Enjoy Endless Experiences With Visit Northumberland This Autumn/Winter
Northumberland has been one of the most popular places up north for staycations and holidays while international travel has been on hold over the last two years. With endless experiences on offer, incredible food, beautiful places to stay from camp sites and glamping to luxury hotels, Northumberland has so much to enjoy. It would take a very long time to see and do everything on offer across the county, but the autumn/winter months shouldn’t be discounted. Why not make the most of the quieter time and discover a different Northumberland to one you may have enjoyed in the summer? Official tourist board Visit Northumberland along with their partners can help you discover more.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Visit Northumberland, who arranged two October days out for us across Northumberland and Northumberland National Park.
Personally, I’ve definitely spent a lot more time along the Northumberland coast than any other area of the county, aside from the occasional trip to Corbridge. Despite being so close, I hadn’t walked along Hadrian’s Wall at all in as long as I can remember. I must have been a young child the last time, which brings back very vague memories of studying the Roman’s at school.
Over two days recently, we took in some of the most historic sites of northern England, and some of the most photographed across the Northumberland National Park.
The Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre & Hadrian’s Wall
Our first experience began at The Sill, and involved a walk through the hills followed by afternoon tea at the cafe. The Sill can be found at NE47 7AN near Hexham, and as well as being a landscape discovery centre with educational displays and exhibitions, there’s a big gift shop, Once Brewed cafe, and a rooftop walk trail that takes in some of the views.
Parking is cheap at £1 per hour and works with registration recognition. We began our day here, parked up and joined a group waiting to embark on a guided walk.
A number of guided walks run from The Sill, ours was with West Tynedale Health Walk leaders, and would take in part of the Hadrian’s Wall trail, the Northumberland countryside Crag Lough and Sycamore Gap. The walk aims to showcase some of the most recognised and famous sections of the wall, as well as getting you out in the fresh air to enjoy this historic spot.
I’ve got to be honest and say others on the walk were older than us, and they were keen for frequent stops to hear history lessons from the guides. We could have gone at a much quicker pace, which we did coming back but if you’re interested in beginning to walk and learn about the history then it is a great option. The guides were very informative and clearly loved what they do.
There are marked footpaths that take you along the wall, to make sure it’s preserved and people aren’t climbing all over it. We took the route along the military way, stopping for the odd history lesson and to take in the views, before arriving at one of the ancient milecastles, followed by Sycamore Gap.
Much to the guides distaste everyone in the group wanted to take photos of Sycamore Gap, made famous by Robin Hood. It is a lovely spot with sweeping views of the countryside regardless of its iconic film status, so I think you can be excused for snapping pics.
Hopping over the wall at this spot is also a good sheltered place to stop for a packed lunch or hot mug of coffee if you’ve packed anything in your rucksack, before continuing along the trail. It is quite exposed up there so pack waterproof and wind proof clothing to stay warm.
If you’re wanting an easy introduction to walking in Northumberland National Park then a guided walk is a good option, and they run a few different ones from The Sill that you can book tickets for.
If you’re not after a guide then the same route would be very easily done yourself too. I’d definitely go back myself for a walk with Arthur.
After your walk head back to The Sill for some home made food in the Once Brewed Cafe. On the first floor of The Sill the cafe offers views of the hills you’ve just walked, with both indoor and outdoor seating. The staff are so friendly, and the menu is filled with hearty treats, sandwiches, hot drinks and cakes.
We had afternoon tea, which included a cup of soup, sausage rolls, sandwiches, scones and the cake of the day too. There was so much food, none of it was small like you sometimes get with afternoon tea and it was lovely to tuck in after our walk.
Finish your trip to The Sill with a browse around the gift shop, there’s some amazing local products including beers, chocolate, fudge, guide books and photographs/artwork for sale. Full information as well as upcoming events can be found on The Sill website.
Housesteads Roman Fort, Northumberland
Our second trip to take in some of the history and heritage found in Northumberland was to Housesteads Roman Fort, an English Heritage site also found on Hadrian’s Wall. You could visit both places on the same day as they’re close by each other, but depending how far you’re wanting to walk it might be best to split it over two like we did.
Arrive at the fort at NE47 6NN, where car parking is again cheap and there’s plenty of it. You begin at the visitor centre, before walking uphill to the entrance of Housesteads Fort itself.
It’s set up high, so take your time walking up as it’s harder than you think but enjoy the panoramic views as you go. The fort itself sprawls up the hill, and is one of 16 permanent bases that Roman soldiers occupied along the wall. It housed 800 soldiers in the barracks, and had everything from a communal toilet block, to a hospital, a granary, and a watch tower overlooking the landscape and the civilian settlement below.
Housesteads is a UNESCO world heritage site, as it’s one of the most complete sites that clearly shows the original features of the fort as it was. I really enjoyed walking around and learning about each section, Arthur did too as it’s dog friendly as long as they’re kept on leads.
There is a small museum on site too, this bit isn’t dog friendly but it does have a water bar for them outside. It houses more information, a Roman collection of artefacts and souvenirs.
In the summer you could picnic up on the hill, but the visitor centre back at the bottom of the hill is where I’d recommend heading during the autumn/winter months.
It’s warm and dry, and they serve the most amazing hot chocolates with all the extras, as well as a range of other refreshments and snacks. There are picnic benches in the garden outside, as well as indoor seating and a kids play area.
I was very pleasantly surprised by this part of our Northumberland experience, as it probably wasn’t something I’d considered before. It was a great alternative day out and it wasn’t too busy being off peak season. If you need a day trip to blow away the cobwebs, or to enjoy the autumnal views then head up there.
Visit Northumberland & Northumberland National Park
These were just two of the endless experiences on offer across Northumberland and the National Park. From beginner walks to more adventurous hikes, ancient history and English Heritage, a stunning coastline and beautiful country views, to local food, businesses and accommodation, Northumberland has it all.
I’ve really enjoyed seeing and doing more here over the last two years, it’s right on our doorstep so no excuse really.
It might seem overwhelming to know where to begin, but the Visit Northumberland website can help you plan your trips to make sure they’re tailored specifically to you. Create your own profile, input your preferences and see what inspiration comes up.
While the days may be shorter and opening hours may vary during autumn and winter, Visit Northumberland offer a huge range of experiences to keep you entertained and enjoying the outdoors from day trips, to short breaks and longer holidays. Although I do enjoy a good winter walk especially with Arthur, I can’t help but find myself browsing the list of Northumberland’s cosiest pubs too – I’ve got that one bookmarked. Well we always need a fall back in case outdoor adventures get rained off!
Take a look at some more of my experiences and Northumberland blogs here, including:
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Visit Northumberland, who arranged two October days out for us to Northumberland and the Northumberland National Park.