Northumberland National Park - Hadrian’s Wall and Beyond the Wall
Northumberland National Park Website
Hadrian's Wall - Natural Beauty
The central, most scenic section of Hadrian’s Wall runs along the southern boundary of Northumberland National Park.
At its western corner, 30 minutes/20 miles on A69 from Hexham is the village of Greenhead with its cosy, open-fired pub/restaurant (The Greenhead Hotel) and welcoming Old Forge Tea Shop.
On the second Sunday of every month, 10am-2pm, is the Hadrian’s Wall all-organic Farmers’ Market with local food and crafts.
A pretty walk along the Tipalt Burn – studded with snowdrops in early spring, brings you to the picturesque ruins of Thirlwall Castle and onwards into a young woodland.
A few miles east along the military road (B6318) from Greenhead the Roman Army Museum houses fascinating exhibits. Opposite is the recreation area of Walltown, once a Victorian quarry and now restored to nature by Northumberland National Park.
Wonderful for all ages, there is a cafe and picnic area, a willow maze, wildflower meadows with orchids in summer, lakes and walkways and a great climb to Hadrian’s Wall at Walltown Crags.
The Hadrian’s Wall bus (AD122) stops here with services running from May until September (Click here for timetable).
Follow the signs from the B6318 opposite the Milecastle Inn to discover Cawfields, another former quarry, cutting dramatically through the Wall and the underlying Whin Sill bedrock.
With a large pond and car park and good walking access to Roman Milecastle 42, it is a good picnic spot.
Its encircling cliffs make it a favourite stargazing spot for the Newcastle Astronomical Society who regularly hold public events here and it has been declared an International Dark Sky Discovery Site.
There is a bus stop for the Hadrian’s Wall bus outside the Milecastle Inn.
Herding Hill farm on the south side of the military road from Cawfields has wigwams to stay in, a children’s play area, cuddly farm animals and a licensed cafe specialising in pizzas.
The highest point of Hadrian’s Wall is Winshields Crag to the east of which is one of the best views of the Wall at Steel Rigg – easily accessible from the National Park car park along a footpath suitable for wheelchairs.
From here it is an thigh-stretching up-and-down walk with glorious views of the loughs at the base of the north-facing cliffs, to the Housesteads Roman fort with its newly-refurbished museum.
This walk is a real treat, for as well as 360 degrees of breathtaking scenery, the path cuts through conserved grassland vibrant with the rich hues of alpine flowers in summer.
A short walk down hill from Steel Rigg to the military road brings you to the National Park Once Brewed visitor centre, open 7 days from Easter to October and weekends during the winter.
Next door is the warm welcome of the Twice Brewed Inn, and a short bus ride south is the outstanding museum and archaeological site of Vindolanda.
Beyond the Wall
The countryside of Northumberland National Park changes from moor to valley as you head north – each river with its own special character. The North Tyne valley, the route to Kielder Water and Forest Park, is packed with little stops of charm and pleasure.
The ancient flowering haymeadows of the valley are spectacular in the summer and the river is renowned for its fly fishing.
20 minutes from Hexham on the B6320, the small villages of Simonburn with its flowery tea rooms and Stonehaugh, with its fine picnic area on the Warksburn, are both worth a detour.
The same road brings you to Bellingham, a thriving village with shops, eateries, campsite, an accoustic music club and a good golf course. Not to be missed on a visit here is the Bellingham Heritage Centre – an award-winning museum of the life of the valley through its rural and industrial past – including its former life as a railway station with classic carriages in the yard housing exhibits and a good tea room.
Just outside the village is Hareshaw Linn - a gorge with an ancient woodland, home to red squirrels and all kinds of rare woodland plants, ferns and lichens.
The walk up the gorge across its six bridges is a short expedition that children love and takes you to a fine waterfall or linn at the end.
Upstream the rural community of Tarset sits in a stretch of beautiful countryside. Walks have been created to discover the old Riever bastles, and through the beechwoods of Sidwood on the outskirts of Kielder Forest.
Just before you get to the Kielder dam, make a detour to the village of Falstone and its friendly Old School Tea Room and pretty community picnic garden opposite.
For children, there is a really well-equipped playground just behind the village hall, and for all ages, a pleasant circular walk along the river gives you a chance to admire the haymeadows and takes you past the community sculpture of The Stell – a stone settee with a tale to tell!
Find more about Northumberland National Park here.