My top seven things to do in Northumberland.

I was born in Northumberland. I love Northumberland. I now live in Canada but any visit home means putting on the hiking boots and taking to the hills (or beaches).  Here are my top things to do in Britain's least visited and wildest county. 

1. Yomp the Simonside Hills. One of the things I love about Simonside is that
it takes very little effort to get some great views. Just a few breathless minutes and you are on the tops amongst the heather looking out over Rothbury with the North Sea in the distance. Also you can't really get lost despite the occasional dog walking off with a signpost.

Dog thief

2.  Walk the beaches. Another classic Northumberland experience. Bamburgh, Embleton, Newton-by-the-Sea, Craster, Alnmouth, Warkworth are our favourites. Golden sands, blue skies sometimes and often bloody freezing but it's bracing and beautiful. We've stayed in cottages in most of these places and nothing beats falling asleep listening to the waves crashing on the sands.
Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh beach to ourselves.
3. Eat scones. Those of you familiar with this blog know this is one of my rules of life but there is no better time to to do it than after a walk. These beauties were served to us in a tearoom in Rothbury. Other favourites of mine are the ginger beer scones at Quilliam Bros Tea House in Newcastle.

4. Smell the gorse. Sounds like a line from Spinal Tap but it is one of the pleasures of walking in Northumberland. This spiky shrub can be seen all over the countryside in springtime and has a distinctive coconut smell which reminds us of sunscreen. Other treats are watching the gambolling lambs, trying to avoid the pheasants as they hurl themselves in front of your car and avoiding a heart attack when the grouse suddenly take flight as you hike over the fields.

5. Scoff fish and chips. It has to be done in the land that does it best. Amble is a fishing village which has definitely spruced itself up in recent years. I went with my mum. She was evacuated there during the war and wanted to see how it had changed. We can recommend the fish and chips at the Quayside restaurant (although charging for a sachet of ketchup seemed a bit mean) and we loved the crafts for sale in the cute little wooden pods at the harbour.

Loved this Amble garden.

Pods at Amble Harbour selling crafts.
6. See the wild cattle of Chillingham: beautiful beasts straight out of a Landseer painting. Many claims are made about their ancestry including that they are descended from the primordial ox. It is thought more likely their ancestors were husbanded cattle in medieval times. Whatever the truth, the scene which greets you on a visit to the Chillingham parkland,  is unforgettable.  You can take a tour with a guide who will tell you all about the cattle or just go off for a walk unaccompanied through the park and woods. Mind those critters though. They ARE wild and the warning signs show a cartoon image of someone being gored. The castle with its ghostly history is also worth exploring.

Wild cattle of Chillingham

Chillingham Castle grounds
7. Walk the wall. If you want a hike in the country why not walk alongside a piece of history. Emperor Hadrian conveniently built this defensive structure in 122AD across some of the wildest and most beautiful countryside in Britain. My favourite walk is from Steel Rigg past the Sycamore Gap (Kevin Costner in Robin Hood anyone?) As with any walk I always like to take some good picnic grub you don't see much in Canada. Mini pork pies, Soreen fruity malt loaf and ham and pease pudding sandwiches will just about make the experience perfect. 

Walking the wall

Sycamore Gap on the Roman Wall
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