One of England’s largest counties, Northumberland is also one of the least densely populated, and there are wide tracts of uninhabited countryside. The scenery is often spectacular, if sometimes stark; the coastline is particularly beautiful, with beaches and cliffs interspersed with fishing villages and castles.

Northumberland is a primarily rural county, although there are urbanised former mining areas to the south and east. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the region’s largest and most prosperous commercial centre, is now part of the district of Tyne and Wear.

Many people commute into Newcastle from the Tyne Valley, which runs west towards Hexham; others travel to the city from Alnwick and Morpeth. To the west of the county are the Pennines; the Cheviot Hills, the Kielder Forest and the Scottish border are to the north.

A Roman frontier province for almost 300 years, Northumberland contains much of Hadrian’s Wall. A prominent feature of the county are its many castles, and traditional houses are built of stone.

Much of rural Northumberland is still in the hands of a few landowners. This has led to the development of corridors of housing; prices are buoyant as the supply of properties is limited. The highest prices are for houses within easy commuting distance of Newcastle, but not in the former mining areas.

Major towns

Corbridge, Morpeth, Alnwick, Hexham, Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Transport links

Train: King’s Cross to Newcastle-upon-Tyne 2hr 47min, Saver return £77.40; King’s Cross to Berwick-upon-Tweed 3hr 32min, Saver return £77.40.

Car: Newcastle is 274 miles from London, via the M1, A1 and A1(M); Berwick-upon-Tweed is 320 miles, via the M1, A1 and A1(M).

Public schools

King Edward VI School, Morpeth (01670 515415). Co-educational, age range 13-18, day. www.kevi.northumberland.sch.uk

Longridge Towers School, Berwick-upon-Tweed (01289 307584). Co-educational, age range 4-18, day and boarding. www.lts.org.uk

Ponteland High School (01661 824711). Co-educational, age range 13-18, day. www.pontelandhigh.northumberland.sch.uk

Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham (01434 610300). Co-educational, age range 13-18, day. w1.qehs.net

St Oswald’s School, Alnwick (01642 782095). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day. www.st-oswalds.northumberland.sch.uk

Leisure

Golfcourses: Alnmouth (01665 830231); Alnwick (01665 602632); Bamburgh Castle (01668 214378); Berwick-upon-Tweed (01289 387256); Gosforth (0191-285 6710).

Hunts: the Percy, the College Valley and North Northumberland, the Morpeth, the West Percy, the Tynsdale and the Milvain.

Yachting clubs: Royal Northumberland Yacht Club, Kielder Water Sailing Club.

Fishing: rivers Aln, Blyth, Coquet.