Everybody is familiar with this historic castle which has appeared in everything from Harry Potter to Downton Abbey, but did you know that it is also home to some of the finest Italian Renaissance paintings in the country? Keep your eyes peeled for these particular treasures as you walk through the castle’s exquisite state rooms – blink and you’ll miss them. Hanging inauspiciously in the Ante Library are three paintings by the Venetian master Titian, including his portrait of Cardinal Georges D’Armagnac painted between 1536 and 1538 when he was the French Ambassador to Venice. Alnwick Castle is also home to the ‘Portrait of a man with his wife and son’ that Lord Byron discussed in his 1817 poem Beppo – who’d have known?
01665 511100 www.alnwickcastle.com
KIELDER WATER & FOREST PARK
You might go to Kielder Water & Forest Park for the watersports and outdoor activities, the vast expanse of dark sky or the art and architecture, but there’s another reason to visit and it’s small, cute and fluffy – Kielder is home to half of the UK’s population of red squirrels. Naturally cautious, these beautiful creatures spend their time swinging from treetops and hiding from predators, but don’t worry, the Forest Park offer Red Squirrel safaris, led by professional naturalist Bruce Ferguson, to help you get up close and personal.
01434 220616 www.visitkielder.com
Bardon Mill, near Haltwhistle
Okay, we’ve cheated here – Hadrian’s Wall is one of our greatest treasures, but it’s hardly hidden, or so you think... Have you been to Sycamore Gap? That’s right, a tree so iconic that it has a place named after it. About a mile’s walk from Bardon Mill, a large sycamore tree stands in the dip of a valley by the famous wall. This tree is now a celebrity in it’s own right after appearing alongside Kevin Costner in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. That’s surely worth a visit?
NATIONAL RAILWAY MUSEUM
Shildon, County Durham
What do you know about San Pareil the ‘without equal’ steam locomotive? Visit the original train at the National Railway Museum to find out more. The engine was built by engineer Timothy Hackworth (also from Shildon) for the Rainhill Trials, the Victorian’s answer to the F1 Grand Prix – a head to head along a mile of track on the Liverpool to Manchester Railway. Sadly for Timothy many other trains did live up to his locomotive and he was pipped to the post by his Northern rival Robert Stephenson with the famous Rocket.
01388 777999 www.nrm.org.uk
In the shadow of the castle are these snowy-white cows, one of the rarest animals on the planet. We think that’s something to shout about – and boy do these beautiful beasts make a racket (imagine the roar of a fighting stallion). Untouched by human hands, the breed have roamed free for 700 years. Chillingham Wild Cattle Association offer guided tours, but don’t get too close – it’s customary for the herd to see off their weakest members. Eek.
Read our interview with warden Ellie Crossley online at www.livingnorth.com
MUSEUM OF HARTLEPOOL
The Museum of Hartlepool is a delight for history buffs, holding everything from prehistoric axes to 19th century toys, but there is one particular treasure that remains a mystery even to the curators – the ‘mystery object’. A piece of military regalia that may or may not have adorned the grave of Sidney Godley, the first private soldier to win the Victoria Cross in World War I. What is it? Where did it come from? And how did it get to Hartlepool? This is one of the North East’s best-kept secrets.