Castle hunting and heritage exploring in Northumberland – UK
Although Newcastle city has a lot to offer, as you can read in my previous blog with my 8 must do’s in Newcastle Gateshead, we couldn’t resist venturing out of the city too, while we were there. We absolutely love road trips in Europe and couldn’t wait to explore more of the English country side. And what heritage, history and culture did we find there! Newcastle is the perfect starting point to explore the coastal towns on the north east coast of the UK and the Roman remains of the renowned Unesco World Heritage Site Hadrian’s Wall to the north west.
If you take the A69 out of Newcastle and turn off at Heddon-on-the-Wall you get on the Military Road which is a nice countryside road with many scenic views and a lot of opportunities to stop at Hadrian Wall sights. This road mainly runs alongside the Wall towards the Cumbrian border, and they say that long stretches of the road are even built on the foundations of the Wall itself.
This ancient defense barrier was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian more than 2 milenniums ago to protect England from the Scots, and in its totality once ran 120 kilometers from coast to coast. The most strongly defended frontier and most northern border of the Roman Empire at that time. Now only parts of the wall remain, some tall and proud built high up hills throughout the rugged Northumberland countryside, some with partial towers and Roman fort ruins around it and some simply in small low parts of the wall accessible by the road.
Next to the Wall itself spread out in the rugged landscape there are also many museums built around the walls and a multitude of archeological sites. As real heritage enthusiasts of course we visited a few of those as well.
Roman Army Museum Carvoran
This museum stands next to Walltown Crags one of the highest standing sections of Hadrian’s Wall. Here 3 galleries display all about Roman life with many unique Roman relics and remains. And their exciting 3D movie makes it possible to immerse yourself in the life of the Roman army centuries ago, and learn all about the history of the Wall in a fun way.
Very near this museum you will find an access way to Steel Rigg. Possibly the most iconic and picturesque part of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, as this part of Hadrian’s Wall is built high up the cliff of Steel Rigg. A good example of how the Romans used nature and the rugged surroundings during the build of the Wall to increase their defenses against the ‘barbarian Scots’ and make them more effective.
Our historic hotel ‘Twice Brewed In’ stood in the shadows of Steel Rigg, the perfect location right in the center of north England to explore the best parts of the Wall from. A small quaint hotel with simple rooms, nice countryside views and serving excellent locally produced, home-cooked food all day, which can be enjoyed in the bar or restaurant.
Next to other history and heritage sites I really adore castles, although there are less to find here than in Scotland, Northumberland certainly has some nice castles to explore. We found Aydon castle really unique and worth a visit!
This beautiful 13th century manor house with strong fortifications against the Scots is quite secluded and surrounded by woodlands with its own gardens and orchard.
As this castle is almost completely intact it is one of the finest and most unaltered examples of a 13th century English manor house, and gives great insight into the Anglo-Scottish border warfare during the 13th and 14th centuries.
Can you believe this place was still used as a residence until 1966 by farmers? Very unique to walk around here, see all the living areas and experience the way of life in a castle, beautiful and rugged both from the outside as inside.
Housesteads Roman Fort
Located high on a beautiful viewpoint you can admire the stunning views of the Tyne Valley from Housesteads Roman Fort, the most complete Roman fort of Britain, which also includes a small museum. The panoramic countryside views of the wide landscape of this area are truly amazing, which makes a visit to the fort ruins the perfect setting to combine nature exploring with a bit of history.
Here you can wander around the barrack blocks and see how the Roman army worked so effectively, at the same time giving you a great insight in how the soldiers lived in these secluded surroundings for so many years.
Tynemouth beaches and priory ruins
When we went back to the east coast to catch our boat back to Holland we couldn’t resist stopping by the quaint and pretty coastal town Tynemouth and walk along the beautiful beaches of Longsands, voted the fourth best beach in Britain, with its wide sandy beaches.
Here you truly experience the unique vibe of England’s coastal towns, with their small café’s and beautiful quaint houses facing the sea. Have a drink here, eat some traditional fish & chips and just enjoy the beautiful surroundings, quiet beaches and views of the rugged sea.
Also stunning is the smaller King Edwards Bay which looks out at Tynemouth Priory and Castle. These priory and castle ruins tower over the beaches as they are situated high up a cliff. Some of the nicest ruins we ever saw with again lots of history and beautiful views over the area!
We experienced many different road trips in Europe already, but this road trip through the north of England and Northumberland was truly a unique experience and certainly recommended if you love quiet country side views, rugged surroundings, heritage and history!
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