With the cost-of-living soaring, we asked you what was important for your Northumberland staycation this year and it came back with a resounding answer of added value for your trip! We created a list of 30 things to do for free in Northumberland!
Obviously, nothing is absolutely free in life! So, we’ve highlighted where things like parking charges or purchasing a pint might apply, but here are some suggestions of cost-effective things to include in your stay where no entry fees are payable to make it a more value-added trip.
1. Watch a football match with a difference!
The Shrovetide football match held in Alnwick Castle pastures is an ancient tradition going back centuries. The best way to describe it might be to say it is a rule-less game of football where almost anything goes (perhaps the only rule is no handling of the ball allowed!)
Historically the match would take place in the town, however when too much destruction occurred in the 1870’s, the match was transferred to the Alnwick Pastures by kind permission of the Duke of Northumberland, with the spectacular Alnwick Castle as the back drop.
The match starts with the ball being thrown from the Barbican, caught by the chairman and then a procession of players and spectators are led by a Northumbrian piper down the Peth to the pastures.
Locals have played in the match for generations where no obstacle is too large and even the river is classed as part of the pitch!
For some more information on the Shrovetide football match take a look at this link which gives some great background information.
This year’s match will take place on the 21st February 2023 at 14.00
2. Barter Books
I’m sure you will have heard us mention Barter Books on more than one occasion! We absolutely love it and think it’s well worth a visit. It’s free to wander around the shop and take in the atmosphere, but we can’t guarantee you won’t want to make a small purchase while you’re there!
Barter Books is a place where second hand books can be taken in to be valued and swapped by way of a ‘barter card’. (Please do check their rules and recommendations for taking in books here)
I used to love going in and choosing a book knowing we had a ‘barter card’ with monetary value on it.
Located in the old Victorian built train station this second-hand book shop is in a vast and beautiful building!
With its working log fires to nestle down next to, its children’s book area, the station café with delicious heart-warming dishes and of course it’s infamous working model railway and toy train that sits high on top of the book shelves!
Known as one of the largest second-hand book shops in the country with its 40-foot murals on the walls, we can’t recommend this place enough.
3. The Berwick Walls
Berwick’s Elizabethan town Walls surrounding the town of Berwick upon Tweed are one of the best-preserved examples of bastioned town walls.
Being just over a mile long, the walls can be walked in around 45 minutes, however we think you’ll want to stop and take in the fantastic views along the way!
The walls were originally built over 450 years ago with 4 gates for access, built in order to keep out the Scots! Why you ask? In its history Berwick upon Tweed has changed hands 13 times between Scotland and England, before finally being handed over to the English where it remains today.
For useful and informative information on the Berwick Walls we’d recommend having a read here
4. Coastal walks
Northumberland beaches and scenery has been relatively unknown by the masses for many years, but the secret is firmly out of the bag. With some of the most scenic walking trails in the country there are lots of options to choose from. Whether it’s a short walk with pub stop, or a longer day’s walk with picnic en-route. If embracing fresh air is on your bucket list when visiting Northumberland take a look at one of our other blog post listing for 5 of our favourite walks here
5. A meander around Warkworth.
Where can you see a medieval castle, carpets of daffodils, a hermitage, a glorious river walk, a huge beach, delicious ice cream and a gallery all in one place? Warkworth is a small but incredibly inviting village.
Famous for its castle on the hill, Warkworth castle is a fantastic sight, surrounded by a carpet of daffodils in the spring, you could happily spend time just gazing at its magnitude and splendour.
Take a stroll down the riverside path and you may see the rowing boat crossing the river to the hermitage. Entry to the hermitage is via the Castle entry fee, however as we’re sticking to our budget, we think having a stroll to take in the scenes can be just as nice!
Head into Fenwick Gallery to gaze at some contemporary art and design and if once you’ve done all that, if you’re feeling peckish, why not take a short drive to Morwick Ice cream Parlour for a tasty treat (Ok so the ice creams aren’t free! But they are delicious!)
If you have any energy left head to Warkworth Beach, a huge expansive area and generally lesser-known beach where you can enjoy a stroll.
6. Linhope Spout
Head inland for this wild and beautiful 18-meter-high waterfall located in the North of the Northumberland National Park, which also has dark skies status.
Make sure you look up any walking routes, take any rubbish home with you and also look out for the gorgeous red squirrels who are working hard to maintain their habitat and fend off its grey cousin! More information on Linhope Spout can be found here.
7. Hauxley Nature Reserve
Hauxley Nature Reserve is one of the best places for wildlife watching, and what’s more it’s right next to the beach.
With views across Druridge Bay, the nature reserve is free, donations to the Northumberland Wildlife Trust are welcome, there is a small charge for parking and regrettably due to the wildlife dogs are not allowed.
8. The Lowry Trail
Whilst Berwick may be better known for its Elizabethan Walls, not as many people know of its connection with the Manchester known artist L.S Lowry, famous for his matchstick men paintings.
Holidaying frequently in Berwick L.S Lowry created more than 30 sketches of Berwick.
Amble is more likely known for its working port and fishing connections, but there is plenty to do to fill a day.
From visiting the Northumberland Seafood Centre and lobster hatchery, to wandering around the harbour side with its independent retail pods or taking in the new sculpture and art installations such as the Tern Wings. Head to Amble on market day for a feeling of the hustle and bustle of a busy harbour town.
10. Beach Olympics!
Sometimes, wandering around soaking in history isn’t for everyone and those with young families often need to get out and about and run off some of that extra energy.
Northumberland has oodles of space for running around and as kids one of our favourite past times (usually down on Alnmouth Beach) was to create our own Beach Olympics!
We’d dig holes for jumping in, create long jumps for jumping over, set up goal posts for ball games or mark out Olympic Rings in the sand for targets. We’d fill our days with creative ways of making all things nature related into our very own Olympic Games with our own rules. Usually only stopping for our picnic lunch which was generally pretty sandy after all our kicking and running about!
11. Kippers, Castles and Coastal Pubs.
Craster is a very well-known harbour village in Northumberland, famous for it’s Craster Kipper Pate! Spending a day here is an easy choice with some fantastic scenery! There is a charge for the public car park, but due to it being such a honey pot it’s also a great place to be able to park up for the day and make the most of it.
One of the most scenic walks in Northumberland takes place here walking from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle, if you’re saving the pennies then pack up a picnic and you won’t be short of a spectacular view to settle down and enjoy it here!
It’s also worth knowing for anyone who is a keen dark skies enthusiast, the skies above Dunstanburgh Castle are great for Aurora watching. Perhaps download yourself an app (more info here) that keeps you up to date on clear nights for star gazing!
Once the energetic part of the day is over with, meander the Mick Oxley art gallery and you can always pop into The Jolly Fisherman for a well earned pint and a fantastic view from their beer garden!
12. The Pele, Corbridge
Based in the more southernly area of Northumberland, Corbridge is a picturesque market town located close to Hadrian’s Wall and known for its independent shops. Whilst we haven’t tried The Pele ourselves, we’re very excited to do so! A micro bar in a unique setting of a historic Pele Tower.
Home to The Pele Ale and occasional live music, we think the atmosphere here looks well worth investigating.
13. Rothbury Riverside Walk
Ideally positioned for guests staying in our Swallows Rest, Rothbury is a short drive away. Generally considered an easy half an hour walking route the riverside walk can be done alongside exploring Rothbury, a true Northumbrian market town. Popular for wildlife such as otters, it’s recommended that dogs are kept on a lead! Do keep an eye on the weather as the river is known to flood in periods of high rainfall and as such parts of the walk are impassable or unsafe.
14. Northumbrian Coastal Path
We’re undertaking this one ourselves later this Spring and will be able to bring you much more information once we’ve done it!
Northumberland plays host to one huge experience and this is the Northumberland Coast Path which makes up part of the National England official coast path. As 2023 is The Year of the Coast, why not give this one a go?
Stretching from Cresswell to Berwick upon tweed meandering its way up the coast, taking on this section of the coast will mainly cost you in time! And some bus fares to get to the start points. Pack your picnics
For more information on the whole 62 mile coastal walk challenge, take a look at our Little Discoveries blog post here.
15. The Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
An awe-inspiring place, this is one of our favourite places to visit, I’m not sure if it’s because the sun always seems to shine when we’re there (no responsibility can be taken if it rains on your visit!) or just the sheer number of things there are to do here.
Firstly, we must stress, Holy Island is a tidal island and it’s imperative that when taking any visit here you must check the tide times here, visitors often get caught out by the tide which is a very serious game and if you don’t want to be calling out the life boat for a rescue mission, do not attempt to cross outside the safe crossing times!
Once you have navigated those plans, there are great things see and do. A Castle, A Priory, Pilgrims Coffee, Lindisfarne Mead, beachside walks, ghoulish seals, art galleries. You really can spend the day exploring the island on foot and taking in the scenery. (There is a small charge for the car park)
16. Local Live Music
One of our favourite places is The Ship Inn at Low Newton. Whether it’s a pit stop for a pint along the coastal path or to sit in the square of white houses that it’s become synonymous for. Whilst we realise buying a pint from their own micro-brewery might be in order. The Ship Inn and Low Newton hosts free live music events. Currently they have Folk Night on the 4th Monday of every month along with some other events. Check out what’s on here
17. Hunt in rock pools
As kids rock pooling is something that we used to do loads of. When the tide was out we’d take off our shoes and socks in the summer and plodge around in the pools left behind looking for any treasure, I think I still have possession of an almost perfectly round stone that has been battered by the incoming tide while sandwiched between two rocks.
Whether it’s fossils or crabs you might be looking for, take a bucket and collect some treasure. Hints and tips, always be mindful of the incoming tide, make sure you have eyes on family members that are rock pooling, careful of slippery surfaces and pop back any live catches once you’ve had a respectful look at them!
Visiting The Lady of the North is free, donations are encouraged for use of the car park.
The country park, woodland trail and landscape sculpture is open from dawn ’til dusk each day.
A unique piece of land art set in a public parkland space of 46 acres with 4 miles of footpaths to meander. Find out more about how Northumberlandia was formed from its coal mining heritage here.
19. The Grace Darling Museum
Based in the centre of Bamburgh the RNLI Grace Darling Museum celebrates the life of Victorian Britain’s most famous heroin.
Setting out on a rescue mission to rescue 9 men from a ship wreck, delve into the life of Longstone Lighthouse’s young female resident. Entry is fee and opening times can be found here.
20. Pooh sticks in Breamish Valley
Relax by the river with fishing nets, buckets for collecting tadpoles, pooh sticks and a car picnic.
Growing up on the farm (the location of our beautiful Swallows Rest) means Breamish Valley was only a 10-minute drive away. We’d often head to the river on a sunny afternoon with picnic rugs and fishing nets!
We’d pick a spot to park the car and as kids, we’d spend hours playing in the river.
Public toilets are available.
21. Little Hideaways bespoke treasure hunt.
A couple of years ago we teamed up with the fantastic Blinkin Imp who designed us our very own bespoke coastal treasure hunt for families. Last year we added in our country one too. Available in our cottage welcome folders, these creative and hand drawn designs of things to spot on your day out in Northumberland are great for the whole family to enjoy! To book a stay with us visit us here.
22. Castle Spotting
Did you know that Northumberland has more castles than any other county in England!
Whilst paying all those entry fees can be expensive and mean you can only choose to visit one or two, why not make a list and whilst on your days out do some castle spotting! Many of the county’s castles look spectacular from the outside and even driving or walking by can give you goose bumps thinking about the sheer magnitude of them and how on earth all those stones were lifted into place when they were built!
23. Thrunton Wood
To re-open in 2023*, Thrunton Wood was unfortunately devastated by the winter storm Arwen at the end of 2021, meaning the woodland trails had to be closed for safety reasons.
Two years on and we’re all hopeful that the mass clear up operation that had to take place means some of these fantastic woodland walks can re-open. Less than two miles from Swallows Rest (where the spectacular views look out onto the forest) visit the wood for miles and miles of walking and mountain biking routes. With some areas for fantastic views along the way.
*Do check the progress reports on their website here.
24. Trail or Fell running
Into your outdoors and trail running? With endless coastline but also home to the Cheviot Hills why not head out and get the air into your lungs and take to some off-road running.
Always do your research and if you go alone, make sure someone knows where you are. There are groups available on social media where you can check out more information.
25. Cuthbert’s Cave
“St Cuthbert’s Cave, nestled away in the remote countryside of Belford, oozes mystery due to its spiritual past. It is said that the ancient monks of Lindisfarne laid St Cuthbert’s body to rest here in AD875, the reputable saint who possessed the power of spiritual healing”. Visit Northumberland
26. MacMillan Mighty Hike.
OK, so not entirely free but something that could be deemed as great value! If you want to walk some of the coastal path but worry about doing this on your own without guidance or supplies, why not join a fully catered event such as MacMillan Mighty Hike?
Food and rest stops are provided, a small entry fee is required but you have the opportunity to raise money for charity while undertaking 26 miles of the coast in one day! Speaking from experience, we did this back in 2018 and it was such a great day out! Starting at Alnwick Castle and finishing some weary hours later in Bamburgh with a hot meal and glass of Prosecco waiting for us!
27. Kielder Forest
Kielder is known for England’s largest forest and largest man-made lake. There is a charge for parking and some of the experiences are chargeable and bookable. However, with vast amounts of space for enjoying the surroundings, views and dark skies. There are a number of things that you can do from scenic walks to heading out on your mountain bike.
28. Sycamore Gap
Known as the most photographed spot in the whole of Northumberland, the lone tree at Sycamore Gap is located in the dip of Hadrian’s Wall. To take in the wonder of the Tree, enjoy the Sycamore Gap. To find the circular challenging 5-mile route check the details here.
29. The City’s 7 Bridges
Northumberland has seen a big drive forward in the last few years but what guests coming from outside the area don’t always know, is the accessibility to get to Newcastle. A vibrant and inspiring city, once missing out on what would have been a well-deserved, European Capital of Culture award. On a recent visit, the first in quite some time, I’d really forgotten how much Newcastle has to offer!
Firstly, access from Alnmouth train station directly into the centre of Newcastle couldn’t be easier!
There are 7 iconic bridges alone to see along the quayside and these look spectacular at night too! Named as: The Tyne Bridge, The Millennium Bridge, The High-Level Bridge, Queen Elizabeth II Metro bridge, King Edward the VII Bridge, Swing Bridge and Redheugh Bridge.
Visit to the area would be well spent at the Biscuit Factory, the counties largest independent, contemporary art gallery and it’s free to visit.
Meander the streets and get inspired by the architecture, taking in sights such as Greys Monument.
Check out what’s on at the Discovery Museum, free entry (donations welcome) a great place for families and children to explore.
30. Discover L.J Ross and relax!
Lastly, we feel our cottages are one of the cosiest places to relax. Did you know anything about Northumberland born Author L.J.Ross? L.J.Ross is an internationally best-selling author and her debut book Holy Island was the first of many. If you enjoy nothing more than settling down with a glass of wine and a good book, grab yourself an L.J Ross, many of which have titles such as: Holy Island, Bamburgh, Sycamore Gap. We think we know where she got her inspiration from!