There are obviously many other amazing things to see and do in this friendly but wild area of England but digging out your hiking boots and going walking in Northumberland should be your number one activity if you are lucky enough to come up here. Ancient Hadrian’s Wall, dramatic moorland and craggy hills, wild and wonderful quiet beaches, there’s nowhere else quite like walking in Northumberland.
I’ve just spent half term up near Rothbury, on the border of the Northumberland National Park, and managed to do a fair bit of walking in Northumberland with the kids too. I’m not going to claim I’m the leading expert on walking in Northumberland, as I was only in the county for a week, but I did a fair bit of research and have narrowed down the top spots to go walking with the family up here. Northumberland is so blessed with top walking trails that you’re likely to have a great ramble out wherever you are based to be honest!
Where we stayed – The Simonside Hills
We stayed in one of the best AirBnBs I’ve ever stayed in in Bickerton, just outside Rothbury and at the bottom of the Simonside Hills. We managed three walks out here – two in the hills and one around a nearby lake, plus two walks in nearby National Trust properties. The Simonside Hills are a set of distinctive and ancient craggy ridges filled with wildlife and epic 360 views of the surrounding National Park. Expect to see grouse and maybe even red squirrels, plus lots of heather moorland and spruce woodland low down on the hills. We didn’t do this walk, but it’s a good walk for families from Visit Northumberland. The Simonside Hills are great for kids of all ages, as they are challenging but achievable and the terrain changes quite a bit, so should hold interest.
I’ll be honest, my 2 year old found the walks a little chilly, even though he was wrapped up warm, as he is currently going through a phase of wanting to be carried everywhere. I was banking on him wearing himself out and sleeping well, but alas! However, my nearly 5 year old absolutely loved it. I was so proud of him too. I think there is something about clambering up hills that kids seem to enjoy. They don’t seem to be that taken with stunning views or scenery. They was adventure and mini challenges.
Sycamore Gap and Hadrian’s Wall
I also managed this walk solo (yippee!) along some of the best bits of Hadrian’s Wall to the ‘most photographed tree in the UK’ – Sycamore Gap (remember Robin Hood?), though Visit Northumberland does suggest it’s suitable for families. I actually think it wouldn’t be suitable for really young kids as there are a couple of spots with steep drops, but older children would be fine. It’s a fabulous walk though, with great views, wind whipping across your face, and history everywhere.
National Trust in Northumberland
Tamer, though no less stunning, are walks through National Trust estates. Cragside and Wallington both have miles of trail walking suitable for all. Cragside is huge (there’s a six mile carriage drive) with many many walking options to choose from. We spent two full days in each estate and felt we could have visited another day and still explored new areas.
Cragside is more challenging (clue’s in the name) though there are a few shorter, less rocky trails available. Wallington has two main wooded areas with walks leading off both, plus big lakes to wander round.
Other family walks in Northumberland
Visit Northumberland recommend a walk along the River Breamish, if you based that way. I’d love to do this puffin-spotting walk on the Farne Islands next time we come up (who doesn’t love these comical birds?!). North East Family Fun has many different pushchair walks listed on her blog which all look awesome. For coastline, you can’t beat this walk from Craster down to Low Newton, past the crumbling ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle and sandy Embleton Bay. Kielder Water is another obvious family-friendly walking spot.
Honestly, words can’t do this part of the country justice – it’s just wild and beautiful, and the weather will certainly blow the cobwebs away. I came back from our half term holiday feeling really refreshed, even though I’d done the most exercise I’ve done in a long time!