The expansive Northumberland National Park and nearby Kielder Forest Park have all the hiking, biking, and stargazing an Explorer could ask for. Pat’s got the lowdown on adventures big and small, and some cosy spots to kick back with a brew when you’re done.

Quick Overview

Northumberland National Park, in the northeast of England, is home to everything from day walks and picnic spots to mountain bike routes and stargazing. Being less than 70km from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and with plenty of small towns surrounding it, it’s perfect for anything from a quick day trip to a week-long escape.

Read more: An Explorer’s Guide to Northumberland

About Northumberland National Park

Northumberland National Park is known for its incredible stargazing, with the second-largest area of protected dark skies in Europe, but it’s also chock-full of walks, rides, and nature to explore.


We highly recommend getting your wheels to Kielder Forest Park

Northumberland National Park’s History

Northumberland National Park was created in 1956, but its history goes a whole lot further back than that. People have been in the area for more than 10,000 years and the park is scattered with Roman ruins, including Hadrian’s Wall.

Northumberland National Park is right next to Kielder Water and Forest Park – together they make up more than 1,500km2 of foresty goodness.

How to Get to Northumberland National Park

The best jumping-off point for Northumberland National Park is Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It’s got an airport, plenty of car rental options, and a big train station if you’re coming from anywhere else in the UK.

From Newcastle-upon-Tyne you’ll want a car, as the park is pretty spread out and not easy to get to with public transport.


northumberland national park, photo by Pat Corden, Northumberland, Visit Britain, England, bike

Solitude is only a quick pedal away

Places to Stay in Northumberland National Park

For the adventure bunnies who just can’t get enough nature, there are plenty of camping spots in and around Northumberland National Park. Kielder Campsite is a winner if you’re looking for something slightly remote and without any phone reception to really detox.

There are also a good deal of pubs and hotels dotted around the outskirts of the park which will give you the classic English town experience. The Redesdale Arms is right between Kielder Forest Park and Northumberland Park if you’re looking to bounce between the two. If you want a bigger town, find somewhere in Hexham which is closer to Newcastle-upon-Tyne but also has quick access to the park.

For a couple, hands down the best place to stay (and my personal favourite) is Wagtail, a little cabin on a small farm at the edge of the park. The cabin has views out over the rolling green hills and there are even cows that come right up to the fence for a pat and a feed. For me though, the highlight was the massive, and I’m talking MASSIVE, bath that was placed directly under a skylight so you could stargaze right from the tub.


Wagtail Cabin – hills for days

Things to do in Northumberland National Park


Northumberland National Park has more than 1,000km of maintained paths, so it’s safe to say you won’t be running out of options. Here are a couple of my favourites.

Simonside Hills

The Simonside Hills are a short but steep walk up to a summit with a 360-degree outlook. On a clear day, the circular walk will give you views all the way out to the coastline and out over the nearby Cheviot Hills.

Sycamore Gap

Sycamore Gap is a 3km section of the Hadrian’s Wall walk. The sycamore tree that the walk is named after was made famous in the Robin Hood movie and has been voted England’s most famous tree.

Aside from its Hollywood tree status, the walk follows Hadrian’s Wall through rolling hills and some beautiful views before you reach the sycamore perched perfectly in the gap between two hills. I’ve never seen the Robin Hood movie and still enjoyed the walk, so turns out it’s not a prerequisite.


Made a new friend en route to Sycamore Gap


Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall is a nearly 2000-year-old Roman wall that stretches from England’s west coast to the north. The full walk is just over 130km long and generally takes 5-10 days.

Along the way, there are plenty of guest houses and pubs you can stay in if you don’t want to shlep your own gear. Sycamore Gap is just one of many shorter sections of the walk that you can do if you’re not wanting to tackle the whole shebang.

For some more ideas, check out a bunch more walks over at the Northumberland National Park website.


This wall was made for walkin’



With more than 150km of dedicated riding track, Kielder Forest Park (just next to Northumberland National Park) is one of the best spots for riding. They’ve got road, gravel, and mountain bike trails from green all the way up to black.

You can even rent bikes for the day in the park from Bike4Health.

Osprey Trail

The Osprey Trail is a 19km blue mountain biking trail that breaks off from the Lakeside Way. It climbs up above the lake for beautiful views and then takes flowy singletrack back down. While it’s a mountain biking route, it’s also suitable for anyone with good experience riding gravel. I did it on a gravel bike while riding the Lakeside Way and it was an absolute dream.

Bloody Bush Trail

The red-grade Bloody Bush Trail is an intermediate mountain bike trail that goes all the way up to the border with Scotland. At 33km long it’s perfect to get the legs burning and links up with Scotland trails if you want to go even further. Check that the route is open if you’re heading there as it was recently closed due to storm damage in the area.

Lakeside Way

The Lakeside Way is a beautiful gravel ride that takes you around the lake at Kielder Forest Park. The 42km path is reasonably flat and is well maintained so it’s suitable for those with only a little experience riding on gravel. You’ll be treated to plenty of lake views as you dart in and out of the surrounding forest.


northumberland national park, photo by Pat Corden, Northumberland, Visit Britain, England, bike

Champagne gravel? Don’t mind if we do


Deadwater Up and Over Trail

For something a little more serious, take a stab at the Deadwater Up and Over Trail. The 17km trail goes up to the top of Deadwater Fell with views over the whole area. You’ll then get a rollercoaster ride of single track and features back to Kielder Castle on the lake.

It’s a black-grade mountain bike trail so only tackle it if you’ve got lots of mountain bike riding experience and a high level of fitness.

If you’re still looking for more after that, the Northumberland National Park website has a great list of more routes in the general area.



Northumberland National Park and Kielder Forest Park together make up Europe’s 2nd largest International Dark Sky Park. That means they’re one of the best places you can go for stargazing, with big wide open skies and super low light pollution.

The Twice Brewed Inn has an amazing stargazing experience where you’ll get to spot constellations, planets, and galaxies through their telescopes. They also have a planetarium where you sit back and have an interactive night sky projected onto a dome above you and get a tour through the galaxy.

Kielder Observatory offers a range of experiences and events all year round, including the stargazing experience ‘discovering new worlds’ with their massive telescopes.

Because Northumberland National Park is an International Dark Sky Park with limited light pollution you can also see a mindblowing amount of stars without any telescopes. So wherever you’re staying, make sure to pop your head out in the middle of the night and see what the sky has in store for you. If you’re there at the right time of year, you might even be lucky enough to catch a meteor shower or a glimpse at the Northern Lights (reach out to Twice Brewed Inn for dates).


Road Trip

Northumberland National Park isn’t small. Combined with Kielder Forest Park they cover more than 1,500km2, so if you really want to cover some ground then you’re going to have to… ROAD TRIP!

Start on the coast in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and make your way inland to the park. Avoid the highways, take the backroads and get lost on scenic detours. Kielder Forest Park is the largest planted forest in England with 150 million trees, so at some point you should definitely pull over and hug one of them. Maybe take a walk up a mountain and scream at the top of your lungs from the peak.

When your voice is hoarse and your eyes are about to pop out of your head from all the beauty, pull over in the nearest little town. Find the nearest pub/hotel, have a cracking meal, go to bed and then do it all over again the next day.

Follow your nose, rinse and repeat until there are no more trees to hug and mountains to climb.


Durham Castle casually hiding behind the bushes

Skill Level

Northumberland National Park has activities for all skill levels. Head out for a small day walk or stargazing tour, or hit the hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails. It’s got plenty to punish yourself on, but is also suitable for families and those with less mobility – it’s really up to you how difficult you want to make it.

Essential Gear for Northumberland National Park

  • Clothes for four seasons in a day
  • Plenty of water
  • Hiking boots or solid walking shoes
  • Eyemask (there are lots of daylight hours in summer)
  • Offline maps

Tips for Visiting Northumberland National Park

There aren’t too many tips for exploring Northumberland National Park, but the weather can change quickly. I had two rain storms that soaked me to the bone, bright sunshine that dried me off completely, and a hot afternoon that almost got me low on water… all in one day. If you’re heading out for the day, hope for the best but plan for the worst.

Reception can also be pretty patchy in the park. There were spots with full reception and big stints where I had nothing. You’d do well to download offline maps for driving and walking, I used


No reception can also mean no worries – ahhh serenity!

Northumberland National Park FAQs

Where is Northumberland National Park located?

Northumberland National Park is located in the northeast of England, up on the border with Scotland.

How do you get to Northumberland National Park?

Assuming you’re already in England, grab a train to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. For those coming from further afield, they’ve also got an airport there. From Newcastle-upon-Tyne you’ll want a car, as the park is pretty spread out and not easy to get to with public transport.

Is Northumberland National Park free?

Yep, Northumberland National Park is free to enter and explore. You may have to pay for parking in some locations and you can rent bikes or other equipment if you want, but there are plenty of free walks and adventures to be had too.

When is Northumberland National Park open?

Northumberland National Park is open all year round, but for autumn and winter are the best for stargazing. If you’re there in February, you can also catch the Northumberland Dark Skies Festival.

Is Northumberland National Park good for beginners?

Northumberland National Park is great for beginners. There are plenty of day walks, easy rides, and stargazing experiences. Just be wary that the weather can change quickly and always adventure within your ability.

Is Northumberland National Park good for families?

With so many accessible walks, beautiful spots for picnics, and easy adventures, Northumberland National Park is perfect for families that want to have an easy and accessible escape to nature.

What’s the best time of year to visit Northumberland National Park?

The best time of year to visit Northumberland National Park is June to August when summer is in full swing and the weather is perfect for adventures. You can visit all year round but be wary of some wet weather outside of summer.

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.