“I saw the sea once more in all the glories of surf and foam.”
Lord Byron on the North Sea
“Countryside, wild, rugged, unmanicured and as historically resonant as it is matchlessly beautiful.” – David Cannadine
Northumbria is renowned for its Pennine moors and dales, river valleys and long stretches of quiet beaches and sea-faring traditions.
With such resources, it is not surprising that the region is a favourite for many walkers, nature lovers, photographers and artists, and offers a wide range of outdoor sporting and leisure activities for all ages.
Coastline and Beaches
From the ramparts and beaches of Berwick to the broad sands at Saltburn, Northumbria is justly famous for it’s beaches and coastline. Long stretches of the Northumberland coast are designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Here you can explore fishing villages with working harbours, visit traditional seaside towns, and discover the region’s colourful maritime heritage. Every mile of Northumbria’s coast has a story to tell.
A good place to start is at Hartlepool Historic Quay, where the region’s maritime history is brought vividly to life. Here you can also visit HMS Trincomalee, the world’s oldest floating warship. The great explorer Captain Cook is a son of this region, and his birthplace museum can be found in nearby Middlesbrough. The Saltburn Smugglers heritage centre recalls the infamous past of this tiny seafaring community.
The Northumbrian coast has quiet fishing communities like Craster, known for its oak-smoked kippers, and Bamburgh, famed for its rocky fortress and sea heroine Grace Darling. Seahouses, a busy little traditional seaside town, is the embarkation point for sea trips to the Farne Islands.
North Shields, on the river Tyne, is the region’s busiest fishing harbour.
National Parks, Rivers and Forests
From the wildly spectacular Northumberland National Park, fringed by the brooding Cheviot Hills, to the heathery slopes of the North York Moors National Park, keen walkers will revel in mile after mile of moorland, wildlife, and big, big skies.
The great river Tweed, famed for its salmon, starts in Scotland and meets the sea at Berwick, and Kielder Water is the largest man made lake in Britain. Travelling on through Kielder Forest Park, the moorland gives way to pine woods and the area is a pleasure ground of walks, cycle trails, striking outdoor sculpture and watersports.
Wilderness and Waterfalls
Low Force Falls The vast and impressive North Pennine landscape gives rise to the great rivers of the north: the Tees, Tyne and Wear. This is a wildlife haven where Hen Harriers breed, where Merlin and other rare species can be seen and where the plaintive cries of the curlew echo in spring and summer accompanying Pennine Way and other walkers.
The North Pennines is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Here, you’ll discover attractive villages like Allendale, Blanchland, Stanhope, and Middleton-In-Teasdale, contrasted with wild moorland and the thunder of High Force and other waterfalls in Teasdale.
A Region of Culture and Character
A finer audience there is not in England, and I suppose them to be a specially earnest people; for while they can laugh till they shake the roof, they have a very unusual sympathy with what is pathetic or passionate.
Charles Dickens on the Theatre Royal, Newcastle
Northumbrians are people who enjoy other people; who have learned to adapt cheerfully to change – and who never miss the chance of a good time! Perhaps that’s why the region’s artistic, sporting and cultural life is so rich. Take a look at what’s happening in Northumbria with the things to do in Newcastle guide and find out lots of other things to explore and experience.
A new Artistic Age
In 1998, worldwide publicity greeted The Angel of the North – the impressive sculpture which gazes silently south from Gateshead. In many ways, this symbolises an artistic awakening that has been taking shape across the region, and there is now much to inspire the culturally-motivated visitor to Northumbria. More recently, the National Glass Centre opened in Sunderland, bringing to the region the British focus for breathtaking glass-art exhibitions and hugely skilled crafts people, all housed in a striking glass-clad building reflecting the River Wear.
Other great art collections and exhibition venues include the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, Sunderland Art Gallery and the Josephine & John Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle.