, James Braid. Location: Alnwick NE66 3XQ
- Alnwick Castle Golf Club – a stone's throw away from Alnwick Castle so don’t get your golf club mixed up with a broomstick! Location: Alnwick NE66 2AB
- Seahouses Golf Club - offers two of the most prestigious par threes in the North of England. Location: Seahouses, NE68 7XT
- Alnmouth Golf Club - widely regarded as one of the finest golf courses in the North East of England. Location: Alnwick NE66 3BE
Stay in a Northumberland cottage
To give yourself plenty of time to relax, as well as a chance to explore our exciting county, book one of our lovely self-catering holiday cottages in Northumberland today. We have a great range of luxury and large cottages too so there really is something for everyone.
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.