The North of England, especially the North East, has a bit of a reputation for being cold and dismal to southerners like me… but that’s not true! Some of my favourite spots in the whole of the UK are located in this area of the country. With a staggering coastline, idyllic towns and villages, plus urban hubs at Durham and Newcastle, there’s a little something for everyone here.
I have selected these top 5 places based on my own experiences, but you can find a whole host of other locations to visit and events to enjoy on the Visit North East England website.
1. Bamburgh Castle
The top place to visit in the Northeast of England has to be Bamburgh. It’s a little bit of a drive down narrow lanes to reach, but well worth it. The tiny village of Bambugh is home to a magnificent castle which you can visit and walk through, an extensive sandy beach and dunes (see image at the top of this article, which was taken from the castle grounds), and a quaint village with pubs for lunch and ice-cream shops too.
You need to pay for parking and there is quite a long queue for ice cream in the summer, but if you bring a picnic to eat on the green or the beach you easily fill an entire day in this charming village.
Bamburgh is also the burial place for Grace Darling – you can find her memorial in the church graveyard and the museum honouring her just opposite. Even if you are stopping by on your way to Scotland, I recommend paying homage to this remarkable woman.
2. Durham City
Durham is a really charming city and a great place to walk around for the day. I recommend visiting on a Saturday so you can see the outdoor traders market too. Other highlights include the shopping – there are some quaint independent stores as well as the high-street favourites in Durham. I also recommend stopping for a bite to eat at the Tealicious Tea Rooms.
This tea room is my favourite place to go in Durham and they have recently opened an online store so you can buy their tea blends online as well. You can read my review of their House Blend on the blog.
Once you’ve had something to eat and enjoyed a little shopping, walk around the cathedral, stroll along the river, or hire a rowing boat to travel casually along the River Wear.
3. Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall might not be as impressive as the Great Wall of China, but it is worth exploring. Despite what you may think, it doesn’t actually separate Scotland from England (at least, not any more). You can visit Hadrian’s Wall at various points on your visit to North East England, primarily Housesteads. For a list of all the places where you can see what’s left of Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman architecture that remains, visit the English Heritage website.
You could also make Hadrian’s Wall a more central part of your visit to this area of the UK by walking along it. The countryside is beautiful, especially when the weather holds. During the summer there are plenty of events (most historically themed) that you can enjoy along the wall as well, to make it a bit more interesting for kids and sulky teenagers.
4. Raby Castle
Raby Castle is a medieval castle with a moat in county Durham. It is one of the finest castles from this era in the UK and has been kept in pretty decent shape. There are events held here throughout the year but even if there are none when you visit, you won’t be disappointed by the castle itself. It has all those fantastic medieval features that give it a real ‘Robin Hood’ vibe.
Around the castle is 200 acres of park to explore, complete with herds of deer and paths to stroll along. You are welcome to bring your four-legged friends to Raby Castle but you’d best keep them on a lead to prevent a Fenton situation.
Raby Castle can be reached by the A688 near Darlington. It is well sign-posted so you really can’t miss it. Besides a teashop in the nearby village, there’s not much else around Raby Castle so it is best to spend the whole day on the castle grounds.
5. The Great North Museum: Hancock
Not everyone likes a museum, but I certainly do. I highly recommend The Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle (it’s actually affiliated with Newcastle University) because it has free entry and is designed to be family friendly. What do you have to lose?
During the warmer months there are also events held at the museum to keep families interested during the summer holidays. If you are travelling solo or as a couple, you might want to incorporate the museum into a day of walking around and seeing the sights. This museum is located on the Angel’s Way trail which runs through Tyneside and takes you right past the iconic Angel of the North.
If you have any places that you’d like to add to my list, or tips and tricks for travellers, please comment below!