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Northumberland

The county of Northumberland has one of England's riches mixes of historical and natural attractions. Nestled within the hills and dales of the region's beautiful and rugged countryside are the ancient towns, villages and ruins of Roman, medieval and Saxon origins. Whilst on the coast, the endless miles of fine sandy beaches are intermittently interrupted by peaceful fishing villages, and the ruins of castles which stand as testaments to former unrest.

As England's most northerly region, Northumberland has seen some of the fiercest border conflicts in history and consequently has more castles and strongholds than any other English Region.

Fortification began more than eighteen centuries ago when the Emperor Hadrian built Hadrian's Wall to keep tribal raiders out of the Holy Roman Empire. Running 73 miles from Bowness in Cumbria to Wallsend in Tyne and Wear, it crosses much of the western area of Northumberland. Although large sections of the wall have long since disappeared the parts that remain are of great historical importance and attract visitors from all over the world.

Nowhere is the constant shift in strategic advantage more evident than in Berwick upon Tweed, England's most northerly town. It saw no less than 13 changes in nationality during 300 years of border history. In an attempt to deter aggressors a defensive wall was built around the town. It remains today as Europe's best example of Tudor walled fortifications.

The region was not always the scene of conflict, indeed, after the Roman retreat the Christian message began to reach even the remotest corners of the region and its offshore islands. In AD 635 St. Aidan settled on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) where he built a monastery in celebration of his Christian faith. Holy Island, lays just off the Northumberland cost north of Bamburgh and is reached by a three mile causeway during low tide. The monastery now lies in ruins but a 16th century castle still stands impressively on the eastern reaches of the island. Holy Island is a popular destination with visitors, not only as an area of outstanding beauty but also because of the local drink, Lindisfarne Mead.

Further south, on the Farne Islands, visitors can visit a 14th century chapel that was erected as a tribute to St. Cuthbert, who died on Inner Farne in 687. It was here that he went to meditate, and perhaps more importantly where he laid down rules for the care of nesting eider ducks. The island, now owned by the National Trust, has become one of the finest seabird breeding colonies in Europe. Visitors can reach the Islands on organised boat trips from the port of Seahouses. Other attractions include a colony of grey seals, and the light house from which Grace Darling, one of the region's celebrated heroines, made her dramatic rescue of seamen shipwrecked on nearby rocks.

Although parts of the region are owned by the nation, much remains in the hands of one family, the Percys, Dukes of Northumberland. There home, since 1309 has been Alnwick Castle. In Summer months visitors can view this and other stately homes throughout Northumberland and trace the region's development and growth.

Northumberland's rich cultural heritage is matched only by the beauty of the surrounding countryside and coastline. As the least populated English county, it is still possible to find yourself in remote areas of outstanding beauty with no company other than the wildlife indigenous to the region.







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