Discover England’s most northern county

Date Posted: 13/11/2012

Pictured: Lindisfarne Castle (photo credit: VisitBritain/Arnhel de Serra).

With one of the lowest population densities in England, we found there’s plenty of space for groups in this magnificent region.

A visit to Northumberland will provide your group with plenty of wonderful memories as they travel on coach accessible routes through spectacular, sweeping and uncrowded countryside.

Northumberland is a deeply rural county and from the uplands of the North Pennine Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the Northumberland National Park and beauty of the long coastline there will always be something new to see.

You will discover castles and country houses, which are not only important to Northumberland’s history but are also still very much family homes, and you can plan group breaks to coincide with market days at bustling and friendly towns such as Berwick-upon-Tweed, Morpeth, Alnwick, Rothbury and Hexham.

Groups can enjoy refreshment breaks just a stone’s throw from archaeology that is over 2,000 years old and be inspired by the stories of early Christian saints who helped shape the destiny of seventh century Northumbria in places as such as the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and Bamburgh.

The group travel page on Visit Northumberland’s website provides a wealth of information on places to stay, shop and eat plus itinerary suggestions and leaflets, travel guides and maps that can be downloaded.

Meet Northumberlandia

Officially opened by HRH the Princess Royal in September, and already nicknamed ‘the lady of the north’, Northumberlandia is said to be the world’s largest human form sculpted into the landscape. The region’s newest landmark feature, a privately funded project costing £3 million, is set in a 46 acre community park with free public access and four miles of footpaths on and around the figure.

Measuring nearly a quarter of a mile long and made from 1.5 million tonnes of rock, clay and soil extracted from the adjacent Shotton surface mine, the reclining land sculpture of a female form is more than seven times the size of a football pitch and taller than an eight-storey building at its highest point. GTOs can find the latest information and visiting times at

Grace Darling anniversary

Next year marks the 175th anniversary of the dramatic sea rescue involving Victorian Britain’s greatest heroine. The RNLI Grace Darling Museum in Bamburgh commemorates the life of Grace and the story of the wreck of the SS Forfarshire in 1838. Grace, the daughter of the local lighthouse keeper, was just 22 years old when she rowed with her father for over a mile through raging seas to reach the survivors.

The museum, which has free admission, features the traditional open wooden boat or coble used in the rescue, Grace’s dresses, letters and other family belongings. There will be special events next year to mark the anniversary.

Remembering Flodden

In September 2013 it will be exactly 500 years since the bloody Battle of Flodden took place. The battle was a national tragedy leading to the death of 15,000 Scots and English soldiers, 100 noblemen and the Scottish King James IV, the last time a British monarch died in battle.

The Flodden 1513 Eco-museum was founded by communities on both sides of the border to link sites in Northumberland and Scotland connected with the battle, including the battlefield which has changed little over the centuries. Groups can visit the battlefield monument erected in 1910 which is easily reached from Branxton village. Exhibitions and living history events will commemorate the battle in 2013 and you can find full details at

The Holy Island

Lindisfarne played a very important role in England’s religious heritage as it was on the Holy Island that the early Christian message was honed and distributed to a largely pagan Northumberland. Lindisfarne Priory, now an English Heritage site, was the home of St Cuthbert and the birthplace of the Lindisfarne Gospels and another iconic sight is Lindisfarne Castle, standing on a rocky outcrop overlooking the island and today looked after by the National Trust. Located in the North Sea, one mile from the mainland, access to the island is via a causeway and itineraries taking in Lindisfarne, which has a coach park, need to be planned around high tides.

GTOs should also note that from July to September 2013 the famous gospels, a unique illuminated Latin manuscript of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, will go on show in Durham University’s Palace Green Library. Lindisfarne Gospels Durham is the focus of a celebration of the north east’s creative, artistic and spiritual heritage, and special events will take place on Lindisfarne and at other locations in Northumberland associated with St Cuthbert and the gospels.

An illuminating visit

Enter the amazing world of Victorian inventor, innovator and landscaper William Armstrong at Cragside House at Rothbury near Morpeth. In 2013 it will the 150th anniversary of Cragside, the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity. Lord Armstrong’s technical and scientific mind made Cragside a wonder of its age and he used a hydraulic engine to provide incomparable luxuries such as hot and cold running water, a Turkish bath, central heating, a lift, automatic kitchen spit to turn meat cooking on the range and, in 1880, electric light.

The National Trust property is crammed with ingenious gadgets, most of them still in working order, and outside groups can explore one of the largest rock gardens in Europe that leads down to an iron bridge and attractive formal garden.

Five great group attractions
  • Dunstanburgh Castle: For active types, this dramatic 14th century castle, once one of the largest and grandest fortifications in northern England, dominates a beautiful stretch of Northumberland coastline and can be reached by a scenic walk along the footpath from Craster.
  • Hadrian’s Wall: Roman Britain’s biggest building project still dominates the county’s landscape almost 2,000 years after it was constructed and snakes 73 miles between Wallsend in the east and Bowness on Solway in the west.
  • Heatherslaw Light Railway: Enjoy the leisurely pace of yesteryear with a steam train trip from Heatherslaw to the picturesque village of Etal where your group can admire quaint thatched buildings.
  • Hexham Old Gaol: The oldest purpose built prison in England, the gaol will give your group a dark and atmospheric insight into crime and punishment in medieval Northumberland.
  • Woodhorn: Experience the county’s mining heritage with a visit to Woodhorn, Museum and Northumberland Archives based in the original colliery and an adjoining modern building near Ashington.
Five great gardens
  • Alnwick Garden: This extraordinary contemporary garden is filled with surprises including one of the world’s largest tree houses, the mysterious bamboo labyrinth and intriguing poison garden.
  • Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens: A Grade I listed heritage garden, lovingly restored and packed with an impressive array of flowers and shrubs that change with the seasons, the high point of any visit to Belsay is the unique quarry garden with its ravines and exotic plants.
  • Holwick Hall and Gardens Named as one of the country’s top five coastal gardens by BBC Gardener’s World Magazine, the hall was once home to British Prime Minister Charles Grey who gave his name to the famous blend of Earl Grey Tea. It has a new visitor centre telling the story of both the earl and the gardens.
  • Kirkhale: Stroll around the lake and parkland designed by Britain’s most famous landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown who was born in Kirkhale in 1716.
  • Wallington: This was the much-loved home to generations of the unconventional Trevelyan family who loved the outdoors and created a landscape that includes a beautiful walled garden hidden in the woods.

Useful contact:

Visit Northumberland:

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