Although the borders of Northumberland have shifted through the centuries, grower larger, growing smaller and changing shape, there are some places that remain 100% recognisably Northumbrian. They may have changed their official county allegiance, but they are still a part of the Northumberland identity. Perhaps the most famous is the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, where people flock to soak up the rich history, investigate the party scene, and enjoy a diverse shopping and dining experience. Outside of Newcastle, however, there are plenty of towns, cities and even villages that are worth a visit, both inland and beside the sea. If you’re planning a trip to Northumberland anytime soon, then make sure to take a look at the list below before you start to plan your itinerary. You certainly won’t want to miss out on these fascinating locations!
The Big City
First things first, visiting the Northumbrian ‘capital’ of Newcastle is an absolute must. There is always so much going on here. As an important trading town throughout the centuries, it has retained its status as a vital Northern metropolis from Roman times all the way up to the present day. Whether you’re interested in viewing the art at the converted Baltic Centre, the science exhibits at the Centre for Life, or simply having a good rummage around the shops in Eldon Square, there is plenty to keep you entertained.
Newcastle’s nightlife is legendary and so it’s a good idea to plan for a few nights out on the town (or the ‘toon’ as locals call it) during your stay. Nightclubs such as Digital, Riverside, The Gate and Florita’s give you plenty of chance to dance the night away to top hits, whereas pubs like The Cumberland Arms, The Tyne Bar and The Cluny have got you covered for live music. If you enjoy classic table games like blackjack, roulette and poker, then there are also several casinos in the town centre, including the Genting, the Grosvenor and Aspers. If you fancy brushing up on your skills before you play in person, it’s a good idea to check out online options from your hotel room before heading out – that way, you’ll have all the rules and regs fresh in your mind.
By the Seaside
Less than 10 miles away from Newcastle is the North Sea. Along this stretch of coastline, there are many fascinating little fishing villages, seaside towns and beachside attractions to check out. If you’re travelling from the city itself, then taking public transport via the Metro system or driving yourself along the Coast Road are both equally as accessible. Once there, you have a couple of places to choose from, including Tynemouth, which sits at the literal mouth of the Tyne River as it runs into the sea. It has some of the best fish and chips you’ll ever taste, as well as a castle, a Life Brigade Museum and beautiful beach. Alternatively, you could travel a little further north to Whitley Bay. This small seaside town has some fantastic dining options and its own Playhouse, but it does tend to be a little quieter.
If you’re travelling further afield than Newcastle, then Alnmouth and the nearby town of Alnwick are must-see places. Alnmouth might not be very big, but it’s absolutely beautiful and offers visitors some great bracing walks along the sea front. It was rated one of the most beautiful villages in the UK in 2020, and it isn’t hard to see why. The nearby town of Alnwick is just as quaint and also plays host to an 11th century Castle and Gardens. Within its grounds you will find a truly fascinating Poison Garden, an expansive treehouse and landscaping originally devised by Capability Brown.
Even further north, you will find Bamburgh, a small coastal village which is also home to an impressive Castle. This one, however, is perhaps most interesting because it was previously the seat of the Kings of Northumbria, back in the 7th century. The site’s history goes back even further than that, to the Celtic Britons who may have made it their capital, which makes it an important and captivating piece of Northumbrian history. It was even said to be the home of mythical Arthurian knight, Sir Lancelot!
Whether you choose to venture further inland – to follow the way of Hadrian’s Wall past sites like Hexham and Housesteads – or you choose to travel even further up the coast to the Borderlands – where you’ll find Berwick upon Tweed- you are guaranteed to find points of interest wherever you go. Northumbria is an ancient and enchanting part of England that rewards visitors with spectacular natural vistas, interspersed with bustling towns and cities of industry, creativity and a varied past. You are never far away from something happening, whether it be a play by the seaside, a live band in the city centre or a night of storytelling in the village pub.