I bet you have never heard of Belford this is a small, quiet and picturesque village, it happens to be where I grew up and lived until I left for university 5 years ago, to be honest I miss the tranquillity and the quiet lifestyle that comes with living in a village. In all honesty Belford is a small village where tourists have their accommodation and then travel off on their adventures. It consists of three B&B's, one Hotel, some holiday cottages, barns and two caravan sites.
This village tends to be the centre point of all the small villages of North Northumberland. It is approximately 50 miles north of Newcastle Upon Tyne, 15 miles south of Berwick Upon Tweed and 16 miles north of Alnwick, where Alnwick castle is home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland and the setting for Robin Hood Prince of theives and the great ballroom is used in Harry Potter as the setting for Hogwarts.
The village itself is a great exploring point and has many of the necessities you need for a great holiday, the local shops are a newsagents open from 6am until 4.30pm, it has recently gone under new management, I know this as I follow the owner on facebook, the wonders of social media. There is also a local Co-Op, where I used to work, this is open 7am until 10pm every day, you can get all your necessities, morning newspapers, as well as freshly baked bread and cakes every morning.
There is also a chip shop in my old little village called The Belford Chippie formerly The John Dory, the prices are reasonable considering it is in a tourist part of the world, last time I was visiting it was around £2.80 for a sausage and chips, you can also try the Scottish delicacy of haggis in batter at this chip shop, this is a must. It is run by a fun jolly man called George, he will welcome you with a smile and a joke, and his odd spellings of the food on offer on the menu board. The local post office is also open between the hours of 8am and 3.30pm, offering all the usual services, with a post box outside to send your postcards to loved ones.
There are also 5 watering holes in this small village, I know a lot for somewhere which only has around 2000 permanent residents, there is the Black Swan where I also used to work, offering a range of bar meals, spirits and local ales. The Salmon Inn, offering bar meals, ales and they also have a small Indian takeaway during high season, this however I have never tried. The Blue Bell Hotel offers rooms, meals of a more posh nature than that of the pubs, they do regular fund raisers, but you can also go here if you just fancy a quiet drink. The golf club in the village, as you can imagine is a golf course pavilion, bar and restaurant open all year round and open to non members, the course itself is a 9 hole golf course, overlooked by Belford Hall, now made into flats for tenants.
The Golf Club also does Karaoke, Pub Quizzes and has live football at the weekend. The main watering hole for most villagers is called The Belford Club, this establishment is run by my next door neighbour Jane, a funny and lively Scottish woman who will get you with her cheeky banter, she always does. This offers a downstairs lounge to drink and play darts or pool, or the upstairs dancefloor, which she regularly holds dances and discos, the last one I attended was at New Year 2 years ago, she keeps the place open till about 2am, it is a great party and the discos are done by the local man of many talents George the man from the chippy.
There is also a farm shop in Belford called SunnyHills, where you can get any range of free range goods, such as cheese, meat, eggs etc. There is also a childrens playground here as well as a café serving home made food, this is run by local farmer Robert Jackson. This is on the south entrance into Belford off the A1, a prime location for passing trade. There are also a couple of local shops which are of a particular interest, one with paitings and ornaments, clothes as well as a charity shop all going to the Belford trust. There is also a small museum giving people the history of Belford, I am afraid due to this just recently being opened I have not been due to attending University.
Okay so as I mentioned most tourists use Belford as a base and travel outwards, the closest most interesting small villages are those of Wooler, Bamburgh, Seahouses and Chillingham.
Okay so where to begin:
This is a small fishing village on the North Coast about 12 miles from Belford, this is your typical seaside village, you can go on small fishing boat tours to the Farne islands, a small range of islands starting about a mile from the coast, with two lighthouses, a small hut where St Cuthbert is said to have lived as a hermit, and you can find his beads up and down Northumberlands beautiful coast. However the most famous person to come from the Farne Islands is that of Grace Darling who set out on a rowing boat in treacherous seas to rescue seamen who had hit rocks and come intro trouble, she set out with her father to save the fishermen, you learn all of this on the trip, just be careful on the main island lighthouse as the terns like to remind you where you are and take a swerve at your heads especially if you have food, there are also puffins on the island.
Seahouses also has typical amusements, where you can spend your pennies and play various arcade games, this village is a lot more tourist centered, there is also a harbour you can walk along and watch the fishing boats come in. There are four chip shops in seahouses, two indian restaurants and one Chinese takeaway, the best chip shop I would recommend is Lewis's on main street, the best Indian is The Spice House and The Chinese Takeaway is beautiful and food is cooked really well. There is also a Co-Op if you require any drinks or snacks during your day out.
This small picturesque little village is located 7 miles from Belford and 3 miles from Seahouses, the focal point and feature of this village rising above everything else is the castle. It is rather prominent based at the foot of the village you can see it as you drive down the steep hill into bamburgh, built high up on a hill as defence from the Vikings it really is something very spectacular. It is open from 10am till 5pm between the 16th Feb to the 3rd Nov and weekends only 11am until 4.30pm 4th Nov until the 7th Feb. Admission is £9.75 for an adult and £4.25 for a child, which I think is extremely good value for such a historic place to visit.
There is parking at the castle which is limited but not to worry just at the bottom of the castle embankment is another car park, of which you have to pay, in summer the rates are very steep, if you are lucky you will get a car parking space on the main street of the village for free. It is said that the castle is haunted and I have heard many tales on especially of the pink lady, floating between the ceiling panels, and if you drive past at night it is said you can see knights standing upon the battlements keeping watch forever.
The beach is also easily accessible along a road half way down the main street of the village called The Wynding, this also leads to the Bamburgh Golf Club with its holes which span along the coastline, with its impeccable views. There are also many parking inlets along this road where if you are lucky you will get a space for the beach, if not you park along the road but be sure to turn your wing mirrors in because of how busy this little stretch of road gets. The lady I mentioned before Grace Darling her museum is also in Bamburgh, it has personal belongings and the actual famous boat which Grace rowed to rescue the seamen on the night I spoke about earlier, although very small it is always busy. It is open 10am - 4pm between 1st October and Easter Sunday, and between Easter Sunday and 30th September 10am - 5pm. Admission to this museum is free as it is run by the RNLI. Her tomb is also in the churchyard which is opposite this museum in the picturesque churchyard, you can visit the tomb which is like a large four poster bed. As you can see Bamburgh is definitely a small village steeped in history.
Now if you wish to stay here there are many caravan parks nearby, a hotel called The Queen Victoria, open all day for drinks, coffee and food. There is also a small tearoom in Bamburgh where I worked for 4 years, serving sandwiches, snacks, scones, cakes, cream teas, juices, and a famous seafood platter consisted of the famous crab caught in craster, about ten miles along the coast road. There are three small shops in bamburgh, a greengrocers selling mostly vegetables, known locally as Clarkys, a small village shop but as you can imagine it is very over priced and a small confectionary shop selling fudge, as well as a butchers, if you go in there try the sausage rolls, they are to die for, honestly.
Now Wooler is known as the gateway to the cheviots, a large hill range going through Northumberland offering walking holidays with plenty of paths the views are extraordinary. There is a specialist walk that you can go on in Wooler which centres at the base of the hills around a small duck pond, you have to be careful however as people walk their dogs and don't always tend to pick it up so watch you don't step into something nasty. There is one main pub in Wooler called The Wheatsheaf which is on the main street offering bar meals, ales from the county which always taste great. There is a great chip shop and Chinese takeaway, but by far the best food in Wooler is at a small restaurant situated behind The Black Bull Hotel, you go through an arch to the left of the hotel. The restaurant is called Milan, serving the finest Italian food, I have been on many occasions and I am never disappointed with the food or the service, have a visit here you will not be disappointed. For your groceries, as with most Northumberland villages there is a small Co-Op, open till 10pm for all your needs whilst on holiday.
* I have been told from one on my raters that wooler does have a museum in the cheviot centre...thanks :)
Finally a short paragraph about a small village located just about 5 miles from Wooler, the main attraction in this village is the castle, well it is the only attraction as well as the chillingham cattle. This castle is famous for its ghost hunts and ghost walks, mostly on Halloween. It is said to be one of the most haunted castles in England and it also featured on hit American TV series Ghost Hunters International. You are also able to stay here in specialist self catering apartments, would you be able to spend the night here? About two miles down the road is a small village called Chatton, where there is a great little pub offering all the finest foods, the sunday lunch is definitely the best here by far.
I hope I have given you a small insight into the world where I used to live, the small picturesque and historically interesting villages of North Northumberland, these are just a few to name but there are definitely more which are worth a look, you never know I might update this in the near future with more places to visit in the interesting county of Northumberland.
For some the North East conjures up images of grimy industrial areas with men in flat caps and whippets. They couldn't be more wrong. Northumberland, where I am lucky to live, has stunning coastal and countryside locations with something for everyone.
Northumberland has more castles than anywhere else in England so if that's what interests you then look no further.
Starting off with perhaps the most well known castle Alnwick which has been used in several films most noteably it was Hogwarts school in Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. It dates from the 11th century and is the second largest inhabited castle in England and is home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. Tours of the castle and Fusiliers Museum of Northumberland are available and entertainment for the kids such as Harry Spotters tours, Knights Quest where they can dress up in medievel clothes and learn to swordfight are a must for the young ones.
If you don't fancy the castle they are Alnwick gardens which are the most popular visitor attraction in the area. The gardens have the largest water feature of it's kind in the UK with 38 spectacular water fountains. There are Ornamental gardens, Rose gardens and the Serpent garden which has interactive water sculptures exploring the way in which water can be made to look and move. Alnwick Garden is also home to Europes largest tree house which is a huge collection of turret topped cottages connected by a suspended walkway.
Craster is a small fishing village with the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle just a short walk across fields to the north of the village. Close to the harbour is the famous Kipper Smokehouse which also sells delicious crab sandwiches.
Bamburgh Castle is another impressive site. An 11th century Norman fortress perched on the rocks above the unspoilt beach of Bamburgh. The Grace Darling museum can be found in Bamburgh across the road from St Aidens church where the Darling family grave is situated. Grace Darling is famous for helping in the rescue of survivors of the wrecked SS Forfarshire just off Bamburgh coast in 1838. The original boat used in the rescue can be seen in the museum as well as other artifacts.
Holy Island, also known as Lindisfarne, is a tidal island only accessed by a causeway when the tide is out so always check tide times before visiting and allow plenty of time to make your return journey unless you want to be stranded. There are only 150 residents on the island and it is renowned as a wildlife haven which is home to the National Nature Reserve.Lindisfarne Castle,Priory ruins and the Lindisfarne visitor centre are all worth seeing.Another place I recommend you visit is St Aidens Winery where you can try out free samples of Lindisfarne mead. Mead is one the oldest drinks and in it's simplest form is honey and water fermented with yeast so the sugars turn to alcohol. I'm not a drinker but I will make an exception for this lovely nectar! The winery also sells English wines and fruit wines, British beers and ciders, malt whiskeys and liqueurs, Craster kippers and speciality preserves. There is also a craft shop there selling Celtic jewellery, pewter,pottery, glassware and throws etc.
Those are a few examples of interesting architectural places to see but what about the coastline? Well Northumberland has miles of unspoilt coastal stretches some of which have been designated as Outstanding Natural Beauty. Just to name two worth visiting would be Bamburgh situated beneath the imposing castle or Seahouses from where you can take a boatride out to the Farne Islands. Once these islands were a home for soldiers,saints and the lighthouse keeper, Grace Darling, but are now owned by the National Trust. It is a haven for 100,000 pairs of nesting birds such as puffins and guillemots so if you decided to go there I advise you to wear a hat unless you really like bird poo on your head! It is also home to one of Europes largest grey seal colonies and is a superb spot for keen wildlife photographers.
Further inland there is the Kielder Water National Park complete with Englands largest forest, rivers and Northern Europes largest man made lake. The lake covers over 27 miles of shoreline and is popular for water sports and sailing. You can also take things easy and take a cruise around the lake. There are picnic spots, cafes, mountain bike trails and lovely walks to be had where you might spot some of the contempory art scatterted about the area.Fifty percent of Englands red squirrel population live here too so you might see one or two of them on your travels or some deer or maybe one of the many rare bird species who visit here.
Take the drive through the forest to the former hunting lodge of the Duke of Northumberland which had now been turned into an eatery called The Dukes Pantry. Have yourselves a well earned cuppa while the kids play on the adventure playground and enjoy the surrounding scenery.
Cragside Near Rothbury where the grand house, built by Lord Armstrong, was the first home in the world to be lit by hydro-electrictity. Surrounding the house is is one of the largest hand made rock gardens in Europe and it is also home to to Englands tallest Douglas Fir tree. Stunning displays of rhododendron,lakeside walks, adventure playground and a labyrinth all make this a delightful place for a family day out. Although some parts of the gardens may be unaccessable to those with limited mobility or pushchairs due to steep slopes or steps the house, and other facilities, are all disabled friendly.
Hadrians Wall, dating back to AD122 and named after the Roman Emporer of the same name, streches for over 70 miles. Ancient Roman barracks and even remains of the earliest known flushing toilet can be seen here. There are 16 permanent bases of which Housesteads Fort is one of the best preserved. You can take a guided tour or simply go off by yourself and enjoy the panoramic views along the way. There is an information centre, refreshments kiosk, picnic tables and baby changing/toilet facilites. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on the lead because of grazing cattle nearby and ground nesting birds.
There is so much more I could tell you about Northumberland but I don't want to make it too long a read. I hope I have wetted your appetite enough for you to give us a visit. Northumberland is a relatively small county but packed with amazing beauty just waiting for you to discover it so come up and see for yourselves and I'm sure you will be surprised.
***How to Get Here***
Taken from official website
Newcastle Airport can be reached in less than 1 hour from most destinations in Northumberland and is easily accessible. The airport handles flights from the UK and a wide range of European destinations. Emirates airlines now operate a daily service connecting North East England to the Middle East and beyond.
T: +44 (0)871 882 1121
Northumberland has fantastic access from Scotland and the south via the A1 London to Edinburgh highway running the length of the county. The A69 and A66 connect to the M6 whilst the A19 provides an alternative route from the south, linking the Port of Tyne to Northumberland.
Northumberland is about 3 ½ hours from London Kings Cross. Services to and within Northumberland are operated by National Express East Coast, Cross Country Trains and Northern Rail.
National Rail Enquiries
T: +44 (0)8457 48 49 50
National Express East Coast
T: +44 (0)8457 225 333
Cross Country Trains
T: +44 (0)844 811 0124
T: +44 (0)8457 000 125
Regular ferry crossings link North Shields with Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Bergen, Stavanger and Haugesund in Norway.
T: +44 (0)871 522 9955
A cost-effective way to reach Northumberland.
National Express Travel Enquiries
T: +44 (0)8717 818179
MegaBus Travel Enquiries
Thank you for reading
manlybeach Masy 2009
Thank you for reading
manlybeach May 2009