Monday, 16 June 2014

An Opportunity for Excellence

Resting in the heart of Northumberland is an opportunity.  It’s not the opportunity to rest and relax in the midst of stunning rolling hills, surrounded by picturesque countryside. That opportunity already exists to anyone, and rather, this is an opportunity for luxury.

Near Felton, Morpeth, an exclusive development is being erected. 50 cottages are being built that will offer beauty and freedom, but the ease of living that comes with being within a four-star resort. They will provide the perfect away-from-home experience, all from the comfort of a stunning cottage.

A different way of thinking
Northumbrian Hills is an ideal location for a second home out of the city, and every three bedroomed home is constructed to a unique layout – the bedrooms are located on the ground floor, while the living area and third bedroom is placed on the first floor in order to allow owners to take in the beautiful views.

A cottage in the Northumbrian Hills resort will include a fully stocked kitchen with a modern finish, appliances, en-suite bathrooms and a log burner. French doors lead out onto a balcony with stunning views across the rolling Northumbrian hills.

Construction and development
The construction of the development is being split into three phases: In phase one the cottages will be built, all set close to the pavilion – and each building will provide 107 sq. m. of floor space with a balcony that can offer south, south west or westerly views of the countryside.

Phase two will see the pavilion being constructed – which will provide bars, restaurants, a swimming pool, spa and fitness facilities.

Phase three will excite golf lovers everywhere, as it is the construction of a golf academy that includes teaching bays, a driving range and a short game zone – as well as other sports facilities.

A round of golf
For those whose ideal day consists of a round of golf, Northumbria Hills is the perfect place to indulge your game. The entire development is set within the ground of championship golf course.

And the development’s location – set between Alnwick and Morpeth – is ideal if you want to go off resort for 18 holes. The Alnwick Castle Golf Club is set close to the famous Alnwick Castle, and offers countryside views across the whole of the par 70 course. Morpeth Golf Club is based right in the heart of the ancient market town, and was founded in 1906. It was designed by Open champions Harry Vardon, and it often used for national and county events.

Other activities
Other activities around the area include the Lindisfarne Priory, located on Holy Island, which was the site of Viking attacks in 793. In a trip to Lindisfarne, you can also see the old priory and marvel in the history of a place that can only be reached at low tide.

Alnwick Castle, near the golf course, is one of the largest inhabited castles in the world – and was the setting for some of the filming of Harry Potter. Tickets to the castle can also be validated for 12 months at no extra cost!

Other activities include Go Ape! a tree-top adventure park, and the Northumberland National Park, just south of Hadrian’s Wall.

Which all makes Northumbrian Hills a fantastic opportunity to get away from it all and enjoy the calm and silence from a wonderful holiday home.

For more information visit the Northumbrain Hills website:

Land a hole in one with Warkworth House Hotel

When you think of golfing holidays, you don’t automatically think of Northumberland. Rather, Northumberland might be held in the same train of thought as a place to stay for beautiful countryside, beaches and enough history to devote an entire week to. But what if you want to devote you entire week to something else? What if you want to spend the time strolling around the fairways and greens of some spectacular golf courses?

Is the county somewhere to do that? Of course it is. From open-champion designed course at Morpeth to the 18-holes in the shadow of Alnwick castle, there are plenty of places that golf enthusiasts can spend their time.

Warkworth is just one of many courses that offers stunning scenery in the county. It was designer was Old Tom Morris in 1891 – Morris was an early pioneer of British golf, and won the British Open multiple times.

With views of Carr Rocks, Coquet Island, Warkworth Castle and the surrounding Northumbrian countryside and coastline, Warkworth is a truly stunning course that has a large pond behind the first green – a brilliant side-product of a development sponsored by the Environment Agency.

The course at Warkworth has nine greens, but 18 tees to give the golfer a unique challenge at every hole. Be warned though, visitors are not able to play on Tuesdays and Saturdays as they are reserved for members of the club. Other golf clubs around the area include Alnmouth Golf Club, a 10 minute drive to another course located near the sea – and set in a picturesque seaside village.

Dunstanburgh is a 25-minute drive away, and includes eight holes that fringe the beautiful Embleton Bay. The course consists of fourteen Par 4's, thee Par 3's and one Par 5. Four of the Par 4's are in excess of 400 yards from the Yellow Tees.

A great place to stay in Warkworth is the Warkworth House Hotel, a three star establishment that is located less than a mile from the coast and in the crook of the River Coquet. It is also around a 2 minute drive from the golf course – which is ideal.

The building was originally used as a coaching inn during the 1820’s, and that history has carried on until this very day. It also contains a staircase that one belonged to King George IV’s second wife, Caroline of Brunswick.

The hotel is also set in the shadow of the castle, which was the seat of the Percy family – whose number include Harry Hotspur, who played a vital hand in the War of the Roses, fighting on the side of Henry IV. The bar offers fine drinking, among them a selection of local real ales and fine wines, and the rooms come equipped with hospitality trays, DVD players, LCD TV’s and come with an en-suite bathroom.

For those with a taste for the superior things in life, the hotel offers rooms that offer more. They come with king sized beds, a separate seating area and all the bathrooms have walk-in showers.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

On Ya Bike! Northumberland Provides Beautiful Cycling Routes.

Northumberland can sometimes be an overlooked county. Just south of the border, Yorkshire has its magnificent moorland – while Edinburgh and Glasgow can draw the eye away from Warkworth and Alnwick. But for a cycling holiday, Northumberland fits the bill beautifully. It has a number of great routes to keep your legs pumping and eyes wandering up and down the scenery for a long as you stay south of the Scottish border.

The Coast and Castles Cycling Route is part of the National Cycle Network Route 1, and it runs up and down the coastline of Northumberland – between Tynemouth and Berwick upon Tweed. Entering Northumberland at Seaton Sluice, the route is flat but incredibly scenic, which makes it a perfect choice for a lot of cyclists.

The attractions it passes include three castles (Warkworth, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh), while it also passes the Woodhorn Museum, Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the Druridge Bat Country Park. The website for the route recommends doing the Newcastle to Edinburgh route first, as it ends with a more picturesque finale in Scotland as bikers pass Arthurs Seat, instead of Byker and Wallsend on Tyneside.

Another cycle route that could be taken the Hadrian Wall path – but at 150 miles long, it might be better suited to the more experienced cyclist. It does leave Northumberland and go into Cumbria as it follows the length of the wall.

Inside Northumberland, it runs along the Tyne Valley between Gilsland and Wylam – unsurprisingly, it brings a follower in contact with a number of Roman forts, sites and museums. A great route for someone after a little bit of the region’s history. For those who would rather take a mountain bike down a dirt trail, the Deadwater Trails in Kielder Forest are one of the best in England and offer breathtaking views. The Red Trail is the highest in the country, and climbs to 1900ft (580m).

Northumberland also offers a variety of other mountain biking spots, including Hexhamshire Common and the Cheviot Hills near Wooler. The National Cycling Charity organises rides that leave every Tuesday at Merton Hall in Ponteland. Rides leave at around 10:30am and return by 4:00pm. Riders normally bike around 35-50 miles, and stop for lunch at a cafĂ© or pub. Worried about the pace? Don’t be, it’s easy and nobody is left behind.

From April to September, on the last Tuesday of every month, an ‘away day’ is arranged. This just means that the group leaves from a different location, instead of Ponteland. Barneburg CC also offers Saturday and Sunday morning rides, for cyclists of all abilities. Based in south-east Northumberland, they are open to people who want to ‘race, tour, or just potter through Northumberland.’

You could combine your biking holiday with self-catered accommodation with Tidal Holidays

Tidal Holidays offer a high class experience in beautiful cottages. It would be the perfect base from which to begin, or think about beginning, a cycle tour through the coast and countryside of beautiful Northumberland.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Dog Friendly Beaches and Accommodation

Northumberland is unique in so many ways but one of my favourite reasons has to be the fact that you can take your pooch with you, practically anywhere in fact! The beaches here are not only an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but we are the only County in the UK that has almost no restrictions on its beaches for dogs. Imagine that! An absolute haven for dog lovers and to back it up Northumberland delivers with pet friendly accommodation too, with so many visitors bringing their pets why wouldn’t they? Gone are the days where pet friendly self-catering accommodation tended to be a little grubby and smell of dogs, the perfect examples are Stablewood Coastal Cottages.

Located in and around Bamburgh and Budle Bay, Stablewood are relatively new to the Self Catering market after opening around a year ago but they’re making quite a splash. Stablewood offer 5 beautiful Cottages and 2 Lodges, all with immediate access to one of our favourite glorious beaches!

Budle Bay is a beautiful and important bird sanctuary, with huge mud flats that are exposed at low tide. The whole area is part of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve and is very popular with birdwatchers, particularly in the winter when thousands of wildfowl and waders spend their winter on the bay's mud flats. Beaches sprawl from here South towards Bamburgh offering the perfect coastal escape with your pets.

We are rather spoiled for choice when it comes to dog friendly beaches but we’ve racked our brains and come up with our favourites:

Our Top 5 Dog Friendly Beaches in Northumberland
1 Bamburgh and Budle Bay
2 Alnmouth
3 Druridge Bay
4 Beadnell Bay
5 Warkworth Beach

Do you agree?

With spectacular beaches on your doorstep and lots to see Stablewood Coastal Cottages are situated in prime locations, so get in touch soon and stay in an area that boasts outstanding natural beauty with one of the most magnificent coastlines in the United Kingdom. Because they are all together they are great for groups of friends and extended family members.
t: 01668 219607 f: 01668 219645

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Riding the Bounds, Berwick's Tradition

The “Bounds” refer to the Bounds of the Liberties of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the land between the border and the River Tweed. The first description of the Bounds is in a charter created by Robert Bruce after he took the town in 1318 but this land extended only a little north of where the mediaeval walls stood (the Bell Tower area).

Today’s border between England and Scotland was defined in a truce in 1438. However, it was not legally binding and in 1542, it was stated that the Bounds were “to be perambulated so often as to keep them well known”. This would have been carried out by the town’s garrison. In 1603 the Union of the Crowns saw King James VI of Scotland become James I of England. In 1604, he granted a Royal Charter to the Guild of Freemen in which many of their rights and privileges that still exist were laid down. Prior to this Charter, most of the land within the Bounds was common land, free for all to use - Freemen and non-Freemen alike - for grazing animals and gathering hay (hence Liberties).

The Charter granted this land to the Freemen but the practice of common pasturing and haymaking continued. This gave rise to annual land disputes and in 1605 it was decided to divide the land into defined meadows. However, this did not take place until 1608 and the burgesses were ordered to pay 6d (2½p) for every acre of land they owned to pay for creating a boundary ditch between England and Scotland. In 1609, the “Riding of The Bounds” to check the integrity of these land divisions and ditch took place. In the first year the Riding was completed twice, but since, it has taken place on 1st May.

Many of the customs still observed took place in the early days; the decorating of the horses with ribbons, a race at Canty’s Bridge (said to commemorate the crossing of the border by Margaret Tudor on her way to be married to James IV of Scotland in 1502) and a meal afterwards for the participants.

The ceremony has taken place every year except between 1726 to 1729, when it was cancelled due to lack of funds. - Jim Herbert

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Hunting Bastle Houses

Living in the border lands we had always known about Bastle houses. They were those rather intimidating and strong barn conversions weren’t they? We had seen the Eagle of the Ninth, Braveheart, and Kevin Costner underneath the Robin Hood tree but one week end we decided that it would be good to track down one of these remnants from more troubled times. So how do you go about finding a Bastle house in the wild? Well, as with most things these days, we went to Amazon for our first clues and ordered Julia Grint’s book on “Bastles”. It arrived quickly and we settled down to try and understand the quarry.

The first thing which stood out is that they are more widespread than most people realise. Violence and the threat of reiving wasn’t confined to just the “Roman Wall” countryside. These were lawless times and a quote here is appropriate:

“The good old law, the simple plan –
That they should take that have the power
And they should keep who can”

The book splits the Bastles into three main areas for convenience, Tarset and Redesdale, Otterburn and finally Allendale. It was the latter which we chose to try first and so we made our plans. These houses are more 16th and 17th century which was a surprise as the main Reiver times were much earlier but maybe this just reflects how long it took for peace to come to the countryside.

For our first Bastle house we chose Nine Dargues. Apparently named after the surrounding land which would take 9 days to till this seemed an appropriate start. Suitably armed with refreshments, dog and camera we ventured forth. Now the valley of the river Allen is beautiful and quiet but where are the road signs? Where are the signposts to point out these National treasures?

Down a winding green lane we had our first sight of Nine Dargues. But why are there trees growing in the middle of the ruin? Access was reasonably easy but no one seems to care for these buildings. Apparently Nine Dargues was occupied as late as the 19th century but now you need to look closely to understand exactly what you are seeing. Look at this magnificent megalithic lintel over the Byre doorway which is set centrally in the east gable end. Do you see the harr hole in the timber lintel and the drawbar tunnels to secure the entrance?

These poignant reminders of its original purpose are to us precious and as we sat beside the crumbling walls and enjoyed the peace and quiet it seemed that our remembering of what had gone before was a small way to honour our ancestors and the people who had created this beautiful county.

Written by Colin Corlett who occasionally helps to promote tourism through working with Northumbria Byways.

You can see more of the Allendale and Tarset Bastles here

Housty Bastle house Allendale

More about Nine Dargues

and the listed building details

Black Middens, Tarset

Finally if you would like more images then you are welcome to download as follows

Images here

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Farmhouse Breakkie and Allen Banks

This weekend we decided it would be safer to go for food before the walk instead of vice versa- that way no missing any closing times. Last week a handful of great farm shops across the region offered “buy one breakfast, get the second for £1" to support Farmhouse breakfast week. (You can get offers like these by signing up to We chose Brocksbushes in Corbridge. A skiddy entrance in to the car park and we arrive off the A69. From the outside it doesn't look like much but inside is a maze of fresh vegetables, chopped wood, gardening things, dog beds and extra buildings tacked on. At first we couldn't even find the coffee shop, until we saw the grotto like entrance.

Inside is half a dozen tables and through a side door, a dozen more. It has a very quaint and country tea room feel, but I can't help but feel a little uncomfortable with the very obvious 50 year age gap between us and the other diners.

We ordered 2 full english's, smoked salmon and a bacon, sausage and mushroom bap (there was 4 of us by the way). Service was pronto and it all looked really good. Thick cut bacon, big juicy sausages, rich black pudding; all the usual offenders were there on the plate. The breakfast bap was as big as Sara's head and Anelise’s smoked salmon came as a very generous portion. All in all I would say it is a great place for a hearty breakfast that doesn’t feel greasy or unhealthy in the slightest.

We returned to the car with full bellies and ready for a walk in the snow; delighted to find that Toby hadn’t been sick in the car whilst we were inside (the puppy not an unwanted friend). We drove westwards to Allen Banks, about 20 minutes past Hexham. Parked up and set off along the footpath. We took the path to the right that headed up the bank. At the top you have a great view of Ridley Hall and its grounds.

Along we walked crunching through snow and throwing snowballs for the dog who happily chased after nothing. At the first fork we went left down to the river (if you go right there is a great little gazebo perfect for summer picnics.) You get to a pool in the river where it is wider and deeper. We have been known to swim here in the summer but in the winter it is still and quiet and you can even spot the odd solitary heron if you peer hard enough. 

It is about 2 ½ miles along the river allen before you get to a bridge to cross back over and return along the other side of the river. Up to the farm house and turn left up the road for 100 yards. You can extend this walk by going right here across the farm fields and up to an Iron age fort, but as it is winter and as we spent all morning eating we didn’t really have time.

This side of the river is much steeper and rockier but had the most amazing icicles. Make sure you turn left downhill once you see the swing bridge or you could end up walking straight past the car park. A beautiful winter walk.

Harriet and Alex