Hadrian's Wall near Steel Rigg, Northumberland National Park
Hadrian's Wall near Steel Rigg, Northumberland National Park

The most northerly of the National Parks in England, Northumberland National Park is also the least visited and the least populated, although that is due more to its location than to any lack of interesting reasons for visiting. The southern border of the park is marked by Hadrian's Wall, and some of the finest Roman sites in Britain lie within the park's borders.

At the northern extremity of the park is Kielder Forest Park, near Kielder Water, a huge purpose-built reservoir. There is excellent walking to the north of the River Coquet, and the river valley offers some of the most beautifully unspoilt scenery in the north of England.

Hadrian's Wall

Much of the famous 2nd century Roman wall falls within the National Park. The Hadrian's Wall Path follows the course of the wall, and links several of the most important remains, including Chesters Roman Fort, Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum, and Vindolanda. The trail also passes through or very close to the historic communities of Hexham, with its medieval abbey church, and Haltwhistle, the 'centre of Britain'.

Near Sewingshields is Sycamore Gap, where a solitary sycamore tree stands near a gap in Hadrian's Wall. Sycamore Gap was popularised in the Kevin Costner film 'Robin Hood Prince of Thieves', and is one of the most photographed places in Hadrian's Wall country.

Not far away is Cawfields reservoir, a popular picnic spot formed by flooding a quarry. The quarry stands directly on the line of Hadrian's Wall.

Just south of the Wall is Brocolitia Roman Temple (also known as Carrawburgh Temple of Mithras), dedicated to Mithras, whose cult was popular with soldiers stationed along the Wall.

Redesdale

At the heart of Redesdale is Otterburn, famous as the site of the Battle of Otterburn in 1388, where Scots under the Earl of Douglas defeated an army of English led by Henry 'Hotspur' Percy in a bizarre conflict fought by moonlight. A medieval cross marks the battlefield site.

A few miles from Otterburn is Elsdon, where the medieval church is known as the Cathedral of the Rede. Inside the church is a Roman tombstone, and beyond the churchyard is a 14th century pele tower used as a residence by the medieval vicars of Elsdon. A short walk away is Elsdon Castle, a Norman motte and bailey fortification.

Two main visitor centres serve the National Park, at Walltown Quarry (post code CA8 7HZ) and the Coquetdale Visitor Centre in Rothbury. There are also useful tourist information centres and information points in Wooler, Tower Knowe (Kielder Water), Otterburn Mill, Morpeth, Hexham, Corbridge, and Bellingham. For a detailed list of TICs with contact details see our Northumberland Tourist Information Centres page.

There are pay and display car parks at popular locations including Alwinton, Cawfields, Brocolitia, Housesteads, Steel Rigg, and Walltown Quarry.