The Northeast

We’ve compiled the best of the best in The Northeast - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Alnwick Garden

    A marvelous flight of fancy, Alnwick Garden celebrated its 20-year anniversary at the turn of this decade and remains one of the area's most beautiful, unusual, and kid-friendly attractions. Alongside traditional features like perfectly manicured lawns, shaded woodland walks, and a charming rose garden are more unusual elements like the enormous Grand Cascade water feature, a Poison Garden with everything from hemlock to cannabis, and a labyrinth of towering bamboo. The grounds are also home to the largest "Tai-haku" cherry orchard in the world, as well as a recently spruced-up shop and a number of excellent dining and drinking options, including one of the area's most unique restaurants, the Treehouse. If you want to take a little of the garden home with you, you can buy clippings of the unique varieties of roses in the shop.

    Denwick La., Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 1YU, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £14.50, Closed Jan. and Tues. and Wed. in Nov.–Mar.
  • 2. Angel of the North

    South of Newcastle, near the junction of the A1 and A1(M) at Gateshead, you'll find this enormous rust-colored steel sculpture—one of England's largest and most popular works of public art. Created by Antony Gormley in 1998, it's a sturdy, abstract human figure with airplane-like wings rather than arms. It stands 65 feet tall and has a horizontal wingspan of 175 feet. It's tricky to experience it fully from a car, so park in the free lot just behind the sculpture (on the A167) and take a stroll around its feet.

    A167, Gateshead, Gateshead, NE9 7TY, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 3. Bamburgh Castle

    You'll see Bamburgh Castle long before you reach it: a solid, weather-beaten, clifftop fortress that dominates the coastal view for miles around. A fortification of some kind has stood here since the 6th century, but the Norman castle was damaged during the 15th century, and the central tower is all that remains intact. Much of the structure—the home of the Armstrong family since 1894—was restored during the 18th and 19th centuries. The interior is mostly late Victorian (most impressively, the Great Hall), although a few rooms, such as the small but alarmingly well-stocked armory, have a more authentically medieval feel; look out for the devil-horned helmet. The breathtaking view across the sweeping sands of Bamburgh beach and the North Sea beyond is worth the steep climb up from the main road; bring a picnic if the weather's good (or order to-go sandwiches at the café).

    Off B1340, Bamburgh, Northumberland, NE69 7DF, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £14.10; £4 parking
  • 4. Beamish, the Living Museum of the North

    Situated nine miles northwest of Durham, this impressive "living museum"—a sprawling complex made up of heritage buildings found on-site or moved from elsewhere in the region—offers real insight into the way people in the Northeast lived and worked from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s. A vintage bus and a streetcar take you around the site to various points of interest, including a farm estate; a pit village and colliery; and an entire 1920s town complete with a bank, convenience store, and Masonic hall. Everything is staffed by workers in period costumes, and you can buy era-appropriate food and drinks in the pub, bakery, and "sweet shop" (candy store). As well as the permanent exhibits, there are special events year-round, from weekend-long festivals, where you're encouraged to come in old-style fancy dress, to traditional English celebrations such as May Day and Harvest Festival. You can spend at least half a day here, and tickets are valid for a whole year in case you want to return.

    Off A693, Beamish, Durham, DH9 ORG, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £19.50, Some areas closed weekdays in winter
  • 5. Bowes Museum

    This vast manor house, inspired by a French château, was built between 1862 and 1875. Today, it's home to one of the region's most unique museum exhibits: an 18th-century mechanical swan that catches and swallows an articulated silver fish. The swan is currently undergoing restoration so its usual 2 pm show is on hold, although there's a film showing the swan in action and explaining the ingenious mechanics behind it. Other highlights in the Bowes Museum include paintings by Canaletto, El Greco, and Francisco Goya, as well as beautiful collections of ceramics and glass, 18th-century French furniture, and 19th- and 20th-century fashion. There's a guided tour available every day at 11:15 am; book online in advance.  Planning to visit the rest of town? Park for free here and walk in. Just note that the entrance gates are locked at closing time (usually 5 pm).

    Newgate, Barnard Castle, Durham, DL12 8NP, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £15.50; tour £3
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  • 6. Corbridge Roman Town

    The foundations of this important Roman garrison town (the farthest north in the entire Roman Empire) are brought to life with a lively audio commentary, plus occasional reenactments during the summer. The recently renovated visitor center houses the Corbridge Hoard, a surprisingly well-preserved collection of tools and personal possessions left behind by Roman soldiers in the 2nd century, as well as other objects found in and around the site. In particular, look out for three items: the Corbridge Lion, a free-standing sandstone sculpture depicting a male lion on top of a deer; the Corbridge Lanx, a large silver dish intricately engraved with mythological scenes; and a gambling soldier's "cheat's dice," which on close inspection features two ones and no six. Corbridge Roman Town is around four miles east of Hexham.

    Corchester La., Corbridge, Northumberland, NE45 5NT, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £9, Closed weekdays Nov.–Mar.
  • 7. Cragside

    The turrets and towers of Tudor-style Cragside, a Victorian country house, look out over the edge of a forested hillside. It was built between 1864 and 1895 by Lord Armstrong, an early electrical engineer and inventor, and designed by Richard Norman Shaw, a well-regarded architect. Among Armstrong's contemporaries, Cragside was called "the palace of a modern magician" because it contained so many of his inventions. This was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity; the grounds also hold an energy center with restored mid-Victorian machinery. There are Pre-Raphaelite paintings and an elaborate mock-Renaissance marble chimneypiece. The grounds are as impressive as the house; they cover around 1,000 acres and include an enormous sandstone rock garden, a picture-perfect iron bridge, and 14 different waymarked paths and trails, which bloom with rhododendrons in June. There's also a children's adventure playground. If you come by car, don't miss the six-mile Carriage Drive around the estate. There are some lovely viewpoints and picnic spots along the way, like the gorgeous Nelly's Moss lake. To get here, take the B6341 southwest of Alnwick for about 10.5 miles. Paths around the grounds are steep, and distances can be long, so wear comfortable shoes.

    Off B6341, Rothbury, Northumberland, NE65 7PX, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Grounds and house £21; grounds only £13, in winter £7.50
  • 8. Durham Cathedral

    A Norman masterpiece in the heart of the city, Durham Cathedral is a vision of strength and fortitude, a far cry from the airy lightness of later Gothic cathedrals. Construction began about 1090, and the main body was finished around 1150. The round arches of the nave and the deep zigzag patterns carved into them typify the heavy, gaunt style of Norman, or Romanesque, building. The technology of Durham, however, was revolutionary; this was the first European cathedral to be given a stone, rather than a wooden, roof. Note the enormous bronze Sanctuary Knocker, shaped like the head of a ferocious mythological beast, mounted on the massive northwestern door. By grasping the ring clenched in the animal's mouth, medieval felons could claim sanctuary; cathedral records show that 331 criminals sought this protection between 1464 and 1524. An unobtrusive tomb at the western end of the cathedral, in the Moorish-influenced Galilee Chapel, is the final resting place of the Venerable Bede, an 8th-century Northumbrian monk whose contemporary account of the English people made him the country's first reliable historian. In good weather, and if you're feeling up to it, you can climb the 325 steps up to the tower, which has spectacular views of Durham. The Durham Cathedral Museum allows visitors into parts of the complex that were previously closed to the public, including the Monks Dormitory and the Great Kitchen with its breathtaking octagonal roof. Treasures on display here include priceless Anglo-Saxon art, gold and garnet crosses, elaborate vestments, illuminated manuscripts, and the original coffin of St. Cuthbert. Together it represents one of the most significant single collections of Anglo-Saxon artifacts in the world. For a more modern take on this ancient monument, check out the elaborate LEGO model of Durham Cathedral, situated between the Undercroft Restaurant and shop. It's made up of more than 300,000 bricks. Guided tours of the cathedral (one hour) are available Monday through Saturday at 10:30 am, 11:30 am, and 1:30 pm, though times can change if there's a special service going on. A choral evensong service takes place Tuesday through Saturday at 5:30 pm and Sunday at 3:30 pm.

    Palace Green, Durham, Durham, DH1 3EH, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free (requested donation £3); museum £7.50; tower £5.50; guided tours £7.50, No tours Sun.
  • 9. Great North Museum: Hancock

    An amalgam of several collections belonging to Newcastle University and named for a Victorian founder of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, this beautifully renovated museum contains an impressive array of ancient archaeological finds, plus galleries on natural history and astronomy. Highlights include artifacts left behind by the Roman builders of Hadrian's Wall; ancient Egyptian mummies; and a reconstruction of the 1st-century Temple of Mithras at Carrawburgh. This place isn't designed for kids, but the animal exhibits—including a life-size model of a T. rex—should entertain them for a while.

    Barras Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4PT, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free (donations welcome)
  • 10. Hadrian's Wall

    Dedicated to the Roman god Terminus, the massive span of Hadrian's Wall once marked the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. Today, remnants of the wall wander across pastures and hills, stretching 73 miles from Wallsend in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. The wall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and excavating, interpreting, repairing, and generally managing it remains a Northumbrian growth industry. At Emperor Hadrian's command, three legions of soldiers began building the wall in AD 122 and finished it in four years. It was constructed by soldiers and masons after repeated invasions by Pictish tribes from what is now Scotland. During the Roman era it was the most heavily fortified border in the world, with walls 15 feet high and nine feet thick; behind it lay the vallum, a ditch about 20 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Spaced at 5-mile intervals along the wall were massive forts (such as those at Housesteads and Chesters), which could house up to 1,000 soldiers. Every mile was marked by a thick-walled milecastle (a fort that housed about 30 soldiers), and between each milecastle were two turrets, each lodging four men who kept watch. For more than 250 years the Roman army used the wall to control travel and trade and to fortify Roman Britain against the barbarians to the north. During the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, the English army dismantled much of the Roman wall and used the stones to pave what is now the B6318 highway. The most substantial stretches of the remaining wall are between Housesteads and Birdoswald (west of Greenhead). Running through the southern edge of Northumberland National Park and along the sheer escarpment of Whin Sill, this section is also an area of dramatic natural beauty. The ancient ruins, rugged cliffs, dramatic vistas, and spreading pastures make it a great area for hiking. Specific sites along Hadrian's Wall—such as Segedunum, Corbridge, and Housesteads—can be found in the Newcastle, Hexham, and Greenhead sections.

  • 11. Head of Steam

    A family-friendly museum in nearby Darlington tells the story of the early days of rail travel. The town gained fame in 1825, when George Stephenson piloted his steam-powered Locomotion No. 1 along newly laid tracks the few miles to nearby Stockton, thus kick-starting the railway age. Set in an abandoned 1842 train station, the museum has interactive exhibits and big steam trains that are great for kids; antique engines and scale models help bring history to life. There's also a café and children's activity room. The museum is 12 miles southeast of Bishop Auckland, just off the A68. There are also regular train connections; get off at Darlington's North Road station.

    Station Rd., Darlington, Darlington, DL3 6ST, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £4.95, Closed Mon. year-round and Tues. in winter
  • 12. Hexham Abbey

    A site of Christian worship for more than 1,300 years, ancient Hexham Abbey forms one side of the town's main square. Most of the current building dates from the 12th and 13th centuries, and much of the stone, including that of the Anglo-Saxon crypt, was taken from the nearby Roman fort at Corbridge. Inside, you can climb the 35 worn stone "night stairs," which once led from the main part of the abbey to the canon's dormitory, to overlook the whole ensemble—look out for the drop of lead on the sixth step, a remnant from when the roof was set alight by a Scottish army in 1286. Also of note inside are the portraits on the 16th-century wooden rood screen and the four panels from a 15th-century Dance of Death in the sanctuary. You can find out more about the history of the abbey in the free, interactive exhibition The Big Story.

    Beaumont St., Hexham, Northumberland, NE46 3NB, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free; requested donation £3
  • 13. Housesteads Roman Fort

    If you have time to visit only one Hadrian's Wall site, Housesteads Roman Fort is your best bet. Britain's most complete example of a Roman fort also features long sections of the wall, with an informative visitor center showcasing a collection of artifacts discovered at the site and computer-generated images of what the fort originally looked like. The site is a 10-minute walk uphill from the parking lot (not for those with mobility problems), but the effort is more than worth it to see the surprisingly extensive ruins, dating from around AD 125. Excavations have revealed the remains of granaries, gateways, barracks, a hospital, and the commandant's house. Come for the history, stay for the views: the northern tip of the fort offers sweeping vistas of Hadrian's Wall as it winds up and over distant hills and crags.

    Off B6318, Haydon Bridge, Northumberland, NE47 6NN, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £9; parking £3
  • 14. Lindisfarne Priory

    In the year 875, Vikings destroyed the Lindisfarne community; only a few monks escaped, carrying with them Cuthbert's bones, which were reburied in Durham Cathedral. The sandstone Norman ruins of Lindisfarne Priory, reestablished in the 11th century, remain an impressive and eerily beautiful sight. A museum here, which is currently being renovated, tells the story of the monks living on Lindisfarne and displays a selection Anglo-Saxon carvings.

    Church La., Lindisfarne, Northumberland, TD15 2RX, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £8.10, Closed Nov.–Mar.
  • 15. Raby Castle

    The stone battlements and turrets of moated Raby Castle, once the seat of the powerful Nevills and currently the home of the 11th Baron Barnard, stand amid a 200-acre deer park and ornamental gardens. Charles Nevill supported Mary, Queen of Scots in the 1569 uprising against Elizabeth I; when the Rising of the North failed, the estate was confiscated. Dating mostly from the 14th century (using stone plundered from Barnard Castle) and renovated in the 18th and 19th centuries, the luxuriously furnished castle has displays of art and other treasures. Rooms in wonderfully elaborate Gothic Revival, Regency, and Victorian styles are open for public viewing, as are the 18th century Walled Gardens and the Coach House, home to a collection of coaches and carriages dating back to the Georgian era. Note that there may be a little disruption as the site is currently undergoing a restoration project, which will see heritage buildings turned into event spaces, restaurants, and shops as well as the creation of a new walled garden. The castle is seven miles southwest of Bishop Auckland.

    Off A688, Staindrop, Durham, DL2 3AH, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £13; park and gardens only £8, Closed Nov.–Feb., Mon., and Tues.
  • 16. Vindolanda

    About 8 miles east of Greenhead, this archaeological site—which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020—holds the remains of eight successive Roman forts and civilian settlements, providing an intriguing look into the daily life of a military compound. Most of the visible remains date from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and new excavations are constantly under way. A reconstructed Roman temple, house, and shop provide context, and the museum displays rare artifacts, such as a handful of extraordinary wooden tablets with messages about everything from household chores to military movements. A full-size reproduction of a section of the wall gives a sense of its sheer scale.

    Off B6318, Bardon Mill, Northumberland, NE47 7JN, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £9.25; £14 combined with Roman Army Museum
  • 17. Alnwick Castle

    Sometimes called the "Windsor of the North," the imposing Alnwick Castle will likely provoke cries of "Hogwarts!" from younger visitors as it comes into view over the hill; the grounds appear as the exterior of the famous School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter movies. Older visitors might also recognize it as Brancaster Castle from the TV series Downton Abbey. In reality, the castle is the ancestral home to the dukes of Northumberland, whose family, the Percys, dominated in the Northeast for centuries. While the exterior is all imposing turrets and towers, the Italianate interiors are lavish and stately. Family photos and other knickknacks scattered around the state rooms are a subtle but pointed reminder that this is a family home, rather than a museum. Highlights include the extraordinary gun room, lined with hundreds of antique pistols arranged in swirling patterns; the formal dining room, its table set as if guests are due at any minute; and the magnificent galleried library, containing 14,000 books in floor-to-ceiling cases. There's plenty here for kids, too. Join a free film tour to hear fascinating anecdotes from the filming of the first two Harry Potter films (as well as Transformers: The Last Knight, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and many more). There are also Potter–themed events on certain dates, including broomstick lessons on the exact spot used in the movie (check the website for the schedule). Elsewhere, Dragon Quest is a labyrinth designed to teach a bit of medieval history; there's have-a-go archery (weather permitting); and there are regular special events, from alchemy and wand-making to bird of prey displays and longbow demonstrations. For the best views of the castle's dramatic exterior, follow the 20-minute Capability Brown Walk along the River Aln. Tickets are valid for one year, so you can come back if you don't see everything in a day. Keep in mind that many castle events are canceled in inclement weather (which isn't uncommon).

    Off B6431, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 1NQ, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £19.50, Closed Nov.–Mar.
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  • 18. Auckland Castle

    Arguably the greatest of the prince-bishops of Durham's properties is this Episcopal palace, which you enter through an elaborate stone arch. Much of what's on view today dates from the 16th century, although the limestone-and-marble chapel, with its dazzling stained-glass windows, was built in 1665 from the ruins of a 12th-century hall. The extraordinary paintings of Jacob and his 12 sons, by the 17th-century Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán, hang in the Long Dining Room. There are also informative videos and immersive projections throughout the property covering everything from the history of the prince-bishops to the bitter miners' strike of 1892. Starting in 2023, the castle will also be home to a Faith Museum, documenting 5,000 years of religious belief in Britain.

    Off Market Pl., Bishop Auckland, Durham, DL14 7NR, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £14, Closed Jan.–mid-Feb., Mon., and Tues.
  • 19. Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

    Formerly a grain warehouse and now the country's largest national gallery for contemporary art outside London, the BALTIC (as it's often styled) presents thought-provoking exhibitions by top names and emerging talents. There's no permanent collection, and the temporary installations change regularly, so check the website for details. There are also two great dining options here: the riverside café-bar BALTIC Kitchen and the rooftop restaurant Six.

    S. Shore Rd., Gateshead, Gateshead, NE8 3BA, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 20. Barnard Castle

    The substantial ruins of Barnard Castle, which gave the town its name, cling to an aerie overlooking the River Tees. From the outside, it looks satisfyingly complete from the right angle; inside it's rather more ruined, though there are still plenty of interesting sights to see. Climb to the top of the cylindrical, 13th-century tower for stunning river views; stroll around the remains of the Great Hall, once the castle's communal dining hub; and learn about the Victorian hermit who squatted here and charged locals an entrance fee. When in the Inner Courtyard, keep an eye out for the figure of a carved boar above the oriel window—it was the family emblem of King Richard III (1452–85), placed there during his reign in honor of the elevated status he bestowed upon the castle.

    Scar Top, Barnard Castle, Durham, DL12 8PR, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £7, Closed weekdays Nov.–Mar.

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