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Northern England advice

My husband and I will be flying in to Edinburgh October 9. I have planned for Scotland the 16 through the 24th. I would like to drop down into Northern England for the first 7 days of our trip. We love hiking, history, and good food. I have considered Hadrian's wall, the Lake District, Durham, and York. I have thought about finding a central location and making it a base. Any suggestions for where we should stay? Am I trying to do to much? Also, specific hikes would be appreciated.

Alison

Posted by
5221 posts

That's a big area for just one base. Will you be driving? If so, you could drive to all those places within a seven-day period and spend one or two nights at each. I'd recommend that over a "central" base with round trips to the other locations. York and the Lake District each deserve multiple days, Durham and Hadrian's Wall at least one full day each. Instead of spending time driving back and forth from a base, spend time driving from one to another and staying there at least one or two nights.

I'd skip the Lake District this time and instead focus on a north-south route between Edinburgh and York, south by train and north by car. If you're arriving October 9 on an overnight flight, you shouldn't drive that day. Instead, take a train straight to York (2.5 hours) and spend at least 2-3 nights there before renting a car for a road trip back to Edinburgh over the remaining days, including Durham and Hadrian's Wall. There's a lot to see and do along that route, including places like Whitby, Newcastle, Alnwick, Bambergh, and Lindisfarne (tide permitting), as well as those you mentioned. The dales and moors are also worth exploring.

We stayed several nights at the Abbey Guest House in York, right on the river and a short walk to most of the city sights. It's under different ownership now but seems the same based on the website. It has parking but you won't want a car till you're ready to head out of York.

Posted by
890 posts

Hi Alison -

Earlier poster is correct - this is a surprisingly large area, and you probably need to narrow down your base options and work from there. For me, at that time of year, you’ll need to base in a city, so York, or Durham make more sense. The weather could be fair or foul or just ‘meh’ in October (I’ve recently committed to a week on a long distance trail in Yorkshire at the same time, with some trepidation about what the weather will be doing) and the nights will be drawing in - I.e. it will be getting dark around 6.30 pm and won’t be light very early.

Some of your options may be limited too at that time of year. For instance the AD122 bus service along Hadrians Wall stops running on September 29th and some places will be closing for the winter - I’m thinking of National Trust properties like the Treasurers House in York and nearby Beningborough Hall, although I think they may be open until October 31st, you’d need to check. (EDIT: I checked - most are open until late October and beyond, but do still check they are open when you want to go - some closures any way).

I don’t think you can ‘do it all’ in the time you have available, not without it whizzing past the windows of a hire car, which is no way to see it! However, if you can firm up where you think you might stay, I’d be delighted to tell you what some of your options might be!

Hope you can get it sorted!

Ian

Posted by
5324 posts

We loved the North of England. Traffic was a lot better than in the South. Also, the people are exceptionally friendly.

Lots to see. We visited York, then the Yorkshire Moors (stayed a night at Pickering) then visited Whitby. Then we spent a couple of nights in Durham. After Durham, we wanted to see Hadrian's Wall and the ancient fort near Haltwhistle. The Lake District was nice, but that would be almost a separate encounter. The Lake District is great for hiking.

It would be hard to do the North using once city as a base. I would strongly recommend York, Whitby and Durham. Also, some hikers do Hadrian's Wall from coast to coast. That would have taken way too much time for us.

Also, we would have loved to have visited Newcastle.

Posted by
3 posts

Excellent advice all! Just what I was looking for. I may see if I can shift a day from our Scotland part of the trip. (We have been twice already.) We really wanted to get a few hilly/mountainous hikes in as we are not going back to Glencoe and Skye. I think we may take the train to Durham (one night),train to York ( 2 nights), rent a car and head to the Lake District for 3 nights. Then we will have 2 extra nights to stop on the way back up to the Perth area of Scotland or add to York, Durhan, or Lake District.

Alison

Posted by
890 posts

Hi again Alison -

Lake District is good for hikes obviously, however, it is quite a sizeable area. Have you any thoughts on where you might stay? I know Keswick is often touted on these pages with Catbells the ‘mountain of choice’ but Keswick is a great base for the bigger peaks of Skiddaw, the fabulous Blencathra (research ‘Sharp Edge’ and see if that is the kind of thing that interests you) and Grisedale Pike and the Coledale Round, the Newlands Round,, Causey Pike, all excellent hikes with achievable summits!

Wasdale is wild, remote and beautiful, as is Buttermere, but both can be unentertaining if the weather is unkind. Coniston, further south, has good access to the Coniston group of fells and has more to detain you on a bad weather day. Personally I would avoid the ‘honeypots’ of Windermere, Bowness and Ambleside. These mainly present shopping opportunities (and I know whereof I speak, I’ve spent ALOT in those locations.). None of the latter are great for getting off into the hills. Langdale and Elterwater are nearby and are better for getting out and about but have no rainy day fall back options.

Hope you can pick somewhere that caters for your needs. Again if you decide on somewhere, let us know and we can be firmer with route choices etc.

Ian

Posted by
5475 posts

York itself really needs 2 full days, as there is plenty to see. From there, you could have a day in the Dales or the North York Moors, Harrogate or Whitby. Walk the coastal path from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay.

Personally, I would drop the Lake District, which could be wet and miserable at that time of year. The eastern side of the country is likely to be much drier. There is lots to see, so don’t spread yourselves too thinly.

From Durham, Beamish Museum is an excellent day trip to see how life used to be in the area. There are some excellent castles such as Dunstanburgh or Bamburgh near Holy Island (worth a visit itself if the tidal causeway permits).

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5519 posts

June 2017 we walked the Hadrians Wall route from west to east, crossing England from sea to sea over a week. Little remains of the Wall along the western third of the route, although there’s a very good Tullie House museum in Carlisle. Likewise, aside from excellent reconstructions and a few excellent but small sights scattered along the eastern third, little remains of the Wall nowadays there, either. The most concentrated sights and hiking vertical gain & loss to get your heart rate going lie between the tiny twin towns of Once Brewed and Twice Brewed (where we had a house for 3 nights), and Chester’s Roman Fort in Chollerford. For a taste of The Wall, and a “central” base, that’s the area in which to be.

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3 posts

So....we will save the Lake District for another time - most likely summer months. We will take the train to York and stay 3 nights, drive to Whitby (still haven't booked B & B) and hopefully get to day hike on the coast, head to Haltwhistle via Durham (take in a few sites on the way), and use a day to see Hadrian's wall with Peter Carney. Thank you all for the advice! Any fabulous dining suggestions or other hiking in those areas?

Alison

Posted by
278 posts

I can highly recommend seeing Rievaulx Abbey, about an hour north of York. It was my favorite single site on my entire trip in 2012–for some reason, it really struck a chord with me! Allow a couple of hours to wander around, visit the little museum, take lots of photos, enjoy the atmosphere of the baaing sheep next to medieval ruins. And don’t forget to get the guide book—it’s one of the best ones we bought on that trip.

Posted by
5221 posts

Alison, that seems like an excellent plan. Don't miss Durham Cathedral, one of the finest in England imho. If you don't want to drive all the way back to Edinburgh, you might return the car in Newcastle and take a train (about 1.5 hours). Our best stops along Hadrian's Wall were Housesteads (ruins of a Roman fort) and Vindolanda (ruins of a Roman town, still being excavated, excellent little museum).

Have a wonderful trip and don't forget some raingear! ;-)