This Linhope Spout Walk is a 3 mile, mildly strenuous hike and makes an enjoyable outing if the weather is reasonable.
The highlight of the walk is Linhope Spout, a 60 foot or 18 metre waterfall in the Cheviot region in the Northumberland National Park. The chute funnels water originating from numerous grassy moorland springs into the River Breamish, which flows into the River Till before joining the River Tweed.
I have marked the route in red. Distance 5.13km (there-and-back), Vertical gain 107m, highest point 302m, lowest point 236m.
The walk starts at Hartside Farm, part of the scenic Linhope Estate. You must park on the left side grass verge just before the farmhouse (no cars allowed beyond this point).
Walking along the road, the route passes woodland on the right before descending into the tiny hamlet of Linhope.
From Linhope a signpost directs you up a track skirting more woodland where you might be fortunate enough to spot elusive red squirrels (we didn’t, but we did see a dead mole).
Following the trail, another fingerpost directs you downhill to Linhope Spout waterfall.
Wild swimming enthusiasts are known to take a dip here and I have seen a video of people jumping into the plunge pool from the rocks above. Rather them than me! Looks very dangerous. Nobody was braving the cold water during our visit in mid-October.
After admiring the waterfalls you return to the car by the same route.
Duddo Stone Circle, also known as Duddo Five Stones, is a 4,000 year old stone circle in North Northumberland, close to the Scottish Border.
There are known to be over 1250 prehistoric stone circles littering the countryside in the British Isles. Along with standing stones, henges, dolmens and cup-marks these mysterious relics from past civilisations are enshrouded in legend and myth. Stone circles began appearing around 3000BC and they range in size from spectacular rings such as Stonehenge to this rather modest example at Duddo.
The information board at the site reads as follows:
Duddo represents an exceptionally clear example of the relationship between a stone circle and its setting. The circle visible today is incomplete. Sometime before 1852 two stones were lost from the north-west quadrant, leaving only five stones remaining. Of these, the most north-easterly stone fell sometime during the 19th century and was pulled to the north to admit ploughing across the interior of the circle. It was re-erected around 1903.
Prior to that date the circle was known as Four Stones.
Radiocarbon dating suggests that the stones were erected around 2000BC and ancient cremated human remains have been found in a pit at the centre of the circle.
On this exposed hilltop the stones have felt the effects of 4,000 years of wind and rain erosion scoring deep cuts and scars in the soft sandstone and at least one of the rocks appears to bear man-made cup-markings whose symbolism is unknown.
The stones vary in height from 1.5m to 2.3m and are arranged in a rough circle with a diameter of about 10m.
Various nicknames have been given to the stones such as ‘Singing Stones’, perhaps due to the sound made by wind passing over their surface. Also ‘The Seven Turnip Pickers’ which could be a reference to the tale that seven farm labourers were turned into stone by God as punishment for working here on the Sabbath.
From some angles they resemble clenched fists or a set of receding teeth.
How to Get to Duddo Stone Circle
The location is marked on this map. There is space for a few cars on the grass verge at the point marked. Be sure not to block the farmer’s access.
The walking distance from the parking to the stone circle and back is under 1.5 miles (2.3km). Allow an hour for the round trip.
Belsay Hall is one of Northumberland’s top tourist attractions comprising a medieval castle, a stately home and picturesque gardens linking the two.
The Belsay Estate was home to the Middleton family (not related to Kate Middleton) for 700 years from 1270 when Sir Richard Middleton was Lord Chancellor to King Henry II. The hall, castle and gardens were taken into the guardianship of the state in 1980 and are now managed by English Heritage.
The impressive fortified pele tower of Belsay Castle was built in the late 14th century to defend the occupants against frequent raids and unrest in this border region of England. After the conflict between Scotland and England died down the Middletons converted the castle into a more comfortable home by adding the elegant country house extension that we see here (now without a roof) which was built from 1603-1614.
The family abandoned the castle in 1817 and moved into the nearby newly-built Belsay Hall whose Greek Revival architectural style was inspired by the owner’s honeymoon trip to Greece. This owner, Sir Charles Monck, was also a Middleton but changed his name in order to inherit the substantial estates of his wealthy maternal grandfather.
Today the Hall is empty of furniture, which is a shame but it does enable visitors to appreciate the beauty of the Roman/Greek architecture. During our visit one room was being used for a ‘multi-sensory installation’ featuring words and music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.
The Castle and Hall sit in 30 acres of grounds. Sir Charles made use of the excavations left behind when the stone for the hall was cut to create a quarry garden. With its sheer-sided canyon walls it has its own micro-climate out of the wind enabling exotic trees and rare plants to survive (although when we visited last October it was freezing)! There is also a Rhododendron Garden, which comes into flower in spring, and more formal gardens around the Hall.
For me, the majestic Yew trees and other conifers and hardwoods were the stars of the gardens.
The former stable block houses the tea room, shop, ticket office, toilets etc.
You can find details of opening hours and prices on their English Heritage’s website (indoor spaces are currently closed due to Covid restrictions).
How To Get to Belsay Hall
The hall is located about 15 miles north-west of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Tynemouth Priory and Castle is a good place to visit. The main highlights here are the ruined priory, the shrine area where a Saxon saint was believed to be buried, a gatehouse, the castle walls, a 20th century restored coastal defence battery and fine views from its cliff-top position.
The priory was founded in the 7th century. St. Oswine (or Oswin), a king of Northumbria and cousin of St.Bede, was killed and buried here in 651. Two other kings were also buried here: Osred II, king of Northumbria, in 792 and Malcolm III, king of Scotland who was killed at the battle of Alnwick in 1093. Malcolm’s body was later reburied in Scotland.
The priory was plundered and partly destroyed by the Danes on several occasions during the 800s and Oswin’s grave was forgotten until 1065 when a priest found some bones under the church and claimed them to be the saint’s remains. Local people began to make pilgrimages to the grave in the hope that their prayers would be answered, and their donations brought prosperity to the priory.
A Benedictine monastery was founded here in the 11th century and within its walls were kitchen gardens, farm animals and orchards as well as cloisters and other buildings for the monks.
The ruined church we see today was started in 1090 and renovated around 1210.
The monastery was ordered closed by Henry VIII in 1539 and most of the monastic buildings were dismantled. Then the site was used as a major coastal fort and was occupied by soldiers right up until 1960.
The gatehouse was constructed following a raid by the Scots in 1388. The ground floor consists of a series of passages and guardrooms while the upper floors contain a great hall and a grand chamber which would have accommodated a high ranking official or royal visitors.
The Percy chantry was built in the 15th Century. The Percys were earls of Northumberland and the ornate chapel ceiling shown here is carved with their family emblems.
This concrete gun emplacement is one of two constructed in 1902 when Britain was concerned about Germany’s increasing naval threat. The gun is a 6 inch steel Mark XXIII.
Looking back at the castle from Tynemouth Pier you can see the 13 concrete buttresses built over 100 years ago to strengthen the crumbling cliff edge on which the coastal battery stands.
This cannon is from an earlier era. There have been coastal defences at Tynemouth since the 1640s.
After visiting Tynemouth Priory and Castle you can wander down to the lovely beach at King Edward’s Bay and perhaps sample some fish and chips at the highly rated Riley’s Fish Shack.
The attraction is managed by English Heritage and you can find details of opening hours and prices on their website.
My Holy Island Circular Walk is a 6 mile hike around scenic Holy Island, home to the famous Lindisfarne Castle.
Historic Holy Island is one of Northumberland’s most visited tourist sites. It is a tidal island, meaning that it can only be reached by car at low tide. The causeway linking it to the mainland is underwater during high tide. You can check for safe crossing times on the Northumberland County Council website.
Highlights of the Holy Island Circular Walk
For my hike I parked at The Snook car park which is located at the skinny western side of the island. This area is part of the 4,000 hectare Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve which, in the words of Natural England, is ‘an ever-changing landscape of sand-dunes, mudflats and coastline constantly re-shaped by sea, wind and time’. Alternatively you could park at the main Holy Island Car Park. These are the only places on the island where non-residents are allowed to park.
From The Snook there is a short path through some sand dunes before emerging onto one of the widest beaches you will ever see (at low tide) which appears to go for miles.
As you can see the beach is not too crowded.
The sand-dunes have been plagued by an invasive plant originally from New Zealand called the pirri-pirri bur with sticky spines which like to hook on to clothing and the fur of your dog and can easily be spread to other sites and harm our native wildlife. If you visit during the months of July-October you may have to spend hours de-burring your dog but when I went in March there was no sign of it.
Another plague was this pile of rubbish dumped amid the dunes and spoiling the normally pristine beaches of Northumberland. I was a bit mystified by this dump. How did it get to this difficult-to-access spot and who could have dumped it? It included household items like Cillit Bang limescale cleaner, not something you would take on a picnic. There were crab pots used by fishermen and cans of strong and cheap white cider of the sort favoured by alcoholics. I think the culprit might be a drunken, house-proud fisherman.
The walk continues to a lovely sandy bay with cliffs which are home to numerous seabirds. The island is frequented by wintering waterfowl who feed on sea grasses and marine creatures. Pale bellied brent goose, widgeon and bar-tailed godwits are among the species found here.
Evidence of former mining activity, probably lime, can be seen nearby.
Another calm beach. In summer the salt marshes burst into flower with ten species of orchid recorded on Holy Island.
On the headland is a white brick pyramid, about 25 feet high, called Emmanuel Head built around 1810 to aid navigation in these waters where shipwrecks were common.
From Emmanuel Head, the trail turns south along the rocky east coast of the island, shown here with Lindisfarne Castle in the background.
Farming, tourism and fishing are the main activities on the island today. There are a number of tourist attractions on Holy Island including Lindisfarne Castle, Lindisfarne Priory, the Heritage Centre and St. Aidan’s Winery. I’ll write about these on another day.
These wooden posts mark the walking route over the sands and mud from Holy Island back to the mainland. This is the Pilgrim’s route and for those interested in following in the footsteps of medieval saints and pilgrims this is supposed to be a great experience. Since it would almost certainly mean getting wet feet I think I will save this adventure until the weather gets warmer, if ever.
With light fading and the end of the safe crossing time approaching I walked back to my start point alongside the causeway road. There is no real footpath here and quite a few cars on the road but it is safe enough, though not for this poor deer which presumably was hit by an inattentive motorist.
Lindisfarne Castle Lindisfarne Priory Lindisfarne Heritage Centre St. Aidan’s Winery
At Wallington House and Gardens you can enjoy a pleasant few hours admiring the interior of this historic stately home and exploring the extensive grounds with woods, ponds, walled garden and conservatory.
Wallington was the home of the Trevelyan family from 1777 until it was gifted to the National Trust in 1942.
Here are some of the highlights:
The central hall is decorated with a series of eight murals by Newcastle-based Scottish artist William Bell Scott (1811-1890) telling the history of Northumberland. Here are a couple of them:
Other outdoor attractions include a wildlife hide from where you might be lucky enough to spot red squirrels, an adventure playground, a play train and a play fort
Walllington is a National Trust property with all the facilities you would expect including a café and refreshment kiosk, parking, toilets etc.
You can find details of opening times, ticket prices etc. on National Trust’s website.
Prudhoe Castle dates from the 12th century, originally a stronghold for two leading northern families, the Umfravilles and later the Percy family, Dukes of Northumberland. It has a turbulent history and is famous as the only castle in the north never to have been captured by the Scots, having survived two sieges during the 1170s.
The chapel above the gateway contains England’s earliest example of an oriel window, built around 1300.
This fine Georgian manor house was built within the walls of the castle by the Duke of Northumberland in 1816, during the Napoleonic Wars. Major repairs of the ancient castle, which was in a ruinous state, were also carried out at this time. The manor house now contains exhibits on the 900 year old history of the castle.
Prudhoe has many of the features we associate with a traditional medieval English castle such as a moat, fortified gatehouse, a bridge, surrounding curtain wall, cross-shaped window slits, crenellated walls etc
This outer courtyard, or outer bailey, was the site of the kitchen, brewhouse, stores, workshops, latrines and accommodation block.
Prudhoe Castle from the south by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, 1728.
Painting (print) on display at the castle. Possibly by, or in style of, Thomas Miles Richardson (1784-1848).
The castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public. You can find details of opening times and ticket prices on their website. The castle is closed during the winter months (4 November – 31 March).
Location of Prudhoe Castle
If you get in a taxi and ask for the castle and pronounce it as ‘prood-ho’ the driver will know you’re not from the area. The locals pronounce it as ‘prudda’.
In my garden it seems to be mating season for toads.
They could be frogs – I’m not an expert in telling the difference – but they seem to have warty skin and they crawl rather than hop so they’re probably toads.
This amorous couple is locked in a tender embrace.
Another pair doing their thing.
There seems to some kind of toad orgy happening here.
Not all the toads have been so lucky. In our pond I saw a number of mangled toad remains.
It appears that some predator has skilfully eaten the choice morsels and left behind the skin, attached to the head, turned inside out, perhaps to avoid the poisonous or distasteful glands found around a toad’s neck and skin.
Which creature could have carried out this clever butchery? The chief suspects are cormorants or herons, or an owl or even an otter, all of which are known to frequent our pond.
Nature can be harsh but there should be plenty of toads to go round. As common toads can lay up to 6,000 eggs in one go we should be overrun with toadlets in a couple of weeks time.
Aydon Castle is a well preserved 13th century manor house which was lived in and used as a farmhouse right up until 1966. It is now owned and managed by English Heritage.
History of Aydon Castle
Construction of the original timber hall is believed to have begun in 1296 by Robert de Reymes.
The house was later fortified and surrounded by a curtain wall around 1305 to protect it from Scottish raiders but could still not avoid capture by the Scots in 1315 and again in 1346.
In the more peaceful 17th century it was converted into a farm with an orchard within the castle walls and additional farm buildings added later.
The Reymes family owned Aydon for several centuries. Later owners and occupants included the Carnaby family whose coat of arms can be seen carved above a fireplace and the Collinson family who left initials in stone on a door lintel.
If you want to visit (closed currently due to Coronavirus) you can find all the details you need on English Heritage’s website. Like many attractions in Northumberland it is closed during the winter months.
As with all English Heritage places, it is best to become a member for free unlimited visits. No only is it good value for money but it is a charity and you are helping to preserve the nation’s history and heritage.