Northumberland is very close to Scotland, especially if you live or are visiting the East Coast. Here’s where I’ve visited so far in Northumberland.
Kielder Forest Park
2 hours from Edinburgh, 2 hours 20 minutes from Glasgow
Kielder Castle Visitor Centre is an excellent introduction to Kielder Forest Park. Surrounded by trees, it’s a stunning backdrop for some walks or mountain biking. From the visitor centre, there are different walking routes of varying difficulty. One walk is a Zog Trail where you can spot sculptures from Julia Donaldson’s books.
There was a small food van at the castle, toilets and a place to hire bikes. Kielder is a cute place, I was surprised to find that it’s a little village with a salmon visitor centre and a pub.
Parking costs but your ticket allows you to park at the car parks across Kielder Forest Park – I opted for the parking and forest drive ticket which I’d recommend taking the time to do.
Kielder Forest Drive
The forest drive is the longest in the UK – it’s 12 miles long!
It takes you from Kielder Castle on the west to Blakehopeburnhaugh on the east.
From Kielder Castle Visitor Centre, you drive past a little ticket machine if you haven’t already bought a ticket, and this is also where you can pick up an information sheet (these are returned at the end of the drive). If you’re going in the opposite direction, you pay at the end at Kielder.
The forest drive was a novelty experience – you know when you’re driving along a scenic road and you can’t just pull over and stop to admire the view or go really slowly? On the forest drive, you can! It was quiet when I drove on it, only passing two cars near the end of the journey.
There are a couple of picnic spots on the drive, you’ll spot a cool sculpture at the highest point, and you’ll see lots of unfussed sheep!
Ford and Etal Estates
1 hour 20 minutes from Edinburgh, 2 hours from Glasgow
Ford and Etal estates are a collection of rural villages in Berwickshire with lots of attractions and walks. Start at the village of Heatherslaw where the visitor centre is to get info on the history and maps of the estate. At Heatherslaw you can explore a working mill (with one of the nicest gift shops I’ve ever seen), ride on a light railway steam train to Etal or nearby visit the Hay Farm to see Clydesdale horses, pigs, geese and vintage tractors and farm equipment.
In Ford, you can wander around Lady Waterford Hall to see the watercolour murals featuring members of the community from the 1800s and find out about Louisa Anne, the woman who created it. Have lunch at the post office and treat yourself to some pottery or a class at Ravn Clay Pottery.
Visit Etal for its castle ruins which are free to explore and have some lunch or coffees and cakes at the Lavender Tea Rooms.
All of these villages are beautiful; the houses in Ford are stunning, Heatherslaw is a quaint little place and the white cottage-style buildings of Etal made me feel like I’d been transported back in time.
1 hour 30 minutes from Edinburgh, 2 hours 10 minutes from Glasgow
From a few places in Northumberland I’d seen Bamburgh Castle in the distance looking all majestic so it was a definite must-see on my list.
In Bamburgh, you really can’t miss the castle. It stands out proudly and has sea views over to Holy Island.
On the day I visited, Acle Reenactment Society where there with demonstrations showing what life was like for Anglosaxons at a time when Bamburgh was called Bebbanburg. There was cooking, weaving, embroidery, coin making, fighting and medicine demonstrations. It was fascinating and atmospheric to see everyone dressed up transporting us back thousands of years.
The castle grounds have beautiful views – the Bamburgh houses look like Lilliput Lane cottages (if you ever collected those!). Don’t miss the grand stately rooms, the armoury or the aviation museum. If you’ve been watching The Last Kingdom on Netflix, Bamburgh Castle was one of the filming locations and at the time I visited, they had an exhibition with some of the props and costumes from the show.
1 hour 20 minutes from Edinburgh, 2 hours from Glasgow
Described as an island that’s not an island, Holy Island is accessible by road but only when the tide is low. Before you go over, check the Holy Island tide times and give yourself plenty of time to get across and back.
Driving over to it feels really special and I love that visitors have to park at the large car park helping to reduce traffic in Holy Island. It only took about a five-minute walk from the car park to the centre of Holy Island, passing a couple of stands selling cakes, honey, biscuits, fruit and veg.
There are a couple of hotels, pubs and cafes, I visited Pilgrims Coffee which has an outdoor seating area. They roast their own beans and the artwork on the bags meant I couldn’t resist buying some. Next door to them is Pilgrims Gelato – selling vegan gelato so everyone can enjoy it!
Lindisfarne Castle is run by National Trust for England but if you have another National Trust membership you’ll also get in for free. The castle is small but interesting, with some snarky quotes from someone who used to live there dotted around the castle which hinted at a not-so-happy time. It’s easy to think that the castle was once easy to reach but it was only in the 1950s that the road over was built.
Built by monks thousands of years ago, visit the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory and get a close look at the artefacts that have been found in the museum. Entry to the museum and priory costs if you don’t have an English Heritage, Historic Scotland or Cadw membership.
1 hour 50 minutes from Edinburgh, 2 hours 30 minutes from Glasgow
A small fishing village not far from Bamburgh, Craster is worth a visit. I just had a little walk around but there’s a cafe, the award-winning Jolly Fisherman restaurant, Dunstanburgh Castle and a kipper smokehouse.
Union Chain Bridge
1 hour 15 minutes from Edinburgh, 1 hour 55 minutes from Glasgow
The Union Chain Bridge is the oldest vehicle suspension bridge in the world that links Fishwick in Scotland to Horncliffe in England – and it’s built using Welsh iron. Before this bridge was built, goods had to either be taken over by boat or by a longer route around.
In April 2023 it was re-opened after a long period of being restored to ensure it can last at least another 100 years.
There are a few spaces to park on the Scottish side, letting you walk across the bridge over the River Tweed. After crossing the bridge from the Scottish side, a short walk will take you to the Chain Bridge Honey Farm.
Chain Bridge Honey Farm
This visitor centre was a sweet little find, just minutes from the Union Chain Bridge. Free to look around, the centre has a huge amount of information on bees and the honey-making process all displayed in lovely calligraphy. It’s clear that a lot of effort and care has been put into the centre. You can see a hive where all the honey is being produced for their products.
Their shop has a variety of honey gifts, I bought some lip balm.
Outside, there are vintage vehicles including a red double-decker London bus and a Beekeeper’s Garden filled with bee-friendly plants. For something a bit different, you can have lunch on their cafe bus.
Learn about bees and honey at the Chain Bridge Honey Farm.
Northumberland is a beautiful area with cute villages, incredible beaches, stunning castles and a ton of history. It’s so close to the east side of Scotland making it a great day trip or even a weekend getaway.