The North East of England is bursting with culture, it’s own language and the friendliest people. Bordering Scotland, this is the furthest North you can get in England and it creates a different experience with the two nationalities living and blending together. Having lived in Sunderland for three years I got a chance to experience this wonderful region. I sampled their intense dedication to football (soccer), learnt a few news words for my vocabulary, deciphered the thick accent and explored as much as possible. Although the cities here are definitely worthwhile stopping by, the North East has some great hidden gems, some of the best in the country I think. Think idyllic villages, quaint tearooms, historic buildings and picture perfect landscapes.
I know the suspense is killing you so let’s see the what the gems of the North East have to offer!
Beamish is one of my favorite places to visit EVER and I don’t care what anybody says it is suitable for ANY age. Essentially it is a huge living museum that allows you to truly experience history by exploring the 1900’s town with a working sweet shop, pharmacy and bank or go down the mine and see what it was like to dig coal. Visit the local village and see what the families used to eat with live baking demonstrations or check out the school for old games and a chance to view a century old teaching curriculum.
Fancy a bit of fun? Hop on the merry-go-round, visit the train station and ride the steam train or stop by the farm and say hello to all the resident animals. There is so much to do here I like to spend the whole day. Live actors wander around the villages and work in all the stores portraying the people of the time in an authentic manner, interactive activities and working machines make this completely hands on and you can buy genuine candy that you watched being made in the old sweet shop on site!!
Beamish is so much fun and educational, a must stop whilst you’re in the North East. I would recommend the best part of a day here.
I actually visited Bishop Auckland during their food festival and, if you can, I’d recommend you do the same. If you can’t visit during the food festival (April 2017) try and stop by on a market day- Thursday or Sunday- and check out the market place in action. It’s a bustling market town nestled in the countryside with a stunning castle and a great place to bimble for an afternoon.
There are loads of historic sites here in really good condition that are well worth your time. The food festival itself actually runs from the market square and through into the castle grounds, meander through the great array of locally made goods and produce and then settle with your recent purchases and picnic on the grass whilst looking at the stunning castle. Due to it’s countryside location Bishop Auckland is also an ideal place for a walk or cycle. They have extensive cycle routes that will give you great views of the area and get some fresh country air into your lungs.
A picturesque Roman village with heritage sites and Hadrians Wall running through it, this small town is a an essential stop. It’s perfect for a history buff, shoppers or countryside lovers. Corbridge has an idyllic high street with small stores and decorated shop fronts. Stop by the old fashioned sweet shop for a paper bag of bon bons, visit the bookstore for a selection of local and national reads or one of the many cafes for a cream tea.
Take your time wandering around the small streets and appreciate the Roman buidlings, stone cottages and stunning gardens. The Roman site is obviously a must see, located just on the outskirts of the town the tourist information can supply you with plenty of reading material and direct you to the museum or ruins.
Corbridge never gets old (though literally it is quite), visit again and again to discover something new or enjoy previous finds, definitely make time for this quaint village on your trip.
Alnwick (pronounced An-ick)
Think Venetian gates, flowers blooming every season, landscaped gardens and flowing water features. Imagine an adult sized tree house that you can climb into and enjoy some lunch and a stunning castle and stately home overlooking all this beauty. Welcome to Alnwick. This is a place of beauty, awe and history. The castle is home to the 12th Duke of Northumberland and offers visitors the chance to look around the state rooms, enjoy historic and modern exhibitions on World Wars and Downton Abbey and take your chances fighting a dragon.
One of the filming locations for the Harry Potter quidditch games, take a lesson and learn to become a player yourself! The most stunning aspect here though by far are the gardens. Designed specifically to be a year round spectacle there is lots of fun to be had. Be careful in the poison garden, find magic in the fairytale attic, enjoy the scents of the rose garden or get lost in the bamboo labyrinth. Stop by the tree house, yes a real tree house for a bite to eat and be rewarded with a bird’s eye view of the whole spectacle.
I absolutely love Alnwick, it has a magical air of beauty and charm and allows you to venture into places usually left only to your imagination.
I discovered this gem when I organized a glamping trip- not my usual style- to stay overnight in a wooden wigwam! If you are looking to do something different and have loads of fun then this is for you. My wigwam was super cosy and overlooked the ocean, a location perfect for a beach walk or countryside amble.
Having enjoyed all your accommodation has to offer, make your way into Berwick-upon-Tweed for yet more stunning sights. Berwick has always been a popular seaside destination which can be seen by all the old advertisements and posters depicting the first visitors coming via train from all over the country. The cobble stoned streets lead you over three stunning bridges and by Elizabethan walls originally built to keep the Scots out.
You can learn more about the history here at the museums or build a sandcastle at the beach. I just enjoy walking around and admiring the grandeur of the buildings and bridges whilst intermittently stopping at cafes.
Hexham is actually located just down the road from Corbridge. They boast a stunning abbey and picturesque market places and have plenty of delightful cafes to enjoy. But none of these were the reason for my visit, no I was here in for the walking. With a superb selection of walks of varying distances, it’s easy to get out and get muddy in the local fields. This is authentic British countryside and though I attempted to follow the sporadic signs, I will admit to getting a little lost on the adventure. It actually turned out great, I found myself wandering through beautiful field after beautiful field and it made my cream tea taste even better at the end!
For those of you who haven’t walked in England before there isn’t always a clear track, signs point you in the rough direction, you make your way through a field, forest or pasture until you find the next sign and start your next mini adventure! You can grab a map from the local stores, tourist information or online for back up but getting a little lost is all part of the fun!
I had an extremely enjoyable time here which left me with rosy cheeks and fun memories. Even if you don’t have time for a long walk, definitely try one around the village and stop by one of the many cafes.
Bamburgh (pronounced Bam-Bur)
Crashing waves and dramatic shorelines are home to Bamburgh castle. Located right on the oceans edge, it overlooks Farne Islands and the local beaches. Nestled just underneath, land side, is a small village with a tiny high street boasting a butcher, tea room, pub, post office and telephone box. It all faces the imposing castle to give you amazing views wherever you happen to stop by. This is one of the smallest villages I’ve mentioned but by no means any less worthwhile a stop. Climbing up to the dark castle with the stones crunching underneath your feet you get a knot of anticipation in your stomach as to the secrets this fortress holds.
Learn about all the bloodshed, battles and ghosts whilst admiring the rugged coastline. A more dramatic village to stop by, the castle is one of the best in the country and they serve one of the finest cream tea’s I have ever had- and trust me I’ve tried a fair few!