Photographs (left – right) * Blue heron on River Coquet – riverside, Rothbury – robin, Cragside


Rothbury may have made the headlines for all the wrong reasons a couple of years ago but the press attention also showed just how beautiful the surrounding countryside is and many of the locals are happy to talk about their memories of the incident that put them on the map. A small market town sitting on the River Coquet in Northumberland, Rothbury is the perfect place for a mid-week or weekend break. Ideal for art lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, photographers, walkers or just anyone who wants a break from the norm, the locals will welcome you with open arms.

Within a few miles is Cragside where you can visit the National Trust property of Lord Armstrong. The house is surrounded by over 30 miles of footpaths and lakeside walks with rock gardens sloping down to the Debdon Burn. The gardens and estate don’t open until mid March but there’s still plenty to see if you happen to visit before then.

At the other side of Rothbury is the small village of Thropton where we stopped for a bite to eat at The Three Wheat Heads. Although the food was delicious, the view from the restaurant over the rolling countryside is equally gorgeous. You can certainly see why the area of Northumberland is photographed and painted by so many.

While Cragside and Thropton are a fair walk away, a short car journey over the hills will bring you to the medieval market town of Alnwick, home to Alnwick Castle and Alnwick Gardens. Having visited both before in the past (which, incidentally are well worth a visit), I decided to explore the town itself and see if I could jog a few memories as I often visited the town as a child with my parents. Although the inevitable large chains have moved in, there are still a few gems tucked away (more of which later), although the last time I visited, the town fair was on in the Market Square. The fair was brought to life by a town crier and the locals donned period costume and treated unlucky volunteers to the delights of the ducking stool. I was sad to hear they no longer hold the town fair so any witches out there are safe for the time being ;).

I really enjoyed my few days away. Though for me, it’s only a short car journey away, it feels like you could be a million miles away. Until you bump into someone you haven’t seen in ten years like I did of course.

If you do get the opportunity to visit any of these places, make sure you have plenty of fuel as you may well find (as we did) that the nearest petrol station is a little further away than you’d like and trust me when I say, you don’t want to be playing petrol roulette on those hills in the dark.