We were meant to be heading off on holiday on Friday, which is now not happening for obvious reasons, so I thought I would look back on our most recent trip away which was to Northumberland at the close of 2019. Northumberland is one of our favourite places to visit and we come up every year for the amazing walks, beaches and castles, as well as day trips throughout the year to places like Druridge Bay.
Where we stayed
We stayed at West Wing Cottage which is nestled in the countryside between Hexham and Corbridge. The location is perfect, close enough to both towns to be able to get anything you need easily, while just far away enough to get that secluded feel which makes your stay utterly peaceful. The cottage itself is beautifully decorated and we really appreciated all of the little touches that the owners had thought of, including a welcome hamper, and an in person welcome on the first night.
While the garden is secure, I didn’t let merry out unsupervised, as the wall is low enough that athletic dogs may be able to scale it into the garden of the owners next door! Instead we walked him down the quiet lane which was practically devoid of cars for the duration of our stay.
West Wing Cottage is a ‘bastle’ house, a kind of cottage found along the border with Scotland, heralding from the days when the border reivers would carry out night time raids to steal livestock. This means that the cottage has loads of gorgeous features, as well as thick walls that block out almost all sound from outside! This is particularly handy if you have a dog like Merry who tends to bark at the slightest noise from outside.
Our overall dog friendly rating for West Wing Cottage is 4.5/5. The house is perfect for dogs who might be noisy due to outside sounds, due to the thick walls which stop any disturbance, so you are guaranteed a peaceful nights sleep. The floors downstairs are flagged so you can easily wipe any paw prints if necessary and the cosy log burner (our favourite part of the cottage) is perfect for a tired pooch to curl up in front of after a long day of walks.
One of the main reasons that we chose to stay near Hexham was to be able to go walking in Kielder Forest. There are miles and miles of trails to choose from, including the tough but immensely rewarding route up Deadwater Fell. This walk is easy to follow as it is clearly marked – just don’t accidentally follow the cycling markers like we did or you’ll add on a few extra miles! Reaching the summit you get amazing views over Northumberland and Scotland. There is a paid car park at Kielder Forest (card payments accepted).
Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This walk is very quiet and perfect for getting out just you and the dog. Even though the car park was relatively full we didn’t see any other people on our walk after we had left the visitor centre. The woods offer plenty of exciting smells and opportunities for adventure, or head down to Kielder Water for a nice cool swim if it’s a hot day!
We happened upon Cragside almost by accident. We were looking for a way to spend a morning, before heading to the beach in the afternoon, and stumbled across Cragside in our National Trust handbook. We definitely hadn’t realised how much there was to do at Cragside and we ended up spending the whole day here! The gardens are very different to the normal National Trust gardens (which could be due to the fact that they are on a hill) and all the more interesting because of it. You can also walk down to some of the old buildings associated with the hydroelectric dam, or follow one of the longer trails around the estate (we did the ‘Gun Trail’ and would definitely recommend this!).
Dogs are not allowed inside the cafe here but there is a covered seating area outside where you can sit. This is a small detail, as there are ample picnicking opportunities along the miles of paths, all of which with better views and less people than the cafe!
Overall dog friendly rating – 5/5. We kept Merry on a lead as requested in the gardens but were able to let him off once we got away from the house itself. The walk was very quiet and Merry loved diving into the bushes to see what he could find. We passed some other very happy looking dogs at a cross section with another walk who were having such a good time that they were refusing to head back to their car! There are miles and miles of trails at Cragside which make it an ideal place to spend the day with your dog.
Hadrian’s Wall is the reason that I wanted to visit Northumberland for the very first time, and it is now part of the reason why we keep coming back. Spanning from Solway Firth in the west to Wallsend in the east, we walked a very small segment from The Sill landscape discovery centre to Housesteads Roman Fort, and back via Vindolanda. If I could do this walk again I would do it as a linear walk from the Sill to Housestead and back again, as the loop round to Vindolanda is pretty much all on road. However, don’t let that put you off walking along the wall itself, particularly not the area around Housesteads which is stunning. Car parking at The Sill is charged and prices are on their website.
If you don’t have the time for a longer walk, Housesteads Fort is superb, and I would 100% recommend a visit to anyone who is interested in history. It is owned by the National Trust but managed by English Heritage so members of both organisations can enter for free. Dogs are welcome on the site apart from the small museum (which is also worth visiting if you can take it in turns to hold the dog outside). The first time we visited Housesteads we parked in their car park (charges apply) and went for a wander along the wall to Sycamore Gap. We tarried for slightly too long and when we got back to the fort we found that we had been locked on the wrong side of the wall! Cue both of us scrambling over the wall, Merry deciding not to wait for us to lift him down and jumping off himself to land on my head – I was not a happy bunny! Therefore make sure that you keep an eye on closing times if you are visiting at the end of the day…
Walking from the Sill to Housesteads will take you past Sycamore Gap, as featured in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. No matter the time of year this spot is both impressive and instantly recognisable. I was lucky to get a photo with no one in it – this spot is very popular with walkers and there are normally at least one or two people taking a photo of the tree for the Gram!
Dog friendly rating – 2.5/5. Despite the glorious scenery, this walk may not be suitable for all dogs and dog owners. Dogs need to be kept on a lead for this walk, either due to being on a site with lots of other visitors, or along the wall where there is livestock throughout. This walk can also be fairly busy as people come from all over to make their pilgrimage to Sycamore Gap or to visit Housesteads.
We found this walk in our Pocket Mountains book, which I love due to it’s small size (pocketable), good choice of walks and clear directions. It also includes some lesser known walks and Hareshaw Linn is a walk that I am not sure that we would have found otherwise! A route similar to the one in the book is available on the Northumberland National Park website.
The walk starts from a small parking area in Bellingham which is free. The walk largely passes through some absolutely beautiful woods, which according to the information signs, are a SSSI and home to a plethora of interesting and rare species such as the Greater Spotted Woodpecker and Red Squirrels. We didn’t see any on our walk but Merry probably would have scared off any who ventured too close! The route ascends gently uphill from the car park until you arrive at the waterfall, however, this is not a strenuous climb and there are no stiles to worry about clambering over.
Dog friendly rating – 4/5. As with all woodland walks, there are so many interesting smells and sights that Merry loved sniffing around for the whole walk. There is also plenty of water on this walk for any pups who like to paddle. However, due to the sensitive nature of the site, dogs do need to be under close control for the length of this walk.
For me, no trip to Northumberland is complete without a trip to the beach. Northumberland has an absolutely breath taking coastline (the Northumberland Coast path links many of the beaches) and is largely empty. Even if the beach appears busy at first glance it soon quietens down once you get away from the car park.
One of the most accessible beaches is Druridge Bay. Parking is available at Druridge Bay Country Park (parking charges apply) which is right next to the beach and includes poo bins so you can dispose of any bags before your drive home.
Druridge Bay extends for miles and miles – you could head south and walk as far as Cresswell, or venture north to Amble and beyond! The beach is popular with dog walkers, so you won’t have it entirely to yourself, but we have never seen it packed like Scarborough or Saltburn (including a visit on a sunny August Bank Holiday).
Dog friendly rating – 5/5. I adore the whole of the Northumberland Coast and Druridge Bay is no exception. There are miles of sandy beach for spaniel zoomies, the opportunity to swim in the sea, very few people and no need to venture near any roads! You might encounter horses at this beach, and if you do it is best to put your dog on a lead until they have passed to avoid any accidents. However we have visited this beach plenty of times and only seen them the once (Merry wasn’t remotely bothered!).
Map of Locations
- West Wing Cottage – dog friendly rating 4.5/5
- Kielder Forest – dog friendly rating 5/5
- Cragside – dog friendly rating 5/5
- Housesteads Roman Fort – dog friendly rating 2.5/5
- Hareshaw Linn – dog friendly rating 4/5
- Druridge Bay – dog friendly rating 5/5
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our trip and maybe feel inspired to visit yourself one day – Northumberland really is one of my absolute favourite places in the world! If you’ve enjoyed reading our blog and want to make sure that you don’t miss any future posts, you can subscribe below to receive an email notification whenever we post a new blog.