Inland Northumberland Travel Guide: The Best Hikes & Wild Swimming Spots

Northumberland is one of the most underrated counties in the UK, one which holds a special place in my heart. I visited the region on a yearly basis in my childhood and teenage years, so it brings back an abundance of fond memories. It is best known for its coastline, which is dotted with castles, scenic walks and endless beaches. However, there are also treasures to be found inland. It is wild, beautiful and sparsely populated, so you often feel like you have the place to yourself. During the day you can explore historic sites and hike through rolling hills. At night you can look up at some of the darkest skies in the UK and see the Milky Way with your bare eyes. It is a truly incredible place. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in nature, inland Northumberland is the place to do it.

The Practicalities:

Getting There & Getting Around

Northumberland is a vast county and many of the sights are spread out, with around an hour’s drive or more between them. I therefore recommend driving there and having a car on hand to allow you to explore as easily and freely as possible. 

Where To Stay

There are an abundance of holiday cottages, inns and BnB’s scattered across the region for you to choose from. I personally stayed at Landal Kielder Waterside in a self catering lodge. It provided a nice balance of freedom, but also having access to the resorts’s amenities such as a restaurant or gym if I wanted to use them. (Disclaimer: It was a press stay).

When To Go

Northumberland is a year-round destination. I have been there in all four seasons and enjoyed it every single time. Just make sure you pack for the British weather, bringing layers and waterproofs no matter the month.

How Long To Visit

You can easily get a taste of Northumberland in a long weekend, but I recommend staying for at least 3 full days to ensure you squeeze the most out of your time there. If you have more time, you could easily spend a week in the region.

The Hikes:

Simonside & Dove Crag

Distance: 8km

Elevation Gain: 315m

Difficulty: Moderate

Route: Click here.  

This beautiful walk has gorgeous heather, rocky outcrops and a climb, rewarding you with stunning views over the Simonside Hills.

Hadrians Wall & Sycamore Gap

Distance: 5.6km

Elevation Gain: 118m

Difficulty: Easy

Route: Click here.

This short walk takes in a stunning section of the famous Hadrian’s wall, including the iconic Sycamore Gap (a very photogenic tree!) and Crag Loch. You can find a little coffee van at the car park on busy days.

Upper Coquetdale

Distance: 13km

Elevation Gain: 468m

Difficulty: Moderate

Route: Click here.  

It doesn’t get more typical Northumberland than this. Rolling hills, seriously wild landscapes and some tough climbs. A great trail if you want to feel isolated and immersed in nature.

Altwinton & River Alwin Walk

Distance: 6.9km

Elevation gain: 207m

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Route: Click here.  

A short but satisfying route. It starts with an exposed path along to the top of the hills with panoramic views before going down into the valley and winding back towards Altwinton. Stop off at the Rose and Thistle pub for lunch.

Drake Stone & Harbottle Castle 

Distance: 6.4km

Elevation Gain: 201m

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Route: Click here.

This walk packs a punch, taking in the famous Drake Stone, historic Harbottle Castle and views over the surrounding area. You can even swim in Harbottle lake! This route can easily be combined with the above Altwinton walk as they are minutes apart. 

Windy Gyle & Davidsons Lynn.

Distance: 16.88km

Elevation Gain: 696m

Difficulty: Challenging

Route: Click here.  

This challenging route takes you right onto the Scottish border and gives stunning views of the wildest Northumberland landscapes. The highlight is definitely wild swimming in the remote Davidson’s Linn waterfall. 

The Cheviot

Distance: 13.7km

Elevation Gain: 641m

Difficulty: Hard

Route: Click here.  

The Cheviot is the highest point in Northumberland National Park at 815m. There are a few routes that take in the peak, but this one also includes a waterfall for a mid-hike dip, which is why I chose it! 

Kielder Water Lakeside Way

Distance, elevation gain & difficulty: Varies.

Route: Click here.

Kielder Forest and Wielder Water are definitely worth a visit. It is such a vast, remote and beautiful area – it’s like nothing I have seen in the UK. The Lakeside Way is 47.2km in its entirety but you can walk short sections of it which give incredible views. If you fancy cycling, Kielder Waterside has bikes you can rent.

Wild Swimming Spots:

Hareshaw Linn Waterfall

This beautiful waterfall is the perfect spot for a morning swim and is deep enough to jump in from the nearby rocks. You need to do a short hike to reach it, you can find the route here.    

Policeman’s Pool

This secret spot is only known by a few locals, who generously shared their knowledge with us. In Shillmoor once you cross the bridge and turn left, just past the end of the wooden fence there is a perfect swimming spot. It is a deep pool which is so long you can even swim lengths in it! Here is a google pin:

Linhope Spout

Another stunning waterfall that is well worth a visit. You will need to do a short hike to get there and back. Once you’re there the pool beneath the falls is nice and deep, perfect for a dip. 

I have to admit that inland Northumberland blew my socks off. I didn’t know what to expect as my childhood was focused on the coastline, but the rolling hills and vast landscapes are phenomenal. Perfect for hikers and active travellers alike, especially those who want to venture off the beaten path.

Safe travels,