If you’re interested in history, Northumberland is an absolutely brilliant place for a holiday. You’re probably aware that it’s home to a fair chunk of Hadrian’s Wall, but it’s also where you’ll find countless castles, making it, in my opinion, a particularly good destination for families.
I also think it’s great for walkers, since there are a lot of routes that take you along some of the top historical attractions.
The Heritage Coast
Northumberland’s Heritage Coast has been designated an Area of Outstanding National Beauty – but its stunning scenery is not the only thing that draws me here. As you’ve likely guessed, this is a fantastic area for a little historical exploration, particularly because it’s dotted with charming fishing villages (like Craster) and strewn with fantastic castles – which I’ll talk more about below.
By the way, the Heritage Coast is also a good place to find cosy Northumbrian cottages. Since there are so many historical attractions in this area, it’s definitely a top spot if you fancy learning more about the area’s past.
Built back in the 14th century, Dunstanburgh Castle used to be one of the most formidable castles in this part of England. These days, it’s in ruins, but it somehow still manages to look endlessly impressive and imposing, so it’s more than worth a visit.
In fact, it’s easy to spend an entire day here. Perched on a dramatic section of coastline in Craster, it offers some fabulous views out to sea, which you can enjoy by climbing the Lilburn Tower. Plus, the surrounding grounds are perfect for picnics, so I think this is a particularly good spot for families.
Another castle I think should be on everyone’s must-see list is Alnwick. Used in the Harry Potter films, this is one of the biggest inhabited castles in the whole of Europe, having been home to the Percy family for an impressive 700 years.
By coming here, you can learn all about the castle’s – and the family’s – turbulent past. What I like about this castle in particular, though, is that there’s so much more you can see while you explore. For instance, there is an incredible collection of art (which includes work by the likes of Van Dyck and Titian), as well as a similarly impressive selection of Paris, Chelsea and Meissen porcelain.
While you’re here, don’t forget to check out the grounds, too, which were designed by renowned landscape architect Capability Brown. Personally, I think the mix of attractions here makes it somewhere that both kids and adults will enjoy equally, so whoever you’re travelling with, it should be on your itinerary.
No list of historical attractions in Northumberland would be complete without Hadrian’s Wall, would it? This UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was once one of the most defended borders in the Roman Empire, runs for 73 miles between Wallsend and Bowness-on-Solway.
The good thing about coming to Northumberland to see the wall is that this region is home to some of the best-preserved sections, as well as five excavated forts. A particularly good place to check out a scenic section is Steel Rigg, where you can look out over it snaking across the countryside.
Personally, I like the sound of tackling one of the walking paths that take you around the wall. The ultimate option, I think, is the Hadrian’s Wall Path – a National Trail that spans 84 miles. This allows you to walk along the whole wall, but there are plenty of shorter, circular routes if you fancy something a little less strenuous.