Northumberland | Towns | Hotels
Visit Northumberland and find out what peace and quiet really means! Because of its rural character and extensive uplands it has the lowest population density in England, and it is possible to go for miles in the more remote areas without seeing anyone else. The main populated areas are the towns; Blyth, in south east Northumberland, having the largest population of approximately 35,000. The people of Northumberland have a reputation for being friendly and helpful, and visitors get a warm welcome wherever they go.
Northumberland has a long, and sometimes bloody, history as a kind of ‘buffer’ area on the border of Scotland and England. The ancient kingdom of Northumbria originally stretched from the River Humber to the River Forth, and was formed by the joining together of two other kingdoms, Bernicia and Deira, in 604AD. It expanded under various kings, but during the Viking invasions the southern part of the kingdom became part of the Danelaw. Later the northern part became smaller because of invasions from Scotland, meaning that the area became to be bordered by the River Tweed in the north and the River Tees in the south. The town of Berwick on Tweed changed from one side of the border to the other many times, because of the constant conflict in the region. Now it is English and the border is to the north of the town. In recent years, with the formation of the Metropolitan Borough of Tyne and Wear in the south, Northumberland has become smaller again.
Northumberland’s strategic position on the border meant that the Earls of Northumberland were very powerful, and often changed allegiance from the Crown to one of its many challengers, leading rebellions against the current monarch, and sometimes losing their heads because of it (traitors’ heads often graced the spikes of Micklegate Bar in York). The family name of these Earls was Percy, and Harry Hotspur, a famous Percy, is a central character in Shakespeare’s ‘Henry lV, Part l’.
Northumberland is known as the ‘Cradle of Christianity’, because this is where King Oswald brought St Cuthbert from Iona in Scotland to convert the English. He founded a monastery on Lindisfarne (Holy island), and stayed there until his death. His body now lies in a shrine in Durham Cathedral. This area later became a centre of Catholicism, and the Earls were responsible for the Rising of the North, which was a movement to replace Queen Elizabeth l with the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. Later, many of the population were Jacobite supporters after the Restoration of King Charles ll.
The legacy of all this violent history is the number of magnificent castles, both restored and in ruins. Alnwick and Bamburgh castles, for example, are both restored and lived in, whereas those of Warkworth and Dunstanburgh are ruins (though both lovingly cared for). All can be visited, and all are very atmospheric.
The towns of Northumberland are lovely too, but those in the south east of the county, such as Blyth, Bedlington, and Ashington are a little different to the rest, because they are situated on the site of a large coalfield. The mines are all closed now, so many people live there and work in Newcastle. The other towns in Northumberland are mainly surrounded by countryside, and are market towns for the rural community; for example, Rothbury, Morpeth and Alnwick. Other lovely towns and villages sit on the Northumberland coast, which is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and examples of these are Alnmouth, Seahouses, Craster, and Berwick upon Tweed.
Inland, to the west of the county, is the Northumberland National Park, which covers 405 square miles, from Hadrian’s Wall in the south to the Cheviot Hills in the north, and encompasses Kielder Forest and Reservoir.
Northumberland is an amazing place; everyone who visits it can’t wait to come back. Why don’t you become one of them?