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A Complete Guide to Northumberland National Park

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Northumberland National Park’s pristine expanses of serene countryside along the Scottish border offer regional outdoor adventure highlights. Remote hiking trails lead through rolling hills and plains, past clear streams and ancient ruins including the Roman remains of Hadrian’s Wall defensive fortifications.

As one of the less populated and least visited national parks in the United Kingdom, you're free to enjoy its peaceful trails and calming landscapes relatively undisturbed. Learn everything you need to know about the region from the finest hiking routes to the top things to do, and insider tips, with our complete guide to Northumberland National Park.

 

How to get to and around Northumberland National Park

As the northernmost national park in England, reaching Northumberland National Park does take a little planning. But its remote location helps to safeguard its tranquility and unspoiled nature.

The nearest major airport to Northumberland National Park is Newcastle International Airport in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. From there, it's around a 40-minute drive to the park along the A696. By rail, travelers can catch trains to Newcastle from other major UK cities and then change for services on to the market town of Hexham. From there you can take the AD122 bus that serves the Hadrian's Wall corridor. 

To get around the national park and take full advantage of everything the region has to offer at your leisure, you can use a rental car. Alternatively, traveling as part of a guided small group tour on our Walk Northumberland trip is a wonderful way to explore: all your transportation, accommodations, and activities are organized for you and it's easy to meet fellow adventurous, like-minded travelers.

 

Top things to do in Northumberland National Park

Home to rolling hills, moorland, and swathes of forest and woodland, as well as ancient landmarks including Hadrian’s Wall, England's most northerly national park offers outdoor adventure complemented by captivating regional history. Here are some of the most exciting ways to explore Northumberland National Park.

Hike or bike through scenic landscapes

It's time to lace up your walking boots and hit the trails. More than 600 miles of hiking routes and walking trails crisscross the hills and moorlands of the national park, heading through some of its most scenic areas like the Cheviot Hills and Coquetdale, as well as along iconic Hadrian's Wall.

The unfrequented trails and sweeping landscapes also make Northumberland National Park a popular destination for cycling and mountain biking.

Explore the waterways

Home to four of the cleanest rivers in England, the streams and waterways of Northumberland National Park are prime locations for spotting local wildlife including otters and plentiful fish. In late summer and autumn, you can see migrating sea trout and salmon swimming upstream, with the latter leaping from the water to get up cascades and over obstacles.

Visit Sycamore Gap

You can't come to Northumberland National Park and not visit Sycamore Gap, near the village of Once Brewed. Also known as the Robin Hood Tree, a single sycamore tree stands between two hills in a dip in the landscape next to Hadrian's Wall. The perfect placement makes for a striking view, which is why this sycamore is one of the most photographed trees in England.

Discover historic sites

While the surrounding landscape may feel untouched by mankind, it's actually peppered with landmarks and ruins. The most famous of these is Hadrian's Wall, a 73-mile-long stone-built wall dating from Roman times. But you'll also find Mithraic temples, ancient farmhouses, and imposing landmarks like the magnificent coastal fortress Bamburgh Castle, in the national park and surrounding area.

Learn more about the park at the Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre

Northumberland National Park serves as a place to conserve and protect the region's cultural and environmental legacy with priority habitat and special scientific interest areas. But the national park also serves as the home and place of work for many — around 2,000 people live within its boundaries. Local farmers are allowed to let their sheep roam and graze in designated areas. And the Otterburn Training Area, where UK armed forces are trained, accounts for almost a quarter of the park's area.

A visit to The Sill Discovery Centre in the village of Once Brewed can help you learn about all the different roles the park plays. And with its inspirational programme of exhibitions and displays on Northumberland’s landscapes, culture and heritage, it can also serve as the perfect place to kick off your Northumberland National Park adventure.

Experience unbelievable stargazing

Due to the lack of light pollution from minimal human habitation, Northumberland National Park has some of the UK's darkest skies giving it dark sky park status. A number of Dark Sky Discovery Sites, such as the Redesdale Arms and the Twice Brewed Inn, have star maps and telescopes. On clear nights you will easily be able to see the Milky Way and thousands of stars with the naked eye.

 

The best hiking trails in Northumberland National Park

Many visitors come to Northumberland National Park for the superb walking routes and hiking, which range from easy to difficult. Although each route holds something special to discover, these are among the top hikes and walks around the park.

 

Sycamore Tree Gap

Taking roughly one hour, this moderate two-mile walk sets out from the Discovery Centre and heads along Hadrian's Wall to the famous Sycamore Tree Gap.

 

Simonside Hills

Lasting roughly three hours and covering 4.5 miles, this moderate trail in the Coquetdale culminates in breathtaking views of the Cheviot Hills and North Sea coast. You may also get to see wildlife such as goats and red squirrels, as well as abundant birdlife.

 

Winshield Crags and Cawfields

This moderate, six-mile hike running parallel to one of the best preserved sections of Hadrian's Wall is enhanced by sweeping views of rolling hills and grasslands.

 

Where to stay when visiting Northumberland National Park

While exploring Northumberland National Park, you have the option of staying either within the park or in nearby towns and villages.

The Hog's Head Inn in Alnwick offers cozy accommodation in a town where multiple locations were used in scenes of the Harry Potter movies.

If you prefer to stay within the park, you can rent a private cottage or stay in grand rural residences that have been converted into hotels, such as Clennell Hall Country House.

 

Tips for visiting Northumberland National Park

Here's some important things to keep in mind for your visit:
  • Due to the diversity of activities taking place in the area, Northumberland National Park is located on open access land. This means that some areas are off-limits. Always take note of signs indicating that areas are closed to the general public
  • Be respectful of the local ecosystem and wildlife by staying on designated paths and following the Leave No Trace principles of outdoor exploration
  • Respect the Countryside Code of conduct for visitors in the English and Welsh countrysides
  • Be well-prepared and pack for all weathers

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