These are just a few things we love to do when we’re in Northumberland. Each group makes a great day or half day, depending on how fast you hike and how long it takes you to psych yourself up for the zipwire.
Where: South & east / Druridge, Ambl
How long: Full day
Best for: Seaside and stargazing
If you’re up early, take a blustery walk on Druridge beach and blow out the cobwebs. There are plenty of watersports available, but it’s lovely just to stroll out of Amble and back again, along the sand or up in the dunes. Leave the walk a little later and you could head to The Fish Shack for an early dinner. The unusual structure was partially constructed out of old boats and serves up locally-smoked and freshly caught seafood as well as views of the harbour. After you’ve eaten, make the hour’s drive for an evening event at Kielder Observatory, near Bellingham. You’ll need to have booked in advance, but you might get to point a huge telescope at the moon, so it’s totally worth it.
Where: north east / Farne, Bamburgh
How long: Full day
Best for: Exploring the coast
Jump on a boat to the Farne Islands and see the puffins, terns and seals that make this one of David Attenborough’s favourite wildlife spots in the UK. Staple and Inner Farne are the most easily accessed of the 28 islands. Hourly sailings to one or the other leave from Seahouses and allow you an hour’s walking around. When you’re back, make the three-mile trip on foot along the beach or drive up for a picnic by Bamburgh Castle, which looks out over the sea. After a bit of exploring of the ruins, more beach time or a stroll through the lovely village of Bamburgh, head south to Swinhoe and track down the wood-fired al fresco pizza of Box, finishing the day with views of Beadnell Bay from your bench outside the glass-walled shipping container kitchen.
Where: Holy island and Caster
How long: Couple of hours
Best for: Wildlife spotting
Wait for low tide and skip over the causeway to Holy Island aka Lindisfarne, a 12th -century hub of Christianity, a 16th-century fort and a great place for wildlife spotting. The island is also one end of the St Cuthbert’s Way, one of Scotland’s Great Trails, so you can pray for strength if you’re about to take on the full 100km route. There are shorter walks along the coast to fill the rest of the day before you run for home or drop into Bamburgh for incredible seafood in the cosy atmosphere of The Potted Lobster. The local institution draws on the produce of fishermen, butchers and brewers, serving in relaxed setting that even has a dog-friendly area.
How long: Half day
Best for: The adventurous and art aficionados
Hit the massive trails of Kielder Forest, winding round the enormous Kielder reservoir under towering pines. Ferries let you cut corners if you prefer, but you might miss out on some of the al fresco sculptures that line the water. Each was designed with its specific site in mind, reflecting and framing the beauty of a landscape that was also crafted by man. To combine your cultural and physical workout, hire a canoe and paddle between the sights and viewpoints, enjoying the 11 sqkm expanse of water from all perspectives. If your arms have still got the energy to cling on for dear life, try the Kielder Zipcoaster before you head home past a good farm shop, light the bbq and sink into happy exhaustion.
Where: Kielder and Alnwick
How long: Couple of hours
Best for: Foodies
The easy circular of the Simonside Hills is great if you’re not given to bouncing out of bed first thing. You still get incredible views, full of jutting ledges of rock and covered in wildflowers in spring, but the five-mile trail is clearly marked all the way and has only gentle climbs. When you’ve closed the loop, head over to Alnmouth and Alnwick, where you can explore the castle ruins, visit one of the world’s best bookshops (Barter Books in Alnwick) and wait for your reservation to dine among the branches of The Treehouse Restaurant. The setting is striking and the menu is full of British classics that’ll give you all the energy you need for another day’s adventure.
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