Rather than somewhere best left until the warmer seasons, Northumberland in winter is a wonder. The endless forests of Kielder fill the crisp winter air with earthy scents and the sounds of crunching underfoot. The beaches, which you may also find crunching underfoot with frosted sand (don’t forget how far north you are), boast burning winter sunrises in shades of deep pink. And the region’s countless cultural and heritage sites are filled with unique, winterland activities that somehow bring even more magic to this already enchanting land.
From ancient Roman sites that divided lands to historic monasteries that bore witness to Viking invasions, Christian conversions, a Jacobite uprising and more, Northumberland is a trove of northern heritage. And to see these through the lens of winter is something even more unique.
Christmas Comes to Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle is a place steeped in history and folklore, originally a Celtic fort before becoming the royal seat of the early Kings of Northumbria. On the shores of Bamburgh Beach, pairing the castle with a winter walk along this 2.5km stretch of coast is a must. A touch of frost and the crisp sea air accentuate the castle’s stoic beauty, while warmth awaits those who venture inside.
Although many heritage sites across the UK close for winter (always make sure to check before you visit), Bamburgh Castle invites you in all year round. And the castle’s annual Christmas Kingdom begins on 11th November 2023, running every Saturday until 7th January 2024. It’s free with general admission to the castle (£13.50 for adults, half price for kids).
The Christmas Kingdom brings Northumberland’s myths and legends to life, with each corner enchanted by fairy whimsy. Join in the company of fantastical creatures, wander frosted forests and be carried off by faerie magic. The event beckons visitors of all ages.
Just an 11-minute drive or, better yet, a wrapped-up 2-hour walk, from our self-catering Beadnell apartments, it’s the perfect way to immerse yourself in the festive season.
Hadrian’s Wall in White
Inspiring The Wall in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, this 2,000-year-old site once stretched the breadth of the north, protecting Roman Britannia from the Pictish tribes of Scotland. Now, it’s one of the most renowned heritage sites in the UK.
Surrounded by the vast and moody Northumbrian landscape, visit the eastern realm of the UNESCO World Heritage wall in winter for a particularly postcard-worthy scene. Between the months of December and February are your greatest chance of seeing the wall beneath a cloak of snow and you can’t help but feel the silent, serene beauty and magic when it is.
For a journey that encompasses the best of the local scenery, follow the four-mile circular route to Steel Rigg which delivers staggering views of the wall and includes Crag Lough, a lake formed by the glaciers of the last Ice Age.
For more Roman history while you’re there, visit Vindolanda Fort and the museum. It’s all less than a 90-minute drive from our holiday apartments in Beadnell.
A Unique New Year at the Allendale ‘Tar Bar’l’
Experience the remarkable Allendale Tar Bar’l (Tar Barrel), a tradition that has been the heart of Northumberland’s New Year’s Eve celebrations for over 160 years. This isn’t your typical countdown celebration; instead, it’s a fiery spectacle that embodies the spirit and history of the region.
As the old year wanes and midnight approaches, the historic village of Allendale becomes a hub of anticipation. Local men, or ‘guisers’, don heavy costumes of bygone eras and ready themselves to shoulder whiskey barrels of flaming tar. They then navigate the village, their radiant loads illuminating the winter’s night, as onlookers’ cheers mingle with the crackling tar.
At midnight, the barrels alight the communal bonfire to symbolise a collective shedding of the year’s woes and a warm welcome to the future. The crowd’s rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” echoes, while the village revels continue with songs and laughter in local pubs.
Find Allendale in the heart of Hexham, a 90-minute drive from our Beadnell apartments.
Hexham Christmas Market at the Abbey
See the historic Abbey amongst the throes of the festive season as Hexham’s Christmas market fills the square beneath it. This one-day market is an annual favourite amongst Northumbrians. On December 9th, from the early stirrings of 9:30 a.m. until the twilight hues at 3:30 p.m., the market, a cherished annual tradition, brims with stalls where local artisans showcase their crafts.
Here, amid trees adorned with twinkling lights, you can indulge in seasonal delights and warming tipples. The atmosphere is aglow with festive spirit, making it clear why this market is an anticipated event year after year.
Entry to this merry celebration is free, offering everyone the chance to eat, drink, shop, and absorb the jubilant air of Northumberland’s Christmas charm.
Alnwick Gardens Illuminated
This year The Alnwick Garden is bringing back its Light Trail. Running from 13th November until 7th January, this after-dark extravaganza invites visitors to meander through a captivating landscape where light and sound orchestrate an unforgettable spectacle.
Don’t miss the chance to witness The Alnwick Garden in this unique, celestial guise and order your tickets online.
Northumberland’s heritage sites in winter are not just a spectacle to behold. They offer a narrative unfolding in a magical, frosty setting. Whether you’re wandering through frosted ruins, discovering the famed dark skies or warming up in a cosy Beadnell pub, remember: in Northumberland, every stone and star has a tale to tell.
Book your stay at our wonderful self-catering apartments for two in the heart of Beadnell village and start planning your winter escape.