Elsdon is the perfect Northumbrian village, certainly the most complete example of a medieval settlement in the National Park. It has all the features that such a village should have: an ancient parish church, a tower house and a massive earthwork castle dominating the north end of the settlement. The houses are laid out on either side of an oval or teardrop-shaped green into which the church appears to intrude rather awkwardly.
The whole settlement sits in a natural bowl - as is particularly apparent to the visitor approaching from the south west - overlooked by hills on all sides and surrounded by extensive ridge and furrow field systems.
There is a significant quantity of early documentation and map evidence relating to it, including the earliest statutory enclosure award for any Northumbrian township (dated to 1729). Above all it remains a real community and local centre with a pub, a cafe, a pottery and a village hall, having avoided the fate which overtook many villages within the boundaries of the National Park of being reduced to a single planned farm, plus rows of workers' cottages. Nevertheless it also retains a number of puzzling features, notably the lack of any documentary record of the castle and a tower which appears and disappears in the sources.
The village is located on the west side of Elsdon Burn, a little to the north of the latter's confluence with Whiskershiel Burn, and lies at the centre of a natural amphitheatre, surrounded by hills to the north, south and east. These hills close off the vistas from the village in all these directions, creating a bounded, inward-looking space.
Only to the west are more extensive views possible, towards Otterburn and the Rede. Within this natural arena is an inner bounded space, the village green. This slopes down from north to south, quite steeply at the north end, more gently towards the south. The positioning of the church within the northern part of the green makes a clear impression of the village layout more difficult for the casual observer, but the eye is naturally drawn to the tower overlooking the north end of the village, and to the earthworks of the Mote Hills castle.
Turning to face south and west, the descending slope and the gaps in the rows of houses naturally cause the viewer to look outwards beyond the village in these directions.