Northumberland is one of Britain’s great unknowns and long may it last, so those who do choose to go, can enjoy the beautiful unspoilt beaches and picturesque scenery in peace!
It’s a real family friendly place too with lots of differing accommodation, activities and places to visit on offer to suit all pockets and ambitions. The county is most famous for its connections to Roman times and Hadrian’s Wall, but there is so much more to see and do. The tourism team at Northumberland have pledged to be the “destination where independent spirit comes to life’’ and accompanied by my trusty travellers, husband Kenny and children Ruaridh (10) and Flossie (8), we spent 48 hours based in Morpeth, seeing as much as we could of the area during our short stay.
Above pic: The beautiful market town of Morpeth. Courtesy of Northumberland Tourism.
Where to Stay
A great place to head to if you want good accommodation at affordable prices and for something special, is the four-star luxury hotel The Macdonald Linden Hall Golf and Country Club. The hotel is based on a 450 acre private estate in idyllic countryside and with a championship 18-hole golf course, designed by Jonathan Gaunt, catering for a mix of par 4s and 5s, to boot.
Half an hour from Newcastle, its secluded location means you feel you are a million miles away from the city. You drive down a tree-lined avenue to reach an elegant mansion house which radiates charm and sophistication. Built in 1812, it was originally a magnificent manor house, which has been transformed into an upmarket hotel with ornate ceilings, roaring log fires and marble cherubs. Modern facilities include a top of the range spa and fitness centre, cocktail bar and a AA- Rosette restaurant, where a hearty breakfast is individually cooked and fine dinners are served. Each of the guest rooms has its own special character and all are classically furnished with a perfect blend of timeless traditional comforts and modern amenities such as digital televisions, free Wi-Fi and spacious en-suite bathrooms.
What to Do: Daytime
This area of Britain simply oozes with places to see and activities to enjoy and that is before you choose to explore the wonderful countryside and clean as a whistle beaches. There is plenty of culture with English Heritage dominating. They have some wonderful properties and monuments connected with Hadrian’s Wall, which is a big tourist puller.
Among the best of English Heritage close to the hotel is Belsay Hall, a 14th century medieval castle. It is a scheduled ancient monument and Grade 1 listed building. The Grecian decorated hall was inspired by a honeymoon to Athens for its then owners, The Middleton family and wallpaper from the 1800s still adorns the walls. The hall was built using stone from the hall’s own quarry and the family moved in on Christmas Day 1817.
Formal terrace gardens with beautiful tendered flowers and plants surround the well manicured lawns and lead to the 14 century defensive pele tower, the last remaining type of its kind in Britain. Built in a time of Anglo-Scottish warfare, it was also designed to impress and English Heritage often have special medieval tournaments and activities for families. There are castle galore further down the coast, the best being the dramatic Dunstanburgh Castle which was built at a time when relations between King Edward II and his most powerful baron, Earl Thomas of Lancaster had become openly hostile. Perched on the cliffs over looking the sea, you have to walk a mile or so up to the castle, but the views and sense of eeriness are well worth it.
More info: For a look at all the exciting blasts from the past available in this area of the country, check out www.english-heritage.org.uk
Other places of interest
Whitehouse Farm Centre
For families who want to let off a bit of steam and burn off those calories, Whitehouse Farm Centre, just under 3 miles from Morpeth ticks all the boxes. This is a lovely spot for young children who want to meet the farm animals, pet the chickens and then have some fun pretending to be the farmer and riding the children’s tractors.
Based in Morpeth Northumberland Zoo is a lovely spot too, set in 15 acres of rolling countryside, there is a variety of animals to see from wallabies to racoons and Shetland ponies to pigs and donkeys. There is also an on site restaurant.
Dinosaur Encounter Adventure Golf Course
If sport is your thing, the Dinosaur Encounter Adventure Golf Course just outside Morpeth is ideal. You can play a 12 hole round surrounded by prehistoric beasts to put you off your swing. A great place for all the family.
Morpeth is a traditional Northumbrian town and has a good selection of independent traders mixed in with the usual high street giants. Parking is good too.
What to Do: Nighttime
A great community spirit is thriving in Morpeth with a cinema run by the locals for all to enjoy. It is open the first Friday in every month and shows a variety of well known films. Check out Morpeth Cinema
A bit of a drive from Morpeth, but well worth the hour’s journey is the Kielder Observatory, part of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. See what you can spot via Visit Kielder
Where to Eat and Drink
The Macdonald Linden Hall Golf and Country Club has a choice to cater for all the family. The lovely Monck cocktail bar is intimate, with warm decoration and a roaring fire and the drinks list is full of special cocktails and classic beers. An idea spot for pre-dinner drinks and then into the elegant and AA-Rosette-awarded Dobsons Restaurant which serves locally sourced food with a twist.
Starters include preserved Barbary duck served on a bed of lentils and wholesome soup. A variety of breads are presented on arrival and a refreshing sorbet served between courses. Main dishes feature well aged steaks, tender lamb and beef and exotic vegetarian options. And puddings include an artisan cheese board and a divine chocolate brownie served with home made ice cream. Children can choose from some staple dishes such as sausage and mash and fish and chips, all cooked with fresh ingredients. In the grounds there is the Linden Tree bar and grill, which serves tasty pub food and is stocked with an impressive drinks list.
The Shoulder of Mutton in nearby Longhorsey is the locals favourite, this pub serves up good quality food at reasonable prices and their Sunday carvery and steak nights are very popular. Good choice of drinks too, with local beers and spirits served.
It is surprisingly easy to reach Northumberland from all parts of the country, be it be by train, plane, bus or car.
Air: Newcastle International Airport is just a 25 minute drive from Morpeth, while Durham Tees Valley International Airport is just over an hour’s drive away.
Train: It takes less than three hours by train from London’s Kings Cross to reach stations on the East Coast mainline including Morpeth, Almouth and Berwick-upon-Tweed using the national train operators.
Bus: Coach operator National Express and the Mega Bus have various stops off in Northumberland, with extra services throughout the school holidays. The Arriva bus operates the local services and has a pay as you go travel card to ease costs.
Car: You can head into Northumberland via Newcastle and see the iconic Angel of the North statue on your way on the A1 northbound. The A1 southbound serves drivers coming from Scotland.