50 Great Days Out across the North East
Running from east to west, all 73 miles of this iconic defensive fortification were built from stone, and there’s so much to explore along this huge UNESCO World Heritage Site. The wall was begun in AD122 in the reign of Emperor Hadrian, and as well as the historical sites dotted along it (including Birdoswald Roman Fort and the Roman Army Museum) there’s a lot to be said for simply visiting the wall and taking in its immense structure. The newest attraction on the wall is The Sill: an exhibition, learning and event space, youth hostel, rural business hub and shop specialising in local crafts and produce. It also has a café which serves up simple, seasonal food alongside panoramic views. Nearby, Housesteads Roman Fort is the most complete Roman fort in the country, and was once home to nearly 10,000 soldiers – you can imagine what life was like here for the garrison as you explore the amazing exhibits in the museum, wander the barrack blocks, visit the hospital, and peer into the depths of the oldest toilets you’ll ever see. Make sure you take time to admire the stunning panoramic views from this ancient fortress, and take the opportunity to walk to the famous Sycamore Gap. Further west is Vindolanda Roman Fort. Explore the remains of this ancient fort and discover artefacts in the on-site museum (which include writing tablets, Roman footwear and toy swords) to learn more about one of the most defining periods in our history. It’s estimated that less than a quarter of the site has so far been excavated, and there are exciting new finds regularly. Lying next to a sweeping section of Hadrian’s Wall, this really is an authentic place to experience Rome’s extraordinary military legacy.
One of the most distinctive landmarks in the Tees Valley area, the views from Roseberry Topping are certainly arresting. Although not the tallest hill, you’re not likely to forget its shape, which was caused by a combination of a geological fault and a mining collapse in 1912. Covered in bluebells in spring, in the summer months there are abseiling adventures available – if you can’t be bothered to walk all the way back down.
Newton-under-Roseberry TS9 6QR
When the Tanfield Railway (or waggonway, as it was known at the time) was built in 1725, it was a triumph of engineering – a clear signal that a new industrial age was upon the world. Claiming to be the oldest railway in the world, you can board the vintage steam train for an unforgettable journey in one of the Victorian carriages for a six-mile trip through rolling countryside.
Old Marley Hill, Gateshead NE16 5ET
The seaside town of Whitley Bay is undergoing a transformation. Becoming something of a Mecca for independent shops and foodie outlets, favourites include Pure Knead (a brilliant bakery), and the newest outpost of LN favourite, award-winning Forum Books. Owner Helen Stanton has opened the bound which will delight the many Forum fans who travelled to her Corbridge shop from the coast, not least renowned writer and bookshop cheerleader Ann Cleeves, who officially opened the bound on Park View. Keep an eye out for events and special author signings in this new space. While you are here, check out Spanish City, pick up some fish and chips from Trenchers, and head to the beach where you’ll find a two-mile stretch of golden sand between Cullercoats and St Mary’s Island – explore the island via a causeway at low tide and discover its Grade II-listed lighthouse.
The Bound 82a Park View, Whitley Bay NE26 2TH
Seaton Delaval Hall
With a fascinating history of extravagance, ruin and survival, this 18th century hall was home to the larger-than-life Delaval family and the Grade I-listed mansion has hosted many extravagant parties and been the site of many scandals in its past, giving it a notorious reputation. But it’s not just the architectural design and dramatic history of the hall that make this such a popular day trip destination, the newly-renovated gardens are equally impressive and the new Delaval Playdium and walking trails which take you into the wider estate are well worth a visit.
Seaton Sluice, Whitley Bay NE26 4QR
Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre
On the site of a former coal mine, Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve has come to life over the last 20 years, and the wetlands and grasslands there now support over 200 species of birds throughout the year (all five species of UK owl can be seen here). It also has the nature-themed WildPlay area where kids can (literally) run wild.
Chilton Moor DH4 6PU
A trip to the Farnes has long been a tradition in this part of the world. Billy Shiel’s boat trips are still running (but with limited passengers) and you can choose from a seal cruise, a sea bird cruise, and even a sunset cruise. Landings are currently not permitted on the National Trust managed islands, but you will have plenty of time to observe and view the wildlife from the boat, and if you are lucky – alongside the seals, puffins and shags – you might find a friendly dolphin or two riding alongside the boat. Back in Seahouses, head to Lewis’s for fish and chips, to Swallow Fish to take home some of the day’s catch, and watch the sun going down from the harbourside – pint in hand – at the Bamburgh Castle Inn. There are great walks north to Bamburgh and south to Beadnell from Seahouses, or entertain the family at The Bunker, the mini golf course beside the sea.
The multi award-winning Beamish Museum is the North East’s very own bit of living history, with permanent attractions such as the traditional pit village, the 1940s farm and the 1900s town, where you can see how families lived and worked in the years leading up to the First World War. At the colliery you can learn about life underground, where generations of families worked, and meet the pit ponies. There are plenty of unique things to try too – ride the tram, go down the drift mine, or try your hand at colliery blacksmithing, satisfy your sweet tooth with traditional sweets from the Edwardian-style old-fashioned sweet shop, or for something more substantial enjoy fish and chips out of specially-printed Beamish newspaper. The Open Stores feature fascinating objects from Beamish’s collections. Built up over several decades, starting in the 1950s, these collections are made up of donations from the public and give an insight into everyday life across the region.
County Durham DH9 0RG
In the handsome border town of Berwick, and built in the early 18th century to the design of architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, Berwick Barracks were among the first in England to be purpose-built. Historically fascinating, the barracks are now home to By Beat Of Drum – a permanent exhibition that gives you an insight into the life of British soldiers from the Civil War to the First World War. Other attractions housed here include The King’s Own Scottish Borderers Museum which boasts an unrivalled collection of memorabilia from the regiment’s 325-year history including uniforms, medals, weapons and documents, and the Berwick Museum and Art Gallery with a changing programme of exhibitions. The relatively new Lowry trail is well worth investigating (the artist loved it here) and you can walk the town’s Elizabethan walls with their far-reaching views across the town, the harbour and out to sea.
Parade, Berwick TD15 1DF
With six play zones, including an undercover farmyard and indoor play town, come rain or shine, there’s always something to keep the family entertained at Adventure Valley. It’s the North East’s biggest family adventure park and a great place to spend the day letting off steam. Head to the Wild West Play Town and Cannon Saloon, wear them out at the Runaway Ranch, or get competitive on the 18-hole adventure golf course. There’s plenty of opportunity to make a myriad of new furry, scaly and feathery friends at the Creature Corner too.
Union Hall Farm, Brasside DH1 5SG
Ross Back Sands
This is one of Northumberland’s most deserted beaches – reaching the sand here involves a mile or so walk through the dunes, which puts a few visitors off – but for the determined the trek is definitely worth it. Pack a picnic (and maybe a windbreak), shake off the crowds, and head to this secluded beach bookended by belting views of Bamburgh Castle and Lindisfarne for a perfect day spent digging in the sand.
Ross, near Belford
The longest waterfall in England is found on the upper reaches of the River Tees and at 180 metres long, Cauldron Snout is well worth the two-mile trek from the car park to see it, immediately below the dam of the Cow Green Reservoir. Well upstream from the High Force waterfall, it boasts beautiful wildflowers and glorious views across riverside grassland.
Cow Green Reservoir car park
Described as a ‘palace of the modern magician’ you can learn all about engineer, innovator and arms manufacturer Lord Armstrong at his former holiday home – the first in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. There’s a wealth of ingenious gadgetry on display here, including a Turkish bath and a working kitchen as it would have been in Armstrong’s day. Outside, explore the gardens and the Orchard House, one of the country’s largest surviving glasshouses, dating back to the 1870s. There are 30 miles of footpaths in the grounds, a rhododendron maze and plenty of interactive models in the Power House. Armstrong constructed five lakes, a rock garden and planted over seven million trees and shrubs.
Rothbury, Morpeth NE65 7PX
Said to be Britain’s most-haunted historic castle, Chillingham is seriously spooky. Keep an eye out for the White Pantry ghost, and listen up for the mysterious voices in the Chapel. Built in the 12th century, Chillingham was Edward I’s base for his assault on William Wallace’s forces in 1298. Capability Brown designed the park in 1752, Sir Jeffry Wyatville designed the Italian garden in the 19th century and it’s been the subject of repeated royal visits. Deer, red squirrels and badgers roam the woods here, and look out for the famous herd of wild, white cattle in the distance.
Chillingham, Alnwick NE66 5NJ
When you want to really get away from it all, put a visit to this remote part of north Northumberland at the top of your ‘must explore’ list. There’s a car park at Hethpool, but don’t forget that you need to apply for a permit if you wish to drive further into the valley (it is well worth the effort), and the number of permits per day is limited. There are more than 12,000 acres of National Park here to explore – complete with feral goats, roe deer, red squirrels, otters, black grouse, ancient hill forts and breathtaking views.
Northumberland National Park
Tees Barrage International White Water Centre
For outdoor adventure, take the plunge and try white water rafting, stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking or bellboating at the White Water Centre. With a real-life rapid river experience, powerboat trips, and family rafting experiences you may well get wet, but you’ll be having way too much fun to care. Next to the wildwater course is Air Trail, a climbing adventure course with swinging bridges, balance beams and cargo nets suitable for all ages. Not feeling adventurous? Tees Barrage is surrounded by great walks and there’s a nearby nature reserve too.
Tees Barrage Way, Stockton-on-Tees
Kielder Observatory is located in the heart of Northumberland International Dark Sky Park (at 580 square miles, it’s the second largest area of protected night sky in Europe) where on a clear night you can see millions of stars, the Milky Way and even the Andromeda Galaxy 2.5 million light years away. Prepare to be amazed as you learn about the infinite wonders of the solar system with the dedicated group of astronomers. The Observatory is only open when an event is being run (usually late afternoon and evenings) so check out what’s happening on their event page and be sure to book in advance. At other times you can roam outside the observatory building and take in the spectacular views of Kielder itself.
Kielder NE48 1ER
Built on the site of the former docks, the Royal Quays is now an outlet shopping centre and there are also new cafés, on-site pubs and a new garden centre. Shops include the Designer Warehouse selling big brands at special outlet prices, Gap, Mountain Warehouse, Moss Bross and independents Hauticulture and A & B Candle Company. Shopped out? North Shields’ proximity to the coast means that this is the place to go for fresh seafood and the nearby Fish Quay has a rich maritime heritage too.
Coble Dene, North Shields NE29 6DW
Worth a visit – if only because it gave our city its name! Open seven days a week, the Castle Keep and Black Gate stand as a reminder of the medieval history of Newcastle, and a rugged reminder of the area’s turbulent past. Discover some unusual tales and stories from the past within the stone passageways and chambers where kings once walked, villains were imprisoned, and criminals executed, before climbing the spiral staircase to the top to enjoy some of the best views of the city.
Castle Garth, Newcastle NE1 1RQ
This award-winning people’s museum tells fascinating stories of the past (all 10,000 years). Two floors house a permanent collection of artefacts, documents and audio visuals where you’ll discover fascinating stories about the town. The third floor is home to temporary exhibitions and events and it’s also a great place to take the kids, with its range of family-friendly activities. The current exhibition is all about the Vikings, and you can separate the fact from the fiction in this myth-busting exhibition. When most people think of Vikings they imagine bearded warriors wreaking havoc, or legendary gods with magic hammers. But the Norse people who settled in northern England in the 9th and 10th centuries also had a fascinating culture. In Vikings: Fact and Fiction, explore who they really were, from the clothes they wore to the activities they did for fun. Discover 1,000-year-old artefacts and see how the Vikings impacted the world, not just through raiding and conquering but through craft-making and trading.
14 Bailiffgate, Alnwick NE66 1LX
There are 2,000 flowers and plants to be found in the glass rotunda here, and a collection of unique historic artefacts make this a fascinating place to visit. Wander along the treetop walkway in the Winter Gardens, discover a significant collection of the works of LS Lowry in the Art Gallery, meet the famous Wallace the stuffed lion – who was part of a wild animal tour that visited Sunderland in the 19th century and was acquired for the museum in 1879 – and see the remains of a walrus bought back from Siberia during the 1800s. The museum is also home to the first Nissan car to roll off the new production line in Sunderland in 1986, and hundreds of other amazing objects, and the galleries cover much of Sunderland’s industrial history, from shipbuilding to the glass and pottery-making industries.
Burdon Road, Sunderland SR1 1PP
Put on your hiking boots, pack a picnic and escape the hustle and bustle by visiting County Durham’s largest forest. Hike through the trees, or jump on your bike to enjoy Hamsterley’s range of walking and cycling trails which are perfect for exploring the heart of the forest. From wildlife to stargazing, and adventure play to exhilarating mountain biking there’s plenty to keep everyone occupied (there’s even a Gruffalo trail) and the excellent visitor centre at the eastern edge will help you with anything you need to know.
Redford DL13 3NL
Preston Park Museum and Grounds
This is a great place for a fabulous day out for the whole family. Stroll through the Quarry Wood Nature Reserve, head down to the river through the expansive grounds, then meander down the replica Victorian street. Prebook tickets to learn more about the heritage of Teesside in a museum based in one of its most popular parks.
Stockton TS18 3RH
Perched atop the whin sill jutting into the sea, the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle (made famous by JMW Turner) overlook the sweeping Embleton Bay to the north and the tiny fishing village of Craster to the south. The castle was built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster between 1313 and 1322 (and later expanded by John O’ Gaunt) and made full use of the natural defences afforded by the majestic rocky whin sill. The walk from Craster to Dunstanburgh is spectacular, but make sure you explore the castle itself – including the twin-towered, three-storey keep.
Craster NE66 3TT
Bywell Shooting Ground
This family-run business has been on the go since 1980. They can provide expert tuition and coaching for a novice, clay or game shooter. Why not try your hand at clay pigeon shooting for a fun and totally different day out? Lessons are available Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday where you can learn the basics of the sport or let the experts help you rectify any problems you have with your gun. Group lessons (a minimum of four guests) are great fun (no experience necessary). Bywell also carries one of the largest selections of new and pre-owned shotguns in the country and there’s a great country clothing shop stocked with everything you could possibly need, and more.
Bywell Farm, Morpeth NE65 9QQ
This vibrant indoor market brings together a bustling shopping and dining culture, all under one roof. With over 100 shops it’s a real treasure trove, and from jewellers, cobblers and haberdasheries to artisan bakeries, butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers it is a one-stop-shop for everything you need. Nearly 200 years since it first opened, visitors to the Grade-I listed Grainger Market can pick up fresh fish, meat, fruit and veg, while browsing the mini bazaars, as well as indulging in a slice of fresh, stonebaked pizza, delicious freshly-roasted coffee, or handmade cakes at one of the many independent outlets. Well ingrained in Newcastle’s history and heritage, the market retains much of the stunning light and airy architecture that was designed by John Dobson. Constructed as part of the city’s redevelopment by architect Richard Grainger in the 1830s, it first opened in 1835 and is one of the few market halls in the UK that remains in use for its original purpose.
Grainger Street, Newcastle NE1 5QQ
If you’re looking for a quintessential seaside experience, look no further than Saltburn-by-the-Sea. This picture-perfect town retains all of its Victorian charm, and strolling through the streets it seems little has changed since the 19th century. Thankfully, the shops and restaurants are thoroughly up to date, but you can still enjoy the unspoilt views of curving golden sands and rugged cliffs – accompanied by a bag of chips or an ice cream. Don’t miss the Saltburn Cliff Tramway, the oldest water-balanced funicular still in operation in the country taking visitors up and down the cliff face, Saltburn’s 600-foot long Victorian pier (the last surviving pier on the North East coast), and the wide beach which is popular with surfers and annually hosts one of the UK’s biggest surf competitions. Want to learn to surf yourself? Saltburn Surf School is the only surf school on our coast approved by Surfing Great Britain. Away from the beach, take a trip on the Saltburn Miniature Railway. Feel free to hop off at the grassy picnic and play area to make a day of it. If you stay on until the end of the line you can walk over the bridge to the Italian gardens and Victorian tearoom, or just enjoy the tranquil journey back towards town.
Saltburn-by-the-Sea TS12 1HA
Built to guard the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall, Segedunum was used as a garrison for over 300 years up to 400AD, and offers a fantastic insight into life in Roman Britain. Explore ruins and reconstructions before climbing up the viewing tower to take in the entire site. There are numerous events organised every month, which makes it a fun and engaging place to introduce kids to Roman history.
Buddle Street, Wallsend NE28 6HR
From the highest point in this range of rolling hills (atop The Cheviot, which stands at 815 metres) you can see as far as the Lake District and Edinburgh on a clear day. These hills are a walker’s wonderland. There are plenty of guided walks and mapped walking routes, some easier than others, but be sure to check out the dramatic waterfall at Linhope Spout (an 18-metre shoot of water which lands in a plunge pool) which the kids will love, the Shepherds Cairn (a memorial to two shepherds who lost their lives in the winter of 1962 and were found just half a mile from home at Ewartly Shank) and Yeavering Bell’s remarkable Iron Age hill fort. The weather can be changeable, and some of the walking challenging, so make sure you are well prepared.
South Shields is home to the golden sands and dramatic coastline of Blue Flag award-winning Sandhaven Beach. Ocean Road in the centre of South Shields is where you’ll find heaps of traditional fish and chip shops alongside restaurants which offer flavours from around the world. Stroll around the town and you’ll stumble across a plethora of public art, statues and monuments to the great and the good. Arbeia Roman Fort is a must-see attraction, with some of the finest Roman reconstructions in Britain, and be sure to stop by The Word. The National Centre for the Written Word is a state-of-the-art cultural venue in the heart of the town, offering a whole host of amazing exhibitions and interactive experiences. It’s home to StoryWorld, which incorporates storytelling with immersive projections, FabLab, which encourages creativity and design through tech workshops, and a fully-functioning library with more than 70,000 books. Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies will be in their element at Ocean Beach Pleasure Park. Buckle up for the Freak Out or hold your nerve on the Sky Dive, with more than 40 rides to try it’s a fun-packed way to spend a day. For those who aren’t as keen on high-speed action, there are also laser mazes, ghost hunts, dodgems and a range of child-friendly rides to enjoy.
Home to England’s largest forest and the biggest man-made lake in Northern Europe, Kielder Water & Forest Park is an incredible space in north Northumberland – and the perfect place for a vast number of activities, including cycling, fishing, horse-riding, and (obviously) watersports. It’s a haven for wildlife and you can expect to encounter badgers, roe deer, otters and red squirrels across the park and there are several nature hubs – Tower Knowe, Bakethin Nature Reserve and Kielder Castle – which have up-to-date information on what you can see and where. The Tower Knowe Visitor Centre, near the famous dam, is the place to start for those who have never visited the area. From there you can explore the lake shore and headlands and take in the spectacular views. With several geocaches and eight official Kielder walks of varying difficulty available on the View Ranger app, it’s easy to get started. The app not only gives you directions but help identifying the wildlife you might see and information on the rare plants found here. The wildlife garden comprises a raised pond and butterfly-shaped bed, a bog and drought garden where you can find adders, butterflies, stoats and amphibians, and the Kielder Water Birds of Prey Centre is open all year. The park also sits under some of the best dark skies in England.
Kielder NE48 1BX
Built in 1844 in memory of the 1st Earl of Durham, John George Lambton, this landmark monument stands 70 feet above the surrounding countryside and boasts spectacular panoramic views over the whole area, which on a clear day can include Durham Cathedral to the south, and the Cheviots to the far north. Well worth the uphill trek, it’s expected to reopen every weekend and you can take a special ‘tour to the top’ –climbing up a spiral staircase inside one of the pillars. There’s a network of paths which take in the whole site, including Penshaw Wood. Interestingly, the stepped shape of Penshaw Hill is attributed to local legend the Lambton Worm – the giant monster is said to have wrapped itself around the hill 10 times.
Chester Road, Penshaw DH4 7NJ
RSPB Saltholme Nature Reserve
There is a mixture of habitats at Saltholme, from reed beds and open pools to wet grassland and meadow land, making it the perfect place for a spot of bird-watching. The trails and specially-constructed hides allow you to take a stroll around the reserve and get up close and personal with some of the species that have made their home here. Stop by Salthome Pool’s Hide or Paddy’s Hide to watch the terns which breed here during spring and summer. See lapwing, water rail, yellow wagtails and peregrine falcons which use the site as a hunting ground.
Seaton Carew Road, Stockton TS2 1TU
Killhope: The North of England Lead Mining Museum
This multi-award winning 19th century lead mining museum allows you to experience what life was like for the mining families of the North Pennines. If you don’t fancy donning a hard hat and heading underground for the mine tour you can still appreciate the fascinating heritage in the museum, where thousands of objects are on display and are helpfully divided into different categories: domestic and family life, community life, and working life. Watch the working water wheel in action, and visit the Weardale Tub, a fantastic lead mining tub reimagined with 500 glass tiles which depict the story of Weardale. Killhope is situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so take time to enjoy the surrounding countryside as you try to imagine what life would have been like in Victorian times, when the area was at its most prosperous.
Cowshill, Upper Weardale DL13 1AR
We’re all familiar with the arresting sight of Durham Cathedral from the train, and it’s even more impressive up close. One of the North East’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Cathedral packs almost 1,000 years of history into one building, and is the final resting place of both St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. It’s an incredible place where you can sense history all around you. The cathedral sits on Palace Green with Durham Castle opposite, high above the River Wear, and one of the most striking views is from the river bank, or take a river cruise which lasts an hour and gives you the best perspective on this historic city. Discover Durham’s fascinating history from medieval times to modern day at the Durham Heritage Centre and Museum on North Bailey, with a variety of objects, models and audiovisual materials, including a model of medieval Durham. Spend a little time in the covered market and wander the cobbled streets, crossing the various ancient bridges, before heading to the outskirts of the city, where you’ll find the 10-hectare Botanic Gardens with a wide variety of landscapes and plants. The Tropical Glasshouse recreates a humid rainforest climate where bananas, sugarcane, coffee, giant bamboo and epiphytic orchids thrive, whilst the Cactus House is home to desert plants such as prickly pears and aloes.
In addition to its long and rich history, Ouseburn has earned itself a reputation as one of the coolest places in Newcastle. It’s home to some of the city’s best cultural attractions, from printworks and galleries, including the child-friendly Seven Stories and Lime Street art centre, to the historic Victoria Tunnel which runs under the city. Originally transporting coal from Spital Tongues to the river, the Victoria Tunnel was converted into an air raid shelter during World War Two, and has since been repaired and opened to the public. Take a guided tour led by an award-winning team of volunteers, and discover a fascinating world beneath Newcastle’s streets. There’s an eclectic mix of restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs here, including The Cook House, Thali Tray and Kiln. At the northern end is Ernest café and Ernie deli, Stepney Bank Stables and award-winning pub and live music venue The Cluny, as well as ARCH 2 Brewpub and Kitchen, with its twinkling sheltered beer garden. Head down towards the river to find the Free Trade Pub and the Cycle Hub for all things to do with two wheels. Just along the river to the east is Hoult’s Yard, a creative hub which is home to lots of small independents including the popular Proven Goods, and a hop and skip further along the Walker Road is the Tyne Bank Brewery, with its Tap Room and great beer garden. The Tap Room is housed in a 1,400 square foot area within the brewery and includes 16 taps and eight cask lines of Tyne Bank beers. There’s a view directly into the working brewery, and it also hosts live music events – well worth seeking out.
Low Barns Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre
Now a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Low Barns is home to a huge array of wildlife, including tawny owls, flycatchers and kingfishers. Patient visitors might even be lucky enough to spot stoats, roe deer or otters, and there’s also the possibility of becoming a member of the Wildlife Trust which will grant you access to the bird hides across the reservoir at peak times.
Witton-le-Wear DL14 0AG
Durham Climbing Centre
One of the largest dedicated bouldering centres in the country, this is where you need to be for an exhilarating chance to learn to climb, or to finesse your already considerable climbing skills. Suitable for everyone from the complete novice to the most advanced climber, it’s a great place to develop fitness and a range of new skills. The Beginner Area has a range of easy climbs and gentle angles (it’s next to the coffee lounge so parents can watch from the comfort of the sofas). With a Griptonite traffic light grading system on the Advanced Area you can check the level of your climb and take on new routes, and there’s a large variety of angles and some steep overhangs to test your skills.
St John’s Road, Meadowfield Indl Estate, Durham DH7 8TZ
High Force in the heart of the Durham Dales is a sight not to be missed. The majestic 70-foot drop makes it the highest uninterrupted fall of water in England – as you approach the site from the woodland trail, the muffled roar will get slowly louder until you emerge in front of the breathtaking falls. High Force is in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with its variety of wildlife and rare plant life, and there are plenty of stunning walking trails to explore in and around this beautiful part of Upper Teesdale.
Forest-in-Teesdale, Barnard Castle DL12 0XH
A little gem in North Northumberland, Ford & Etal has a wealth of wonderful visitor attractions. A working estate, and home to the Joicey family for over 100 years, it lies in the valley of the River Till, close to the Scottish border, in land dotted with ancient castles and battlefields, and today it is farmed and managed much as it has always been. Families will enjoy the return trip on the narrow-gauge Heatherslaw Light Railway, and there’s lots to keep the kids entertained at Lady Waterford Hall, the former school room and now museum with its huge murals painted by the Marchioness of Waterford. Still intact, you can marvel at Lady Waterford’s astonishing feat (they took 21 years to complete), study her sketches and other paintings, learn about her life and how she developed Ford as a ‘model’ village. School furniture has also been preserved, so children can experience something of day-to-day life in a Victorian schoolroom, as well as following an unusual Lego trail. The traditional corn mill at Heatherslaw still turns out its own flour and provides a hands-on experience where visitors can operate the hoist and grind their own flour. Also on the estate, the Medieval Etal Castle, built as a defence against Scottish raiders in the 14th century, fell to James IV’s invading Scots army before their defeat at the Battle of Flodden. The historic Flodden Battlefield is where, in September 1513, the bloody but decisive battle in the long history of England, Scotland, and Britain, took place. More than 15,000 of the (roughly) 60,000 soldiers who fought here died, including King James IV – the last British monarch to meet his end in battle. Survey the battlefield and feel the history in the air. If all that’s not enough for you, cycling, walking, fishing and canoeing can keep you busy in the more hidden corners of the estate.
Cornhill-on-Tweed TD12 4JT
This former colliery has become one of the North East’s top family attractions. Depicting the lives of coal miners, it still retains some of the colliery’s original buildings and equipment including two head frames, a steam winding engine, and a blacksmiths and joiners shop. Coal Town is an engaging and interactive exhibition told through the eyes of the local community. They’ll take you into their homes, on marches, and even on strike as you explore everyday life through their eyes. Cram into the ‘cage’, experience washday and learn how to grow leeks. It’s a fascinating and moving experience. The museum also features a permanent exhibition of art by the Ashington Group, better known as the Pitmen Painters, depicting life in and around the mines and a new Northumberland Folk exhibtion which tells some of Northumberland’s strangest stories. Visit the Geordie Broonbar, meet the local characters and play the Darktown Miner’s Social Club’s jukebox – singing a long compulsory.
QEII Country Park, Ashington NE63 9YF
Royal fortress, Norman stronghold, and coastal home – there aren’t many more dramatic backdrops than Bamburgh Castle, which has stood guard over this stretch of coastline for more than 1,400 years. As you’d expect of a site which has had settlements on it for thousands of years, there are plenty of fascinating stories and legends to discover here, including dragons, ghosts, Sir Lancelot, tales of royal rebellion and bloody battles, and more recently the story of engineer Lord Armstrong, who bought the castle in the 19th century. Still one of the largest inhabited castles, there’s plenty to explore here, from armour to tableware and the castle’s extensive grounds. Parts of the castle are now dog friendly too, so you can hit the beach after your visit and take in the iconic view of the castle brooding on its rocky outcrop. Head into the village to the Grace Darling Museum to discover the moving story of the young girl who risked her life to rescue others from a shipwreck in a terrible storm off the nearby Farne Islands. The coble which Grace used is on display in the museum and her tomb can be seen in the village church of St Aidan’s, which dates back to the 12th century and also houses a shrine to St Aidan. There are several pubs in the village where you can sit back and slake your thirst within sight of the iconic castle. Hungry? The award-winning butcher also has a deli and does a great line in pies (and its famous sausages) and has started to produce delicious burgers (for pre-order) too. If you can, bag a table at The Potted Lobster (the lower bar is dog friendly) and may we suggest the seafood platter to share – the best of the local catch served up with crusty bread (chips optional!). The beach at Bamburgh has been voted the best in the UK so it’s worth spending some time walking here. Heading south you’ll pass the Farne Islands as you head towards the seaside village of Seahouses. To the north, past Bamburgh Golf Club, is a more remote, and often empty stretch of beach with Holy Island shimmering in the distance.
Bamburgh NE69 7DF
Originally the country retreat of the Blackett family who bought Wallington in 1688, it was used for shooting parties and entertaining (the Blacketts employed six men simply to carry drunken guests to bed after their grand parties). It eventually became the much-loved home of the rather unconventional Trevelyan family, and inside Wallington Hall you’ll find exquisite Pre-Raphaelite paintings by William Bell Scott, quirky personal curiosities, and beautiful furniture, while outside you can explore the hidden walled garden, spy on wildlife including red squirrels, learn about the vital conservation work carried out at the hall, and head out on the many different walks, from a gentle mile-long stroll to a rugged six-mile hike. There’s also a Dragon cycle trail suitable for all ages and abilities.
Cambo, near Morpeth NE61 4AR
Druridge Bay Country Park
Stretching from Amble south to Cresswell, there are seven miles of beautiful beach and sand dunes to explore here. In the 19th century coal was mined nearby, and during World War II Druridge Bay was thought of as a possible landing place for a German invasion – you can still see the anti-tank blocks and pill boxes that were constructed to defend our shores. The freshwater Ladyburn Lake where you can sail is fringed by woodland and meadows, and there are several nature reserves tucked behind the dunes all restored from an old opencast mine. With plenty of birdlife to spot, including the rare golden eye snipe, this area is a magnet for walkers, cyclists and nature lovers, and is the perfect place for a family day out, with plenty for everyone to enjoy once they get tired of digging in the sand.
Red Row NE61 5BX
Lindisfarne Castle and Priory
Lindisfarne (or Holy Island) was one of the most important centres of early English Christianity, and crossing the dramatic causeway which is covered twice a day by the tide to reach the island is a journey that will long stay in your memory (always check the tide timetables before you set out). Visit the ruins of the 12th-century priory, which claims direct descent from the early monastery, follow in the footsteps of the ancient monks and find out all about the Viking raids, St Cuthbert, and the Lindisfarne Gospels. Holy Island’s 16th century castle was much-altered by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1901. Visit the Getrtude Jekyll-designed gardens before heading back into the village. Pop into the Heritage centre to see a copy of the 7th century Lindisfarne Gospels before heading for a well-earned coffee from the family-run Pilgrims Coffee House, an ethically-minded roastery, and to pick up some of the famous Lindisfarne Mead from St Aidan’s Winery.
From the clever people behind the spectacular Kynren – an Epic Tale of England, is the brand new theme park, 11Arches Park. This is going to be the must-visit attraction for the North East this summer as visitors will be able to step back in time into a Viking village and experience immersive and exhilarating live action shows including a Maze of Fame, the Kid’s Viking Lair, and a Dancing Water Show, before finally taking a seat for the afternoon’s spectacular performance of Fina and the Golden Cape on the panoramic outdoor stage. Expect the same drama and excitement generated by Kynren but with a daily schedule to ensure you can get the most out of your visit. Tickets are available now but book early as the Park opens Saturdays from 7th August to 11th September only.
Bishop Auckland, County Durham DL14 7SF
Head of Steam: Darlington Railway Museum
A must for train enthusiasts, what better place to explore the history of the railways in the region than at their very birthplace? Head of Steam is where you can discover much about the development and operation of the railways, including the Stockton and Darlington Railway, through archived material, maps and photographs, together with lots of paraphernalia used on the railways.
Station Road, Darlington DL3 6ST
Built by John Nevill, 3rd Baron Neville de Raby, this medieval castle sits in 200 acres of deer park and gardens. The castle itself has a fascinating history, originally built as a palace fortress, it was home to Cecily Nevill, mother of two kings of England, and it played a prominent part in the Rising of the North and was a Parliamentary stronghold during the Civil War. Inside is a mix of Medieval, Regency and Victorian interiors where you’ll find important art and furniture dating from the 17th through to the 20th century. Don’t miss the spectacular 1840s Octagon Drawing Room, the historic Baron’s Hall, and the kitchen, built in 1360 and still presented very much as it would have been in medieval times. The castle’s coach house and stables were designed by renowned architect John Carr in the late 1700s and are well worth a visit to find the unique collection of coaches and travelling chariots, and the livery worn by the coachmen of Raby. The castle grounds include five acres of traditional 18th century Walled garden with a fig house, rose garden and plenty of ornamental features worth finding. Youngsters will love the Woodland Adventure Playground whist the more energetic can hire bikes to explore more of the vast grounds, keeping an eye on the herds of grazing red and fallow deer.
Staindrop, County Durham DL2 3AH
Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden
In the award-winning garden, you can marvel at the magnificent Grand Cascade, wander through the Rose Garden, be amazed at the Poison Garden, and get lost in the Bamboo Labyrinth, all before trying out the Forgotten Garden crazy golf course, while fans of the boy wizard will want to visit the castle to see where the filming of the first two Harry Potter films took place – as well as many other much-loved dramas. But don’t forget that the castle has been the home of the Percy family for over 700 years and holds an extraordinary collection of artworks by the likes of Canaletto, Titian and Van Dyck. The family still live in part of the castle but you are free to roam the majority of this historic site. Outside the castle’s walls, the town itself is a bustling little centre, packed full of interesting things to see and do. It’s home to the now-famous Barter Books, where you’ll find thousands of pre-loved second hand books housed in the old railway station, and there are plenty of other shops to satisfy any overdue retail therapy; Robinson’s for ladies clothes, Notes of Northumberland for locally-inspired scented candles, Jobson’s is a traditional country store, and Bell & Scott the menswear specialist. There are several home accessory shops too, including Marilyn & Melrose and Ruby Tuesday, both great for gifts and homeware. Pick up picnic essentials at the much-loved Turnbull’s and The Cheese Room where you’ll find a vast range of the best local cheeses. Pop into The Plough, an old coaching inn with a cosy bar (and 40 different gins on its menu), or for something a little special head to the magical Treehouse restaurant at The Alnwick Garden, high in the tree tops, and perfect for a delicious lunch or cosy dinner. Just over the bridge heading north, Hulne Park is a hidden gem. Landscaped by Capability Brown, you can now go rambling around the park, which was once the hunting grounds of the Percy family, and explore Brizlee Tower and Hulne Priory – the first Carmelite priory in England. Don’t forget that the park is only open to the public between 11am and sunset as a number of residents live here, and dogs are not permitted.
Alnwick NE66 1NQ
Alnwick NE66 1YU
We all love a day beside the seaside and Tynemouth, famous for its sandy beaches popular with surfers, its bustling Front Street, its many bars and great independent shops, is a well-known destination for a day out. But if the sand is blowing in your sandwiches and the sea a little too rough to be tempting, keep kids occupied with the Tynemouth Treasure Trail. Follow the trail (it’s about three miles and takes three hours to complete) and solve the clues set on the buildings and monuments to discover the location of the buried treasure. It starts at Tynemouth Metro Station and takes you on a scenic stroll around the town, including down to the river and to the Priory headland. Once completed, head back into the town where you can refuel with fish and chips at Longsands, and grab a coffee at Dil & The Bear before you peruse some of the shops. Raspberry Bazaar is a mini emporium crammed with unusual gifts, clothes and jewellery. If you are there at the weekend don’t miss Tynemouth’s market, and make sure you find Karma Coast – another LN favourite, with its multi-award winning organic CBD products. This little life-saver of a shop is focused on improving your wellbeing and the expert staff are on hand to guide you through their products. Finish your day at the Lost World Adventure, the dinosaur-themed crazy golf course in Tynemouth Park.