Summer Holidays in Northumbria – Our Guide for 2017
It’s now just a month until the summer holidays, and chances are your thoughts are starting to turn towards your next trip away. It could be you’re already booked with us for a stay in Northumbria, or you may still be looking for holiday inspiration; either way, there is always absolutely loads to see and do in Northumbria, and these summer holidays are no different. We’ve broken just a fraction of these down to hopefully give you some great ideas for summer 2017.
Get back to Nature
The long days and (mostly!) sunny weather make the summer holidays the perfect time to explore Northumbria’s rich and untamed wilderness. Northumberland National Park is the least populated National Park in the UK, and its 400 miles of clean air, clear skies and rugged scenery make it a vast natural adventure playground for young and old. With the Cheviot Hills in the North, Hadrian’s Wall country in the South, Kielder Water and Forest Park in the West, and the Northumberland Coast in the East there are spectacular sights to be seen no matter where you’re based.
Throughout the holidays there are a wide range of events aimed at getting children involved with nature: Hauxley Nature Reserve is holding ‘School Holiday Fun’ events aimed at children aged 5-12 every Tuesday and Thursday of the holidays, including ‘mini-beast hunts’, small mammal walks, bird watching and other wildlife themed fun. Every Wednesday of the holidays, Northumberland National Park will hold ‘Wild Wednesdays’, a way for children to explore, play, discover and enjoy the Park, from ‘mini-beast safaris’ and pond dipping, to storytelling and orienteering. On Wednesday 26 July, Wild Northumbrian are having a family ‘Bats and Pizza Night’, a midsummer night’s feast by the campfire in the heart of the National Park. Enjoy delicious stone-baked pizza before a guided ‘Bat Safari’ around the site, followed by toasted marshmallows on the fire. Finally, Kielder has a number of great events that kids will love – the Osprey and Wildlife Motorboat Cruise and Family Astronomy events are particular highlights.
As well as striking heather moorland and hay meadows, there is a vast array of wonderful flora and fauna to be seen in Northumbria over the holidays, with several private gardens open to the public as part of the National Garden Scheme’s open day initiative. On the first weekend of the holidays, Sunday 23 July, the sweeping country house gardens of Loughbrough House will welcome visitors for the afternoon. The following Sunday sees Lambshield in Hexham open its doors to the public – a two acre country garden surrounding a modernised farmhouse and old stone farm buildings in a working farm. Adderstone House, near Belford, boasts 10 acre grounds, a Victorian house and millpond, and gardens designed by RHS Chelsea Challenge winner Sean Murray – it is open for viewing on Sunday 20 August. These are unique opportunities to see some of the finest gardens in the region – but if you can’t make it on those dates, then why not give The Alnwick Garden a visit? The ever popular public attraction has some great child-friendly events over the holidays.
Head to the Coast
For so many of us, the summertime conjures up images of sandy feet and salty air. The Northumberland Coast is one of the country’s best kept secrets – there are are more than 30 miles of beaches along the coastline, and there’s no better time to visit than during the summer holidays. The sheltered golden sands of Beadnell Bay are excellent for families, and its protected waters make it ideal for swimming and watersports. Coastal villages like Amble and Low Newton-by-the-sea offer fantastic fish and chips, ice cream and seaside pubs. There are invigorating walks galore as well, via the Northumberland Coast Path, which hugs the coastline for some 64 miles, offering spectacular vistas along the way.
Many of region’s ‘crown jewels’ are dotted along the coast, and are well worth a visit. The Farne Islands, for instance, are home to an incredible array of wildlife – most notably its famous puffin population. July especially is a good month to see the puffins and their hatchlings (known as ‘pufflings’), as well as the island’s resident grey seals. The village of Seahouses is known as the ‘Gateway to the Farnes’ due to the boat that runs between it and the Islands – but it is well worth a visit in its own right, with an Aladdin’s cave of gift shops, chip shops and arcades. Check out their ‘Grand Day Out’ family fun day on Sunday 30 July, or join National Trust rangers for a ‘Rockpool Ramble’ on Friday 25 August, where you can hunt for crab, starfish and maybe even lobsters.
Explore Historical Northumbria
If you’re heading to the coast, make sure to check out at least one of the many historical sites that are spread up and down the shoreline. Northumberland has more castles than any other county in the country, and several of them stand guard atop the region’s dramatic coast. Bamburgh Castle, once the royal seat of the Kings of Northumbria during the 8th century, was the first castle in England to fall to cannon fire as the War of the Roses came to a close. It was restored to its former glory by the Victorian inventor Lord William Armstrong at the close of the 19th century and now stands as one of Northumbria’s most iconic structures, towering over a pristine beach and a rugged coastline – a nationwide poll recently listed it as one of Britain’s 20 favourite views. Its rich and varied history, as well as its stunning location, makes it well worth a visit this summer. To the South of Bamburgh stands the dramatic ruin of Dunstanburgh Castle, on a remote headland jutting out into the sea. Its crumbling ruin puts it in direct contrast with Bamburgh, but it is no less a striking view, presenting an outline of a once great power and presence. Warkworth Castle is in a much better state of repair, with its unique cross-shaped keep still fully roofed as it was in its 14th century heyday. This is a fantastic family day out, with a number of great medieval themed events planned for the summer holidays.
Venture further inland to Alnwick Castle – one of Northumbria’s most celebrated and visited sites. Having served as a filming location for the Harry Potter films and Downtown Abbey, Alnwick has a fascinating story of its own, from ‘Harry Hotspur’ to the gunpowder plotters. It is holding a great programme of family-friendly events over the holidays, with Harry Potter characters and broomstick training, medieval jesters and alchemists, and even pop concerts planned.
Hadrian’s Wall runs East to West through Northumbria, and this summer you can find a number of fascinating exhibitionsat sites across the full length of the Wall. If boning up on history isn’t your scene, why not try your hand at rock climbing? The National Trust are running an introductory session at Crag Lough just below Hadrian’s Wall on Tuesday 8 August. Of course, there are also plenty of great walks to try that take in the World Heritage site.
Finally, head to the South Tynedale Railway and hop onto one of its steam trains, tracing the restored Haltwhistle to Alston line that ran for over a hundred years from the 1850s until its closure in the 1970s. This is a great living history site; as you travel from one characterful station to another you may feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Make sure to venture out into the towns themselves as well – Alston, for instance, is the highest market town in Britain, with a pretty town centre that features several listed buildings.
Enjoy a diverse range of festivals
Summer is festival season, and while there is nothing on the scale of Glastonbury, there are still some great events planned around Northumbria this year. Kicking off the summer holidays, from Friday 21 – Sunday 23 July, is the Woodhorn Lane Music Festival, based at Ashington Community Football Club. Entry is free to the festival, which features 25 acts over three days, including music legends Wilko Johnson and Hugh Cornwell, as well as family entertainment, kids attractions and food. Alnwick International Music Festival returns for an eight day celebration from Saturday 29 July to Saturday 5 August. Featuring talent representing the traditions of Northumbria and the rest of the UK, as well as Ireland, Eastern Europe, Africa, USA, Australia and more, the festival will host performances throughout the day and later in the evening, as well as a craft fair in the market place from 10am-5pm every day. From 17-20 August, Druridge Bay Country Park, near Morpeth, hosts ‘CoquetFest’ – a four day festival of music, beer, beach and food with attractions for the whole family. The park comprises three miles of beautiful beach and sand dunes, plus a large freshwater lake surrounded by woods and meadows, making this a splendid location for a music festival. Single day adult tickets without camping are £10 on the gate, or £7.50 if booked in advance – u16s day tickets are free.
Two festivals close out the summer in two spectacular locations. The first, Bamburgh B Festival, takes place on the evening of Friday 25 August, in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle itself. The event is organised in aid of HospiceCare Northumberland, with all proceeds going directly to the charity, and features acts spanning genre from classical to rock and roll and everywhere in between. The second, running from Thursday 31 August until Sunday 3 September, is Lindisfarne Festival, based at Beal Farm on the Northumberland coast, overlooking the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Now in its third year, it has already won nominations for Best New Festival, Best Small Festival, a Grass Roots Award, and – perhaps most importantly – Best Toilets in the two years it has been running. With a capacity of 2500, more than 70 different music acts playing several different stages, comedy and spoken word acts, creative workshops, guided Holy Island walks and much more, there is something for everyone to enjoy – though be advised that no children are allowed as this is an over 18s event.