Former Kernow Kampers customer and well known travel writer Marita Phenix visited us for a wedding in Penzance last year. She enjoyed her stay in Denzil the Minidub so much that she recently took advantage of our UK wide delivery service and toured the North East in one of our motorhomes. Her top destinations and campsite tips can be found in her article below. Rumour has it she’s already planning her next motorhome adventure for the summer!
If ever there was a part of England that has something for everyone, it is the North-East. From stunning nature landscapes, to bustling city life, the region has so much to offer for the discerning traveller. This list steps away from the urban sprawl and explores a handful of quieter sights – some are much publicised, but others less well known. Newcastle, Durham, Middlesbrough and Sunderland are all great options for a city break, featuring many places still steeped in tradition and history. It comes as no surprise that Durham Cathedral has been nominated for Heritage Site of the Year, in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2017. But if you look further into the region, that is when the beauty of the North-East truly shines.
1. Bamburgh to Alnmouth
The jewel in the North-East coastal crown has to be this lovely stretch of Northumberland seaside. Bamburgh Castle, perched dramatically on a rocky plateau since 547 AD, has been used as a film location for decades – Macbeth, Elizabeth, and this summer’s blockbuster Transformers 5, are a few movies which feature the castle. Travelling south will take you through the picturesque villages of Seahouses, Beadnell and Craster, which are all popular, yet distinctly different. Between Howick and Alnmouth is some pretty dramatic coastline, where the North Sea meets expansive beaches and rock formations. They often feature in documentaries starring local boy Robson Green.
Top tip – Visit stunning Dunstanburgh Castle, then take a scenic stroll south to Craster, where you can enjoy their famous smoked kippers at L Robson & Sons.
Campsite pick – Beadnell Bay (07768 365393)
2. Hadrian’s Wall
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification built in 122 AD by Emperor Hadrian to keep the Scottish out of England. It ran from the banks of the River Tyne (in Wallsend, near Newcastle) all the way west to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea. Today, only sections of the wall remain visible. Housesteads is one of the best preserved forts along the route – you can still see the foundations of an ancient hospital and barracks.
Top tip: A short drive from Housesteads is Sycamore Gap, one of the most iconic and photographed views of the wall (featured in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).
Campsite pick: Hadrian’s Wall Campsite (01434 320495)
In between Sunderland and South Shields lies Marsden Beach, where dramatic outcrops punctuate the bay. Marsden Grotto is a charming seafood restaurant/pub, partly dug into the cliff face. It is one of the very few ‘cave bars’ in Europe and used to be home to Jack the Blaster since 1782. He worked in a nearby quarry and used explosives to create his house. The Grotto overlooks Marsden Rock – a 100 feet high sea stack owned by the National Trust and home to thousands of gulls, kittiwakes, and cormorants.
Top tip: Brave the ride down to the Grotto pub in a 80+ year old lift shaft – not for the fainthearted!
Campsite pick: Lizard Lane Caravan Park (0191 4554455)
4. Seaton Carew
Just outside of Hartlepool is the small Victorian seaside resort of Seaton Carew. The go-to beach for County Durham daytrippers may be sleepy, but boasts sweeping views of the North Sea. It’s not uncommon to find long queues for fish & chips, but the real highlight are the ice cream shops – treat yourself to a ‘lemon top’ after a gruelling session in the penny arcades. If things get too quiet, stroll a couple miles north and take a guided tour of the HMS Trincomalee – the oldest British warship afloat in the world – berthed at Jackson Dock, Hartlepool.
Top tip: Have a casual afternoon tea at Surfside Restaurant, then check if the sea has exposed or concealed the wreck site of an old collier brig (cargo ship) on Seaton beach.
Campsite pick: Crimon Dene Holiday Park (0333 2076652)
5. Barnard Castle
This attractive market town, named after the medieval castle around which it grew up, can be found in Teesdale, east of the Pennines mountain range. There are a plethora of antique shops and pubs to choose from, and you can wander along the banks of the River Tees. Check out the castle ruins which date back to 1095 – in 1477, during the War of the Roses, it was the favoured residence of King Richard III. The town was also a special destination for Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, William Wordsworth and JMW Turner.
Top tip: No visit to “Barney” (as it’s known to locals) is complete without a trip to Bowes Museum. The mesmerising building and landscaped grounds are modelled on the Chateau de Versailles in France. It houses a nationally-renowned art collection, including paintings by El Greco, Canaletto and Francisco Goya. Its most popular attraction, however, is the 18th Century Silver Swan automaton. The intricate clockwork driven device comes to life every day at 2pm, with patrons filling the hall to watch the forty second show.
Campsite pick: Barnard Castle Campsite (01833 630228)
If you fancy a mix of old and new, not many places do it better than the historic town of Tynemouth. A settlement since the Iron Age, its strategic position on a headland has been important during times of conflict, including World War II. Tynemouth Castle and Priory feature moated castle towers, a gatehouse and keep, along with Benedictine ruins where early kings of Northumbria were buried. Tynemouth has fantastic coastline; most recently, Longsands was named the UK’s fourth favourite beach by Tripadvisor voters. The town centre is buzzing with independent cafes and quirky shops, and the much-loved Blue Reef Aquarium is a hit with families.
Top tip: Riley’s Fish Shack, in King Edward’s Bay, was thrust into the national spotlight after a glowing 2016 review in The Guardian. Unfazed by the attention, it still retains its ‘hidden gem’ status by producing unpretentious and humbly delicious fare – mostly seafood cooked in a wood-fired oven. The shack is made up of two converted shipping containers, nestled in a quiet cove which overlooks lapping waves.
Campsite pick: Sandhaven, in nearby South Shields (01670 860256)
7. Holy Island of Lindisfarne
The journey to Holy Island is an exhilarating one – cut off twice-daily from the mainland by fast-moving tides which submerge the causeway, your arrival feels like you have landed in another world or time. Both an island and enchanting village, it was the epicentre of Christianity during Anglo-Saxon days. With a recorded history since the 6th Century AD, Holy Island was the home of St Oswald and the birthplace of the renowned manuscript The Lindisfarne Gospels. A huge draw to the area is the chance to observe its exciting array of wildlife; boat excursions to view seals and puffins on neighbouring islands are popular.
Top tip: After exploring the mystical ruins of Lindisfarne Priory, go to St Aidan’s Winery to sample their renowned mead. Its history can be traced back to Lindisfarne’s medieval monks and the tipple is manufactured on the island itself.
Campsite pick: The Barn at Beal (01289 540044)
8. Kielder Forest
The more active traveller will love a visit to England’s largest man-made forest and reservoir. At 250 square miles, Kielder is perfect for hiking, fishing, sailing and cycling. This large forestry plantation contains Kielder Water (with a capacity of 200 billions litres) and is home to the annual Kielder Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. Founded by Steve Cram, an Olympic runner from the North-East, the event attracts athletes from around the globe and has been dubbed ‘Britain’s most beautiful marathon’.
Top tip: When night time descends, Kielder Observatory is the place to be. Awarded the highest status by the International Dark Skies Association, it is the largest protected area of night sky in Europe. The observatory has been open since 2008 and organises fantastic events, such as Aurora Nights and the Night Sky Safari.
Campsite pick: Kielder Caravan Park at Leaplish (01434 251000)
9. High Force
Deep in the North Pennines AONB lies County Durham’s most iconic waterfall. Its 22 metre drop and sheer volume of water are an impressive sight to behold. Spectacular examples of geology can be seen at either side of the precipice – the waterfall is made up of three different types of rock, namely dolerite, limestone and sandstone. Don’t miss other smaller, yet equally beautiful, waterfalls nearby such as Low Force, Cauldron Snout and Summerhill Force.
Top tip: Fishing permits for Cauldron Snout are available to buy at the High Force Gift Shop (next to the main carpark), with fishing seasons running from 1st April to 30th October (salmon) and 1st April to 30th September(trout).
Campsite pick: Leekworth Caravan Park (01833 640842)
10. Alnwick Castle
A trip here will satisfy the children in your party (and even the child within you). Alnwick Castle, built in 1096 and the seat of the Duke of Northumberland for over 700 years, was used as the principal filming location for Hogwarts in the much-loved Harry Potter film series. Not only can you explore the castle’s opulent State Rooms, but children can take part in archery and medieval activities (with ‘broomstick training’ available for Potter enthusiasts). Don’t forget to check out the fantastic Alnwick Garden, which is adjacent. This stunning castle offers something for everyone, encapsulating the magic of the North-East perfectly.
Top tip: The town of Alnwick is worth a visit too; the pretty market town has quaint tearooms and independent boutiques, but for something alternative then head to The Dirty Bottles – a haunted pub which has been transformed into a hip taproom and smokehouse.
Campsite pick: Dunstan Hill (01665 576310)
Newcastle International Airport (NCL) connects the North-East to other UK cities, Europe (with airlines like Easyjet, Ryanair, Flybe and Jet2) and the rest of the world (via KLM and Emirates).
Between May and September, Flybe do direct flights from Newcastle to Newquay – home of Kernow Kampers.
Feeling inspired by the great write up by Marita? Check out our home delivery service and other great options via our VIK tours page www.kernow-kampers.com/vik-tours
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