Northumberland: A wizard place to visit all year round

NorthumberlandAs keen Harry Potter fans we were delighted to write a blog on Northumberland and explore a couple of its connections to Harry.  Even more, it was a chance to explore a part of England we had not embraced before.  Heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures accompanied us North but believing there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing, our adventure began.

The Hog’s Head Inn in Potter’s world is dark & dingy, but its namesake at Alnwick isn’t at all.  Opened in 2012, The Hog’s Head Inn is new with a richness to its decor.  Our room was quiet, spacious and comfortable, with ample free parking.  Free Wi-Fi, in room safe, iron and board were welcome extras, non-slip bath mats and leaflets on local attractions were also provided  Easily accessible (the inn is close to the A1), with ground floor rooms and lifts to higher floors.

It’sabout a mile to Alnwick Castle, one of the largest occupied castles in Europe.  Sadly the Duke of Northumberland was in residence, so the castle was closed for the winter and my opportunity to ride a broomstick where Harry did in the first film disappeared.  The gardens of Alnwick and its Treehouse restaurant are said to be beautiful (normally open in winter but temporarily closed for maintenance at the time of our visit).  Alnwick is a part cobbled attractive old town, where you can wander around its quaint shops, narrow alleys and streets.  Take in Hotspur Gate, Bondgate Tower and Pottergate Tower, the remnants of the wall that once surrounded the town.  There are memorials, a playhouse and museum to keep visitors entertained, as well as a good tourist information office.  A visit to Barter Books, one of the largest second hand bookshops in Europe is a must.  Based in the disused station, it’s a vast emporium of the printed art.  Roaring coal fires, places to read, refreshments, a model railway above your head and of course racks and racks of books.  It bore a passing resemblance to Olivander’s wand shop but so much bigger (no more references to Harry Potter – promise).

Lindisfarne Heritage CentreA drive along the coast route revealed beautiful snow dusted landscape and brought us to The Bamburgh Castle Inn at Seahouses.  It’s blessed with beautiful views of the harbour, with an outside decking and seating area for warmer days.  An old building dating back to the 19th century, the Bamburgh Castle Inn is, cosy and charming, with creaks and groans to add character.  There is free Wi-Fi and on site parking.  The inn has ground floor rooms with disabled ramp access. There are also designated dog friendly rooms for those wishing to bring their pets on holiday too. It was a pleasure to eat breakfast watching the fishing boats unloading their catch.

From the inn we had a lovely walk along the harbour and nearby beach, which was spotlessly clean and offered distant views of the Farne islands and Bamburgh Castle.  There are trips to Farne, to spot the wildlife, go diving, or you can pop in and see the modern day Grace Darling lifeboat at the nearby RNLI station.

NorthumberlandFour miles away is Bamburgh, an attractive village that looks up to the impressive Bamburgh Castle, spanning nine acres atop a rocky outcrop.  A visit to the castle (open at weekends in the winter) will reveal a tale of kings, sieges and so much more.  In the village you can visit the Grace Darling Museum to learn about the local heroine and see her memorial and statue at the fascinating St Aiden church and grounds.

The Lindisfarne Inn, Beal, is ideally placed at the junction of the A1 and the road leading to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.  Rooms, of a nice size and decor, are in the adjacent building to the bar and restaurant.  There are ground floor rooms and wheelchair adapted accommodation with a  connecting room for careers. Free Wi-Fi in the bar is useful while the inn offers ample parking.  The key asset of the three hotels we used was their friendly and helpful staff.  The food was excellent, particularly at the Lindisfarne Inn and each operate great winter break deals for dinner, bed and breakfast which costs £44.40 per person, per night, while The Lindisfarne Inn and the Hog’s Inn offer an outstanding 3-night deal at £119.50 per person including dinner, bed and breakfast.

Steven Aldridge in Bamburgh with Bamburgh Castle in the backgroundLindisfarne (an amazing island with only 160 odd permanent residents) is reached by a tidal causeway (check tide times), which has some magnificent views across the flats.  We headed for the Heritage centre that gave a great overview of the island’s history including and its wildlife. Then to see the Priory ruins, St Mary’s church (don’t miss the impressive statue inside) and walk out to the Castle, set up on the 30m high Beblowe Crag (shuttle bus available if you don’t want to walk).  There’s plenty to see on the island, with Lime Kilns, Gertrude Jekyll Gardens and walks to the harbours and beaches.

Back on the mainland a few miles drive from The Lindisfarne Inn is Etal.  Here we found the 14th century castle ruins, the river Till and, the only thatched pub in Northumberland – (The Black Bull as well as) a lovely tearoom in the local post office.  Heatherslaw light railway is close by, as is the corn mill.  You can even hire a bike if you’re feeling energetic.  About 20 minutes away is Chain Bridge Honey Farm, where we saw a living beehive behind glass.

We only scratched the surface of what Northumberland has to offer.  We didn’t see the stars at Kielder Observatory, nor ghosts and beasts at Chillingham or play the many golf courses in this diverse part of the country.  One thing is for certain, we’ll be back for more.

More information

The Hog's Head Inn, AlnwichThe Hog’s Head Inn, Hawfinch Drive, Alnwick. NE66 2BF
53 en suite bedrooms in Northumberland’s newest inn. Room rates start at £40 (based on two people sharing) Look out for winter break rates from £44.50 per person, per night dinner, bed and breakfast (November 1 – March 31).
Insider tip: Pack your swimsuit – guests enjoy free use of facilities at the nearby Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre.
Tel: 01665 606 576
Visit website
The Bamburgh Castle Inn, NorthumberlandThe Bamburgh Castle Inn, Seahouses, Northumberland NE68 7SQ
30 en suite bedrooms in harbourside inn. Room rates start at £40 (based on two people sharing) Look out for winter break rates from £44.50 per person, per night dinner, bed and breakfast (November 1 – March 31).
Insider tip: Ask for a sea view with a private balcony.
Tel: 01665 720 283
Visit website

The Lindisfarne Inn, NorthumberlandThe Lindisfarne Inn, Beal, Northumberland. TD15 2PD
22 en suite bedrooms close to Holy Island. Room rates start at £40 (based on two people sharing) Look out for winter break packages from £44.50 per person, per night dinner, bed and breakfast (November 1 – March 31).
Insider tip: Guests get discounts at attractions including Bamburgh Castle.
Visit website

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Steve Aldridge

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