Have you ever visited the beautiful county of Northumberland? This county in the North East of England sits just above Newcastle-upon-Tyne, stretching up the east coast to the border with Scotland, and with the Northumberland National Park to the west, towards Cumbria.
If you’re planning a trip to this incredibly beautiful region, we have a look at 10 of the best places to visit, all just a short drive from Percy Wood Park.
1. Alnwick and Alnwick Castle
The gorgeous town of Alnwick, with its cobblestone paths that weave in and out of its independent shops and cafés, is the quintessential sleepy English town. There is a traditional market every Thursday and Saturday in the main square, offering artisanal food and drink and local handicrafts.
Alnwick is best known for its 900-year old castle, first built to defend England from invaders from Scotland and is the second-largest inhabited castle in England. It has been home to the family of the Duke of Northumberland for over 700 years. TV and film fans may recognise it as a filming location for Downton Abbey and the Harry Potter films.
Close to the castle is the Alnwick Gardens, a multi-award winning project of the Duchess of Northumberland. The grounds offer far more than the typical English garden, with conceptual landscaping and a wide range of activities.
2. Willowburn Sports Centre
Also in Alnwick is Wilowburn Sports & Leisure Centre, which provides a range of different activities, and is an ideal place to spend a rainy day.
The centre has a 25-metre, six-lane main swimming pool, which has a movable floor, as well as a 10-metre teaching pool, making the pools perfect for those who want to swim for pleasure or fitness, join an aquafit class, or even learn to swim!
The leisure centre also boasts a large sports hall for those who want more sporting activities, such as team sports like football and basketball, or challenge their friends to a game of badminton. There are even trampolines for the more athletic visitors.
Fitness enthusiasts will love the gym, with its friendly and knowledgable staff ready to offer assistance to help you get the most out of your workout, and help you make use of the cardiovascular and resistance equipment. There are classes in the new fitness studio for those who want to enjoy Tai Chi, Pump FX, Salsacise, Pilates, and many more activities.
Adults and children will love exploring the bouldering climbing wall, which has a variety of routes up the rock face, from simple to more challenging, without the need for harnesses or ropes. A new addition to Willowburn this year is the Go Wild rainforest soft play adventure area, with four storeys of exploration and adventure for active kids.
Morpeth is a traditional market town filled with history and charm, cobbled streets, and a mixture of traditional and farmers’ markets, as well as modern shopping centres and high street staples.
Morpeth’s Farmers’ Market is held on the first Saturday of every month for homemade pickles and chutneys, cheeses, and fresh pies, or why not head to the Sanderson Arcade for some retail therapy, as well as its monthly events and live music.
If you’re all shopped out, then take a stroll around Carlisle Park, where you can explore the woodland paths, go rowing on the river, play tennis, or do many other activities. Families will enjoy the paddling pool and the play area, and a visit to the aviary. Or just enjoy the tranquillity of Carlisle Park’s garden, dedicated to William Turner – ‘The Father Of English Botany’.
4. Northumberland Zoo
Northumberland Zoo is a not-for-profit, family-run zoo close to Morpeth, and a member of BIAZA (British & Irish Association of Zoos & Aquaria), meaning that it ensures that its animals are kept to higher than average standards.
The spacious enclosures are home to a wide range of mammals, birds, and reptiles, from snow leopards to harvest mice, and you can take part in several daily animal talks and see a flying display of the zoo’s birds of prey.
5. Warkworth Castle
This mighty Northumberland fortress crowns the hilltop above the River Coquet, with its magnificent 600-year-old cross-shaped keep, and was once home to the Percy family, who now reside in Alnwick Castle.
Warkworth is still one of the most impressive castles and fortresses in the North East of England, and once was home to ‘Harry Hotspur’, the bane of the Scots raiders as they besieged the fortress in 1327, making him the hero of many Border ballads.
Just half a mile away from Warkworth, beside the Coquet, and only accessible by boat, is the Hermitage, a peaceful, late medieval cave and chapel of a solitary holy man.
6. Amble Fishing Village
A mile down the Coquet from Warkworth on the Northumberland coast is the traditional fishing village of Amble, built on a point of land that sticks out from the main part of the coast, and provides stunning views of the coastline.
The historic village is home to a harbour development that offers a unique retail experience, with 15 ‘pods’ selling all manner of gifts, art, jewellery, food and drink, as well as a seafood centre selling locally caught seafood, and a lobster hatchery.
Amble has gained the nickname of ‘the friendliest port in England’, and hosts an annual puffin festival. You can explore its award-winning marina, eat tasty fish and chips along the sea-front pathway, or indulge in watersports such as sailing and kayaking.
7. Druridge Bay
Druridge Bay is a gorgeous living landscape on the Northumberland coast, south of Amble. The seven-mile stretch of sandy beaches runs from Amble down to Cresswell, and is a popular spot for outdoor activities, from walking and cycling to paddling and surfing, as well as being a haven for wildlife.
Druridge Bay County Park features several smaller nature reserves which are ideal for ornithologists, where they can spot a wide range of birds, from swans near the reservoir, to maybe even the rare golden snipe.
8. Bamburgh Castle
There’s no shortage of incredible castles in Northumberland, and Bamburgh Castle is an outstanding fortress on the coast. The 1,400-year-old Grade I-listed building is rich with tales of myth, magic, and legends.
From inspiring interiors and stately apartments to historic artworks and a museum, the castle is another great place for early risers to watch the sunrise.
9. Newcastle City Centre
Newcastle-upon-Tyne is one of the largest cities in England, sitting on the north bank of the River Tyne. The city is known for its seven impressive bridges that link Newcastle to Gateshead, the oldest of which is the High Level Bridge, constructed in 1848 to the designs of Robert Stephenson, with two tiers for road and rail.
The city centre boasts many attractions from the Discovery Museum to St James’ Park, home to Newcastle United, The Great North Museum: Hannock, and the Quayside, for the city’s many bars and restaurants.
10. Cragside House, Rothbury
Cragside House was the home of Lord William Armstrong, a Victorian inventor and landscape genius, and was a wonder of its age, as the first house in the world to be powered by hydroelectricity, becoming Britain’s first smart home!
The National Trust property is filled with Lord Armstrong’s ingenious inventions, which were designed for modern living and efficiency, illuminated by hydroelectricity and powered by hydraulics, proving to be a wonder of the age.
Along with Lady Margaret Armstrong, and her love for the natural sciences, they transformed the rocky Northumberland landscape into a 1,000-acre fantasy mountainside garden, complete with foaming waterfalls, man-made lakes, and a sea of rhododendron that create a sea of colour that can be explored via the many paths that wind their way through the rock garden.
Explore the Formal Garden, Italian Terrace, Orchard House, and the gothic-revival Clock Tower, before heading to one of the three eateries for lunch or afternoon tea. There is a dedicated area for children to explore, as well as a rhododendron labyrinth to discover!
Note that many of the attractions listed may need to be pre-booked, so check first to avoid disappointment!
If you want to explore Northumberland, then Percy Wood Park is a great base for your North East adventures. The park is nestled in the countryside close to the Simonside Hills, and convenient for trips to the coast or the National Park. Why not check out Percy Wood Park today, and book a luxury holiday today!