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Alnmouth is a picturesque and interesting coastal resort, as its name suggests located at the mouth of the River Aln. It boasts sandy beaches, one of the oldest golf courses in Britain, a small museum and plenty of places to eat and drink. It was once a bustling port and a particular focal point for the export of local grain and the import of timber. For a time, it was an importer of guano. Shifting sands influenced its fortunes and a violent storm of 1806 not only also destroyed its church, but also changed the course of the river – and the fortunes of the port – forever.
Many of the old buildings associated with Alnmouth’s past are preserved, converted to houses. It is on the edge of an area of outstanding natural beauty, but also has one of the biggest collections of WW2 tank traps you will ever see, strung along the shoreline, many of them partially buried in the sands.
Alnwick Castle dates from the 11th century and has been in the hands of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland, since 14th century. The castle is one of the most visited in England, steeped in the Percy family history with gruesome discoveries to be made as well as magnificent state rooms. It is often used for filming and has starred in Harry Potter and Downton Abbey, for example. The castle also houses a number of special exhibitions, including the Regimental Museum of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. Adjacent to the castle is the Alnwick Garden, a formal garden built around a huge cascading fountain and featuring one of the most astonishing tree houses you will ever see.
Antony Gormley’s enormous steel erection, controversial when it was unveiled in 1998, has become one of the iconic images of the North East, alongside the Tyne Bridge, Durham Cathedral and Newcastle United scoring a goal, the kind of thing that makes locals go all misty-eyed.
Accessed from the A167, not the adjacent busy A1, the Angel of the North, Antony Gormley's steel sculpture south of Gateshead, weighs 200 tonnes, is 20 metres high and has a wingspan of 54 metres.
Arbeia Roman Fort stood guard on the south bank of the Tyne, guarding the sea route to Hadrian's Wall. The fort is situated in what is now a residential area, with a primary school opposite. It was originally built in the 2nd century AD and, with variations and rebuilding (the fort was destroyed in the late 3rd/early 4th century, for example), was occupied until the Anglo-Saxon period. There is a good museum, reconstructed gateway and living quarters (which are a bit tatty) and the excavated outline of the fort.
Bamburgh is most famous for its castle. Fortified since ancient times, it perches on a massive, 180-foot (55 metres) high lump of basalt and is one of Northumbria’s most iconic images. But Bamburgh is an attractive little village in its own right, with plenty of watering holes, the RNLI Grace Darling Museum and the Church of St Aiden. The beach is simply wonderful and, if not always warm enough for bathing, it is lovely to walk along it, paddling as you go, or have a quick kick-about with the kids.
Bamburgh Castle is one of the dramatic icons of Northumberland's coast. There has been a fortress on the rocky crag poking out into the North Sea since before the Anglo-Saxons invaded. The Normans built a new castle, and its bloody history continued. But the present building owes much to Victorian restoration and idealism. And thanks for that goes to wealthy arms manufacturer and dealer William Armstrong, whose family still live there. Bamburgh is a popular visitor attraction, is 'bursting with history and has also featured in several film/TV productions.
Barnard Castle was founded by Bernard de Balliol in the 12th century and the ruins of this once mighty fortress dominate both the town named for it and the river Tees. Balliol College, Oxford, was named after Bernard's ancestor, John, and John's son (another John) was briefly King of Scotland. Afterwards, the castle came into the possession of the powerful Earls of Warwick - the Neville family - and subsequently, through marriage to Anne Neville, it then came into the hands of the Duke of Gloucester - Richard III. Later, it fell into disrepair and is now a spectacular ruin in an impressive setting.
Beamish is an astonishing open air museum, telling the story of life in North East England during the 1820s, 1900s & 1940s. It was the vision of Dr Frank Atkinson, the museum’s founder and first director, who could see the industrial heritage of the north east fading away and set out to preserve it. So, in 300 acres on the site of a Durham coalfield, you will find a town from the 1900s, a pit village, colliery, Edwardian railway, 1940s farm – and more. Many of the buildings have been painstakingly relocated from their original sites and rebuilt; others are faithful replicas. There are thousands of exhibits, many of them working, and the museum is further brought to life with the help of costumed re-enactors.
The remains of a Temple of Mithras, the Persian god of light and truth, stands near what is left of the Roman fort of Brocolitia, or Carrawburgh, on the route of Hadrian's Wall. It was built in the 3rd century and subsequently desecrated, probably by Christians. There was once another temple nearby, dedicated to Coventina, a local water goddess, and a nymphaeum – a monument dedicated to nymphs - but nothing is to be seen of these now.
Monument celebrating the life of Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, born in Newcastle in 1748. An able officer who served in the American War of Independence and Napoleonic Wars, Collingwood was Nelson's 2IC at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and took command when Nelson was fatally wounded. His statue looks out across the mouth of the Tyne. Four cannon flanking the steps of the monument were taken from his flagship, HMS Royal Sovereign.
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