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A complete guide to Northumberland National Park, England

Northumberland National Park is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in England, it’s even a strong contender for the best places to visit in the UK.

Northumberland National Park is the northernmost National Park in England, and covers more than more than 1,050 square kilometres (410 sq mi) of stunning landscapes in north-east England, right up by the Scottish border (making it the perfect National Park to visit if you’re planning a Scotland road trip!). 

If you’re the type of traveller that seeks stunning country walks through dramatic hillside landscapes, but without the crowds that you might get at Scafell Pike or Mount Snowdon, Northumberland National Park is going to be right up your street. It’s one of England’s least populated and least visited National Parks, and, despite the very English weather I’ve experienced there (rain), it’s not taken away from the beauty and fun I’ve had in this UK National Park. Home to some of England’s clearest air and cleanest rivers, it’s a great place to go walking in England.

In this Northumberland National Park travel guide I am going to share with you the best places to stay in Northumberland, the best things to do in Northumberland and my favourite adventures so far.

From walking or cycling along Hadrian’s Wall to seeing the Northern Lights, from visiting The Sill at Hexham to marvelling at Hareshaw Linn waterfall, or from trying Hepple Gin to taking on the Otterburn mountain bike trail – my time in Northumberland has been nothing short of adventurous! 

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Northumberland National Park: my complete guide

Where is Northumberland National Park?

If you came here wondering ‘where is Northumberland National Park’, ‘where is Northumberland’, or ‘what does a map of Northumberland National Park look like’ you’re in the right place. Northumberland National Park is in the north-east corner of England, right up by the Scottish Border. The equally beautiful, but separate Northumberland Coast AONB is just a 40-minute drive away.

To drive to Northumberland National Park, it’s about six hours from London and the South East, 2.5 hours from Manchester or Leeds, two hours from York, 2 hours from Edinburgh and just 30 minutes from Newcastle. If you’re using a Sat Nav, pop in the postcode of your accommodation or one of these car parks.

If you want to take public transport to Northumberland National Park, you’re best bet is getting to Newcastle. While it’s not in the National Park itself, it offers great train and coach connections across the UK, and from there you can take the Tyne Valley Line into the southern part of Northumberland National Park. Book your train tickets online on thetrainline.com. 

Check out this map of Northumberland National Park to see where in England it is:

Northumberland National Park: my complete guide​ - the best things to do in Northumberland National Park: the best things to do

Where to stay in Northumberland National Park:

Where to stay in Northumberland really depends on what type of accommodation you’re looking for, and where you want to be based.

For example, if you want to stay in a hostel in Northumberland National Park, there is the YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall: the perfect option for budget accommodation with close access to Hadrian’s Wall and other attractions such as Sycamore Gap and Vindolanda. Book your stay at YHA The Sill here.

Check out booking.com or Airbnb for more hotels or apartments in the area, or get inspiration and recommendations directly from the Northumberland National Park website here.

There are also lots of campsites in Northumberland National Park for camping. Check out my camping packing list here.

If you’re looking for campsites in Northumberland National Park (for tents and caravans), check out the list of campsites on the Northumberland National Park website here.

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The best things to do in Northumberland National Park...

1. Walk along Hadrian's Wall.

Perhaps one of the most famous things to do in Northumberland National Park, and even one of the most popular things to do in England, is to walk (or cycle) along Hadrian’s Wall.

Many people think Hadrian’s Wall is in Scotland. It’s on the England-Scotland border, but the wall and the 84-mile long National Trail along it are actually in England. Building started in AD 122 and it took over six years to build the coast to coast barricade.

Get a taste of Roman Britain as you walk along your chosen part of the trail and admire the architecture of the wall and the views of the surrounding area. A large part of the walk is in Northumberland National Park, and there are several trails that you can try to see it for yourself, including the Steel Rigg and Crag Lough walk

2. Take on one of the many walks and hikes in Northumberland National Park.

There are so many walks and hikes in Northumberland National Park… it really is one of the best places to go walking in England and even in the UK. with breathtaking views of the rolling English countryside, it’s enjoyable come rain or shine! 

With 72% of the park classed as open access land and more than 1,140km of public rights of way, there are loads of walks and hikes in Northumberland National Park for you to try, no matter whether you’re a beginner hiker or if you’re looking for a bigger challenge. (If you’re a beginner hiker, check out my hiking top tips here!).

Northumberland National Park is also home to a variety of landscapes, so whether you want hills or woodlands, waterfalls or moorland, there’s something for you here. With so much on offer, it’s no surprise that walking and hiking are some of the best things to do in Northumberland National Park.

Some of the best places for hikes and walks in Northumberland National Park include: 

  • Hadrian’s Wall
  • Breamish Valley & Ingram (go for a paddle in the river while you’re there)
  • The Cheviot hills (keep an eye out for the wild goats!)
  • Coquetdale
  • Hareshaw Linn
  • Drake Stone and Harbottle

Check out some of the best walks and hikes in the UK here.

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3. Visit The Sill discovery centre in Hexham.

The Sill in Northumberland National Park is the UK’s National Landscape Discovery Centre. Their vision is to reinspire people to connect with the area, the landscape and with nature and to change the generations to come. It’s open every day, the exhibitions are free, and allow you to learn more about the Northumbrian culture and heritage.

4. Marvel at the beautiful waterfalls in Northumberland National Park.

One of my best things to do in Northumberland National Park has got to be seeing the waterfalls. They’re absolutely gorgeous!

Two of the most popular waterfalls in Northumberland National Park are Hareshaw Linn and Linhope Spout. 

One the walk towards Hareshaw Linn you’ll cross bridges, walk through ancient woodland, see rare ferns, red squirrels (and maybe woodpeckers, badgers and bats!) and then of course be treated to the absolutely stunning waterfall after about 3 miles. The grey and green growths on rocks and trees in Hareshaw Linn are lichen, and the area surrounding the waterfall is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), designated for its rare ferns and lichen.

Linhope Spout is located within the Northumberland Dark Sky Reserve. This spectacular waterfall tumbles 18 metres down a rock face to the plunge pool below. Take a picnic with you to enjoy when you get there, but make sure the red squirrels don’t take your snacks!

5. Take on the mountain bike trail around Otterburn.

If you’re looking for active things to do in Northumberland National Park, why not try mountain biking?! The cycling trail around the Otterburn Ranges and Coquetdale is an exhilarating ride along superb military roads. It boasts stunning panoramas, views of ancient bastle houses, Roman forts, and modern day rusting tank hulks. It’s not an easy ride, but perfect for anyone ready for a challenge!

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6. Visit Sycamore Gap.

The Sycamore Gap Tree is one of the most photographed trees in England. It stands in a dip in Hadrian’s Wall, and one of the best things to do in Northumberland National Park is to see it for yourself! You can either take the short walk from the Steel Rigg car park, or go for a longer walk in the area to get there.

A complete guide to Northumberland National Park, England
A complete guide to Northumberland National Park, England

7. Go stargazing in Northumberland National Park.

There’s something spectacular about staring up at the sky when it is completely dark and looking at all the twinkling stars. This can be hard to do in city centres where there is a lot of light pollution, but England is home to six international dark sky reserves.

Northumberland National Park forms part of Northumberland International Dark Sky Park which it is also the UK’s largest area of protected night sky and the second largest in Europe. 572 square miles of the county have been awarded Gold Tier status for their dark skies. At night most of the park is completely free from light pollution at night and it’s the perfect place to snuggle up under the stars and make a wish. 

8. Try Hepple Gin.

Hepple is a small village on the edge of Northumberland National Park, and one of the best things to do while you’re here is to try a local G&T! Juniper thrives in a purity of the Northumbrian Hills so be sure to try a glass (or two!) while you’re here.

9. Get a beer from the Twice Brewed Inn brewery in Once Brewed.

Yes… you read that correctly. Try saying that after your beer!

In the village Once Brewed, there is a brewery called Twice Brewed Inn, and with its close proximity to Hadrian’s Wall and other points of interest in Northumberland National Park, it’s the perfect pitstop for a pub lunch and a drink.

10. Grab some shelter in a bothy.

If you’re looking for unique things to do in England, staying in a bothy in Northumberland National Park should definitely be on your list. Northumberland boasts seven of the remaining eleven bothies in England. They are maintained by volunteers and free to stay in (if you can find them!).

Bothies are far from five-star accommodation and far from the glamorous hotel life! This is where to stay if you want a genuine experience of camping in a rural location. Bothies act as free shelters from the elements for brave walkers looking for total isolation.

You can also find paid/bookable bothies (well, bothy-like accommodation) to stay in online, if you’d prefer to guarantee your location and bed for the night!

What are your favourite things to do in Northumberland National Park?

Where are your favourite places to visit in Northumberland National Park? Anything you’d add?

Love as always and happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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A complete guide to Northumberland National Park, EnglandA complete guide to Northumberland National Park, England
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I’M MOLLIE AND I STARTED THIS BLOG BACK IN 2013 WHEN I HEADED OUT ON MY FIRST BACKPACKING ADVENTURE. I’D LOVE TO SHARE MY STORY WITH YOU…

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