The Country Life guide to Northumberland: Where to go, what to see, where to stay and what to eat

Crowd-free beaches, coastline, marshes and meadows, and plenty of wildlife make Northumberland a superb place to go. Here's our guide to what to do, where to stay and what to eat.

With its wild, crowd-free beaches, craggy coastline steeped in Nordic lore, and gorse-lined lanes carving up pink moorlands, Northumberland is a rugged and relentless beauty. Summer is the scent of juniper berries, when salt marshes, meadows and dunes are ablaze with wild flowers.

Then, logs are split, the mists set in and Northumberland steps into its finest, tartan coat. From salt-of-the-earth gastro-pubs serving knockout seafood to archipelagos teeming with seals and puffins, here’s our insider’s guide to Northumberland. 

What to do

Hadrian’s Wall 

Commissioned ‘to separate the Romans from the barbarians’, Hadrian’s Wall is best attacked (by walkers) from Housesteads. From here, the wall traces the rolling valleys of Northumberland National Park and tempts walkers still further with a glorious patchwork of heather and rolling, tartan-hued hills. 

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Cheviot Hills 

Carpeted in purple heather and defined by mossy veins and deep pine valleys, Cheviot Hills are a splendid spot for walkers. Wild waterfalls, buzzards, skylarks and hidden hills await them, though the brave take on the Cheviot — the park’s highest peak. 


Northumberland’s beaches remain some of the UK’s most underrated. Cross the causeway to Holy Island for pocket-sized pubs, independent cafes and a castle clinging to the hillside over a grey sea (incidentally, once owned by Edward Hudson, founder Country Life). Farne Island’s puffins and seals can be reached by ferry from the pretty fishing village of Seahouses. Then there’s Bamburgh Castle Beach, a stellar surfing and picnic spot. 

Alnwick Castle

Dating back to the Norman period, Alnwick is a menacing and magnificent castle where the likes of Harry Potter and Downton Abbey were filmed. Throughout the year, a series of events take place within its turreted walls, from Medieval jester shows to open air cinema screenings.

Alnwick Castle reflected in the river Aln on a clear summer's morning, Northumberland, England

Alnwick Castle reflected in the river Aln on a clear summer’s morning, Northumberland, England

Best hotels in Northumberland

Eshott Hall

Ensconced in landscaped gardens and soft Northumberland countryside, Eshott Hall is a handsome Georgian pile with traditional, silver-service fine dining. Its easy access from the A1 is a relief after the long stretch north, while nearby turreted Alnwick Castle and Druridge Country Park and Cressel beach are all terrific day trip material. Guests are kept busy with tennis, clay pigeon shooting and croquet, or can simply while away an afternoon with a book in the walled gardens.  

From £140 a night 

The Lord Crewe Arms

The owners of Gloucester’s Calcot Manor and Barnsley House looked north to Blanchland, a remote hamlet on the Northumberland-Durham border of weathered stone cottages with oxblood doors. The building’s medieval soul has been preserved amid a gentle, country manor-style overhaul. Heavy cream curtains frame deep mullioned windows in the rooms, log burners warm toes and downstairs, North Sea plaice and duck leg are washed down with real ale. Long walks along the River Derwent are made easy with a boot room, while Lord Crewe’s own beat is a boon for the fishing set. 

From £189 a night 

Brinkburn Mill

Surrounded by pretty woodland on the banks of the River Coquet, Brinkburn mill is an 1800s time warp. Its gothic manor stands proud across the lawn while the mill’s wheel and grinding stones remain firmly intact. Guests will relish downtime in the mustard sitting room of deep sofas and bureaus, and waking up to the soothing rush of water and shifting oaks. Brinkburn priory lies just beyond the garden, while Northumbrian castles and their rough-and-ravishing beaches are a short car journey away. 

Four nights from £347

The William de Percy Inn and Creperie 

Having received the full Sun King treatment, this former Northumbrian coaching inn is now a flamboyant warren of faux elaborate wall cornicing, velvet sofas and dark, brooding bathrooms with copper tubs. While Versailles seems to have landed in Northumberland, the restaurant-cum-bar channels a proper English, malt-and-ale pub with local, seasonal menus. The hotel lies on the fringes of Northumberland’s National Park, where bracing romps through Kielder Forest and cycling trails are rewarded with steak and Malbec pie (or a Malteeser crêpe lathered in Chantilly cream). 

From £142 a night

Causeway House

Suspended in time and thatched in heather, this restored 18th century farmhouse is the perfect expression of rural Northumberland. Two canopied beds lie beneath the original skeleton of the loft and an Edwardian metal bed occupies a boudoir-style room with duck egg wood panelling. The preserved wrought iron fireplace and oven rewards long ambles along sections of Hadrian’s wall or jaunts to nearby Roman forts (the farmhouse lies on the edge of Northumberland National Park). 

Four nights from £264

Best restaurants in Northumberland

The Feathers Inn


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Just 15 miles outside Newcastle, The Feather Inn demands a  steep, rasping-engine-ascent up Hedley on the Hill for locavore dishes such as braised local roe deer and Northumbrian smoked bacon and English lentil broth. The pub’s tentacles reach into the surrounding valleys and fishing boats, as well as the region’s culinary heritage to cook radically local and (accordingly) seasonal plates, from Rump of Haydon Bridge beef to burnt Northumbrian cream.

The Running Fox

A wrought iron fireplace is the focal point of this Victoriana-style tearoom, whose tartan-draped chairs prop up whole afternoons of chocolate cake and scones with tea. Lunch is a smorgasbord affair, the Northumbrian rendition which reads more like a ploughmans, and ales have been known to ease into absinth on the terrace. Walkers can fill backpacks with picnic fare here, before heading off on trails along the River Coquet in Felton Park.


Despite its strong gastro-pub game, Northumberland seriously lacked an experimental, destination restaurant. 12-seat Hjem’s soon changed that. Operating in that thrilling intersection of art and food (with a dash of alchemy), Scandinavian chef (and rising star) Alex Nietosvuori puts on a 15-18 serving Nordic tasting menu of wildly imaginative combinations: North Sea cod with chicken skin, apple caramel blended with horseradish and lashings of lavender butter over warm brioche.