When we sent Patrick to Northumberland with the Visit Britain team he had no idea what was in store. But with stunning beaches, rich history, and adventures left, right, and centre, we knew he was in for a treat.


I had no idea what to expect when I headed to the UK for two weeks to explore Northumberland. If I’m being completely honest, I’d actually never even heard of Northumberland before.

Turns out that was a blessing in disguise. I arrived with absolutely no expectations, or more realistically, the expectation that it wasn’t really going to impress me that much. After all, we live in Australia, with thousands of kilometres of coastline and massive deserts. From rainforest up north to dramatic mountains down in Tassie, we’ve got it all.

What could this little section of northern England have that would really blow me away?

Long story short, a whole bloody lot.


And it started with Alnwick Castle – check out that turret!

The UK Has Some of the Best Stargazing

Yeah, this one sounded like a joke to me when I heard it too. I mean, we come from one of the least densely populated countries on Earth and we’ve got a whole desert just beaming with stars. What could the UK have to offer?

Well, Northumberland National Park and Kielder Park are certified International Dark Sky Park which means they have extremely limited light pollution and exceptional stargazing. Colour me impressed.

Read more: Australia’s Only Dark Sky Park is the Warrumbungle National Park

The Locals Are So Proud of Their Area, and Friendly

I took some notes while I was in Northumberland to remind myself of little moments and things that stood out to me. One of those notes just said, ‘People are really friendly’, which kind of feels like a strange thing to write down, but it really stood out to me.

I’ve sometimes found when I stumble across beautiful and hidden parts of Australia and the world, locals aren’t too happy to see you there. They want to keep it all to themselves, and you know what, I don’t blame them.

But throughout Northumberland, I constantly came across people who were just so stoked you’re visiting their town or region. They were always up for a chat and a couple of recommendations for where we should go. Everyone I met was so proud of their area and wanted me to see the best of it.


An Adventurer’s Guide to Northumberland, photo by Pat Corden, Northumberland, Visit Britain, England, durham distillers

Tourists plus bartenders = perfect blend!

The Animals Aren’t All Trying to Kill You

I think most people who’ve spent a bit of time in Australia would agree that the notion that everything is trying to kill you is a bit overcooked (except for the drop bears, stay away from them).

But when I went on a trail run through some of the forest and farms around Northumberland National Park, it was so refreshing to be able to run through shin-high grass without worrying about coming face-to-face with a danger-noodle. To be fair, that didn’t stop me from almost having a heart attack when a small rabbit jumped out of the long grass next to me.

But overall, it was an absolute treat to leave the tent unzipped and walk through the grass barefoot without a care in the world.


Plants on the other hand…

Slow Travel Has Its Perks

In some senses, it was a whirlwind trip. We packed multiple things into each day and moved every night or two. But at the same time, it felt like we had a lot of opportunities to slow down and take it all in.

One of my biggest highlights from the trip was a slow afternoon soaking up the sun at The Ship Inn after walking part of the England Coast Path. Or a morning spent in an almost meditative state combing the beach for sea glass at Seaham Hall Beach (and then turning it into jewellery at Seaham Waves).

I’m generally pretty keen to pack as much as I can into a holiday, but Northumberland was a great reminder that the slow in-between moments can be as valuable as the big highs.

Sometimes the Parts You Least Anticipate Are the Best

Visit Britain had worked up a cracker itinerary for our time in Northumberland. I walked a section of the England Coast Path, rode gravel singletrack around Kielder Park and stargazed under a new hemisphere.

But they also set us up with some pretty left-of-field activities that, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t all that excited about. One day, we had a flying lesson at Alnwick Castle where they filmed Harry Potter’s first broomstick sesh. I like the movies, but I’m not the biggest fan, so when I found out we were doing a broomstick flying lesson – essentially running around the castle with a stick between our legs – I had low expectations. Lo and behold, it was an absolute blast!


Admit it, you’re playing the Harry Potter theme music in your head right now!

As this is an adventure publication, I’m not really sure how to recommend playing Harry Potter dress-ups. I will say this though, at the end of the day when we did a recap along with highlights from the day, it was consistently at the top for everyone.

I can be a bit snobby about doing ‘touristy’ activities sometimes. I generally just want to roll in somewhere and get straight away from the crowds and off on whatever adventure we’ve cooked up. Most of what we did in our week or so in the UK was exploring some of the lesser-known areas, but the broomstick flying and a few other activities were a great reminder to get over myself and give the quirky oddballs a chance.


Up, up, and away!

Non-remote Remoteness

Northumberland is England’s least-densely populated area. There were plenty of opportunities to feel alone in a big forest, up on a mountaintop, or exploring some ruins. In Northumberland National Park I’d go a whole afternoon or day without seeing anyone while on a walk. With no reception in plenty of areas, I really got the sense that I was a little remote.

But then I was able to finish off the day with a small drive to a nearby town with plenty of places to stay and eat. It gave me this sense of non-remote remoteness, where we could escape everything and have a full day adventuring and then come back for an epic dinner and a soak in the spa attached to our accommodation. If that’s not bougie adventuring I don’t know what is.


Bougie at Bamburgh

I’ll Be Back

Getting to Manchester Airport to start the long journey home, I thought back to two weeks earlier when I arrived. We flew over all the little houses and miniature cars full of people going about their day. I remember looking down and wondering what the coming days and weeks had in store for me.

I knew it was going to be a good time. Not because I had any expectations but because travelling generally is, especially when We Are Explorers are behind it.

What surprised me most though, as we took off and I said goodbye to England, was how excited I was to go back and explore more. The UK had never really made it that high up on my list. Not for any reason, but just because other places seemed more exciting or exotic.

Now, having spent two weeks in the least populated region of England, I know I’ve only just scratched the surface, and I’ll be back again soon.

Goodbye for now England, but not for long.


Pat was a guest of Visit Britain and Visit Northumberland for this article so that he could try all of the experiences for himself. Check out our Editorial Standards for more info on how we approach these partnerships.