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June, 2015

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Morpeth is a bustling market town, situated alongside the River Wansbeck in the heart of Northumberland. It has a unique combination of old and new which blend together perfectly, add in its parkland, woodland, riverside, museums, shopping facilities and great places to eat and what is created is an uplifting visitor experience. Morpeth is also an excellent base for exploring the surrounding rolling countryside with its castles, stately homes, gardens and pretty villages, as well as the spectacular coastline close by. City life, too, is not far away, the City of Newcastle Upon Tyne can be reached by a 20-30 minute drive. It has been said by some “Morpeth has it all”, I would agree!

Approaching the town from the South, via the A1 some of Morpeth’s attractions are immediately displayed. On the left of the road is the beautiful Carlisle Park with its attractive formal gardens which helped make it a Britain in Bloom winner. The road crosses the meandering River Wansbeck via the Stone Telford Bridge which has stood since 1831, on the right of the bridge is St Georges Church its current building dating back to the 1860;s whilst on the left is the imposing 12th century Chantry Building.

Morpeth’s history continues as you walk through the town. There is the 300 year old Town Hall. Watching over the historic market place is the 400 year old Clock Tower. (markets are held weekly and there is a monthly farmers market) There are many independent retailers including Morpeth’s most well known retailer – Rutherfords of Morpeth – a large, traditional department store which has traded in the town since 1846, but Morpeth also has a very modern side. Sanderson’s Arcade is modern, stylish and elegant shopping area in the centre of town where all the big names of the high street can be found, standing beside elegant coffee shops and restaurants. The combination of old and new provides excellent shopping facilities to suit every need and pocket!

The Chantry building is a truly beautiful building which despite its age (built around 1296) it has been made disabled friendly. Apart from a small step at the entrance it has a ground level floor with a wheelchair accessible lift to the first floor..

The Chantry was once a place of worship, then a school, the a toll house, today its houses the tourist information service, a craft/gift shop and an unusual museum on the first floor – The Bagpipe museum which displays around 150 bagpipes including the Northumbrian Bag pipes – the sole survivor of English bagpipes. The museum details the history of bag pipes and of the people who played them through the ages.

The visitor is spoilt for choice as far as eating is concerned. Morpeth has a wealth of restaurants, both international and English, for a small town there are lots of places to eat, including some lovely tea rooms and coffee shops, two of which we visited. The Chantry Tea Room (situated in a separate building opposite The Chantry) was where we had an enjoyable light lunch. This homely tea room decorated in lavender and white is alongside the River Wansbeck and the Chantry Bridge We also enjoyed a delicious home cooked traditional meal at a reasonable price at The Old Bakehouse, a real home from home tea room, located just off Newgate Street. Separate reviews of both tea rooms are provided on this website

A series of bridges, several with historical importance link the shopping areas of Morpeth with Carlisle Park. For the brave (or for those who enjoy observing the brave) another way of crossing the river is by what the locals call the Stepping Stones, these are concrete blocks set into the river bed which allows you to walk across the river. For those who prefer dry land the riverside walks are beautiful with plenty of wild life to see.

The land from which Carlisle Park was created, was provided by The Countess of Carlisle in 1916. There are lots of formal gardens as well as the tranquil William Turner Garden created to commemorate the life and work of Physician and natural historian William Turner who was born in the town around 1508 and educated at The Chantry School. There are boating opportunities, tennis courts, picnic areas, a children’s play park and lots of places to sit and admire the view.

For those using public transport. Morpeth is an excellent centre for taking the bus throughout Northumberland and Tyneside. Morpeth is perhaps the best town in Northumberland for its variety of bus services. The bus station is close to the Sanderson Shopping Arcade and it is enclosed which is good on a wet day! The Corbridge Larder close to the bus station offers good Northumbrian food for those wanting refreshments before travel.

Morpeth has a rail station which is part of the East Coast Line linking London with Edinburgh. The rail station is at the other end of the town to the bus station, it takes about ten minutes to walk out of town over Telford Bridge, past the Old Court House to the railway station.

Accommodation in the town centre includes hotel, luxury serviced apartments, B & B, guest houses. In the nearby area there are holiday cottages, caravan parks, hotels and guest houses to suit every pocket.

Close to Morpeth are attractions such as Belsay Castle, House and Gardens, Wallington Hall, Howick Hall, The Woodhorn Museum, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, but the whole of Northumberland with everything it has to offer is within easy reach of Morpeth. Yes, I think Morpeth does have it all!

Pamela Walker

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