Steeped in prehistoric hill forts and Roman ruins, rugged castles and defiant bastles, Northumberland National Park is bursting with history. Many historic sites are free to enter, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere in your own time.
In the Park
Barrow Mill Corn Drying Kiln
Near Alwinton. Free. Visit for: The surviving base of a rare, early 19th century corn-drying kiln; in a picturesque location alongside the River Coquet. The drying of oats and barley prior to milling was once essential in this wet upland environment. Location: 0.6 miles/1km walk along road signed ‘Upper Coquetdale’ and public right of way south to Barrow Mill. Nearest parking at Alwinton Car Park. OS Grid Ref. NT 914 063.
Near Biddlestone. Free. Visit for: A 19th century Roman Catholic chapel built on the base of a medieval tower. It is in a secluded woodland setting on the southern edge of the Cheviot Hills between Alwinton and Netherton. Access is to the exterior only from public right of way or permissive path along woodland track, signed from a minor road. Location: Just west of Biddlestone hamlet, off a minor road. OS Grid Ref. NT 956 083.
Black Middens Bastle House
Near Gatehouse. Free. Visit for: A chance to discover a ruined fortified farmhouse known as a bastle. It was attacked in 1583 by the notorious Armstrong family, well-known Border Reivers. For more, click here. Location: The bastle house is about 180 metres north of a minor road, 7 miles north-west of Bellingham; or along a minor road from A68. OS Grid Ref. NY 773 900.
Catcleugh Reservoir. Free (Access by prior appointment only, groups preferred – Tel. 01434 605555). Visit for: A Victorian timber cabin, originally one of 60, used to house workmen and families during the construction of Catcleugh Reservoir (1894 – 1904). Location: Situated in private woodland, adjacent to the A68 and 4.5 miles/7km south east of the Scottish Border near Carter Bar. OS Grid Ref. NT 751 032.
Near Bardon Mill. Free. Visit for: A 19th century limekiln. Limekilns were once common, supplying burnt lime to local farmers and builders. There is access to the front of the kiln only. Location: The limekiln is situated on a minor road, signed to Bardon Mill, off the B6318 between Housesteads and Once Brewed. There are two parking spaces in the layby adjacent to the kiln. OS Grid Ref. NY 781 670.
Near Tarset. Free. Visit for: The grass-covered lower walls are all that remain of Dally Castle, a medieval hall adjacent to Chirdon Burn. The quality of the surviving masonry suggests it was once an impressive family stronghold. Location: Dally Castle is 1.5 miles/2km south west of Tarset. It is a 30-metre walk from a roadside layby on a No Through Road to Chirdon. There are two parking spaces in the layby. OS Grid Ref. NY 775 844.
Elsdon. Free (access confined to area immediately inside entrance gates of this private residence). Visit for: An impressive, fortified medieval tower-house, often known as the ‘Vicar’s Pele’. It was extensively restored in 1995 and is the oldest, continuously inhabited property in the National Park. Location: It is situated on the northern edge of Elsdon village green, where there are parking spaces. OS Grid Ref. NY 936 934.
Harbottle. Free. Visit for: The spectacular ruins of a 12th century castle commissioned by King Henry II to help defend against attacks from the Scots. It was built by Odinel de Umfraville in 1157 and saw plenty of action in its first few centuries, including falling into the hands of Robert the Bruce’s army in 1318. In 1515, it was the birth place of Margaret Lennox, grandmother of James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) and cousin of Henry VIII. For more on its history, click here. Location: Access from Harbottle Castle car park 0.1 miles/o.2km west of Harbottle; walk of 0.2km to castle, with additional permissive access to the River Coquet. OS Grid Ref. NT 933 048.
Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum
Hadrian’s Wall. Admission charge. Toilets. Pay and display car parking – £4 all day (transferable to all National Park car parks along Hadrian’s Wall). Visit for: An atmospheric wander around the best-preserved Roman fort in Britain. Extensively excavated and consolidated, there are visible remains of barracks, granaries, a hospital, latrines and the remains of a large civilian settlement outside the fort. The museum and its introductory film give great insight about these astonishing ruins. The steep walk to the remains is worth it for the history and views. For more, click here. Location: The fort is off the B6318 near Hadrian’s Wall. Postcode: NE47 6NN. OS Grid Ref. NY 789 687.
Did you know? Just a short walk away is Sycamore Gap, home to “The Robin Hood Tree”.
Near Holystone. Free. Visit for: A curious small pool rumoured to be where the Anglo Saxon Saint Ninian baptised many early Christians. A stone cross placed in its centre by the Victorians adds to its sense of mystery. Location: Lady’s Well is a short walk north-west of Holystone. OS Grid Ref. NT 951 026.
Low Alwinton Limekiln
Near Alwinton. Free. Visit for: Spectacular kiln that was built about 1827 to supply lime to the Biddlestone estate, but closed in 1866 due to high operating costs and competition. Restoration work has been carried out by Northumberland National Park Authority. Location: Walk of 0.2 mile/0.4km along public bridleway signed ‘Park House and Harbottle’. Parking in layby adjacent to St Michael’s Church, Low Alwinton. OS Grid Ref. NT 925 056.
Low Cleughs Bastle
Near West Woodburn. Free. Visit for: The solitary ruins of an early 17th century ‘bastle’ or defensible farmhouse, typical of the ‘Border Reiver’ period when local families stole each other’s property and livestock. Location: There is a 0.3 mile/0.6km uphill walk to the bastle from a car park on the north side of the road 1.25km west of West Woodburn. OS Grid Ref. NY 878 868.
Otterburn. Free. Car parking. Toilets. Café. Visit for: A glimpse into the weaving trade that used to thrive here. See the mill workings and a collection of archive materials. For more, click here. Location: It lies south of the Otterburn Tower, just off the A696 road on the B6320. Postcode: NE19 1JT.
Did you know? The Queen’s pram blanket was woven here.
Roman Army Museum (Carvoran)
Near Haltwhistle. Admission charge. Car parking. Toilets. Visit for: A 3D film and three galleries packed with objects from the daily life of a Roman soldier. The museum is next to a section of Hadrian’s Wall and Walltown Country Park. For more, click here. Location: The museum is on a minor road, off the B6318 a short distance east of Greenhead. Postcode: CA8 7JB.
Near Greenhaugh. Free. Visit for: An attractive example of a dovecote dating from 1743. The dovecote is situated on the edge of Sidwood Forest and would have formed part of the walled gardens of Redheugh Farm. Doves and pigeons were reared for meat, eggs and fertiliser for the garden. The dovecote also contained a fireplace and flue for heating tender plants on an adjoining wall. Location: There is 50-metre permissive access from the Greenhaugh to Sidwoood Road at Redheugh, north west of Greenhaugh. There are two car parking spaces in a small clearing in Sidwood Forest. OS Grid Ref. NY 784 884.
Near Greenhead. Free. Visit for: The ruins of a stronghold built in the 1330s by John Thirlwall, that provided protection for his family and descendants for the next 300 years. Several generations of Thirlwalls survived attacks by Border Reivers and prospered. The castle estate was sold to the Earl of Carlisle in 1748 for £4,000. For more on its history, click here. Details of the conservation work Northumberland National Park Authority has done to protect the castle, since acquiring the site on a lease in 1999, can be found here. Location: Walk along public footpaths to the castle from Greenhead (0.4miles/0.7km) or Walltown Country Park (0.6 miles/1km). Walltown offers pay and display car parking – £4 all day (transferable to all National Park car parks along Hadrian’s Wall). OS Grid Ref. NY 659 662.
Near Tosson. Free. Visit for: An extremely well-preserved example of a rural limekiln, built in 1888 for Lord Armstrong’s Cragside Estate. Location: It is situated on a quiet country lane 0.3 mile/0.5km north west of the village of Tosson. There is access from a car park on the south side of the kiln. OS Grid Ref. NU 028 010.
Tosson. Free. Visit for: The ruins of a 15th century tower-house. Most of its quality masonry has disappeared, but it still manages to convey a sense of strength and security. It was a place of refuge during the Anglo-Scottish wars. Location: It is situated on farmland in the small village of Tosson. There is access from a car park at Tosson Tower Farm with a 50-metre permissive path leading across a field to the tower. OS Grid Ref. NU 029 005.
Near Holystone. Free. Guided tours inside. Visit for: Seeing for yourself the evidence of Northumberland’s violent past in this ruined fortified farmhouse. Owners would take refuge from the raids from the Border Reivers and soldiers, housing livestock on the lower floor and living above them. With walls one-and-a-half metres thick and a stone spout to pour molten lead on enemies, it was an imposing target for would-be raiders. Location: In the beautiful parkland of Holystone Grange. Access from car park, a permissive path of approximately 0.1 miles/0.2km. Postcode: NE65 7AN. OS Grid Ref NT 966 003.
Did you know? The infamous Northumbrian Piper, James Allan, was born here in 1734. He was jailed for stealing a horse and also died here in 1810.
Near the Park
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
Near Morpeth. Admission charge. Car parking. Toilets. Café. Dogs allowed in the grounds. Visit for: The unfurnished Hall and its soaring pillars, the ruined medieval castle with stunning views from the top of the tower and the 30 acres of grounds. The unique Quarry Garden is full of ravines and exotic plants. In February the snowdrops are magical. For more, click here.
Chesters Roman Fort and Museum
Chollerford. Admission charge. Toilets. Car parking. Dogs allowed. Visit for: A fascinating collection of Roman artefacts discovered in Victorian times. Next door you can explore the magnificent ruins of the bath house and underground store house used by the Roman soldiers. For more, click here.
Did you know? Hadrian’s Wall inspired The Wall in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of books, now televised as Game of Thrones.
Near Alnwick. Admission charge. Car parking. Toilets. Café. Visit for: A chance to follow in the footsteps of royalty to see this beautiful castle, dating from the 12th century. There are also formal gardens laid out by Capability Brown and woodland walks. For more, click here.
Hexham. Free. Visit for: Exploring the Anglo-Saxon crypt, taking in treasures such as the historic Frith Stool and to ascend the Medieval Night Stair. For more, click here.
Hexham Moothall and Gallery
Hexham. Free. Visit for: Drinking in the historic atmosphere of the vaulted cellars as you enjoy the art collections of local artisans and artists. School groups can arrange to visit the Moot Hall itself.
Did you know? The Moothall was the location of the banquets and trials of the Archbishop of York in the 15th century. It was a safe haven during Border Reiver raids.
Hexham Old Gaol
Hexham. Admission charge. Dogs allowed. Visit for: A diverting delve into this building’s turbulent history. A real-life dungeon and hands-on interactive experiences give a real insight into its 500 years as a place of justice and torment. For more, click here.
Vindolanda Roman Fort
Near Chesterholm. Admission charge. Car parking. Toilets. Café. Visit for: A dose of the Roman frontier pre-dating Hadrian’s Wall itself. The site is still being excavated in the summer. The amazing ruins include barracks and a bath house and there are replicas of a temple, shop and house. The museum is full of Roman treasures including leather purses, tent pegs and jewellery. For more, click here.
Wallington House, Gardens and Estate
Near Cambo. Admission charge. Car parking. Dogs allowed in the grounds. Toilets. Café. Visit for: A friendly stately home packed with treasures such a pre-Raphaelite paintings and beautiful antique furniture. Explore the walled garden, rose gardens woodland and parkland. The influence of Capability Brown, born in nearby Cambo, can be seen throughout the 100 acres. For more, click here.