What it's like
Europeans have a tendency to castigate Americans for being insular and never leaving their own shores; but then again, why would you leave when your country is home to every type of natural landscape in majestic proportions?
Turn the telescope round from macro to micro level, and Northumberland has the same embarrassment of walking riches.
The sun rises over the glorious coastline, where mile-upon-mile of giant beaches are punctuated by show-off castles, from the beautiful silhouette of Dunstanburgh to the perfect clifftop proportions of Bamburgh.
To the south, the ancient architectural wonder of Hadrian’s Wall hems the county, partnered by the wonderful national trail that stretches from Newcastle to Bowness on Solway on the west coast.
And in the heart of Northumberland, a giant wilderness feeds your pioneering spirit. The Simonside Hills provide spectacular views for softies, while the Cheviots offer one of the last places in England where you can expect to walk for a day or even a weekend without seeing a soul.
Yet if such a description sounds unwelcoming, consider this before you join the hordes beetling north to Scotland or west to Cumbria: that the darkness of the massive Kielder Forest is brightened by extraordinary art installations, built specifically for walkers; that Harry Potter played Quiddich in the skies above Alnwick Castle; that Lindisfarne is one of the most uplifting and spiritual places in the British Isles; and that for centuries soldiers have fought the Scots tooth and nail to keep this beautiful county English.
- Dunstansburgh Castle Park in the postcard-perfect fishing village of Craster and head north along the coastline, pass the defiant ruins of Dunstanburgh, and continue along Embleton Beach until you reach Low Newton by the Sea, where coffee or beer awaits you in the near perfect Ship Inn. The retract your steps.
- Hadrian’s Wall Head west along the wall from Housesteads to Crag Lough, then leave the wall to head south to Twice Brewed, east to Vindolanda Roman Fort, and back to Housesteads. There are very good circular walk ideas at www.nationaltrail.co.uk/hadrianswall
- Cheviot challenge From Harthope Burn, hike to the summit of Cold Law, then push west to the roof of the county on the Cheviot, and descend briefly by the Pennine Way, before following Harthope Burn back to the start. The route's here.
Must see and do
- Visit Hadrian’s Wall It’s one of the genuine wonders of Britain, an extraordinary feat of building and engineering, and in its best-preserved sections set in a fabulous walking landscape. Note too that Sycamore Gap (just west of Housesteads) starred in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
- Walk to Holy Island Whether you complete St Cuthbert’s Way, or just spend a day at Holy Island (Lindisfarne) you’ll be struck by the blissful serenity of this island, the birthplace of Christianity in Britain. Scrutinise the tide guides to cross the causeway safely, and then give yourself time to wonder and wander amid the castle and abbey and soak up the spirituality of Holy Island.
- Hike the Cheviots in August It’s as if these vast, rugged hills get in touch with their feminine side for just a few weeks each year, but come mid-August these heather-swathed brutes turn a delicate pink as the heather flowers, creating a watercolour palette that you’ll want to describe to everyone you meet, but that you’ll never find the words to do so satisfactorily.
Destination County : Northumberland