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Northumberland - Eating and sleeping
Savouring the tastes of Northumberland
You're bound to be struck by how many restaurants, pubs and food stores have got behind the organic and local food revival experienced elsewhere in the country in recent times. Many menus in good restaurants and cafés often state the provenance of ingredients; pubs serving regional ales are now too numerous to list; and there are plenty of B&B and hotel owners taking pride in serving local foods such as kippers from Craster. Northumberland boasts many of the best salmon and trout rivers in England, extensive game moors and working fishing communities, so it makes sense.
For those self-catering, you’ll find thriving farmers’ markets in most large towns, excellent fishmongers and/or smokeries at North Shields Fish Quay, Craster and Seahouses, and farm shops like Vallum and Blagdon near Ponteland. Dishes unique to the North East include sandwiches made with stottie bread (flat, spongy and slightly sweet) that are fairly easy to find in takeaway shops and cafés, and, occasionally featuring on bistro menus, pan haggerty (a filling potato and onion side dish) and singin’ hinny (a kind of scone that ‘sings’ as it hits the bubbling butter on a griddle pan).
For our author’s selection of recommended places to eat see Slow Travel Northumberland.
Below I’ve listed a range of some of the special B&Bs, campsites, bunkhouses and small hotels I visited while researching this guide. They were selected on the basis of how comfortable and clean they were with a preference for interesting or historic buildings, ‘green’ credentials and use of local produce. Some are listed as wheelchair accessible, meaning that the accommodation has step-free access into rooms and a wheelchair accessible bathroom but facilities vary so do check before booking. Where holiday cottage companies are listed as wheelchair accessible, only certain properties have wheelchair access.
No exact prices are stated (they change so frequently and often according to availability) so instead I’ve given an idea in relation to how they compare to others in the area. As a guide, I took £75 for a double room to be about average.
Osborne Road in Jesmond (a residential suburb of Newcastle and connected to Newcastle city centre by the Metro) is crammed with mid-range and budget B&Bs making this a popular choice with some visitors, but keep in mind that the bars below many of the hotels and guesthouses are rowdy during university term times and at weekends when there are often a couple of stag and hen parties doing a pub crawl. Another affordable option is to hire a studio apartment with a kitchenette.
Staybridge Suites (Buxton St, NE1 6NL) is among student flats near the quayside and Sleeperz Hotel (15 Westgate Rd, NE1 1SE) is a stone’s throw from Central Station. Both offer clean, contemporary rooms that are wheelchair accesible. Family rooms at Sleeperz cost little more than a hostel but if noise is a problem (rooms either overlook the railway or are on the street side where there are many bars), try Roomzzz (Clavering Pl, NE1 3NG), which is set back from the railway line on a quiet street. Ground floor suites have very high ceilings and are more spacious than upstairs.
Hotel du Vin Allan House, City Rd, Newcastle NE1 2BE; www.hotelduvin.com. The sister hotel to Malmaison (www.malmaison.com) opposite the Millennium Bridge is similarly housed in a building with heritage appeal, in this case a former redbrick Victorian shipping company office. Rooms are not extortionate (expect to pay over £100 for a standard double) and are decorated to a high standard (contemporary with ‘feature’ walls, modern wooden furniture and roll top baths as standard). Hotel du Vin is a little out of the way at the head of the Ouseburn Valley (not far from the quayside) where there’s a good selection of alternative pubs, but you might want to stay put and sample the wines on offer here and enjoy a meal in the upmarket hotel restaurant. ‘Contemporary French dishes with a British twist’ is how the manager describes their food. Wheelchair accessible.
Jesmond Dene House Jesmond Dene Rd, Newcastle NE2 2EY; www.jesmonddenehouse.co.uk. One of Jesmond’s finest 19th-century mansion houses is now an upmarket hotel and restaurant that’s fairly reasonably priced (£120 plus) considering this is probably the best hotel in Newcastle in terms of the standard of rooms, restaurant and location. The house is set overlooking the wooded valley of Jesmond Dene (one of the most beautiful urban woodlands in the North East) and detached from the main residential area so it’s wonderfully peaceful. It may seem somewhat out of the way but it’s actually only a 15-minute walk to the nearest Metro (Ilford Road) and from there, the same time direct to the centre of Newcastle and Central Station. Rooms are stylish and furnished to a very high standard with decorative wallpapers and solid furniture. Arts and Crafts features throughout this historic building which has an impressive oak-panelled Great Hall. Wheelchair accessible.
Martineau House 57 Front St, Tynemouth NE30 4BX; www.martineau-house.co.uk. B&B right in the centre of Tynemouth and just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Metro in one direction and the priory in the other. Cosy rooms with a cottage touch, original features (fireplaces, sash windows, etc) and sea views, but not cheap at just under £100 for a double. Breakfasts made with local ingredients (Craster kippers, for example) and homemade organic bread.
Number 61 61 Front St, Tynemouth NE30 4BT; www.no61.co.uk. The décor is a little hit and miss but rooms are basically modern, clean and some have side sea views. The Collingwood suite is the most popular on account of the view (you can actually see the admiral’s statue at the mouth of the Tyne from the window) and sleigh bed. Rooms at the rear are quieter (beware of staying at the front on a Friday or Saturday night if you’re a light sleeper). Downstairs there’s a pleasant tea room, and a garden out the back.
Southcliff Apartments 4 Southcliff, Whitley Bay NE26 2PB; www.southcliffapartments.co.uk. Situated on an attractive Victorian pedestrian terrace with direct views across the North Sea and close to Cullercoats and Tynemouth is this homely large house with five self-catering apartments. Victorian rooms (modern with some patterned wallpapers and the odd antique) and original features (fireplaces, high ceilings, etc); average-prices; friendly welcome.
The Anchorage 35 Woolmarket, Berwick-upon-Tweed TD15 1DH; www.theanchorageat35.co.uk. A number of the better B&Bs in Berwick have closed in recent years. This is one of the last remaining decent places offering something a little different. When you enter the large Georgian townhouse on a quiet street in the north of the town, it may occur to you that the wide, stone-flagged corridor looks more like an outside passageway. Sandra, the owner, who is very knowledgeable about Berwick’s history, told me it was once used to walk horses through the building and into the back garden. The house itself is grand with an elegant winding central staircase that you will need to climb to access one of the two double rooms at the top. Forty-seven steps later, you will be pleased to find your modern en suite is clean and decorated to a good standard (nothing flash). Breakfast is served downstairs in a cheerful farmhouse-style kitchen at one communal table.
Courtyard Gardens 10 Prudhoe St, Alnwick NE66 1UW; www.courtyardgarden-alnwick.com. The owners (who are antiques magpies) have spared no expense transforming this Georgian townhouse into an upmarket period-styled B&B. The two rooms at the top of a lofty stairwell (surprisingly not that much more expensive than an average guesthouse) are furnished with heavy, opulent fabrics and both have stripped floors and the odd decorative antique. Charming black and white photographs from the early 20th century hang on the walls. Best for a romantic treat. If you’re heading inland to the Cheviots, the owners have a cottage you can rent in Alwinton which has their stylish touch.
Greycroft Croft Pl, Alnwick NE66 1XU; www.greycroft.co.uk. Tucked away down a private street close to the centre of Alnwick is this exceptionally friendly, above average-priced B&B with six modern suites (each with a shower room) – all immaculate, uncluttered and tastefully decorated. A bright breakfast conservatory opens onto a walled garden, and there’s a cosy guest lounge where you can enjoy a complimentary glass of Lindisfarne Mead. Craster kippers and sausages from the local butcher are on the breakfast menu. No children under 14.
Northumbrian Arms The Peth, West Thirston, Felton NE65 9EE; www.northumberlandarms-felton.co.uk. West Thirston is not exactly on the tourist trail, but its location close to the A1 and coast, and quaint old stone centre about a wooded stretch of the River Coquet should make this sleepy village a very attractive option for visitors. Its appeal is enhanced by the Northumbrian Arms which opened its doors in 2014. It’s instantly recognisable as an upmarket gastro pub. Suites are subtly themed and best described as contemporary with a country heritage touch (there’s the angler’s room, a fox room and another decorated with a ceiling border of fetching owls). Professional interior decorators have clearly been at work here. For luxurious extras like padded curtains to aid a long night’s sleep, and spacious bathrooms with centrally placed bath tubs, expect to pay top end hotel prices (close to £200 a night). A sister hotel was due to open in Chatton at the time of writing.
The Red Lion 22 Northumberland St, Alnmouth NE66 2RJ; www.redlionalnmouth.com. Clean, modern rooms (nothing fancy) above a cosy freehouse inn in the centre of Alnmouth that serves good food and regional beers. Prices are above average; spacious family rooms cost a little extra.
Roxbro House 5 Castle Terrace, Warkworth NE65 0UP; www.roxbrohouse.co.uk. Crouching beneath Warkworth Castle at the entrance to the village is this extra special B&B in a large, stone-built house dating to the late 19th century. This is undoubtedly one of the most characterful and opulent B&Bs in Northumberland, but it’s not particularly expensive to stay here (a little over £100 for a double). Inside, the fires burn even in August to welcome guests coming in from the rain-soaked streets. Thick, opulent fabrics in deep reds compliment the antique wooden furniture. Suites are similarly decorated with heritage fabrics and polished antiques. Guests can enjoy one of two cosy front rooms (the Whiskey Lounge is particularly decadent). The breakfast room is immaculately laid out with gleaming linen and quality china from which to enjoy a feast including local bread and kippers from Craster.
St Cuthbert’s House 192 Main St, Seahouses NE68 7UB; www.stcuthbertshouse.com. Neutrally decorated rooms in this converted chapel just outside Seahouses Village are exceptionally clean and comfortable (particularly noteworthy are the mattresses – no expense spared here). Prices are quite a bit above average but the standard of accommodation is far higher than most (St Cuthbert’s House was voted the best Gold Award B&B in England in 2014 by the national tourist board, VisitEngland, for a reason). The owners go that extra mile to ensure everything on your plate is sourced locally, including the fish from the smokehouse down the road, honey from their hives, cheese from Doddington and jams from the monastic community at Felton. I also liked the fact that the honesty bar is stocked with bottled local ales including their own labelled ‘St Cuthbert’s House’ beer produced by Durham Brewery. Wheelchair accessible.
Reputable holiday cottage companies in the area include Grace Darling Holidays, Coastal Retreats Northumberland, and Outchester and Ross Farm Cottages, near Waren Mill (all wheelchair accessible). Also consider the four- and five-star holiday cottages on Springhill Farm near Seahouses.
Hunting Hall Beal (near Lindisfarne) TD15 2TP; www.huntinghall.co.uk. I was greeted by three geese on arriving at this large 18th-century farm a short drive from Lindisfarne. For families looking for a countryside base with lots of free space for children to run around in, and farm animals to visit, Hunting Hall’s two average-priced holiday cottages are ideal. There’s also a burn with a ford where children can go ‘fishing’. Historically, the collection of farm buildings are very interesting and include an old smithy and unusual hen house with niches in the stone work. The two Gold Award cottages are very nicely decorated – homely with a country touch (floral fabrics, pine furniture, the odd exposed stone wall etc); kitchens are very well-equipped and both cottages have direct access to pretty gardens. Wood-burning fires and feather duvets ensure guests stay warm. The owners are committed environmentalists and strive to make the buildings eco-friendly (solar panels, green paints, organic bed linen). At the end of the stay, a record is made of how much electricity your party used and the group that used the least over the year wins a prize. A welcome hamper includes homemade bread, local honey and rare breed sausages from the farm.
Lindisfarne Bay Cottages West of Fenwick on the shores of Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve (NNR); www.lindisfarnebaycottages.co.uk; Byre and the Mill House. I could have spent most of the morning sitting in front of the floor-to-ceiling window of the Byre gazing out over the saltmarshes of Lindisfarne NNR to the island’s castle and watching huge flocks of wading birds feeding and taking to the air. Waking up to the sound of the wind in the trees, curlews and geese flying overhead was a wonderfully soothing start to the day. Birdwatchers or those looking for a tranquil escape will love it here. The three cottages, which stand together on the shores of the nature reserve, were originally part of an 18th-century millhouse. They are all exceptionally well-appointed and luxurious (feather duvets, heavy curtains, original artworks, the odd antique and a kitchen better equipped than most homes). It’s not cheap to stay here (expect to pay around £1,000 a week for the four-bed cottage and quite a bit more for those that sleep six and eight) but the accommodation is superb. Wheelchair accessible.
Campsites, wigwams & bunkhouses
Considering how many beautiful bays are cut into Northumberland’s shores, you’d think that somewhere there would be a secluded independent campsite with a divine view of the sea, but there’s not really and camping in the sensitive dunes is strictly forbidden. If you’re a member of the Camping and Caravanning Club there are a few options within easy reach of a beach including Annstead Farm (Beadnell NE67 5BT), between Beadnell and Seahouses, which has two camping areas, one for adults only in an enclosed garden, a few holiday cottages and a bunkhouse. The downside is that they only take members. Non-members wishing to camp hereabouts should try Beadnell Bay Camping and Caravanning Club Site (Beadnell NE67 5BX). The coast road prevents a hop, skip and jump into the sea, but this is about as close as you can camp to a beautiful sandy bay. It’s quite an exposed site so bring sturdy tent pegs! Non-members pay an additional fee.
The Barn at Beal Beal Farm (close to Lindisfarne) TD15 2PB; www.barnatbeal.com. Not somewhere you’d come for a camping holiday but a very useful place to pitch up for a night if travelling along the coast, situated as it is within easy reach of the A1 and Lindisfarne. Small, grassy area next to the car park of this great bistro with distant views of the island and its castle.
Joiners Shop Bunkhouse Chathill NE67 5ES; www.bunkhousenorthumberland.co.uk. Shabby (in a good way) old stone building close to Preston Tower (four miles from the sea); cheap and great for groups of muddy walkers. Big dining table, curtained off bunk beds and cosy living room with an open fire and slouchy sofas.
Pot-a-Doodle Do Wigwam Village Scremerston, south of Berwick; www.northumbrianwigwams.com. Aimed primarily at families looking for a novel place to stay and (fairly) close to the sea. Pine ‘wigwam’ huts (and three yurts) are snug and have outdoor fire pits and picnic benches. Lots to keep children happy here including pottery painting and an outdoor playground. Shop and licensed bistro on site and communal kitchen for self-caterers.
Proctor’s Stead Dunstan, near Craster NE66 3TF; www.proctorsstead.co.uk. Set back a mile from the sea and the popular fishing village of Craster; open to touring caravans and tent campers.
Springhill Farm West of Seahouses NE68 7UR; www.springhill-farm.co.uk. Springhill Farm offers a range of accommodation options including a number of very good holiday cottages, a modern bunkhouse, pine ‘wigwams’ and grassy pitches for tents and caravans – all located in farmland half a mile from the coast and in sight of the sea.
Tewart Arms Cottage Camping & Caravan Site Near Chathill NE67 5JP. Rustic campsite (read: basic, quiet and small) for tents and caravans, four miles west of Seahouses and close to the station with connections to Berwick and Newcastle.
Angel Inn Main St, Corbridge NE45 5LA; www.theangelofcorbridge.com. Leather armchairs and open fires make this upmarket old coaching inn serving good gastro pub food the kind of place you hope to fall into after a day’s sightseeing. Rates for rooms (modern, minimalist, a bit characterless) are above average. Some suites are in the Radcliffe on the other side of the road and are recommended because they are quiet and some have a wonderful view of the river and bridge.
Langley Castle Near Hexham NE47 5LU; www.langleycastle.com. Hugely impressive and lavishly decorated medieval towerhouse castle situated in woods on the edge of the North Pennine moors. Feature rooms are expensive and have four-poster beds, luxurious curtains and wallpapers, window seats, dark furniture and exposed stone walls. Some will find the rooms enchanting; others might think them overly themed. ‘Castle View’ rooms in converted buildings within the grounds of Langley Castle are not quite as expensive. The hotel restaurant is also pricey but the dining experience and food, though not the best in the region considering the price, is still very good. Beware of wedding parties most weekends in summer. Wheelchair accessible.
Ashcroft Guesthouse Lanty’s Lonnen, Haltwhistle NE49 0DA; www.ashcroftguesthouse.co.uk. Rooms are spacious and have an antique touch without being too fussy. Some have balconies; one sleeps four and has a kitchen; and all are immaculate. Views of the terraced gardens and hills from the dining room. Oil paintings and a grandfather clock stay true to the building’s Victorian heritage. Prices a little above average.
Fairshaw Rigg Lowgate, near Hexham NE46 2NW; www.fairshawrigg.co.uk. Easy green farmland surrounds this friendly alpaca farm a short distance from historic Hexham (three miles away). The owners sell gorgeous hats and scarves made with the soft wool from their herd. Three rooms are arranged along a corridor and, though compact, are very clean, modern and cheerful. Ever slept under an alpaca duvet? Now’s your chance. They’re light and warm, and you may never want to go back to ordinary feather down.
High Keenley Fell Allendale NE47 9NU; www.highkeenleyfarm.co.uk. Inexpensive accommodation in a converted farm barn. The views are outstanding – all the way to the Scottish border – but that should alert you to the fact that this stone farm is high up and therefore pretty chilly even in summer. Good job the carpets are extra thick. All three contemporary rooms are of a high standard – nothing too fancy, just simply decorated with modern bathrooms. One has a large wetroom and storage area/corridor and would suit cyclists and wheelchair users. Breakfasts are prepared with some locally sourced produce. Dinners cooked on request. ‘If lamb’s on the menu, it has come from out there’ the farmer’s wife told me as she pointed out the window. Wheelchair accessible.
Grindon Farm North Rd, near Haydon Bridge NE47 6NQ; www.grindonfarm.co.uk. Two tastefully decorated, average-priced holiday cottages converted from an old farmhouse and barn respectively. Exposed stone walls, wood burning stoves, pine furniture and wonderful views over tranquil rolling farmland and close to woodland inhabited by native red squirrels. Wheelchair accessible.
High Broadwood Hall Cottages Allendale NE47 9AF; www.highbroadwoodhallcottages.co.uk. The first thing that will hit you on getting out of your car is the nip in the air and sense of remoteness. Though actually not that far from Hexham (a 20-minute drive away), the location of the farm on the side of a hill with heather moorland close by makes it feel like you’ve hit the Pennine hills proper. Barry and Elaine are very attentive and couldn’t do more to make your stay comfortable, and they go that bit further for example by providing homemade scones on arrival. Both holiday cottages are very reasonably priced (about average) and have impressive green credentials using electricity generated by solar panels and a wind turbine. You’ll also notice that kitchen and bathroom soaps and detergents are homemade and free of harsh chemicals. Both cottages are well equipped, warm and decorated to a very good standard with modern bathrooms and pine furniture. Wheelchair access into Swallow’s Rest but bathroom not adapted.
Campsites & youth hostels
Ninebanks YHA Mohope, West Allen Valley NE47 8DQ; www.ninebanks.org.uk. Originally a mineshop built to house lead miners in the 18th century and still with many old features like stone flag flooring and timber beams, this remote and very ‘green’ youth hostel 1½ miles south of Ninebanks is a great base from which to explore the beautiful Allen valleys. Family-friendly with en-suite rooms that would be a very low-cost option for a family of four or six, or a party of walkers/cyclists.
Rye Hill Farm Slaley near Hexham NE47 0AH; www.ryehillfarm.co.uk. Sheltered by trees, the camping field at Rye Hill Farm is quiet and a good choice for tent campers (though they also take caravans) in the Hexhamshire/Upper Derwent Valley area. Gentle farmland surrounds the site which is close to Slaley Forest. You must join the Camping and Caravanning Club to stay here. Forgot your tent pegs? The farm also offers good quality B&B accommodation.
Carraw B&B Carraw Farm, Humshaugh NE46 4DB; www.carraw.co.uk. Three miles west of Chesters Roman Fort is this exceptionally friendly and comfortable B&B. Rooms in the main 17th-century building are bright, modern, unfussy and feature exposed beams, stone walls and stripped pine floors. Facing the south and open countryside, they are all blissfully quiet and have lovely views of the Tyne Valley and distant Pennine moors. In one room the bath taps have been thoughtfully positioned in the middle of the tub so you can lie back and enjoy the view. A new extension was being built at the time of writing and will offer fully wheelchair accessible rooms. Laundry and drying facilities and secure cycle storage are a welcome sight for soaked Hadrian’s Wall walkers and cyclists. Leah is a wonderful host – always smiling – and is committed to sourcing produce from local butchers and farms. She also bakes her own bread and biscuits (complimentary on arrival). Dinners and packed lunches available if ordered in advance.
Chapelburn House Gilsland CA8 2LY; www.chapelburn.com. Two lovely, average-priced rooms with antique touches and modern bathrooms in an above average B&B committed to the good life. The friendly owners are very eco-minded, great cooks (evening meals on request) and they welcome families. Children will love the pigs and collecting eggs for breakfast. Produce is sourced mostly within a 20-mile radius (trout from Brampton, Bowness-on-Solway saltmarsh lamb, cheese from Birdoswold) but the sausages and bacon come from outside your window (the bacon is even smoked in the grounds of the house). Home-produced jams, marmalade and honey are found on the breakfast table. Matt will collect and drop off Wall walkers.
Willowford Farm Gilsland CA8 7AA; www.willowford.co.uk. You can count on a friendly welcome at this working farm on Hadrian’s Wall, a quarter of a mile from Gilsland. The stables, dating to the early 19th century, have been converted into five modern suites and are spotless with deluxe wet rooms and, best of all for cold, weary walkers, underfloor heating throughout. Breakfast ingredients are locally sourced and organic where possible. The owners also manage the Samson Inn in the village which offers B&B accommodation and good pub food. Wheelchair accessible.
Campsites & youth hostels
There are a few campsites and bunkhouses within a few miles or less of Hadrian’s Wall, including Winshields Farm (NE47 7AN) – one of the closest to the Wall. It’s set back from the Military Road, a quarter of a mile west of the Once Brewed visitor centre, and has a large lawned garden for tents, as well as a bunkhouse. Hadrian’s Wall Camping (NE49 9PG, south of the Military Road between the Milecastle Inn & Twice Brewed, & on the road to Melkridge) caters for all types of campers and caravans (and has a bunk barn). It is especially welcoming to backpackers (who do not need to book in advance), but note that it is a three-quarter of a mile hike south of the Wall. The views of rolling farmland are quite something.
Herding Hill Farm Shield Hill, NE49 9NW; www.herdinghillfarm.co.uk. A mile north of Haltwhistle and roughly the same distance south of Hadrian’s Wall is this all-singing all-dancing family-friendly campsite with farm animals and a playground for children. There’s also a bunkhouse, pine ‘wigwams’ and traditional tipis which are equipped with wood-burning stoves.
Once Brewed YHA Military Rd, near Bardon Mill NE47 7AN; www.yha.org.uk. It’s not plush – even by average youth hostel standards – but you can hardly find a more convenient or modestly priced place to stay for visiting Hadrian’s Wall. Set back from the Military Road half a mile from the Wall and with an excellent tourist information centre next door, a pub down the road (Twice Brewed) and close to Vindolanda and Housesteads, you’ll be set for your trip into Roman Northumberland. Family rooms are available in addition to dorms. Bike storage and laundry facilities.
Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant Wark NE48 3LS; www.battlesteads.com. The reason you’re most likely to stay in this old farmhouse with impressive green credentials (once crowned Green Hotel of the Year in a national competition) is for the restaurant which is very good indeed. Wark – a pleasant country village – is also well situated for trips into Kielder Forest, Redesdale and to Hadrian’s Wall. Rooms are fairly modern and decorated to a good standard but expensive (over £100 for a standard double) and parts of the hotel are a bit dated. At the time of writing new lodges were being built in the grounds of Battlesteads. Wheelchair accessible.
Boat Farm Bellingham NE48 2AR; www.boatfarm.co.uk. Standing at the end of a quiet lane within easy reach of Bellingham by car or on foot is this stone farmhouse with three clean, bright rooms (average prices) and a couple of modern self-catering stone cottages with much rustic charm (exposed beams, stone walls and wood-burning stoves). A dreamy stretch of the River North Tyne flows close by where large numbers of swallows swoop back and forth from the water’s edge to the farm. Barbara, the owner, cooks with quality ingredients from Northumberland and further afield. ‘Well, I just choose the best because I like them’ she says of the foods she offers guests like black pudding from Stornoway.
Pheasant Inn Stannersburn, Kielder NE48 1DD; www.thepheasantinn.com. Clean, comfortable rooms with modern bathrooms; set away from the restaurant and bars around a garden courtyard. Slightly above average prices. What will really enhance your stay is the standard of food in the 400-year-old inn and the easy access to Kielder.
Shieldhall Wallington NE61 4AQ; www.shieldhallguesthouse.co.uk. You can see the National Trust’s Wallington Hall from the gardens of this 18th-century farmhouse. The surrounding countryside is like stepping into parkland laid out by Capability Brown, which is fitting because the great landscape gardener’s family used to live here. Within Shieldhall’s ten acres, there’s a lovely woodland walk. Rooms (quite a bit more expensive than other B&Bs in the area) have their own entrances and are reached from a central courtyard; the décor is ‘country farmhouse’ with the odd antique and old print, and solid wood furniture (some pieces hand-crafted by the owner and his son who have a cabinet-making business at Kirkharle). Homemade dinners on request.
The Hytte Bingfield (5 miles north of Corbridge); www.thehytte.com. This Norwegian-inspired timber cabin just off the A68 has a turf roof, sauna and hot tub and gets booked up far in advance. It’s an unusual self-catering lodge (sleeps eight) set in over an acre of wildflower meadows and lawn. The Hytte was rated ‘exceptional’ for accessibility by the National Accessible Scheme and is very welcoming to wheelchair users. The price works out reasonably for large groups.
Kielder Water Lodges Leaplish; www.nwl.co.uk/kielder. Family-focused with a small indoor swimming pool, mini-golf and restaurant/bar on site. Lodges are furnished to a high standard but they are not cheap. Some have wheelchair access. The Calvert Trust near the Bull Crag Peninsula also let out lodges which have been designed with those less mobile in mind.
Southlands Farm Cottages Gunnerton, south of Wark NE48 4EA; www.southlandsfarmcottages.co.uk. Three stone cottages (side by side so good for large family groups) in a hamlet surrounded by hills and farmland. All cottages are furnished to a high standard (modern décor and fittings with a touch of the old; very cosy with wood-burning stoves) hence the slightly above average prices. The ecologically minded owners have rare-breed cattle, pigs and free-range hens. Help yourself to veg (with permission) from the organic kitchen garden. A welcome basket of fresh produce is provided on your first day.
Campsites, wigwams & bunkhouses
Campers have a number of options in and around Kielder and Bellingham, ranging from the very basic (literally, a grassy clearing with no toilets or other facilities) to bog standard campsites for caravans and tents to ‘yurt villages’. A couple of standard campsites include Demesne Farm (Bellingham NE48 2BS) which also has a bunkhouse and is conveniently located in the centre of Bellingham and close to Hareshaw Linn; and Kielder Campsite (NE48 1EJ) a fairly quiet site set by a river, with a designated area for tents (don’t forget midge repellent). You can also stay in a timber-framed hut or nearby in the Kielder YHA. Backcountry campers will be pleased to know that there are several places in remote parts of Kielder where you can pitch up for a night.
Boe Rigg Campsite & Bunkhouse Charlton, a couple of miles east of Bellingham NE48 1PE. Large timber-framed bunkhouse (more of a very comfortable hostel really) and bistro in farmland setting; family-friendly campsite in field opposite. Even if you’re not staying here, it’s a good place to grab a bite to eat if passing.
Tarset Tor Bunkhouse Greystones, Lanehead, Tarset NE48 1NT; www.tarset-tor.co.uk. One of the best bunkhouses in Northumberland for comfort, mod-cons, cleanliness and location. The single storey pine lodge is set in a quiet spot with views of undulating farmland and hills and easy access to Kielder. It can sleep up to 20 in four rooms (great for groups).
Wild Northumbrian Thorneyburn, Tarset NE48 1NA; www.wildnorthumbrian.co.uk. Luxury tipis and yurts in a beautiful upland setting by a burn and not far from Kielder. Bushcraft, bat detecting, star-gazing and many more workshops are on offer. Great for families. For couples wanting to get away from it all, I suggest booking the remote little shepherd’s hut – very cosy and romantic.
Collingwood Arms Main St, Cornhill-on-Tweed TD12 4UH; www.collingwoodarms.com. One of the most comfortable inns offering B&B accommodation in Northumberland. Inside the Georgian hotel, the modern, immaculate rooms are unfussy and decorated to a high standard with neutral fabrics and the odd polished antique piece of furniture. Molton & Brown handwash in the bathrooms completes the upmarket look but luxury extras like this bump up the price of a stay here to quite a lot above average. Bedrooms are named after ships under the command of Admiral Collingwood during the Battle of Trafalgar. The hotel’s restaurant is very good too and there’s a sunny courtyard and garden to the rear. Wheelchair accessible.
No 1. Hotel 1 High St, Wooler NE71 6LD; www.no1highstreetwooler.co.uk. The décor is not to everyone’s taste: fairy lights in some rooms, while in others the look is more enchanted forest and by that I mean there’s a lot of twisted dead wood adorning the walls. But, the location is very central, the food in the restaurant is pretty good, the rooms are clean and contemporary with modern bathrooms, and it’s really cheap (far below average but of a better standard than your average hotel or B&B).
Alnham Farm & self-catering cottage Alnham, near Rothbury NE66 4TJ; www.alnhamfarm.co.uk. Out-of-the-way stone farmhouse in the foothills of the Cheviots promising a very quiet night’s sleep. Average-priced B&B accommodation in lovely rooms with pristine linen and contemporary bathrooms (one room has a roll top bath). Locally sourced breakfast ingredients. Good value self-catering cottages also available. If you happen to be touring on horseback, there’s room for five horses in the adjoining stables.
Chatton Park House Chatton NE66 5RA; www.chattonpark.com. The driveway is lit with little lights giving this Georgian country house the appearance of an upmarket hotel the moment you turn off the main road. You’ll be greeted at the front door by Michelle with a big smile. She is the perfect host (helpful, friendly and discreet). For above average prices (though not extortionate), you get plenty of extras: plush furnishings (heavy curtains, leather armchairs, super king-sized beds) and your high ceiling room comes with a view of the four-acre parkland surrounding the manor. On cold nights, sit by the wood fire in the living room listening to jazz and sipping an aperitif before heading out for dinner. Breakfasts at Chatton Park House are up there with the very best in Northumberland with local kippers and smoked salmon and scrambled egg on the menu alongside classic full English and continental offerings. There’s also a small holiday cottage in the grounds of Chatton Park House. No children.
Hillcrest House High St, Rothbury NE65 7TL; www.hillcrestbandb.co.uk. Double fronted Georgian guesthouse in the centre of Rothbury with two spacious rooms at the top of the house featuring wooden floors, exposed beams and stone ‘feature’ walls. Both rooms are clean and pleasantly decorated with the odd antique, but otherwise furniture and decorative items are kept to a minimum giving guests plenty of room. Vegetarian-only breakfasts served in a bright downstairs dining room; Prices are slightly above average.
Ingram House Ingram, Breamish Valley NE66 4LT; www.ingram-house.com. At the gateway to Breamish Valley is this large 18th-century stone house enclosed on all sides by flower-filled gardens. Inside, the décor has much country farmhouse appeal with floral furnishings and many antiques. The bed in the double room (the other is a twin) dates to the time of King Henry VIII. Enjoy fresh, Northumbrian water straight from the hills. The friendly owners will cook dinner for guests on request. They also host star-gazing events.
Orchard House High St, Rothbury NE65 7TL; www.orchardhouserothbury.com. This top-end B&B in the centre of Rothbury smells fresh and very clean which is always a good sign. Downstairs, rooms have been decorated sympathetically to reflect the Georgian building with antique furniture here and there but the bedrooms and bathrooms are more contemporary. Feather duvets and complimentary bathrobes come as standard. The breakfast room is bright and spotlessly clean, like the rest of the house, and some of the food is locally sourced, organic and fair trade. Little touches like the orange juice squeezed from whole fruit in the morning justify the above average prices.
Tosson Tower Farm Great Tosson, near Rothbury NE65 7NW; www.tossontowerfarm.com. Friendly former drovers’ inn dating to the 18th century on a working farm offering slightly above average-priced B&B accommodation, and good value self-catering cottages in converted farm buildings. The Simonside Hills loom over the pretty collection of stone buildings in the hamlet, which is a short drive or uphill cycle ride from Rothbury. The ruins of a medieval pele tower, from which the hamlet gets its name, stands opposite the farmhouse. Rooms are very clean and are furnished in a farmhouse style with modern wooden furniture and the odd antique. Enjoy an expansive view of the Coquet Valley from your breakfast table as you tuck into Craster kippers. This is a great base for walkers (hike to the top of Simonside straight from the front door).
Cheviot Holiday Cottages Ingram NE66 4LT; www.cheviotholidaycottages.co.uk. The setting of these Gold Award cottages at the foot of Breamish Valley couldn’t be more tranquil, with a medieval church to the rear and farmland to the front. Most cottages sleep two or four people and are arranged around a courtyard (great for large family gatherings). They are extremely well-appointed (hence the above-average price) and decorated in a contemporary farmhouse style (wooden furniture painted shades of grey, cream and duck-egg blue, exposed beams, range cookers, wood-burning stoves, etc). The most luxurious cottage comes with a small indoor swimming pool with jacuzzi jets. The River Breamish flows past the hamlet; Linhope Spout is a short car or bike ride away or you can start hill walks from the front door. Wheelchair access in Gate Lodge.
College Valley Estates Cottages Hethpool, College Valley; www.college-valley.co.uk. Four quite different average-priced stone holiday cottages dotted around the valley; all furnished to a good standard (contemporary, farmhouse styling with solid pine furniture, wood-burning stoves/fires). The biggest draw is the location with some of the best hill walks in Northumberland straight from the door. Dunsdale (sleeps eight) is the most remote, tucked away along the Lambden Burn under heather hills and crags. Hethpool Mill, at the entrance to the valley in a hamlet and on St Cuthbert’s Way long-distance path, is the most accessible and one of the best appointed with a large kitchen. Southern Knowe (a former school house though you’d never guess) is more basic than the others and is located on a farm quite far into the valley.
Bunkhouses & camping barns
Barrowburn Camping Barn Cottage and B&B Barrowburn, near Alwinton (Upper Coquetdale) NE65; www.barrowburn.com. Walkers seeking a rustic, remote place to stay in the Cheviot Hills will love it here. The camping barn sleeps 17 and can be booked out in its entirety. It costs about the same as a budget youth hostel to stay here and is cheap even for smaller groups at £12 per person, but you’ll need to bring everything bar the kitchen sink (including bedding, a camping mat, matches for the coal fire, etc). The late 19th-century building was once a school for shepherds’ children. The green timber-clad building next door (the Deer Hut) is a basic holiday cottage, again, charging little more than youth hostel prices.
Mounthooley Bunkhouse College Valley, Kirknewton NE71 6TX; www.college-valley.co.uk/Mounthooly.htm. One of the most remote places to stay in Northumberland, this old stone shepherd’s cottage deep in College Valley is not far from the Hen Hole. Some of the finest Cheviot hill walks are straight from the front door. Inside, there are two pine dormitories (cheap youth hostel prices) and a couple of family rooms but if just two guests are staying the price is almost the same as an average B&B). The living room has a fire and there’s a BBQ area outside. You don’t need a College Valley permit to drive into the valley if you are staying at the bunkhouse where there is parking.
Tomlinson’s Café and Bunkhouse Bridge St, Rothbury NE65 7SF; www.tomlinsonsrothbury.co.uk. Small, clean, friendly bunkhouse (but feels more like a youth hostel and rates are above average) housed in an old school in the centre of Rothbury. Bunk beds in three rooms, each with a modern bathroom. Downstairs there’s a cosy, bright lounge with a wood-burning stove. The kitchen is very small so you may want to have breakfast in the adjoining café (served from 09.00).
Wild camping & campsites in the Cheviots
Camping in the hills is not permitted, but you are unlikely to be bothered if you’re walking with a bivvy bag or backpacking tent and stay above the tree line (1,500 feet or higher) and out of farmland and Forestry Commission woodlands.
There are very few official campsites in the Cheviots except for a couple of caravan sites at Wooler, including Highburn House Country Holiday Park (Wooler NE71 6EE), which is popular with caravan owners but they do take tents and it is cheap as well as conveniently located a ten-minute walk from the town; and further south in the Kielder and Redesdale area.