Historic castles, desolate moorland, secret valleys, sandy beaches and islands crammed with wildlife. Northumberland and Tyne and Wear have heaps of fun things to do… here’s some inspiration for your #Northumbrian staycation.
Whitley Bay Lighthouse
Great for kids, beach lovers and twitchers.
Whitley Bay’s expansive sandy beach stretches to St. Mary’s Lighthouse, an occasional island, linked to the mainland by a short causeway which is submerged by the North Sea during high tide.
On sunny school free afternoons, families swarm over the rock pools, searching for treasure… shells, starfish and crabs, hidden beneath stones and seaweed. Seals bob in the sea wondering what the humans are upto now. Nearby sandlings run into the waves like excited toddlers.
The nature reserve surrounding the lighthouse also contains cliff top grassland and wetland habitats for the birders.
The lighthouse was completed in 1898 and helped keep seafarers safe until it ceased operations in 1984. It is now a visitors centre and you can climb the 137 steps to the top to enjoy views of the coast or just browse the exhibits which explain the history of the structure. Check the website for opening times.
St Mary’s Island, Whitley Bay, NE26 4RS
2. England’s Favourite Tree
Great for families, teens, walkers, photographers and history buffs.
The ‘Sycamore Gap’ Tree near Hadrian’s wall was recently crowned England’s Tree of the year by The Woodland Trust. The Sycamore tree, is photogenically located in a dip between two small hills. It will now compete, along with the winning trees from the other UK regions, for the title of European Tree of the Year 2017 (results announced on March 21, 2017). The tree is also known as the ‘Robin Hood’ tree and is cared for by the National Trust. So wrap up well and hike the 5 miles from the Roman Fort at Housesteads, along the UNESCO World Heritage Roman wall footpath, to the iconic tree in the footsteps of the Roman legions.
Near Bardon Mill, Hexham, Northumberland, NE47 6NN
3. Holy Island
Great for families, walkers, beach lovers and history buffs !
(Photo courtesy of http://www.visitnorthumberland.com)
Another tidal causeway links Holy Island, or Lindisfarne, to the coast. This hilly island was the epicenter of Christianity in Anglo-Saxon times, and has witnessed Viking invaders and the Norman conquest. The Lindisfarne Gospels, an illustrated Latin version of the Gospels, were created here by one monk between 698 and 721 AD. The original work can be seen in the British Library in London. It’s popular with day trippers but we found a way to escape the crowds and took the long way around to the castle, a three mile walk via sand dunes, sheltered sandy coves and rock pools.
An ancient site of pilgrimage, intrepid explorers can hike across the sand and mud flats to the island on an ancient pilgrim path. Either way do check the opening hours on the day of visiting, which are tide dependent, as you don’t want to get stranded. Lindisfarne Priory is managed by English Heritage, entry costs £6 for an adult.
Holy Island, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15 2RX
4. The Farne Islands
Great for kids, teens and nature lovers.
We have taken the boat to Inner Farne three times now and have never been disappointed. The islands off the Northumberland Coast are a bird watchers delight, but very accessible for non-birders too. The sheer scale of the wildlife is breathtaking, from curious seals, puffins, shags, guillemots and cormorants. If you are lucky you may see a pod of dolphins. If you are unlucky will be get attacked by ground nesting arctic terns, who taking parenting very seriously..top tip wear a hat in June, I didn’t and I got pecked …but it is all part of the amazing experience.
Puffins sensibly nest underground and shags on cliff faces, guarding shag babies that resemble pterodactyls. The islands are accessible by boat from Seahouses, Billy Shiel’s boats are the best known tour operators. The trip takes 2 1/2 hours including one hour on the island. Inner Farne is managed by The National Trust, and their fees apply to land on the island.
Here’s an article I wrote about our most recent visit to the Farnes last summer for The Washington Post.
Billy Shiel Farne Islands Boat Trips
4, Southfield Avenue, Seahouses, Northumberland – NE68 7YT
Tel: (01665) 720 308 / (01665) 720 316
5. The Alnwick Garden
Great for families, teens, wheelchair users and gardeners.
(Photo courtesy of http://www.visitnorthumberland.com)
The Duchess of Northumberland is a savvy lady and has transformed the gardens connected to the ancient seat of the Percy family… (yes history buffs those Percys), into a great family attraction independent to Alnwick castle (known for Harry Potter and Downton Abbey cameos and will feature on this site soon… promise). Anyway we have visited the Alnwick garden a couple of times and it’s a great day out. We had Nan and Geoff (the nonagenarians) on our most recent visit and so we arranged in advance for a motorized scooter for Nan. The site is very wheelchair accessible and the scooter was a great option as the walk up to the lovely walled gardens is steep. There is magic wherever you turn in the gardens, from mirrored water sculptures, cascading fountains, a treehouse restaurant (booking advised), a bamboo maze and seasonal events. We visited during the school holidays when the Fairy Tale attic attraction offers entertainment for the kids. Kitty got to dress up as Little Red Riding Hood and search for clues in the gardens to save Beauty from the Wicked Queen (check website for dates). At the end of Kitty’s quest we visited the Poison Garden, which was the brainchild of the Duchess to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs. You are only allowed in the gated garden in the company of a guide who will show you plants such as hemlock, tobacco and cannabis.
The Alnwick Garden, Denwick Lane, Alnwick NE66 1YU
If you do try any of these activities I would love to hear from you. I am looking forward to reading your stories and tips. Happy staycation !
DISCLAIMER: Please check prices and opening times with your chosen venue before setting out. This guide is just for inspiration and dates and prices shown just for guidance. The prices were correct on the date on publication. The Staycationer accepts no responsibility for changes in prices or events.
This post is linked up to #TheListLinky hosted by youbabymemummy.