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8 great places to visit on a rainy day in Northumbria

Written by Northumbria Byways on

With its breathtaking coastline, World Heritage site, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Dark Sky Parks, there’s an almost endless amount of ways to get out into the great outdoors in Northumbria. But what do you do when the weather makes that a much less desirable option? Rainy days in Northumbria might mean taking a rain-check on that countryside walk you had planned, but there are still some great days out to be had in the region. In fact, you might be grateful for the odd rainy day – they can be an opportunity to take in some of the fantastic cultural sites in Northumbria, without feeling guilty about missing out on the spectacular scenery. Here are 8 of the best places to visit on a rainy day in Northumbria.

Barter Books

image: flickr user Ian Campbell: http://ow.ly/XimR30hFoWL

Dubbed ‘The British Library of secondhand bookshops’ by the New Statesman, Barter Books in Alnwick is one of the biggest antiquarian bookstores in the UK, large enough to lose yourself in for hours, and cosy enough to make it the perfect destination for a rainy day in Northumbria. Open fires in the original waiting rooms, where you can sit and read and warm yourself, a children’s room with tonnes of toys, and the ‘Station Buffet’ cafe all mean you’ll have no problem filling your time. The bookshop is located in Alnwick’s magnificent old Victorian railway station, and there is a model railway running through the store acting as a link between the book columns of the central room.

Cragside House and Gardens

Cragside house, home to Victorian inventor and innovator Lord Armstrong, was one of the wonders of its age. The first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, it is crammed full of ingenious gadgets created by its owner – most of them still working. The grounds of the Cragside Estate are spectacular, too. Armstrong was a landscape genius, and constructed five lakes, planted over seven million trees and shrubs, and one of the largest rock gardens in Europe. Even in wet weather, the tall trees will keep you covered from the rain and children will love the Power House, where they can use interactive models to generate their own electricity. Should the weather dry up while you’re there, there is also an adventure play area and labyrinth, as well as more than 30 miles of footpaths and lakeside walks to explore. The house itself closes for winter but reopens on February 9th this year (2018), while the grounds are open year-round.

Roman Army Museum

image: flickr user Son of Groucho http://ow.ly/tp0E30hFq1X

When the weather is dreadful there are still ways to experience Northumbria’s World Heritage site at Hadrian’s Wall, including this must-see museum. The Roman Army Museum allows you to immerse yourself in the life of the Roman army in ways unique to the site, throwing you into the role of the army with exciting exhibitions and an award winning 3D film. Not all of the sites on Hadrian’s Wall were fortresses, though. For a different shade of Hadrian’s Wall, head to Corbridge Roman Town, a bustling town and supply base where Romans and civilians would pick up food and provisions. It remains a vibrant community town to this day, and alongside the remains of granaries, temples, and workshops you can find some wonderful shops and cafes to duck into and shelter from the elements.

Bamburgh Castle

One of the gems of the Northumbrian coast, Bamburgh Castle should be seen no matter what the weather. If it’s too wet for a beachside walk, head inside the Castle itself and discover a fascinating and varied history. The Castle you see today is relatively recent, having been saved from ruin and rebuilt by Lord Armstrong in the Victorian era, but the site dates back much further than that – in fact, there have been settlements on the site since prehistoric times. Having feted royal guests and English kings, there is a rich history to explore, with suits of armour, weapons and a range of interactive games and puzzles.

Grace Darling Museum

cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Alexander P Kapp – http://ow.ly/OXQW30hFrYH

Also in Bamburgh is this museum ran by the RNLI about the life of Victorian-era heroine Grace Darling. At just 22 years old, Grace Darling risked her life in an open boat to help survivors of the wrecked SS Forfarshire on 7 September 1838, rowing with her father for over a mile through raging seas to reach them. This feat of bravery made her the media celebrity of her day, and she was awarded the RNLI’s Silver Medal for Gallantry. The Grace Darling Museum guides you through Grace’s upbringing and life in the Longstone lighthouse, the events of the rescue that propelled her into the limelight and her status as a national heroine. This is perfect for a rainy day, as the elements really help you picture the scene of the rescue!

Newbiggin Maritime Centre

image: flickr user John Lord http://ow.ly/r4Dm30hFsfH

Discover life in a historic fishing village at the ‘gateway to Northumbria’s coastline’. Brave a bracing walk along Northumberland’s longest promenade before taking shelter in the Maritime Centre at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. Explore three different galleries in the museum and learn about the local history, its fishing past, and Newbiggin’s last all weather lifeboat. There are an ever-changing selection of fantastic monthly exhibitions from artists and photographers, and a lovely cafe with spectacular views of the beach and seafront.

Hexham Old Gaol

image: flickr user Glen Bowman http://ow.ly/WCTn30hFsuI

Built between 1330 and 1333, Hexham Old Gaol is the oldest purpose built prison in England, and was used as a prison for almost 500 years. Now it is a fascinating museum, providing insight into crime and punishment in medieval Northumberland. A glass lift will take you through four floors of enthralling history. Descend into the dungeon, meet the gaoler to learn about the medieval treatment of criminals, then put yourself in the prisoners’ shoes and try the stocks for size. You can also learn about the laws of the Borders and the powerful March Wardens appointed to keep order, and the ruthless Border Reivers who raided the land for centuries.

Alnwick Castle

Boasting a wealth of history dating back over hundreds of years, as well as more recent fame, Alnwick Castle reopens its doors to the public in March having closed for the winter. The Castle has been home to the Percy family of Northumberland for more than 700 years, and its rich history includes visionary art collectors, a gunpowder plotter, and, in Harry Hotspur, medieval England’s most celebrated knight. This is one of the UK’s most significant heritage destinations, and there is always so much to see and do – from touring the spectacular state rooms and seeing the priceless collections of art, ceramics and furniture, to entering the depths of the lost cellars. You can also take on the Knight’s Quest – dress up in medieval costume, try authentic medieval crafts, and play traditional games. Harry Potter fans will also love the broomstick training – Alnwick Castle doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, including for the broomstick flying lesson scene.

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