Travel Massive Day Out with Northumberland National Park

Looking for cup and ring marks on Simonside Hills

Northumberland National Park is by far one of my favourite areas in my home region. School trips as a child and days out as an adult would take me to one place or another around Northumberland, but I’d never felt like I’d fully explored the park properly. This year our National Park celebrates its 60th anniversary and I’d been thinking about blogging it for a while.

One day, months ago, I got in touch with a PR company who worked with the National Park and asked if a Travel Massive day out could be organised. After a lot of work and communication between bloggers, me and the PRs, we were ready for our big day out! We would go to a few places and experience as much as possible on our chosen Saturday in July.

Our Travel Massive group gathered and set off from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in a minibus. We had a fantastic guide Duncan from Northumberland National Park, our driver Mark and Joanne from the PR company (Round Table Solutions) who had helped to set it all up. I felt excited to see more, even though I’m a local. It felt like a school trip or a proper excursion. We were on holiday in our own region.

Our first stop was Rothbury. A gateway town to the National Park and a lovely little place.

Rothbury

Rothbury

Tomlinson’s Bunkhouse and Cafe was where we found out a lot more about the region. It is a cyclists hub and roughly halfway on the Sandstone Way. This is a new cycle route all the way from Berwick-Upon-Tweed to Hexham and vice versa. Tomlinson’s is run by cyclists who understand what their guests will want and how to make the best base for them.

The shared accommodation or one double bedroom looked brilliant and they provide all facilities you could need. For £25 you can get a bunk for the night and breakfast which makes it great value in such a rural area.

Tomlinson's Bunkhouse and Cafe

Tomlinson’s Bunkhouse and Cafe

Common room area at Tomlinson's Bunkhouse

Common room area at Tomlinson’s Bunkhouse

We borrowed two electric bikes from the bunkhouse and tried them out by the river. It was so fun and you can really feel the extra bit of power. A must for big hills! I’ll be investing if I do any big rides in future.

I hadn’t realised that we had such a great sports hub and rural route. I have recommended it since to friends and avid cyclists that I know.

We set off from Rothbury into the National Park for our first stop at the Simonside Hills. We had a quick walk up to a viewpoint and were told about the cup and ring marks that exists there. These are prehistoric and are shrouded in mystery. Some people believe they are art but there are many other myths and legends. Could they be a code? Do they hold a secret message?

Simonside Hills sign

Simonside Hills sign

Walk up Simonside Hills

Walk up Simonside Hills

Such stunning landscape in all weathers and I love a good mystery! I’m preparing a half day of hiking up here in the autumn to explore more and spend time recharging in this beautiful natural landscape.

Simonside Hills

Simonside Hills

We drove through many places from here to get deeper and further into Northumberland National Park. I found out that the highest population of people (a massive 250 inhabitants) can be found at Elsdon. I’d like to go back and enjoy a cuppa at their tearooms or watch the many bikers pass by on this great winding route through the National Park. It really is a region that has a low density of people. We passed ruins of castles, fortified farmhouses called bastles and a old lime kiln. The landscape gets very Jane Austen in nature and you do feel quite transported to a slower pace and simpler time. The cares and worries of city life were melting away as I watched this remote landscape pass by.

Exploring certainly works up an appetite and before long it was time for lunch.

We got to Greenhaugh, deep in the centre of Northumberland National Park and went straight to Holly Bush Inn. I felt at home in the stone built pub and we were all taken care of very well. The fire crackled in the bar area as we ordered our drinks. We all sat together in a dining area around the corner and were told about the local produce dishes on offer.

Holly Bush Inn, Greenhaugh

Holly Bush Inn, Greenhaugh

I chose lamb stew and a few others had sausage cassoulet or burgers. I also had a cheeky taste of Debbie’s cassoulet (for blog purposes of course!) This kind of food hits you in the perfect way. It could be cold and miserable outside and you would feel better after the first mouthful. Soul food, I believe, is the expression.

Lamb stew

Lamb stew

Cassoulet

Cassoulet

There is a gorgeous outside seating area looking out onto parts of Greenhaugh in Northumberland National Park. This area is well known for its hay meadows and was incredibly tranquil.

Outside seating Holly Bush Inn

Outside seating Holly Bush Inn

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t squeeze a pudding in too. The diet always starts after an adventure! It was scrumptious.

Sticky Toffee Pudding as standard!

Sticky Toffee Pudding as standard!

Our group enjoying lunch together

Our Travel Massive group enjoying lunch together

No rest for the group after our delicious meal though. We were going to an annual event and it could get very dirty. Mestival was next up!

Set in the grounds of Hesleyside Hall, Mestival is a new attraction providing a sports event and a mini festival village. There were stalls, food and even live music at the stage.

Hesleyside Hall

Hesleyside Hall

Each year, there is a 10k messy assault course and race for competitors. This looked like a huge amount of fun and as the drizzle came down harder, it became very muddy. The only event where more mud and rain means more fun.

Mestival 10k race

Mestival 10k race

Mestival

Mestival stalls and food

On the site of Hesleyside Hall, are glamping huts. I’ve started to get really into this kind of accommodation recently and I’d love to try them out. I had a quick look for me and my family when I got home and they are so popular. Booked up months in advance which shows how great they are to stay in. Another great option for a night away.

Glamping at Hesleyside Hall

Glamping at Hesleyside Hall

We got back in our minibus after walking around, a bit soggy and slightly muddy but very pleased with our day out. Last stop was Battlesteads. What I didn’t realise then, was that Battlesteads would be one of my big highlights of the day. This is the part where I turn into a massive geek.

Battlesteads Hotel and Observatory

Battlesteads Hotel

Hidden in this quiet place is something very exciting. Passing this small building, you would have no idea all of the wonders it holds!

We strolled through to the gardens at the back and were introduced and given information about this place. It is very eco-friendly and has a pollinating garden that is a habitat for small creatures, a vegetable patch, red LED lights to reduce light pollution (a clue!) and solar panel energy.

Eco lodges at Battlesteads

Eco lodges at Battlesteads

Great gardens for local produce

Great gardens for local produce

You can stay in the eco lodges and eat food fresh from the site in their restaurant. You can also go further back to a little hut. Here, you can explore not only Northumberland, but the WHOLE UNIVERSE!

Battlesteads Observatory!

Battlesteads Observatory!

Battlesteads Observatory is now a key player in education and exploration in our International Dark Sky Park. This is the largest area of dark protected skies in Europe. On my doorstep no less!

We met Roy Alexander from Astroventures who is my new favourite teacher! He is a physicist and is incredibly enthusiastic about star gazing and astronomy. He taught us how to adjust binoculars properly. I’ve been doing it wrong up to now! We also got to hold a piece of asteroid and touch part of Mars.

We saw the telescope and found out about the constellations we can go away and view ourselves. It was fun, easy and exciting. We are made of stardust, don’t you know?!

Astro Roy - our amazing Physicist

Astro Roy – our amazing Physicist

As well as feeling the excitement of childhood, I was so proud that my home region contributes so much to this field. There are discovery nights for adults and families. There are aurora hunting sessions and photography as well as social outreach for disadvantaged children in the area.

I really started to feel like this day was the start of a much longer and bigger partnership that I will have with Northumberland National Park. It has so much to discover and we only scratched the surface. Most people think there’s nothing up here. That couldn’t be more wrong.

Awesome telescope at Battlesteads Observatory

Awesome telescope at Battlesteads Observatory

Have you been to Northumberland National Park? Would you like to hike, eat great food and visit an International dark sky park? What are you waiting for?!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to John and Joanne from Round Table Solutions, Duncan from Northumberland National Park and of course my wonderful group of Travel Massive for making this day happen and for making it so special.

8 Comments

  • June Maughan says:

    Great post Kate. I loved reliving our fantastic Travel Massive adventure through your words and pictures, I particularly like the way you entice readers with clues to the hidden gem at Battlesteads! and thanks for reminding me we’re made of stardust…we learnt so much I’d forgotten that! and I agree, this area is truly underrated, when it actually delivers so much, a place to escape to and recharge coupled with plenty of adventure to re-energise, it’s a win win! I’m happy to report that Ron and I went back the following Saturday to discover the cup & ring marks, fort and hay meadows etc. it was great (if not a tad wet) and all rounded of with a return to The Holly Bush Inn where we tried the delicious Sticky Toffee Pudding this time. I hope you get back there to explore soon. June 🙂

  • that place is looking so good. it is full with green beauty and food is looking so delicious and yummy. i didn’t know it but soon i want to check it out.

  • Northumberland is fantastic. I was there this past March. In fact, I spent an overnight at Battlesteads, in the hotel not the eco lodge. That astro show was amazing, even though it was a cloudy night for us. Roy is so entertaining and knowledgeable.

  • It was lovely to read about our adventures in the park from your perspective. It is amazing how much we have on our doorstep and how much variety we have in the park itself. It is always somewhere I love exploring.

  • Ami says:

    Thanks for organising this for us all, we had a great day out and it’s made me realise there’s more places to visit than just Kielder. We keep returning there time after time visiting the same pub, I think it’s about time we explored other parts of Northumberland. The shared bedrooms at Tomlinsons cafe filled me with excitement as memories of my time away with school came flooding back! The rooms were great value for money. I was especially impressed by Battlesteads in and would like to return there for a meal 🙂

    I’ve since got a Sat Nav too so I don’t even have to wait for others to drive me there haha, great post! x

  • Ami says:

    Thanks for all your hard work organising this day, we all really enjoyed it. It’s made me realise that there’s more parts to Northumberland than just Kielder, we keep going back here and going to the same pub for lunch, I think it’s about time we explored other little villages etc!

    I hadn’t realised the little huts at Helseyside Hall, they look so good. Standing in Tomlisons shared bedrooms reminded me of being away with school and the excitement of all staying together in one big room! I think we need to return to Battlesteads for a meal, it would be lovely sitting in their gardens!

    I’ve since bought a sat nav so now I don’t even need to wait for people to drive there! Great post 🙂 x

  • I really fancied getting along to the day out but had work on elsewhere. Lovely to read about it here and hoping to meet you and other members of the Travel Massive sometime soon.

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