Heritage > Counties > England


Covering an area of some 1,942 square miles Northumberland has a population of 310,000.

This is not to say that Northumberland is anything but a naturally lovely, if at times wild, county.

Other main towns in the county are Berwick-upon-Tweed, which has changed hands between England and Scotland numerous times over the centuries and has it's local football team playing in the Scottish League, and Hexham.

Among the phyiscal feature Northumberland has to offer are the Cheviot Hills, the rivers Tweed and upper Tyne of Northumberland National Park, Holy Island and part of Hadrian's Wall. Northumberland, due to it's location, has the distinction of having the greatest number of castles of any of the British counties. The original kingdom of Northumbria was heavily influenced by the raiders from Scandinavia in the Dark Ages.

Today's Northumberland lists Sheep farming as it's highest earning productive source.

Once part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, Northumberland found itself torn into Northumberland and Tyne and Wear thanks to the government redrawing of county boundaries in 1974. The new county obviously deriving its name from the two major rivers of the region.

Tyne and Wear is centred on the cities of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sunderland with the town of Morpeth being awarded the honour of being the adminstration centre for the 'new' Northumberland.

Hence the county now covers some 1943 square miles nestled quite comfortably south of the Anglo-Scottish border.

Although nearly nine times larger than the newer county of Tyne and Wear it has a population of just under a quarter of that of the metropolitan cousin.

Facts on the region

Origin of name: Comes from the Anglo-Saxon meaning 'the place of those north of the Huimber'.

Name first recorded: 895 as Norohymbraland.

County Town: Morpeth

County Rivers: Tyne, Coquet, Rede, Aln.

Highest point: In the Cheviots at 2,676 feet.

Northumberland’s local government: Most of the County of Northumberland is governed by a two-tier system - Northumberland County Council and the six Districts of Alnwick, Berwick upon Tweed, Blyth Valley, Castle Morpeth, Tynedale and Wansbeck.

The local landscape

Richly dramatic scenery is to be found here in England’s north country, from an open coast to a wild interior. Northumberland is England’s northernmost county. Its border butts against the Scottish Lowlands, and the land can be empty and lonely, even bleak, much of it heathery heights and stoney hills.

Against the northern barrier the land softens suddenly and gives way to the undulating Borders of Scotland. Although largely rural the open fields of the county here give a romantic, soft quality and there is a dramatic ending as you cross the high divide of the River Tweed at Berwick.

It may be little populated and savage in its rural heart, yet the county possesses wonderful scenery such as the Cheviots, as well as little oases of sheltered beauty. Small fields and farms cluster round towns like Morpeth and the castled Alnwick.

Along the jagged and stony shore castles finger the air and stand out against the sullen North Sea. This is the land the wild men from Scandinavia invaded, pouring in on their dreaded longships to plunder abbeys and towns, making the name of Viking feared through the land. Fishing ports and resorts are now found on the bays and wide sand beaches of the coast.

Local Towns and Villages

ALNWICK Once the county town, it sits on the little river Alne with a fine market square surrounded by piazzas. This is a good centre for exploring the north of the county. Nearby the ancient Alnwick Castle.

BERWICK ON TWEED see Berwickshire.

HALTWHISTLE Fine for seeing some of the best 5 preserved parts of Hadrian’s Wall. Nearby Housesteads has the finest stretch of the Roman wall for 72 miles between the Tyne and the Solway Firth built to keep back the barbarians from about AD 124.

HEXHAM Beautifully set on the Tyne. The market square has an 18th-century colonnaded shelter.

NEWBIGGIN-BY-THE-SEA Has the world’s oldest surviving Methodist chapel dating back to the mid 18th-century. There is also a display of the history of local methodism which many miners here followed.

SEATON DELAVAL Delightful hall built in 1720 by architect Sir John Vanbrugh. The nearby little port of Seaton Sluice is also worth a visit.

TWEEDMOUTH Attached to Berwick by a 15-arched 17th-century bridge. Famous castle founded by King John, sacked by Scots King William in 1202.



North Shields



Places to Visit

Bamburgh Castle, Bamburgh, Northumberland

Belsay Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland

Chillingham Castle, Alnwick, Northumberland

Eshott Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland

Chesters Roman Fort, NR Hexham, Northumberland

Cragside, Morpeth, Northumberland

Warkworth Castle

Alnwick Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle, Embleton

Housesteads, Nr Bardon


Famous names from the region

The powerful Percy family became Dukes of Northumberland and built castles here, notably Alnwick. The present duke resides mostly at Syon Park in Middlesex.

George Stephenson, railway pioneer, was married not once but twice at Newburn’s ancient parish church. His first steam locomotive, Puffing Billy, was built here.

Catherine Cookson has portrayed Northumberland frequently in her prolific novels, for example The Mallen Trilogy.

Newcastle provided the gritty backdrop for two classic crime movies: Get Carter, starring Michael Caine, and Stormy Monday by Mike Figgis.

Police frontman Sting is a native of Newcastle.

Goal-scorer extraordinaire Alan Shearer was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

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