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Sharon Cain
Time for Life Correspondent
12:00 AM 25th May 2024
lifestyle

Northumberland’s Special Day To Celebrate Your Own Way

 
Northumberland’s coastal treasures include Craster
Photos: Steve Hare
Northumberland’s coastal treasures include Craster Photos: Steve Hare
The countdown to Northumberland Day on Sunday, May 26, is a great opportunity to fly the county’s distinctive red and yellow flag and celebrate its rich heritage.

Shaking off its winter grey landscape, spring transforms the most northerly county into a blaze of colour with a wealth of attractions to enjoy and explore.

Scented wild orchids along the 64-kilomentre coastline - an area of outstanding natural beauty - complement the golden daffodils, rhododendrons, and Japanese
cherry blossoms in the gardens of stately castles.

Enjoy the gorgeous gardens at Howick Hall
Enjoy the gorgeous gardens at Howick Hall
A profusion of spring flowers also awaits at Howick Hall in Alnwick where Earl Grey tea originated. This came about after a mandarin tea expert blended the first Earl Grey tea as a gift for the 2nd Earl, Charles Grey, who was Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834. Having a cuppa in the hall’s Earl Grey Tea House is a must.

The gardens are a profusion of colour
The gardens are a profusion of colour
Like stepping into an enchanted garden where life is carefree, Howick Hall gardens feature a woodland garden, wild hog garden, abortorium and sensory garden which was designed to give adults and children with autism a safe and stimulating environment to explore their senses.

Violent past: Lindisfarne Priory
Violent past: Lindisfarne Priory
Medieval Marvel

If bloodcurdling history and Viking raids are more your bag, head to Holy Island, a former medieval kingdom established in the 7th Century.

The tidal island’s fascinating history set against a backdrop of bloodshed and survival, includes treasures such as the priory where Vikings spilt the blood of saints.

Chronicled as the ‘Cradle of British Christianity,’ from here early missionaries - led by founder St Aidan, and St Cuthbert - spread the Christian faith throughout Northern Britain. A brutal Viking raid in 793AD forced the monks to flee terror and sent shock waves reverberating throughout Europe.

Chequered history: Lindisfarne Castle
Chequered history: Lindisfarne Castle
While there don’t miss the Grade 1 listed dark and brooding castle which is open from March to early November. Dating back to 1550, its chequered history includes being held by Royalist forces, seized by Parliamentarians, and captured by Jacobite’s before becoming a coastguard station.

Open all year round, Holy Island is connected to the mainland by a causeway which flood twice daily when the North sea gushes in so ensure you check tide times to avoid being trapped on the causeway.

There are around 43,000 pairs of puffins at the Farne Islands
There are around 43,000 pairs of puffins at the Farne Islands
Bird’s Eye View

Another of the many reasons to celebrate Northumberland’s cultural diversity is the rich wildlife around a group of rocky islands off the coast known as the Farne Islands, regarded as the most exciting seabird colony in England.

Boats trips run from the working harbour at Seahouses, a traditional seaside town packed with character where a notice board whets visitors’ appetites with news of birdlife spotted so far that day.

Guillemots nest off the coast of Northumberland
Guillemots nest off the coast of Northumberland
Once on board, visitors are transfixed by the mesmerising sight of thousands of seabirds including seals shags, kittiwakes, razorbills, and guillemots. My favourites are the puffins, endearingly nicknamed ‘sea parrots’ who can dive up to sixty metres under water for tasty herring and hake. May, June and July are great months for spotting them.

Amble’s picture postcard harbour
Amble’s picture postcard harbour
Amble Puffin Festival

Puffins can also be seen on trips from Amble harbour - located on the estuary of the River Coquet - which sail around Coquet Island, home to a colony of 20,000 puffins. This weekend (May 25-26) Amble is hosting a Puffin festival where activities include guided nature walks, bird watching, local history talks, exhibitions, and live music. More information can be found here.

A magnet for lovers of the great outdoors, Northumberland’s charming towns and fishing villages are in plentiful supply. They include Bamburgh and its stunning castle and Craster which is renowned for its kippers and whose rustic harbour was built for the herring fishery.

Cresswell beach
Cresswell beach
To immerse yourself in this compelling county and its mystical legends, you can find out more at www.visitnorthumberland.com