The most spectacular stretch of Hadrian's Wall, with breathtaking views, is just half an hour by car, including Housesteads fort and Vindolanda, where the excavations of the civilian settlement has provided a wealth of stunning finds. Most are on show in the site museum. although the famous Vindolanda writing tablets are in the British Museum. Corstopitum (Corbridge), Chesters and Bremenium Roman forts are all also within easy reach.
The Northumberland coast and its castles
The spectacular Northumbrian Heritage coast, with its breathtaking sandy beaches, dunes and dramatic rocky coastline is only an hour away.
The coastal castles at Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh and Warkworth are among Britain’s finest while Holy Island (Lindisfarne), linked to the mainland by a causeway submerged at high tide, is one of the great centres of early Christianity, and retains its unique magic today.
Alnwick Castle and Garden
Alnwick Garden, with its Grand Cascade, Bamboo Labyrinth, Poison Garden, water sculptures and huge treehouse, is one of the world's most ambitious new gardens, a truly 21st century experience! Alnwick Castle - of Harry Potter fame! - is equally worth a visit. The rugged Northumbrian fortress built by the Percy family was transformed inside around 1850 into a recreation of Renaissance Italy, with the greatest collection of Old Master paintings in Northern England. Another 'must' in Alnwick is a visit to the famous Barter Books in the old railway station!
Northumberland has superb country houses, all with magnificent gardens, at Wallington, Cragside (famous for its rhododendrons and as the first English house to have electricity) and Belsay. Sir John Vanbrugh’s Seaton Delaval on the coast north of Newcastle is a romantic ruin, with a wing housing the collections of the highly eccentric Delaval family. Gibside near Newcastle is the North's finest 18th century landscape garden, with summer concerts in the grounds.
Northumberland's medieval heritage
Hexham Abbey, with its Saxon crypt and famous ‘Night Stairs’, is Northumberland’s finest medieval church, while the town's Old Gaol, now a border reiver museum, and Moot Hall (courthouse) are also superb survivals of medieval England. The enchanting village of Blanchland also clusters around the remains of its medieval abbey, while Brinkburn is a romantic ruined priory on the River Coquet. The coastal ruins at Tynemouth Priory are truly spectacular. Bede's World at Jarrow with its Saxon church introduces visitors to the life of Englands's first historian, and there are further Saxon churches at Corbridge and Bywell.
The Farne Islands
The Farne Islands are a magnificent bird sanctuary, accessible by boat, boasting 23 species including 37,000 pairs of puffins! The islands are also home to a large grey seal colony, a medieval pele tower and a Victorian lighthouse.
The Scottish Borders, Durham and Cumbria
The Scottish Borders with their famous country houses of Mellerstain, Bowhill, Abbotsford (home of Sir Walter Scott), Floors Castle and medieval abbeys are within easy reach of Greystead. The Norman cathedral at Durham, one of Britain’s greatest buildings and a World Heritage Site, is 1 hour 20 mins by car. Or you can head west to Cumbria to the romantic Lanercost Priory or to the border town of Carlisle (1 hour) with its magnificent castle, Tullie House Art Gallery and Museum and excellent shops and restaurants.
The Cheviot Hills and the Pennine Way
The Pennine Way, the famous National Trail along the rugged backbone of England's hills and mountains, is only 15 mins. by car at its nearest point, while the Cheviot Hills and dramatic Simonside and Lordenshaws with their prehistoric remains and mysterious ‘Cup and Ring’ markings offer further wonderful opportunities for walkers.
Newcastle and Gateshead
Newcastle is one of Britain's handsomest Georgian cities and boasts additionally a cathedral, castle and the half-timbered Bessie Surtees' House on the Quayside, while the bridges over the Tyne are famous examples of the North's industrial heritage. The Laing Art Gallery showcases major collections of the region's arts, while the Great North Museum features exceptional natural history collections and Roman and Egyptian antiquities. Newcastle's Discovery Museum houses Turbinia, the Tyne's last-ever steamship, while cutting-edge cotemprary art can be found at the Baltic Flour Mill.
Aydon Castle near Corbridge is a delightful fortified medieval manor while Prudhoe Castle is an exceptional border stronghold. At Chillingham Castle you can also visit the famous wild cattle, only survivors of the prehistoric herds that once roamed Europe. Not far over the Scottish border from Greystead is Hermitage Castle, where in 1566 Mary, Queen of Scots rode over 50 miles in one day to visit her wounded lover, the Earl of Bothwell.