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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?!
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.
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.