Living in Northumberland for 25 Years, I’d been to a lot of places listed on the Northumberland 250 but I( felt that we needed to actually do the route to get a full understanding of the campsites and some of the roads. Generally we’d travel a direct route to our destination which would miss out some key parts of the journey. Also we’ve generally camped on the coast, infrequently inland, as we’ve mainly travelled further afield into Scotland and over to the Lake District.

So, with my brother in law, we set off on our whistle stop tour of the Northumberland250 in three days and what a three days it was. Packed and raring to go with some homemade sarnies and a flask of coffee we set off only to find ourselves back at HQ 40 minutes later as my brother in law had forgotten his phone!

We picked up the route at Rothbury, if you need to pick up supplies I’d suggest heading to Morpeth first as it has an array of supermarkets. We took the back roads which gives you an immediate sense of what the Northumberland 250 has to offer. Rothbury epitomizes the essence of a Northumbrian town, distinguished by its size and character. One of its standout attractions is the renowned Cragside House, a National Trust property. This visionary residence, crafted by Lord William and Lady Margaret Armstrong, holds the distinction of being Britain’s pioneering smart home, setting the stage for a remarkable milestone as the world’s inaugural house illuminated by electricity. For those with an enthusiasm for engineering and innovation, a visit to Cragside is essential, and its captivating grounds are nothing short of extraordinary.

Cragside House Northumberland
Leaving Rothbury our next stop was  “Alnwick Castle”, home to the powerful Percy family. More recently famous for its Harry Potter connection. Alnwick Castle can easily become an entire day’s adventure, especially if you opt for the combo ticket that includes the renowned Alnwick Gardens. Additionally, the ticket now encompasses Lilidorei, which claims the title of the world’s largest play structure. This is a highly recommended stop, particularly if you’re traveling with children, although be prepared to allocate a full day to fully savor all three attractions. At the Gardens, you’ll also find a delightful gift shop, managed by the very welcoming Tracey, who adds an extra touch of charm to the experience.
Alnwick Castle in the town of Alnwick in Northumberland in North East England. Dates from 1096AD when Yves de Vescy became Baron of Alnwick and erected the earliest parts of the castle. Since 1309 the castle has been in the hands of the Percy Family who are the Dukes and Earls of Northumberland.
From here we headed, in my opinion, to one of the highlights, “The Northumberland Coastline” a magnificent  explosion of history, the landscape imparts a profound sense of seclusion, and you’ll encounter extensive stretches of pristine white beaches that seem to stretch on endlessly, with very few souls in sight.
Our first stop was Craster, a picture postcard fishing village with great places to eat and sample local produce, then we headed to Newton By the Sea, one of my all time favorite spots. You park at the top of the bank then as you head over the top you’re hit with such a wonderful view. From here you can walk along the beach to Dunstanburgh Castle then on the way back call into The Ship Inn for a well earned pint from their micro brewery and feast on some of the local produce. The weather was gorgeous so we sat on the grass outside looking out to the sea, had a drink and some kippers on toast, they’re crab sandwiches are also exceptionally good.
Depending on time (which we didn’t have) you can stop off at Seahouses and take one of boats out to the Farne Islands. Famous for its wide array of animals, Puffins, Eider Ducks, Guillemots, Porpoises and Razorbills. If you catch it at the right time of year you’ll see grey Seals and their 1000’s of pups. Its becoming quite common to also see pods of Dolphins and if you’re really lucky a Mink Whale.
Puffins (Fratercula arctica) with a beak full of sand eels flying over the cliffs on Inner Farne Island in the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast in northeast England. Puffins feed mainly on sand eels but also take small crustaceans and squid.
Next we headed to the multi award winning Bamburgh village looked over by Bamburgh Castle which, in my eyes, is one of the most stunning castles in Europe. A picnic with the castle as your backdrop is pretty spectacular and its quaint village is quite stunning. You need to check out R Carters & Son, the local butchers, if you like pies – they’re the best! Bamburgh has been voted the best seaside resort for the 3rd time in a row and it’s easy to see why.
Bamburgh Castle, North East Coast of England

Our first nights camp was at Budle Hall, just over a mile from Bamburgh, they offer two wild camping  spots in a field close to the hall. You’re spaced well away from each other so you feel like you’re all alone. We chose the spot furthest away from the house as it got the sun all day where as the other spot was next to the trees and shaded at certain times of the day. Each spot is also given their very own toilet and shower that have recently been built and are situated in the main hall, excellent facilities – the shower was amazing. The owners Celiea and Ralph are extremely welcoming and are real characters. It does get booked up quickly so you need to book well in advance to get yourself a spot.

We were fully set up in 15 minutes, two tents, awning, and all the kit, even had time for a quick sunbath and a nap before the wives turned up.

It cost £50 for the spot, no extra for people or dogs, so it works out really reasonably. One of the highlights was at sunset when two barn owls came out to hunt and were flying around for nearly an hour. They also allow fires and there is a wood behind where you can forage for firewood.

Budle Hall at Sunset, Northumberland 250

The next morning we had a walk along the beach, the tide was out and it was just over a mile to the sea. It was truly spectacular.

The Northumberland Coastline - White Beaches

We headed back, packed up, said bye to our wives and headed towards Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The sunrise across the causeway is particularly stunning (check out our video). Make sure you check the tide times for crossings: your Land Rover Defender has a snorkel but it’s not that good! This tiny island has quite a history from its 12th century Priory to its famous Holy Island Mead made by the monks. To be honest we didn’t stop for long, I’ve been many a time but my brother n law hadn’t been since he was a boy so we drove across and headed straight back.

Overland Adventures Holy Island Causeway
We continued up the coast missing out Berwick but here’s a good place to pick up fresh supplies if needed and headed inland looking for our next place to pitch camp. Our intention was to get to Kielder but, this was not to be the case. First of all we decided to visit Duddo stones, I’d actually never heard of them prior to researching the Northumberland 250. Our sat nav took us on possibly a route which wasn’t for public access, we ended up on the sides of farmers fields and got to about half a mile from the stones, I would certainly not advise this route so please check.

The stones are set at the top of a hill on working farmers field, you need to work your way through the corn tracks. You think, “here are some really important stones that are some 4000 years old –  they deserve a better place and they’re in the middle of a corn field“, but then, this is Northumberland and that’s how we do things, so it’s kind of fitting.  

Well worth a visit, particularly on such a glorious day like we had.

Duddo Stones, Northumberland 250
From here we came across a beautiful couple of villages called Ford & Etal. I’ve seen sign posts for many a year but never actually visited either. They blew us away. Not your typical Northumberland villages, something more like you’d find in the Yorkshire Dales or the Cotswolds – another couple of gems Northumberland has to offer.

Etal was a picture postcard place with whites cottages and thatched roofs, a lovely country pub with its own castle and an amazing ford which for some reason our Defender gravitated toward!

The Black Bull, Etal, Northumberland 250
Etal & Ford Northumberland 250

So we decided that we needed to explore the area in more detail and that we’d look for a campsite close by. We were also told that there was a Labrador Show on the following day in Etal which is something I couldn’t miss. Could we get Nelson a late entry I wondered? We came across Teal Campsite and once we booked our place we decided to head to the Heatherslaw Light Railway, then onto Ford to visit the castle, well tried to! It’s now a children’s activity centre so you can only peer in from the gates but the village is gorgeous to walk around.

So, back to the campsite. It was full of Labradors waiting for their turn to shine in the show the following day. Nelson was in his element. The guy in the tent next door said he was a world renowned Labrador judge, I was intrigued to see what he thought of Nelson, could the boy have a shot at the top prize tomorrow I wondered, if we managed to enter him? Sadly not the case he advised as he was a “world renowned judge” he couldn’t possibly comment but he looked like he was from “good stock” he said, that was good enough for me.

It was a lovely site. The owners were lovely, the guy a real character and the poshest toilets I have ever had the pleasure to use on a camp site. They were even rigged up with speakers playing music, French jazz from recollection.

The next day we packed up sharpish, gave Nelson a quick brush and headed to the show with a certain confidence. Sadly our dreams were cut short, we were too late, entries had closed days prior, we will never know! We still ventured in to assess the competition. Nelson would have nailed it and he knew it!

From here our next stop was Kielder, Northumberland’s home of cycling and Europe’s largest manmade lake. I would say this is the most stunning part of the route in terms of the scenery, beautiful winding roads with no traffic and gorgeous rolling valleys, a bikers dream.

You need to Experience the Kielder Forest Drive, one of the highest roads in Britain stretching 12 miles in length, this is where your Land Rover Defender is truly at home. Keep your wits about you however as the track can catch you off guard and you can easily end up on the side of the road, particularly on bends where the gravel tends to be a bit deeper resulting in sliding as Gary found out.

We stayed at the Kielder Camping site run by a great guy called Steve, it’s surrounded by trees and you feel like you’re in the Lake District in a way, a lovely site and very tranquil with great facilities. We were given a  hard standing and once pitched up we headed for a walk around the lake. On the way back we stopped at the local pub for a well earned pint then back to make tea. Pretty shattered now having taking in a huge amount we turned in fairly early.

Our customers get 15% off their site fees at Keilder together with Bike Hire discount at Bike4Health . We provide all our partner discounts within our guest welcome packs.

The next day we had a quick breakfast and got an early start on our final leg. To be honest we could have done with another day so we could have spent more time at Kielder, it has a lot to offer such as the Dark Skies Observatory, but unfortunately time wouldn’t allow.

The route takes you onto the old Roman road which is scattered with old Roman forts and remains of Hadrian’s wall, well worth a stop off at one of the visitor centres like the Housesteads of Vindolanda, or the recently opened the Sill Northumberland National Landscape Discovery Centre. You also pass the site of the famous “Sycamore Gap Tree ” voted England’s tree of the year by the Woodland Trust, tragically felled very recently. We felt enormously grateful to have been able to see the tree so recently.

Our penultimate destination was Blanchland, a gem of a village nestled in the heart of the Derwent Valley. A place close to my heart that I’ve been coming to for 40 years with many a weekend walking and wild camping on the Moors. On route again, the roads are quite stunning and a different landscape to North Northumberland –  that’s what’s always fascinated me about Northumberland; the landscape can change quite dramatically depending on which part you’re in.

The Lord Crewe Arms is a must for a drink and some food. Dating back to 1165, it began its life as a guest house to the newly formed Blanchland. The food is truly outstanding and you must check out its Priest Hole, if you can find it!  There is some fantastic walking to be had around here. We had some refreshments in the garden which looks across the Derwent valley before cracking on to our final leg.

Lord Crewe Arms Blanchland

From Blanchland drove up the 68 to the charming medieval village of Corbridge which is close to Hexham and in my opinion one of the nicest in Northumberland. known for its rich history and picturesque surroundings Its Roman heritage is a significant draw for history enthusiasts, as the village was a bustling Roman town dating back to AD 160. Quite an upmarket village you’ll find a fine array of restaurants, antique shops, cafes and quirky shops. The Angel pub does one of the best Sunday lunches around. Corbridge is a truly beautiful village. Originally a busy Roman town and dating back to AD160. You’ll find a lovely array of gift shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants, a small medieval village and one of the finest villages in Northumberland. The Angel pub does one of the best Sunday lunches around. Corbridge is a truly beautiful village.

The ultimate destination on this route is Otterburn, renowned for its historic battles between Scottish and English armies. As you continue, the landscape transitions to wide-open, rugged countryside, evoking vivid imagery of Border Reivers conducting raids on local villages and farms.

In conclusion, the Northumberland 250 has so much more to offer but we simply could not fit any more in on our three day whistle stop tour, which was a shame. I’d advise anyone considering this route to have at least 4 days touring so you can take in more of the attractions. The coast needs two days alone and if you want to visit Alnwick Castle & Gardens then that is a day in itself, never mind taking in the likes of Kielder or Hadrian’s wall and the towns and villages that feature on the route. Not to mention the 100’s of points of interest around. Even though I’ve lived in Northumberland for 25 years, it felt like I was visiting a new place for the first time. A new adventure – which I thought was pretty cool.

For the most up to date info on where you can camp visit Northumberland National Park’s official website.

To find our more about Overland Adventures and to book one of our Land Rover Defender Campers click here

The Black Bull, Etal, Northumberland 250
The Black Bull, Etal, Northumberland 250