© Alnwick Castle

England is a country with a rich heritage, and Northumberland is home to many important historical sites that also make for a fun day out. Here, Jen Rea, Inbound Tourism Manager at Visit North East England tells us about just some of this region’s sites that are worth a visit.

As the most northern county in England, Northumberland is full of history. As it sits on the border between England and Scotland, it has a storied past of Roman, Viking and Anglo-Saxon conflicts, which all played a role in shaping the county we know today. Below, I’ll be taking you through just some of the county’s amazing historical sites.
 

Alnwick Castle


Did you know that Northumberland has more castles than any other English county? Among these is Alnwick Castle, which has stood along the Northumberland landscape for over 900 years and is the second largest inhabited castle in England — right after Windsor Castle. What began as a typically Norman-style structure has seen numerous restorations throughout the years: transforming from a medieval fortress into a grand gothic building, and then into the castle you can see today. With its vastly impressive architecture, it’s not hard to see why it served as a backdrop in hit films and TV shows like Harry Potter and Downton Abbey!

The castle is home to the Percy family, as it has been since 1309, but long gone are the castle’s defensive uses. The impressive structure now serves as an important historical and tourist site, allowing visitors to go on informative tours of the castle grounds, visit State rooms, embark on a dragon quest, and even try a spot of broomstick training.
 

Hadrian’s Wall


After the Romans successfully invaded England and Wales, but failed to take over Scotland, Emperor Hadrian requested the construction of a wall between England and Scotland. This was an attempt to create a defensible border between the two territories, however, most of Northumberland actually lies to the north of Hadrian’s Wall.

It’s thought that work on the wall started around AD122, using stone and turf, and the initial defensive structures were completed within a few years. The original wall stretched across a huge 73 miles, from Wallsend to Solway Firth, although only some of it still stands today.

What remains of Hadrian’s Wall is one of the most important Roman monuments in the UK and serves as a hugely spectacular historical site and walking trail. Along the length of the wall, you can see various Roman structures and ruins that have survived throughout history, as well as visit museums like the Roman Army Museum and the Great North Museum: Hancock.

The wall is also home to some vibrant and friendly cities, like Newcastle and Carlisle, as well as some beautiful wildlife, like the Orange Tip butterfly, the rare Large Heath butterfly and house martins. It’s no wonder the site was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987!
 

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne


Located just off the coast of Northumberland lies the historic Holy Island of Lindisfarne. After St. Aidan, an Irish monk, converted the region to Christianity, he founded the Lindisfarne Monastery, which has sat on the island since the year 635. It serves as the origins of the Lindisfarne Gospels: a highly decorated manuscript of the four Gospels which recount the life of Christ and is regarded as a British treasure.

After the Viking invasion in the 8th century, the wealthy site was pillaged, which lead to the island being deserted. Although the monks did eventually return after 400 years, the site was again left empty by the mid-16th century after King Henry VIII ordered the closure of the priory. Today, the island remains an important pilgrimage site for British Christians and historians alike. It is also home to some great wildlife and interesting historical museums and walks for the whole family.

The site can be accessed by a causeway, which is only visible twice a day when the tide is low. If you’re planning on visiting the island, make sure you check the safe crossing times with Northumberland County Council beforehand.
 

Bamburgh


On the Northumberland coast lies the beautiful town of Bamburgh, whose history spans as far back as the Neolithic period. Moving forward to the year 635, the very same St. Aidan who founded the Lindisfarne Monastery built a Christian church in the town, which aided the spread of Christianity throughout the North of England. The church still resides on the coast to this day.

The site is also the location of the famous Bamburgh Castle, which sits atop a hill overlooking the coast. It remains an important archaeological site and a Grade I listed building of historical significance. The town is also home to the national heroine Grace Darling, who risked her life to save survivors of the SS Forfarshire shipwreck in 1838. The site now has a Grace Darling museum along with its other historical structures.

Northumberland is a county full of history and heritage. The areas in this guide are just some of the most interesting places to visit in the region. Whether you’re traveling with friends or family, there’s something everyone can enjoy!