Best places to visit in Northumberland: top attractions, and places to stay, eat and drink

    places to visit in Northumberland
    Bamburgh castle in the evening light, Northumberland. Credit: Nadia Isakova/ AWL Images Ltd

    Here’s our low down of the best places to visit in Northumberland so you can start planning your visit to this historic region in Northern England, known to many as ‘castle country’

    The northernmost county in England, Northumberland is a land of big, starry skies, castles, plus plenty of cosy boltholes within whose historic walls you can sit out the changeable weather. Here’s our guide to the very best places to visit in Northumberland.

    See the Feb/March 2023 issue of Discover Britain for our 38-page Northumberland travel special or read on for even more ideas for getting the most out of the region.

    The best places to visit in Northumberland

    places to visit in northumberland
    Sycamore Gap at Hadrian’s Wall. Credit: VisitBritain/Andrew Pickett

    A region that bears the marks of its former settlers and inhabitants more than most, in Northumberland you can walk amid Roman ruins, discover Anglo-Saxon strongholds, learn about the trail of destruction left by Viking invaders, and visit the cradle of English Christianity on the ‘Holy Isle’ of Lindisfarne.

    Hadrian’s Wall

    Top of our list for the best places to visit in Northumberland, and stretching 73 miles from coast to coast, this once formidable barrier was built to protect the northwest frontier of the Roman Empire. Now looked after by English Heritage, today, though much of it is in ruin, there are still 20 sites along its length where you can learn about what life was once like for the soldiers tasked with guarding it in the dramatic and often unforgiving landscape.

    places to visit in northumberland
    Hadrian’s Wall is top of our list of the best places to visit in Northumberland.

    The Elizabethan Walls, Berwick-upon-Tweed 

    One of the best examples of a walled town in all of Europe, Berwick’s mile-and-a-quarter of Elizabethan-era walls still stand proud hundreds of years later, despite Berwick-upon-Tweed being the most contested town in Britain, having switched hands between the English and the Scottish no fewer than 14 times.

    Vindolanda Roman Fort, Hexham

    places to visit in Northumberland
    A section of Roman wall at Vindolanda.

    Vindolanda was the first Roman frontier in the north and it actually pre-dates Hadrian’s Wall, which lies just north of it. Occupied for over 300 years it was both an important fort and village for soldiers and their families. The Vindolanda site today is one of the best places to visit in Northumberland, with a spectacular world-class Roman museum to explore the story of the people who lived there and see the hundreds of artefacts found at the site, as well as a chance to look around the ‘live’ archaeological site itself.

    Ad Gefrin, Wooler 

    places to visit in Northumberland
    Night shot of view into the Ad Gefrin distillery. Credit: Sally Ann Norman.

    When it opens in spring 2023, this world-class heritage attraction which somehow plans to fuse Anglo-Saxon history with modern-day whisky distilling, will draw visitors back to when this part of Northumberland was once one of the major seats of power for the Anglo-Saxons. This is set to be one of the best places to visit in Northumberland.

    Alnwick Castle, Alnwick 

    places to visit in Northumberland
    Alnwick Castle doubled as Hogwarts in the first two ‘Harry Potter’ films.

    In recent years it may be best known for training wizards how to use their broomsticks, or for starring in Downton Abbey specials, but Alnwick’s esteemed more than 950 years of history, which has been linked to the Percy family for much of it, has many far more interesting stories and artefacts within its resplendent walls.

    In our new issue Jeremy Flint went to the castle to interview the Duke of Northumberland and get an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the castle. Read the interview here.  

    The Alnwick Garden

    places to visit in Northumberland
    Alnwick Garden

    Created as a separate attraction to the castle by the present Duchess of Northumberland, who began the project in 1997 Alnwick Garden is the third most visited public garden in the UK, covering over 26 acres. With over 4,000 varieties of plants to discover, including a few deadly and dangerous ones in the Poison Garden, this is a delight for all the senses.

    Dunstanburgh Castle

    places to visit in Northumberland
    Craster Harbour and Dunstanburgh Castle. Credit: John Guidi

    Standing on a remote headland along the Northumberland coast, this castle, first build in the early 14th century, would once have been a grand palace, designed to irk King Edward II by one of his openly hostile barons. Today, it stands in romantic ruin after being besieged twice during the War of the Roses and a walk along the craggy coastal path to the village of Craster can be rewarded with some of the famous local kippers.

    places to visit in northumberland
    L. Robson & Sons Fish Smokers, Craster. Credit: Washington Imaging / Alamy

    Lindisfarne Castle & Abbey 

    places to visit in Northumberland
    Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island. Credit: Gary Cook

    If you’ve made it all the way to this northern region then there’s really no excuse for not taking the causeway over to the ‘Holy Isle’ of Lindisfarne, one of the most beautiful places to visit in Northumberland and where the famous Gospels were first illustrated at the now ruinous abbey. Another highlight of a visit is Lindisfarne Castle – as close as perfect an Edwardian-style home as you could ever hope to find.

    Kielder Observatory, Kielder

    Located in Europe’s largest gold-tier protected dark sky park, Kielder Observatory is nestled in the Kielder Water and Forest Park and offers some of the world’s most breathtaking star-gazing. Famed for the ‘Kielder Moment’, the moment that visitors look up at the glittering skies and realise that they’re completely connected to this vast cosmos, this is a must-do on our list of places to visit in Northumberland.

    Wild Intrigue, sites across Northumberland

    Reconnect with nature again with one of Wild Intrigue’s wildlife experiences and events across Northumberland. Whether its a Dawn Chorus Disco in Newcastle, mixing nature’s dawn orchestra with a silent disco tech, a Bats and Beers night searching for some of Northumberland’s nocturnal wildlife, while enjoying some locally brewed beers, or a Moths and Muffins morning enjoying a delicious breakfast whilst meeting some magical moth species, there is really something for everyone.

    places to visit in northumberland
    Bats are an endangered species in the UK.

    Best places to stay in Northumberland

    The Coach House, Stay on the Hill 

    Set amid the beautiful Northumberland Tyne Valley close to Northumberland National Park, this wing of a Victorian house on a family-owned estate, near Hexham, offers four luxury bedrooms each with a super comfy bed fitted with Egyptian cotton sheets and its own bathroom, which can be hired as a holiday home or as individual rooms. As well as original period features, each room comes with a Freeview TV with DVD player and wifi, and there’s a pretty patio for making the most of the tranquil atmosphere of the estate.

    Beach & Quiet holiday cottages, Craster

    A stone’s throw from the pretty fishing village of Craster and the spectacular Dunstanburgh Castle, these self-catering holiday cottages are the perfect base for your Northumberland holiday.  Historic Dunstan House, which sleeps up to 18, is Grade II* listed and is bursting with incredible period features, and newly built elegant Hemmel house, which sleeps 6, perfectly combines modern stylings with traditional features. Sleeping four, cosy Stable Cottage is situated in the grounds of Dunstanburgh Castle and, as the old castle stables, and also Grade II listed, is brimming with historic charm.

    The Clock Tower, Bamburgh Estate 

    places to visit in Northumberland
    Bamburgh Castle. Credit: Luigi Vaccarella/4 Corners Images

    Bamburgh Castle is one of the most recognisable landmarks along the region’s coastline and one of the best places to visit in Northumberland. Now you can book a stay in its medieval bell tower, which offers views of Bamburgh beach and the isle of Lindisfarne. Accommodation within the tower’s 1,400-year-old walls is suitably characterful, with velvet sofas, exposed stone walls and antique furnishings complemented by William Morris & Co fabrics and modern artworks. It’s delightfully eclectic and the three-bed holiday home can be booked through the wonderful Crabtree & Crabtree. Best of all? Guests get free entry to the castle’s state rooms, plus access to the castle grounds.

    Twice Brewed Inn, Hexham

    A post-walk beer-tasting at the Twice Brewed Brewhouse can be followed by a classic home-cooked meal in the comfortable restaurant and new conservatory of the Twice Brewed Inn. There are also some comfortable rooms for overnight stays, with the stargazing, supper and slumber package offering a two-course meal and a stargazing adventure, where you can learn from the experts in the Northumberland Dark Sky Park and use the latest telescopes to watch the night sky from the observatory (available from October to March).

    The Walls, Berwick-upon-Tweed

    places to visit in Northumberland
    The Old Bridge, also known as Berwick Bridge, was built between 1611 and 1624. Credit: 2016 Frans Sellies/Getty

    This B&B is set within a gorgeously restored period townhouse perched don the Edwardian Walls quarter of the town. Ask for the Tweed room with views of the river from its Georgian windows and put your faith in Stephen and Louise Scott, who will make you feel right at home.

    The Holly Bush Inn, Greenhaugh, Near Kielder

    Located within the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, this inn, or ‘proper pub’ offers comfortable en-suite rooms, a roaring fire, good grub, and the chance to catch a glimpse of the Milky War, or perhaps even another galaxy.

    Eshott Hall, Morpeth 

    For something a little grander, try this country house hotel on the outskirts of a quiet rural village. With rolling lawns and woodland that beckons you in (look out for red squirrels), this 17th-century home has been painstakingly restored by its current owners, Robert & Gina Parker. There are 11 en-suite rooms, while the Drawing Room and Library are perfect for afternoon tea, or a post-amble tipple and the on-site restaurant serves up superb seasonal produce.

    The Cookie Jar, Alnwick 

    places to visit in Northumberland
    Alnwick Castle at night.

    Very well placed for visitors to Alnwick Castle, this boutique hotel is set within a historic building but comes with decidedly modern amenities – think drench showers in all the rooms, Hypnos beds, and Penhaligon’s toiletries. The Bistro is a great spot for dinner after a day’s exploring, and there’s even a firepit on the outdoor terrace for those who wish to enjoy their surroundings (and the night sky) a little longer.

    Barrasford Arms, Hexham

    Dating back to the 19th century in the heart of Hadrian’s Wall country, this charming pub with rooms overlooks the spectacular Houghton Castle and is perfectly located for exploring the area. With cosy, comfortable rooms and award-winning food made using ingredient’s from the hotel’s own kitchen garden, this is a home away from home for your stay.

    Crabtree & Crabtree Holiday Lettings, across Northumberland

    The undisputed leader in holiday home rentals in Northumberland, Crabtree and Crabtree boast a portfolio of stunning properties across the county. All stylish, self-catered and in stunning, hand-picked locations, the properties range from grand country houses, to sleek barn conversions and old stone cottages. Many properties are dog-friendly too and some even offer at-home beauty and spa treatments and professional catering.

    The best places to eat in Northumberland

    Hjem, Hexham

    places to visit in Northumberland
    Roe deer tartare, celeriac tart, chanterelle mushrooms, black garlic crisp at Hjem. Credit: Ben Benoliel

    In the village of Wall, close to Hadrian’s Wall, Hjem is probably Northumberland’s finest restaurant – it’s certainly it’s most unexpected. Run by a Swedish-English husband-and-wife team, Hjem has been awarded a Michelin star for its ‘high-quality’ Nordic-English cooking and its placement within a charming English inn (which also has rooms), only adds to the wonderful experience.

    The Jolly Fisherman, Craster

    places to visit in northumberland
    Fishing boats the harbour in the village of Craster, home to the Craster kippers. Credit: Nick Hatton / Alamy

    If there’s one thing the coastal village of Craster is known for, it’s kippers, so it would be remiss to visit the region and not come and sample them. This stone-walled Victorian inn has been a popular place with fisherman for more than a century and a half, so if you want to try Craster kippers, or indeed any other local seafood delicacies, like Lindisfarne oysters, then you couldn’t be in better company, with it all being freshly hauled in from the North Sea each morning.

    The Old Boathouse, Amble

    If you’re looking for a place that serves seafood platters that will make your mouth water and have the next table ordering what you’re having, then this is it – their platter includes a whole lobster alongside seabream, oysters, you name it. It’s won awards, lots of them so it pays to book ahead. If you can’t get a table, try the Fish Shack nearby.

    The Queen’s Head, Berwick

    At this atmospheric pub, you dine beneath exposed timber beams, but it’s about more than the warm setting here – the pub takes its food seriously, with all produce coming from local suppliers, and dishes such as pan-fried salmon or seafood stew are better than the fare you find in most pubs.

    The Bosk Restaurant, Alnwick

    Stunnning architecture, big cosy chairs, handmade chandeliers and rustic, elegant interiors welcome you into this friendly, stylish restaurant in the Beamish valley. Serving up delicious food, including homebaked pizzas, fresh coffee and an excellent selection of wines and beers is the perfect place to relax after a day exploring the beautiful Northumberland countryside.

    Read more:

    The best places to visit in Northumberland: a tour of castle country

    New issue: issue 232 of Discover Britain is out now!

    Alnwick Castle: an inside tour with the Duke of Northumberland


    Leave a Reply