Whisky and Walking in Wooler and Beyond
Regular readers of the blog will know I adore Northumberland, especially the coastline, which inspires a lot of my artwork. However, I haven’t written as much on the blog about north Northumberland and the Cheviot Hills area. As a family, we spend a lot of time in Wooler, as my parents live there, and it’s a beautiful spot with so many places to walk and things to see.
With spring days and the Easter holidays on the horizon, I thought this month I would write about some of my days out in and around Northumberland, including a brand new attraction set to reprise a centuries-old tradition.
Grab your walking boots and keep reading to learn more about some of my favourite Northumberland days out.
One of the most recent additions to the Wooler area is Ad Gefrin, an Anglo-Saxon museum and distillery set to open this spring. Inspired by the area’s rich heritage, Ad Gefrin is set to “reawaken the Northumbrian tradition for Whisky distilling that has slept for over 200 years.”
Ad Gefrin is a really exciting attraction, as it’s not just a whisky distillery but also a fully-immersive museum experience, including a great hall, gardens and bistro. Named after the Anglo-Saxon Royal Court of Ad Gefrin, this experience will explore the region’s bountiful history and tell the real stories of people who lived on our soil under King Edwin in the 7th century.
To pre-book tickets and learn more about Ad Gefrin, including the attraction’s historical inspiration and accessibility information, visit the website here.
Chillingham Castle & The Wild Cattle
History buffs will also love the next stop on our Northumberland journey. Just a fifteen-minute drive from Wooler, with a tagline like “Northumberland’s most haunted historic castle”, you know you’re in for an exciting day out when you visit Chillingham.
While the castle is a wonderful place to visit during the day, complete with tearooms and beautiful gardens, the real excitement is found under the darkness of night. The castle hosts regular Ghost Hunts exploring the darkest dungeons, including torture chambers, dating back to the 12th and 13 centuries.
The area is also home to the world’s only wild cattle! These beasts were once symbolic of pre-Christian Britain, revered by Pagans and sacrificed to their gods. You can visit the creatures, but they are potentially dangerous, so you have to book with the ranger, who will take you as close as is safe on the day.
You can get joint tickets for the castle and cattle at the Chillingham Wild Cattle website.
Etal Castle & Heathershaw Light Railway
As if we weren’t already spoiled with the wide variety of days out Northumberland has to offer, Etal is another gem to add to the region’s burgeoning crown. In the idyllic town of Etal by the river Till, you’ll find the ruins of Etal Castle. History buffs will love this one, as the castle was the site of an attack by Scots raiders in the 14th century.
At the time of writing this, the shop and exhibition at Etal Castle are currently closed, but the grounds are free to enter. Be sure to check the English Heritage website before visiting for the most up-to-date information.
The Heatherslaw Light Railway is nearby and a fantastic day out for kids and grown-ups alike. As the most northerly steam railway in England, the train takes you on an exciting six km-long journey through the gorgeous countryside. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including herons, ducks and even the odd otter!
Hay Farm is a not-for-profit venture where you’ll come face-to-face with a wide range of animals, including rare breed Clydesdale horses, as well as pigs, ducks and geese.
If you or your little ones are animal lovers, then Hay Farm is a great day out. It’s also very accessible (speak to them directly about your accessibility needs). Hay Farm is just a short distance from Etal Castle and the Heathershaw Railway.
Northumberland Walk Ideas
Longer, brighter days mean more opportunities to stretch your legs. Here are some of my favourite Northumberland hikes. Remember, this is just a guide, so double-check for parking, accessibility and other limitations before you venture out on your walk.
Ingram Valley to Linhope Spout
This is a perfect dog walk for the warmer months, as the River Breamish offers a welcome relief from the summer sun. An amble along the valley to Linhope Spout waterfall is a popular route for a reason, with plenty of places to stop for a family picnic and a paddle.
There are a couple of different routes you can take, including a shorter path (around 3.5 miles), so it’s ideal for the full family, and there is a lot to keep little ones entertained along the route.
For the full route and more information about accessibility and parking, visit the Northumberland National Park website.
Duddo Standing Stones
If you’re looking for artistic inspiration in north Northumberland, then the panoramic view from Duddo Standing Stones is hard to beat. The five stones sit just a few miles south of the Scottish border and are formed from soft sandstone. They were erected during an excavation in the late 19th century, and the site itself dates back to the Bronze Age.
This is a great one for dog walkers looking for somewhere to explore from a Berwick base. Here’s the full route and a little more about the history of this incredible and mystical site.
Cateran Hole & Ros Castle
Not too far from Chillingham Castle, you’ll find the spooky Cateran Hole. Fans of fantasy fiction will notice a likeness to Tolkien’s Middle-earth.
The 35m cave is set in the gritstone of Cateran Hill and is thought to have been a smugglers’ hiding place. Nearby, you’ll find Ros Castle - which is not actually a castle at all, but the highest of the Chillingham Hills. Cateran Hole and Ros Castle make for a great day out, a perfect combination of history and nature.
If you’re looking for more inspiration for Northumberland days out, check out this past blog article sharing some of the national park’s hidden gems. Let me know your favourite Spring days out over on Twitter @Joanne Wishart or Instagram.