England’s northernmost county, Northumberland, is home to staggering uncut landscapes, breath-taking coastal views and all manner of weird and wonderful wildlife. It’s hardly surprising that visitors from far and wide make their pilgrimage to this vibrant region every year in search of hiking holidays with a difference. From the trek to Dunstanburgh’s castle ruins to a tour of the enigmatic Holy Island, there’s plenty of ground to cover – but one thing’s for sure: Northumberland hotspots are always worth the walk.
Today, we’re taking a look at some of the area’s most brilliant highlights, from forests and valleys to rolling hills and remote islands – each situated on a popular walking route to guarantee a picture-perfect backdrop during your journey through this rugged paradise.
#1 – Dunstanburgh Castle
The picturesque ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle stand high above the Northumberland coastline – atop a volcanic outcrop running from the Pennines to the coast – and are the only remnants of the once-immaculate 14th century fortress. From the wave-ravaged shore, visitors can catch a glimpse of this historical highlight – once the site of dramatic sieges at the hands of Yorkshire forces, and having since collapsed into decay. The journey to Dunstanburgh and beyond totals seven miles – beginning in the harbour village of Craster, where local holiday cottages offer an ideal base, and ending at Low Newton-by-the-Sea. On this route, you’ll walk the breath-taking Northumberland Coast past these magnificent castle ruins and beyond – breathing in the fresh sea air every step of the way.
#2 – Hareshaw Linn
This scenic three-mile walk begins at Bellingham, the gateway town to Kielder Water & Forest Park – passing through the wooded glade of Hareshaw Dene to its very own 30ft waterfall. With a number of great spotted woodpeckers, red squirrels and Daubenton’s bats inhabiting the valley, it’s an ideal opportunity for spotting some of Northumberland’s local wildlife. The walk to Hareshaw Linn is abundant with flora and fauna, making this a serene and relaxing route for walkers who love a beautiful backdrop. It can get a little muddy in winter, though – so remember your stomping boots if you choose to make the trip during the colder months.
#3 – Sycamore Gap
The rugged frontier that is Hadrian’s Wall spans almost 80 miles in total, from coast to coast. Lined with a diverse range of museums, Roman bath houses and shrines, this Great British marvel offers one of the most challenging and gratifying walks anywhere in the UK. The Sycamore Gap walk begins at Housesteads visitor centre – taking visitors to the nearby Roman Fort, before following the World Heritage Roman wall footpath all the way to the iconic and beautiful Sycamore Gap. Famously featured in 1991’s ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ and now affectionately known as the ‘Robin Hood Tree’, Sycamore Gap is one of Hadrian’s Wall’s most unique highlights. With the opportunity to bask in Britain’s great wilderness, this landmark is not to be missed – and you can find out more about the Hadrian’s Wall Path right here.
#4 – Holy Island
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is one of Northumberland’s most stunning and mysterious highlights – promising a tranquil three-mile walk for visitors willing to take on the infamous causeway. The island is separated from the mainland twice each day due to fast-changing tides – making this one of the region’s most remote and secluded spots. Exploring this tidal island on foot, you’ll catch a glimpse of Lindisfarne Priory’s ancient ruins, the dainty 16th century castle and the nearby lime kilns – built in 1860. An atmospheric route rich with local heritage and sweeping coastal views, the journey around Holy Island is an essential part of any itinerary when visiting Northumberland.
#5 – Kielder Forest
Northumberland’s very own Dark Sky Park comprises of the Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park. From here, visitors have the rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of the magnificent Milky Way – witnessing the unpolluted sky in all its celestial glory. Kielder Forest Lakeside Way is a 22-mile walking route which circles the pristine Kielder Reservoir – with unique wildlife spotting opportunities, Kielder Castle and a wealth of visitor information along the way. Attempt this walk on a cool Northumberland night to gaze upon the glorious dark skies as you explore this world-famous forest.
#6 – Cragside Estate
Near the beautiful Northumbrian village of Rothbury, you’ll find Cragside Estate – once the country home of armaments manufacturer, Lord Armstrong and bursting with gorgeous green woodland. This renowned National Trust site offers a picture-perfect five-mile walk, during which you’ll have an opportunity to explore the estate’s incredible natural beauty. Sumptuous formal gardens, stunning waterfalls and a forest’s worth of Rhododendrons fill Cragside’s grounds – making this particularly scenic walk a one-of-a-kind experience for first-time visitors to this spectacular rural region.
Whether you’re exploring the delights of Northumberland’s world-famous coastline or getting lost in its vast green woodlands, this popular English county is a natural marvel loved by walkers worldwide. Around every corner, you’ll find another postcard-worthy scene well worth the trip.
Author bio: Tori Atkinson is a travel blogger for Cottages in Northumberland – giving visitors from across the UK access to cosy self-catering holiday cottages with convenient access to the region’s very best walking routes.
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