Looking for an action packed adventure in Northumberland? Then here is a day-by-day guide to help you plan your holiday. This is the perfect travel guide for those looking for a busy schedule, who don’t want to miss out on what Northumberland has to offer.
For a slighter quieter and potentially cheaper stay, we stayed in Embleton, which was the perfect location for a staycation in Northumberland. Whilst there are several activities you can do in Alnwick, which is just up the road from Embleton, you’ll find it is a lot less touristy based.
Day 1: Arriving in Embleton
We drove up on the Friday and arrived around 6 o’clock at night, so this might not be the day to do anything. It took us 4-5 hours to drive up and admittedly we did leave at lunchtime, but we did have a nice stop at Tebay Services Farmshop (perfect place to stop if you have a dog and want to drive through the Lake District before cutting across the UK to Northumberland).
We booked a week in a holiday cottage called The Jubilee House and could only arrive after 5pm anyway. But it gave us a perfect excuse to eat at the local pub. The Greys Inn is a must visit if you are in the area, it serves typical pub grub but the food, drink and atmosphere is very good. Plus they’re dog friendly and have plenty of snacks to keep your pup occupied.
Embleton is a small village that is a mile away from the stunning Northumberland coast. The Village is ancient and has records dating back beyond the War of the Roses and has a 12th Century Norman Church. It is probably most famously known for its Embleton Bay, with its sandy beaches that stretches across the coast for miles to see on a clear day. Enjoy strolling along this beach and you’ll end up at Dunstanburgh Castle which stands on a remote headland in Northumberland.
Day 2: Walking along Embleton Bay, Visiting Dunstanburgh Castle & Craster
For breakfast in Embleton, we treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast at the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel. Again this was great food (potentially a bit over priced) and great staff. Plus they are dog friendly (although you had to sit in a separate small room). It was a great start to the holiday and set us up for a nice walk along Embleton Bay.
To get to Embleton Bay, you walk along the road for a mile with a perfect view of the sea. At the end of the road you are on Dunstanburgh Golf Course. You can walk across this to the beach, but just be warned in case of flying golf balls!
Embleton bay is a stunning sandy beach in Northumberland. It wasn’t overly crowded, but there were enough people walking with dogs off lead that we kept our dog, Eddie, close to us (he’s still being trained). This is a wonderful walk all year round, with dune flowers blooming in spring, paddling (or swimming for the brave) in summer, migrating birds in the autumn, and beautiful light and empty paths in winter.
It’s an easy enough walk, but it’s worth pointing out that unless you fancy walking all day or getting a taxi back, you’ll need to return to Embleton after you’ve visited Dunstanburgh Castle. With the five us though, it was easy to split into two groups, so one could return back to Embleton and the others could walk to Craster. My dad and I sped walked back to the car in Embleton and then drove to Craster once we had visited the castle.
Before we split up, we explored Dunstanburgh Castle, which is a 14th-century fortification on the coast of Northumberland in northern England. It should be noted that you do have to walk up to the castle (but it’s closer from Craster). Dunstanburgh castle is not a preserved castle in its original glory, but there is plenty of history and some stunning views. It’s worth buying the history guide book though as the national trust boards are a little sparse around the site.
From here we split up, 3 of our group made their way to Craster and the other 2 returned home to get the car. From the castle you can go a different way back to Embleton so you don’t have to walk along the same beach if you don’t want to. From Embleton, it was only a ten minute drive but the parking is not the best in the actual village. There is a car park though (that’s free after 6).
Craster in Northumberland is one of the best places for fresh fish, it was here we bought kippers for breakfast, crab, scallops and the quality is just unreal. Plus you can get some incredible food at The Jolly Fisherman Inn (this is a world famous gastropub and seafood restaurant so it’s well worth a visit).
Day 3: Exploring Belsay Hall, Castle, Garden & Brinkburn Priory
Another day where you get to stretch your legs involves starting your day at Belsay Hall, Castle & Garden, which is a place full of surprises. Prepare to be enchanted by Belsay’s Grecian architecture, medieval castle, and thirty acres of outstanding gardens. You can wander around the gardens and still be surprised at each turn.
You can even go and enjoy a glorious ice cream from the truck (try the under the sea or rhubarb & custard ice cream flavours, that originally came from Marshfield Farm in Bath – incredible by the way). There’s something for everyone at this place, from the empty house, the castle and the exotic gardens. Plus ice cream makes for the perfect adventure.
From here, it’s a quick 30 minute drive back up north to Brinkburn Priory and it’s one of those hidden gems that you’ll never forget. It’s hidden away amongst the woodland and is a scenic ten minute walk from the car park. The 12th-century church of the Augustinian Priory was completely reroofed and restored in the mid-19th century. It is one of the best examples of early Gothic architecture in Northumberland. Stepping inside will transport you back in time.
Day 4: Boat Trip around the Farne Islands & Bamburgh Castle
After all this walking, it’s now time for a relaxing day by taking a boat trip around the Farne Islands, you’ll get to see puffins and seals depending on the time of year that you visit. Dress up warm though as the waters can get a bit choppy and depending on the weather, you’ll be in for a bumpy ride. These trips sail all year round, weather permitting.
Dogs are allowed on the boats as well (although just check as it might depend on the company you use) and it should last about 1.5 hours. You’ll sail around all of the islands getting good views of the nesting birds on the cliff faces and viewing the Grey Seals at several vantage points along with an informative commentary throughout.
After the boat ride you can make your way back up to the car park, but before you do that, stop off at the Seahouses Lifeboat Station, you can also pop in to the gift shop on your way back up as well. This won’t take you all day though, so it’s worth the ten minute drive up to Bamburgh Castle.
Most people will know Bamburgh castle, but it truly is a castle like no other. You could easily spend all day here so make sure you get there with plenty of time, you don’t want to rush around this place. Dogs are welcome inside the castle grounds, Armstrong & Aviation Museum, Tack Room Café and Victorian Stables Bar, but not the actual Stately Rooms bit (so make sure you can take this in turns).
It’s a bit pricey for tickets at Bamburgh, but it is worth it. You can enjoy plenty of signage about the castle’s history and there is also an introductory video you can watch to learn more information as well. There is a huge amount to see in this immaculately kept castle, a real sense of living history. Whether you visit on an overcast, wet day, or in bright sunshine, Bamburgh Castle will leave a lasting impression.
Day 5: Walk Up Cheviot OR Explore Alnwick Castle & Garden
On this day we split off into two groups those who wanted the challenge of walking up Cheviot and those who wanted a more leisurely pace exploring Alnwick Castle and Gardens. If you have time for both then definitely (although not on the same day).
I walked up cheviot this day and although I did find certain bits challenging, I am very pleased I made it to the top. It is generally considered a challenging route and I think took us 5 hours to walk up (including a nice long lunch break and one very pretty stop at a stream).
The Cheviot is the highest point in the Northumberland National Park at 815 metres. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Lake District and even, some claim, Edinburgh. You won’t see these views at the very top though, as Cheviot is weirdly flat, but you’ll definitely enjoy the views as you near the summit. The top is also just bog, but luckily you can walk along some slabs.
We followed the route here on the Happy Hiker, but I got the impression that people walk the other way round to do a nice loop round cheviot. But I enjoyed this route and will do it again in the future. Although my legs did hurt a bit after this walk, but it won’t be an issue for those experienced hikers.
Day 6: Warkworth Castle & Alnmouth Beach
On a day when your legs are hurting, walking round a castle might not be the best option, but it’s doable and Warkworth Castle is an impressive castle to explore in Northumberland. This is a ruined medieval castle that has so much going for it. A largely intact keep for one, but also the medieval graffiti in one section is incredibly interesting (and something you might miss if you don’t get the guide book).
You can be king or queen for the day in this mighty Northumberland fortress crowning the hilltop above the River Coquet and make sure to visit the Warkworth Hermitage whilst you’re here as well, it’s a religious building carved out of the rock.
When we finished exploring Warkworth, we weren’t quite ready to call it a day so we drove over to Alnmouth and decided to walk along the beach. We even found ourselves outside the Ferryman’s Hut, one of the smallest museums we’ve ever come over across. Worth popping into if you are nearby. From here we found another ice cream shop, where the man knew exactly how to scoop ice cream into a cone properly.
Day 7: Exploring Lindisfarne Priory on the Holy Island
This is a day when careful planning is needed as you can only go at certain times. Lindisfarne, also called Holy Island, is a tidal island off the northeast coast of England. It is one of the most important centres of early English Christianity. Always check safe crossing times before visiting Holy Island, as it becomes separated from the rest of the world and completely inaccessible twice a day.
We explored Lindisfarne Priory first, which is an expansive Medieval monastery ruin with ornately sculpted stonework and is also the original home to the Lindisfarne Gospels. We did plan on visiting the castle whilst we were here, but decided not to as we had not booked a ticket and it looked like there was a very large queue outside.
We did spend some time trying the Lindisfarne dark mead and funnily enough ended up bumping into someone we knew – you travel 5 hours and still meet your friends haha!
Day 8: Last Day in Boulmer, Hadrian’s Wall & Edlingham Castle
On the last day we had to be out of the house by 10 and we couldn’t leave anything in the dishwasher at the place we were staying, so we decided to go out for breakfast and went to The Running Fox in Shilbottle and the breakfast here was honestly the best we’ve ever had.
Before breakfast though we wanted one last beach trip so drove to Boulmer beach which was a fantastic one to end on, as it was nearly empty so Eddie was able to have a great run round. Plus there was plenty of free parking, which is always an added bonus.
From here we drove to Edlingham Castle, with its remarkable leaning tower and it was recently voted one of the top three castles in Northumberland, we knew we had to quickly stop and view this one. It’s not a large site, but there is also a church you can look at.
Next we drove to the Housesteads Roman Fort, we dropped off 3 people here, before dropping one car off at Steel Rigg Car park to make it easier to get back in time. If you want to see the famous sycamore tree, this is what you need to do.
We spent an hour looking around the Housesteads Roman Fort and enjoyed the new art installation. When we were done, we walked along the wall for a bit (until told by a sign that we had to follow the path) and made our way past the sycamore tree and to the second car park.
There are two paths you can follow going this way, one a much easier route that avoids climbing up and down steep steps on each hill incline, or you can follow the wall but have to do a lot of climbing (including a steep decent down that is not enjoyable).
All in all though, for a week’s holiday this was jammed packed and even though we didn’t leave till after 5 on the last day (getting home near midnight), this action packed and full on adventure/staycation was one of the best trips I’ve done, even if I did need a holiday from my holiday!
If you’re planning on staying in Embleton in Northumberland any time soon, then use this as a guide for an action packed adventure, full of sandy beaches, history and a whole lot of walking.
8 thoughts on “Travel Guide: The Ultimate Itinerary to Northumberland”
Wow just look at all the beautiful castles you’ve had a chance to visit and photograph! I’ve never been to Northumberland, but now it’s on my travel wishlist 😊
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And there’s load more that we missed as well! Definitely need two weeks (and some good weather) but it’s a fantastic place to visit 😊
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This was an amazing family holiday!
I really want to go back and could happily explore it all again!
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We definitely need to go back and explore, there’s a lot more that Northumberland has to offer!
I want to take a tour of this area
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It’s a brilliant spot in the UK, so definitely recommend visiting when you can 😊 so many amazing castles and beautiful views to looks at!
I am thinking of visiting in late August. 🤞
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That’ll be amazing, hope you have the best time! You should have decent weather then as well so make sure to enjoy an ice cream on one of beaches if you get a chance!