5 Lesser-Known Historic Places to visit in Northumberland
Home to more castles than any other region in Britain, Northumberland is renowned for its Roman, Viking and Medieval historic sites. However, amongst the region’s ancient monuments, Northumberland also has a very interesting local history - from heroines to pubs with legendary pasts, Northumberland has an unknown side to its history just waiting to be discovered. If you’re venturing up North and want to experience the quirks of Northumberland’s past for yourself, look no further.
Grace Darling Museum, Bamburgh
Grace Darling shot to fame in 1838 when she, at the tender age of 22, became a Northumbrian heroine overnight. The SS Forfarshire was sadly lost off the coast of Seahouses near the Farne Islands and Grace and her father bravely ventured out into the rough waters to rescue 9 passengers from the shipwreck. The RNLI museum dedicated to her memory is open all year round and takes its visitors through Grace’s life through a collection of her personal items and an ever-changing set of creative exhibitions.
The Dirty Bottles Pub, Alnwick
Two centuries ago, the innkeeper of Ye Old Cross pub is said to have dropped dead while interfering with the bottles in the window of his pub, resulting in his widow declaring the bottles cursed. The bottles have remained untouched ever since, and are sealed between two windows in the pub, now aptly named The Dirty Bottles. Nowadays the pub serves delicious food and their cocktails are celebrated locally, so do pop in for some refreshment whilst on your Northumberland holiday.
Lindisfarne Scriptorium, Holy Island
Lindisfarne Scriptorium is an independent gallery and shop on Holy Island that sells artwork inspired by the world-famous religious art of the monks who occupied the island before the Viking invasion of 798. The Lindisfarne Gospels, which are said to have been the work of Eadfrith, a monk who became the Bishop of Lindisfarne in 698, are one of the most famous early Christian manuscripts. The detailed calligraphy and colourful design of the gospel have become synonymous with the Saxon era of English history and today, there is no better place than to see how the artistry of the gospels still impacts the residents of Lindisfarne than at the Scriptorium.
The Temple of Mithras, Hadrian's Wall
Located on the Chesters Roman Trail on Hadrian’s Wall, the Temple of Mithras at Carrawburgh is a hidden gem on this celebrated monument. Having come into the ownership of English Heritage in 2020, the small but fascinating ruins of this holy Roman site are free to visit all year round. Visitors should bear in mind that the surface around the temple is unstable, so it is best to access the site via car, for which there is a car park nearby. A visit to the Temple will transport you back to the Roman era and give you a taste of the kind of structures that the Romans erected to worship their gods, in this case Mithras, one of the Gods of Suns.
Northumberland’s rich history, dramatic landscape and well-preserved buildings have been an integral part of its more recent history - its prominence in the film and TV industry. Now, there’s no denying that this is not necessarily true history, but the use of Northumberland’s landmarks in shows such as Blackadder and Game of Thrones is testimony to the region’s inspiring history. For those who are interested in learning more about this part of Northumberland’s story, check out the ‘Alnwick on Film’ tour at Alnwick Castle, or visit the incredible view at Sycamore Gap that was featured in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.