5 English Heritage locations to visit in Northumberland
4th March 2022
No matter where you are in the country, if you are looking for a top attraction to visit for a fun and fascinating time, then you can’t go wrong with English Heritage. With a vast range of historical attractions all across the nation, English Heritage provides fascinating glimpses into the past and relaxing excursions with the properties they look after. Northumberland is no different, boasting its own amazing range of locations, and in this guide, we highlight a handful you can consider visiting in the county, as well as some accessibility information for those who have a stairlift at home and who have mobility issues.
Belsay Hall, Castle, and Gardens
Located at Belsay in Morpeth, Belsay Hall is a grand, regency style country house built in the Greek revival style. This 19th-century, Grade I listed building isn’t the only part of this English Heritage location, however, as there is also a medieval castle on the grounds, built in the 14th century. With 30 acres of exotic gardens to also discover, filled with exotic plants and lovely open areas, along with fantastic countryside views and a Victoria tearoom, a visit to Belsay Hall and Castle has so much to offer visitors.
Bethanie, from the blog Northumberland Family Diaries, has been to Belsay Hall, Castle, and Gardens, and shared: “After a short walk along a well laid out path (which is pushchair and wheelchair friendly), you will find yourself at the castle ruin. We were pleasantly surprised, that it wasn’t a pile of old stones but an old castle you could walkthrough. The old fireplaces are still visible, and the kids loved running through the many passageways.”
In terms of accessibility, Belsay Hall, Castle, and Gardens have wheelchairs available to hire, accessible toilets, and guide dogs are welcome. There is also ramped access to the castle. You can read more about Belsay Hall's access here.
Dunstanburgh Castle is situated on the Northumberland coast, between Craster and Embleton. The castle was built way back in the 14th-century by Earl Thomas of Lancaster, who was in rebellion against King Edward II with this precise spot of remote headland being chosen for its natural defences. The castle played a role in the War of the Roses and today its ruins can be explored, including the great twin-horned keep. Visitors to Dunstanburgh can look forward to dramatic views of the castle from the nearby coastline as you enjoy a picturesque walk to this historic location.
Sam, from the blog, Travels with My Boys, has been to Dunstanburgh Castle and has shared what she enjoyed: “I really enjoyed visiting Dunstanburgh Castle with my boys as we all like learning about the history behind each castle we visit. Even though the castle is a ruin there is still plenty to learn and the walk to the castle is great for trying to see wildlife in the area; the views are also stunning. Dunstanburgh is a great attraction to visit as its location really gives it a dramatic feel. I have always been interested in castles and how they were built, so I was really excited to take the boys to see a castle like Dunstanburgh. If you are in the area, it is a must-do attraction to visit.”
Assistance dogs are welcome at Dunstanburgh Castle but those with limited mobility should be aware that the approach to the castle is over uneven ground, about 1 mile from the car park. You can read more about Dunstanburgh Castle’s access here.
Lindisfarne Priory is definitely a highlight of Northumberland’s attractions, with this expansive ruin of a once-grand Medieval monastery being found amid the peace and seclusion of Holy Island. The priory’s island setting certainly adds to its allure and drama, and visitors can enjoy learning about one of the early outposts of Christianity in England, being founded by Saint Adrian in the 7th century. To reach this wonderful, ancient site, visitors cross the causeway from the mainland and can discover its richly decorated ruins, including the wonderful Rainbow Arch. To go along with the majestic island views, there is also a fascinating museum to visit where you can learn about the priory’s 1400-year history, including an attack by Viking raiders.
Tammy, from the travel blog, Travelling Tam, has paid a visit to Holy Island’s Lindisfarne Priory and describes what it was like: “One of the most enjoyable parts about visiting Lindisfarne Priory is the quality of the ruins which, considering their 1400-year-old-age and exposure to the Northern Sea elements, are fantastically preserved. The ornate arches and grand stonework of this wonderful Benedictine monastery ruin are hauntingly beautiful and are further elevated by its dramatic coastal backdrop.
“Considering the priory on Holy Island can only be accessed at certain times of the day when the tide allows, it's the isolation (that the resident monks clearly sought), that makes Lindisfarne Priory such an intriguing attraction to visit.
“Holy Island is a great day trip and a visit to Lindisfarne Priory can be combined with other nearby attractions such as the dramatic Lindisfarne Castle, Mead Shop, St Mary’s Church and a variety of small independent businesses.”
The causeway to the island floods at high tide, so visitors should be aware of the conditions before making the trip. In terms of wheelchair accessibility at the priory itself, there is a tarmac path from the admission point/museum to the ruins. There is also a ramp at the ruins and wheelchair hire is available. You can read more about Lindisfarne Priory’s access here.
Housesteads Roman Fort
Hadrians Wall is one of the most famous remains of Roman rule in the UK and the marvellous Housesteads Roman Fort is a brilliant way to experience it. This ancient stone axillary fort was built in AD 124, just a couple of years after Hadrians Wall itself. It is the most complete Roman fort in Britain and today visitors can look forward to seeing what remains of this fascinating remnant of Britain’s Roman past, with the barrack blocks and hospital being of particular note. There is also a museum to enjoy, where visitors can learn how the army post was built, what life was like here, and marvel at amazing archaeological finds such as altars, jewellery and weapons.
Claire, from the travel blog, Tales of a Backpacker, has been to Housesteads Roman Fort before and has shared how much she enjoyed exploring the ruins:
“Housesteads Roman Fort is the best-preserved fort along Hadrian's Wall and is a great place to learn about this important part of British history. There is a small indoor museum with artefacts recovered from the remains of the fort, and I loved walking around the ruins, imagining what life was like for the soldiers here. There is also a small section of the wall that you can actually walk on top of, and wonderful views of Hadrian's Wall as it stretches off into the distance.
“Housesteads is about an hour's walk from the famous Sycamore Gap, so you can park at Housesteads and follow the footpath along the wall to reach this iconic tree and continue along the trail if you wish. Housesteads is also connected to the bus service so you can take the bus back if you're tired!”
There is limited wheelchair access to Housesteads Roman Fort and there is a steep walk up to the site, so a companion is recommended for those with limited mobility. There is accessible parking and toilets available and you can read more about Housesteads Roman Fort’s access here.
Warkworth Castle & Hermitage
Warkworth Castle and Hermitage is a collection of two incredible medieval sites. The castle was built in the 12th century and sits atop a hill above the River Coquet. It was once the home of the Dukes of Northumberland and today you can explore its magnificent keep and historic castle walls. There is also an opportunity to visit Warkworth Hermitage in the summer, accessed by a half-mile walk up the river and then a ferry trip across to this special religious site. The hermitage is built into the cliff face, and you can spend time discovering the treasures within, including a chapel, carvings, and altars.
Cathy, from the book-based blog Between the Lines, has visited the hermitage at Warkworth and has described the experience: “A pleasant walk along the river Coquet leads to the little jetty where a man and rowing boat wait to transport visitors across the river, the only way to reach the hermitage. A novel way of reaching the structure and an attraction in itself. The boatman gives an interesting potted history on the short journey. The Hermitage, incredibly, was carved out of the rock face in the 14th century into individual but linked spaces, with interesting and detailed carvings throughout.
“It’s amazing to think it was once occupied by a religious person, monk or priest, seeking a sanctuary to practice his faith in peace and solitude, and that atmosphere lingers. Well worth a visit, and a return, to enjoy something different, the tranquillity of the surroundings, the sense of history and to wonder what it must have been like to live in, what was in essence, a cave.”
The grounds around the castle are accessible to wheelchairs though there is limited access to the castle itself. Assistance dogs are welcome and there are accessible toilets available. The ferry across to the hermitage will provide challenges to those with limited mobility. You can read more about Warkworth Castle’s access here.
Top English Heritage locations in Northumberland
- Belsay Hall, Castle, and Gardens
- Dunstanburgh Castle
- Lindisfarne Priory
- Housesteads Roman Fort
- Warkworth Castle & Hermitage
Northumberland definitely has its fair share of wonderful English Heritage attractions to visit. From ancient Roman ruins to medieval castles and religious buildings, there’s much to discover for yourself on a lovely day out in the county.
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