With confusion reigning over holidays overseas it might be safer to stay at home or nip across the border. Like to seek Saturn, sleep in a super hotel then, after an excellent breakfast, leave to join the Roman army? Or be tempted to explore England’s largest working forest, visualise a historic battle, walk the coast path, buy bere flour, taste mead, and stare at a sedan chair? If so, head to Northumberland for a cornucopia of experiences.

1) Roman Army Museum, Hexham

This compelling museum’s on the site of the fort of Magna, a stop for soldiers, before heading to Hadrian’s Wall.

It has information about Hadrian, and his six-metre high wall, and unique artefacts such as a helmet crest made of hair moss and an archer’s thumb guard.

Watch Aquila, a Roman soldier, in the spellbinding, 3D film, Edge of Empire. The Eagle’s Eye, to learn about his life.

At the recruitment tent for new soldiers, you’ll stand to attention, rigid with fear, as Centurion Africanus asks at the swearing-in ceremony: "Can you be bold and fearless in battle?"

In the Roman classroom, Velius Longus, a holographic teacher, gets you counting in Latin and learning the importance of good morals by heeding Aesop’s Fables, before bidding you, ‘Vale’ (farewell). To continue the story, try to visit Vindolanda too.

2) Haltwhistle

If you like ticking off bucket list places, Haltwhistle, billed as the Centre of Britain is for you. You’ll be amused by all the references, starting with a photo-worthy sign as you arrive. You can buy clothes from the Centre of Britain Army Surplus, eat sweets from the Centre of Britain Post Office and Sweet Shop, and even wash your clothes at the (guess what) Launderette – look closely through its window at a miniature laundry room.

Haltwhistle’s also famous for its ancient Bastles (Defensible Houses) – you can see evidence of these in some of the buildings’ architecture. Look out for the directional sign telling you it’s 290 miles north to North Orkney and 290 miles south to Portland Bill, Dorset. And take a selfie for your bucket list memoirs.

3) Kielder Lakeside Way Walk

Kielder Water and Forest Park, an area of around 250 square miles, is abundant in wildlife and scenery. A walk along the 26-mile Lakeside Way is a good day out – or perhaps the 4.5-mile trail from Kielder Castle visitor centre to the Janus Chairs, one of a selection of outdoor artworks.

Locate North Shore signs, and eventually you can navigate a seven arch viaduct, worth pausing to admire its decorative ironwork panels. The area was part of the Border Counties Railway. Later, you’ll be startled by Silvas Capitalis, a giant, larch wood head. Crouch to enter its mouth, then climb up to squint through its eyes at the trees.

After about 1.5miles, having passed atmospheric woodland, you’ll reach the Janus Chairs, which look like unfolding petals. Relax on the three mega wooden seats to lake gaze. With luck, you may spot a hunting osprey.

4) Etal Castle

Etal Castle was built in the 14th century by Robert Manners. In 1513, it was captured by the Scots, then destroyed before the Battle of Flodden.

Although it’s now in ruins, you’ll get a medieval life flavour at the excellent exhibition, before exploring the tower house, gatehouse and curtain wall. Search for engraved signs and initials in the stonework, which identified the stonemasons’ work, ensuring they were paid.

The castle’s set in peaceful grounds and you won’t need hours to look round.


If you want to continue the story, head to Flodden Battlefield, where King James IV and about 10,000 of his Scottish soldiers, and 4000 in the English army, died in a few hours.

Walk to the 1910 Flodden monument, inscribed, "To the Brave of Both Nations", to pause, remember and imagine what the soldiers suffered on that muddy, fierce, fateful day. Follow the Battlefield Trail footpath for further insight.

5) Heatherslaw Mill

This mill dates back to medieval times and was reconstructed and reopened in 1975. Glance through the window, and you’ll see the huge water wheel, powered by the River Till.

Meet Dave the Miller, who’ll tell you about the traditional production of stoneground flour and oatmeal, and pearl barley milling.

On the top floor, he’ll demonstrate how the machinery works, and how the grain progresses through hoppers, between the millstones to produce flour – more than 300 kilos on a good day.

If you love the Great British Bake Off, you’ll be in flour paradise, especially when Dave drops a handful of warm, freshly milled flour into your palm.

The shop is a grain-lover's dream – wholegrain wheat flour’s the biggest seller, from an extensive choice.

6) The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

The vital thing to know is the safe crossing times from the mainland – the island’s cut off twice daily during high tides.

If you don’t, you risk your car being a write-off and experiencing an embarrassing wait for rescue from the refuge box, known locally as the ‘Idiot Box’.

However, with crossing times logged, you can confidently drive down the causeway, then enjoy attractions like the impressive 12th century Lindisfarne Priory. At its museum, you’ll learn of the island’s Christian history – in AD 635, St Aidan from Iona founded the first monastery here. The Lindisfarne Gospels were also written here.

Lindisfarne’s still a place of pilgrimage and you can walk there from the mainland, using, The Pilgrim’s Route, across sand and mud.

Other attractions include Lindisfarne Castle, St Aidan’s Winery to sample mead, and seeking migrating birds.

7) Walking Northumberland Coast Path from Beadnell to Seahouses

This is a village to village walk, taking in about three miles of St Oswald’s Way.

Leave Beadnell to walk along the path parallel to the beach. Although rocks and access may make it difficult to walk the whole way on the beautiful, sandy beach, you’ll still get an opportunity to do so, but need stout footwear or wellies. Take in the fascinating geology, extensive seaweed, wild flowers and marram-grassed dunes.

At Seahouses harbour, you can eat fish and chips, or freshly fried donuts, then consider booking a boat trip to the Farne Islands to seek seals, seabirds including puffins – a puffin is known by locals as a ‘Tommy Noddy’.

8) Bamburgh Castle

A castle’s been here for over 1400 years. In 1894, the 1st Lord Armstrong, inventor and industrialist, bought Bamburgh and it’s still the Armstrongs’ family home.

This is not a visit to be rushed. You’ll be glued to spectacular views, especially seawards, towards Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands.

Bamburgh was once the seat of the Kings of Northumbria – children will love being photographed on a replica, Anglo-Saxon throne, before heading for cannons.

Indoors, the striking, King’s Hall demands time, as will 14 staterooms full of artefacts. Romantics will love the Tuscan Marriage Chest and royalists, the two blueish, velvet chairs, used by Lord and Lady Armstrong, at the Queen’s coronation. You’ll be chilled in the armoury but not too scared in the dungeon.

9) Stargazing at Battlesteads Dark Sky Observatory

Northumberland’s famed for its International Dark Sky Park. One of the best places to take advantage is at Battlesteads Dark Sky Observatory.

Sign up for a session such as Stargazing and Moonwatch, and in the observatory’s warm room, you’ll learn about nebulas, galaxies, black holes, red dwarfs, and stars trillions of miles away, from an experienced, AstroVentures’ astronomer. You’ll marvel at star facts like, "If it’s blue, it’s new and if it’s red it’s dead", and tell you how the Romans used a double star, as an eyesight test.

Wrap up warmly and head outside to peer through binoculars and a telescope. Depending on weather and time of the year, you’ll spot the moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

10) Battlesteads Hotel and Restaurant

If you want a perfectly placed hotel for Hadrian’s Wall, all things Roman, and top attractions a little further afield, then Battlesteads is an excellent choice. This 22-room hotel is proud to be the greenest one in Northumberland. This includes using locally sourced produce where possible. You’ll be entranced by its kitchen garden, wild mushroom garden and greenhouse – a dream of dahlias, cascading tomatoes, fruit, salad vegetables and herbs.

You can enjoy produce such as courgette flowers, shiitake and oyster mushrooms, beetroot micro shoots, and gooseberries. Meals are excellent and include meat, fish and seafood options. Aim for a conservatory table overlooking the garden.

Dogs are well-catered for – they can stay with owners in a ground floor room or a luxury lodge in the grounds.