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A complete guide to the Northumberland Coast AONB

Updated On 26th August, 2021

Northumberland Coast AONB 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 Coast AONB is the northernmost National Park in England, and covers more than more than 40 miles of coastline in north-east England from Berwick-upon-Tweed to the River Coquet estuary. It’s very close to Scotland, 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 coastal walks with beautiful panoramas, magnificent wildlife and a bit of English culture in the form of a castle, garden or pub, the Northumberland Coast AONB is going to be right up your street. It’s one of England’s most underrated coastal areas, 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 area of the UK. It’s also very close to Northumberland National Park, so you’ll have a great time if you combine the two of them on a UK road trip!

In this Northumberland Coast AONB 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 the Northumberland Coastal Path to seeing the Northern Lights, or from visiting the puffins on the Farne Islands to exploring Alnwick Castle – my time in Northumberland has been nothing short of adventurous! 

A complete guide to the Northumberland Coast AONB

Northumberland National Park: my complete guide

Where is Northumberland Coast AONB?

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

To drive to Northumberland Coast AONB, 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 want to take public transport to Northumberland Coast AONB, you’re best bet is getting to Newcastle. While it’s not in the AONB itself, it offers great train and coach connections across the UK, and from there you can take local bus and train links to Northumberland Coast AONB. Book your train tickets online on thetrainline.com. 

Check out this map of Northumberland Coast AONB 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 on the Northumberland Coast AONB:

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 on the Northumberland Coast AONB, there is the YHA Berwick: the perfect option for budget accommodation with close access to many of the attractions on the Northumberland close. Not in the AONB but nearby there is also YHA Alnwick. Book your stay at a YHA in Northumberland here.

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

There are also lots of campsites on the Northumberland Coast for camping, and there’s something for everyone, whether you’ve got a tent or a campervan or if you’d prefer glamping. Check out my camping packing list here.

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The best things to do on the Northumberland Coast AONB...

1. Marvel at the Northern Lights from the Northumberland Coast.

While you’re in Northumberland, head to the Dark Skies on the coastline to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Autumn is the best time to catch the magic. Who knew you could see the Aurora Borealis in England, and that you didn’t have to travel to IcelandCanada or Finland?!

Just imagine… lying back on the sand, listening to the waves lapping the shore and watching the wonders of the night sky with the naked eye. You can see even more if you have a telescope or a pair of binoculars.

Home to England’s first and largest Dark Sky Park, did you know that Northumberland is now home to its very own Dark Skies Festival?

Held in February, the Northumberland Dark Skies Festival has loads of of events and activities, as well as things to see and do; from chatting with local astronomers by a campfire to night sky guides with experts and interactive live streams. One of the best things to do on the Northumberland Coast is to appreciate the dark skies and try to catch the Northern Lights!

Check out how to improve your travel photography in this blog post. 

2. Take on one of the many walks and hikes on the Northumberland Coast.

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

There are loads of walks and hikes along the Northumberland Coast 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!). With so much on offer, it’s no surprise that walking and hiking are some of the best things to do on the Northumberland Coast.

Some of the best places for hikes and walks on the Northumberland Coast include: 

  • Northumberland Coast Path (60 mile linear route between Cresswell in the south to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north)
  • Beadnell to Low Newton
  • Bamburgh Castle to Budle Bay
  • Hauxley Nature Reserve
  • Holy Island
  • Old Hartley to St Mary’s Lighthouse
  • Warkworth Castle to Alnmouth 
  • Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle and Newton-by-the-Sea. 
  • Inner Farne
  • Cresswell to Warkworth
  • St Oswald’s Way
  • Berwickshire Coastal Path
  • St Cuthbert’s Way

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

A complete guide to the Northumberland Coast AONB

3. Spend a day in Bamburgh.

One of the best places to visit on the Northumberland Coast is Bamburgh. Famous for the miles of white sandy beaches, its magnificent  castle and the Grace Darling museum, this beautiful coastal town also boasts wonderful walking trails (such as the walk from Bamburgh to the Seahouses or to Budle Bay). While you’re in Bamburgh, don’t miss having a meal at The Potted Lobster – fresh, locally sourced seafood, cooked to perfection.

Bamburgh is a great place to stay on the Northumberland Coast if you want easy access to other attractions in the AONB or in Northumberland National Park!

See all the best places to visit in England here. 

A complete guide to the Northumberland Coast AONB
A complete guide to the Northumberland Coast AONB
A complete guide to the Northumberland Coast AONB

4. Say hello to the puffins on the Farne Islands.

One of my best things to do on the Northumberland Coast has got to be witnessing the wildlife that exists here. The Farne Islands are home to about 37,000 pairs of puffins (early summer is the best time to see them), as well as large colonies of shag, kittiwake, guilliemots, black-headed gulls and three species of terns. They are also home to grey seals, with about 1000 pups being born here every autumn! 

To get to the Farne Islands, you need to take the bost from Seahouses. As well as the boat fare, you’ll need to pay £8-12 to get onto the islands (depending on the time of year). 

Note for 2021: Only Inner Farne is open for landings. Staple Island will not open this year. 

There is also more wildlife in Northumberland to be discovered! While viewings are not guaranteed, the Northumberland Coast an reward you with the presence of dolphins and whales. Harbour porpoises are in the water all year and you can see them from the shore with binoculars or a telescope. Bottlenose dolphins, white-beaked dolphins and minke whales are not uncommon, best seen when the water is calm. If they’re around, there are often last-minute special boat trips organised from Seahouses.

Check out the best things to do in England here.

5. Cycle along the Northumberland Coast.

If you’re looking for active things to doon the Northumberland Coast, why not cycle along the coastal path? If you can’t bring your own bike up to the Northumberland Coast, there are plenty of places who will rent bikes for a day or longer.

Experience mile upon mile of country lanes, very little traffic and explore the Coast and Castles Cycle Route, which is part of the National Cycle Network, and follows the length of the Northumberland coast.

Other long distance cycling trails on the Northumberland Coast include: 

  • The Pennine Cycleway (North), which links the North Pennines AOONB with the Northumberland coast via Northumberland National Park.
  • Sandstone Way is a 120-mile mountain biking route along the sandstone ridge in Northumberland between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Hexham. From Berwick, the route hugs the coast as far as the Holy Island Causeway before heading inland for Northumberland National Park. It’s a challenging route, so best for experienced mountain bikers!

Short distance circular cycling trails on the Northumberland Coast include: 

  • Alnmouth and Warkworth Loop (10 ½ miles)
  • Craster South Loop (10 miles)
  • Warkworth West Loop (12 miles)
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6. Try your hand at some water sports.

Although the English water can be pretty chilly, the Northumberland Coast is also quite windy with beautiful, open beaches, making it a great place to try water sports such as kite surfing (and other kite sports), windsurfing and surfing. The Northumberland Coast AONB and the activity providers work hard to recognise the demand for these activties as well as protecting the local wildlife and landscape.

If you want to try kitesurfing on the Northumberland Coast, check out KA Kitesurfing in Beadnell. They also offer opportunities for stand up paddleboarding, coasteering and sea kayaking!

Some of the best places for windsurfing on the Northumberland Coast include Bamburgh, Beadnell, Low Newton-by-the-Sea, Boulmer and Seaton Point. 

If you’re looking for places to go surfing on the Northumberland Coast, try Spittal, Bamburgh, Seahouses, Embleton Bay or Warkworth. 

A complete guide to the Northumberland Coast AONB

7. Walk Pilgrim's Way to Holy Island.

Walking the Pilgrim’s Way to Holy Island at low tide is one of the most unique things to do on the Northumberland Coast. The island is has been a place of pilgrimage since the monastery was established in 635. The road was not constructed until 1954 and so the vertical poles showed the safe route between the mainland and island. The sight of the poles stretching across the sand and mud is one of the most iconic views in Northumberland.

Top tips for walking the 3-mile Pilgrim’s Route:

  • Work around the tide times. Check the website for the safe crossing times: the middle of the safe crossing times gives you low tide time.
  • Set off two hours before low tide (it takes about two hours to walk from the Island to the Causeway). Walk with the outgoing tide rather than the rising tide. 
  • Wear suitable footwear – it can be slippery and muddy

If you don’t want to walk on the sands you can walk by the road, but be aware of the traffic! 

If you would prefer to do a guided walk to Holy Island, check out these tour guides: 

  • Shepherds Walks
  • Footsteps in Northumberland
  • Holy Island Hikes

If you only want to walk one way, or you want to explore Holy Island without the walk, the Holy Island Hopper service is a good way to get across.

8. Explore Alnwick Castle (aka Hogwarts) and Gardens.

With over 950 years of history to uncover, Harry Potter themed events, dragon quests and more, visiting Alnwick Castle, the filming location for Hogwarts in Harry Potter and Brancaster Castle in Downton Abbey, is one of the best things to do in Northumberland. Also known as the Windsor of the North, Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in England.

After you’ve enjoyed your magical time in the castle, make sure to visit the Alnwick Gardens. From the tranquility of the Cherry Orchard, the excitement of the Grand Cascade and the mysteries of the Bamboo Labyrinth, to the Serpent Garden’s spell-binding water sculptures, the intrigue of the Poison Garden and one of the world’s largest tree houses – there is plenty to surprise and delight. There is also the Treehouse restaurant in the garden, a truly unique experience in Northumberland! 

After you’ve explored Alnwick, I’d recommended heading to Warkworth for some time on the beach and then heading up to Alnwick for dinner at The Whittling House (also a great place to stay on the Northumberland Coast!). 

9. Go horse riding along the beach.

The Northumberland Coast AONB is a great place for horse riding along the beach. It’s a truly exhilirating experience and one of the best things to do on the Northumberland Coast. If you want you can take your own horse (be sure to stick to the bridleways), but there are local riding centres that provide horse and pony trekking aong the coastline:

  • Haggerston Riding Centre
  • Swinhoe Farm Riding Centre
  • Slate Hall Riding Centre 
  • Kimmerston Riding Centre 

10. Marvel at the views across Budle Bay.

Perhaps the most popular place to visit on the Northumberland Coast is Budle Bay. With stunning views that extend for miles, lots of species of birds, and the opportunity to relax on the beach or do water sports in the summer, Budle Bay is popular with families, bird watchers and active adventurers alike. For those who are into walking, try the circular Warren Mill to Bamburgh trail. 

Note: never cross the bay’s mouth, even at low tide. The sea is powerful here and it is very dangerous. 

A complete guide to the Northumberland Coast AONB

What are your favourite things to do on the Northumberland Coast?

Where are your favourite places to visit on the Northumberland Coast? Anything you’d add?

Love as always and happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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