Often overshadowed by its southern counterparts, the northernmost county in England offers a plethora of well-preserved history and stunning natural beauty. This best-kept secret is none other than Northumberland; with 1,935 square miles of heritage sites, picturesque towns, and breathtaking coastlines, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Initially recognized as the ancient kingdom of Northumbria back in the 6th and 7th centuries, this historic land has maintained a sense of mystery and wonder ever since. In truth, not many people know about this enthralling county that sits between Scotland and England. Rich in history and warmth from the locals, it’s time to unmask the secret that is Northumberland.
1. Historic Castles
The number one reason to visit Northumberland is to explore its numerous castles. With more than 70 castle sites throughout the region, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to fortresses that boast dramatic architecture and fascinating tales of a long-gone era.
Alnwick Castle is one of the most famous landmarks in Northumberland. As the ancestral home of the Duke of Northumberland’s family for over 700 years, it features medieval architecture with stunning gardens that have been designed by leading landscape architects.
Bamburgh Castle is another must-see comprising a fortress dating back to AD 547. Standing tall on a rocky plateau, visitors can admire its regal interiors or absorb astonishing coastal views from atop the castle walls.
2. The Legacy of Hadrian’s Wall
Established by the Romans in AD 122 under Emperor Hadrian’s reign as a defensive structure against invasion threats from adversaries like seafaring pirates and rebellious tribes, parts of Hadrian’s Wall still stand today as a testament to ancient military might.
Visitors can follow the historic trail through varying terrain stretching alongside ruins, forts, museums that house Roman artifacts and even lush national parks. It is a perfect opportunity for history enthusiasts and hikers alike to immerse themselves in Britain’s captivating past while surrounded by breathtaking scenery.
3. Spectacular Beaches
While Northumberland may lack tropical weather or palm trees swaying gently in the breeze—what it does have in spades are wide stretches of golden sand flanked by dramatic dunes and imposing cliffs offering a unique allure all its own.
Visit Beadnell Bay for water sports like windsurfing or kitesurfing; take a stroll along Embleton Bay as views of Dunstanburgh Castle loom overhead; spend a day at Seahouses exploring rockpools or perhaps hop on a boat ride spotting puffins on nearby Farne Islands.
4. Charming Market Towns
Venture into some quaint market towns spread across Northumberland where you can indulge in fresh local produce and handmade wares at weekly markets. From Alnwick —home to Barter Books (one of Europe’s largest second-hand bookshops) housed within an old Victorian railway station— or Hexham featuring an impressive Abbey dating back to AD 674; each town has unique charisma waiting to be discovered.
5. Dark Skies Park
As Northumberland International Dark Sky Park encompasses over half the county—largely free from light pollution—enjoy unadulterated views of twinkling stars at night that few places in England can match up to. Designated observatories are open year-round allowing visitors unprecedented cosmic sightings making it both an educational experience and romantic getaway option.
Northumberland lurks quietly amidst its more popular English contemporaries like Cornwall or The Cotswolds—it revels in attractions steeped with age-old mystique while retaining Scotland’s raw natural beauty. So next time you plan your trip around England, remember this best-kept secret; it’s just waiting for you to uncover its hidden gems!