Back in 2012, when I spent three months touring the country in a VW Campervan as Visit England’s Fan in a Van, I had the pleasure of visiting loads of English Heritage properties, including Roman sites, castle ruins and beautiful gardens. Some of the most impressive were right here in the North East so if you’re looking for a great day out it’s definitely worth checking out the English Heritage website. When you select the North East region on the online map, you’ll be given a list of over 300 attractions to choose from, the following are some of my favourites…
This magnificent hill top castle is home to a wealth of local history but what I really love about Warkworth Castle is how accessible it is, kids can run around freely and make as much noise as they want. The friendly staff will happily feed their imaginations with medieval stories, like how women were not allowed in the castle kitchens because all the men were naked in there on account of it being so hot!
The Hermitage is half a mile from the castle and only accessible by boat. On arrival it looks like a simple cave but inside is the ancient chapel of a solitary holy man, it’s quite spooky and certainly worth a visit!
Housesteads is located near Haydon Bridge, an idyllic location along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. It’s the most complete Roman fort in Britain so attracts visitors from across the world! Wear sensible footwear because the atmospheric ruins are perched high on a ridge and the site covers around 5 acres, it’s worth the trek though as the views on a clear day are simply stunning and really remind you why England is known as the ‘green and pleasant land’!
As well as the fantastic photo opportunities of the world famous Hadrian’s Wall, there is also a very good museum at Housesteads, where you’ll find fascinating film footage, 3D models and a stunning collection of Roman finds.
Tynemouth is so easy to get to from Newcastle as the Tyne and Wear Metro goes straight from the city centre directly to the pretty village! Tynemouth Priory and Castle overlooks King Edwards Bay and has unspoilt views of the North East coastline. In my opinion, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a portion of fish n chips and watch the world go by!
In the month of July, Tynemouth Priory and Castle provides the perfect backdrop for the Tynemouth Campervan Rally which I love going to even though I no longer have Rosie the campervan to show off!
This popular English Heritage site is also the location for some fantastic live music events, earlier this year I saw the Modfather himself Paul Weller as part of the Mouth of Tyne Festival. It was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to and the unique setting made it all the more special!
More recently, James and I had a lovely Autumn walk around the ancient grounds of Prudhoe Castle, the only Northumberland castle to resist the Scots! There’s a family friendly exhibition inside the castle itself but it was the beautiful exterior that intrigued us the most.
I lost James at one point but I could hear him calling my name, I looked all around but he was nowhere to be seen… after a bit of exploring I eventually found him hiding inside the cavity of the walls, he nearly frightened the life out of me, just goes to show you’re never to old for a game of hide and seek!
Next on my list of English Heritage sites to visit is Belsay Hall and Gardens, I’ve heard lots about this Greek inspired property and can’t wait to find out more about it. I might actually go next week, it could be quite busy for half term but they’ve got an intriguing listing on their website advertising something called Vitorian Illusion Week.
If you fancy exploring these English Heritage attractions for yourself it might be worth investing in an annual membership from just £39. Bear in mind that opening times vary for each property and most are now operating their autumn/winter schedule, check the website before you go!
If you’d like to recommend any other English Heritage sites to me or my readers, please leave a comment below as I’ve only scratched the surface!
By Rachel Kershaw