Your Perfect Winter Day Out

Places to stroll, shop and be merry this festive season…

Northumberland

Grab your boots…

Situated in the depths of Northumberland’s National Park, Harwood Forest is a little-known gem that offers miles of tranquil woodland paths, as well as several popular waymarked trails to explore. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through its peaceful, conifer-lined ways, where you’re unlikely to meet a soul, or venture up to the nearby Simonside Hills for picnic areas and panoramic views of the Cheviots and Northumbrian coastline. Whatever you get up to, the forest’s rugged wilderness is bound to blow away the cobwebs, while the crisp, pine-scented air is guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Fill your baskets…

With the charming little town of Rothbury only a 30-minute drive away, you don’t have to travel far to get your hands on a few festive treats. Renowned for its 100 per cent British and fully-traceable produce, the multi award-winning Rothbury Family Butchers is a must-visit for foodies. Sample the delights of its deli (think continental meats, local cheese and hot sandwiches), or ask about its Christmas offers.

rothburyfamilybutchers.co.uk

Rest your feet…

Snug, welcoming and beautifully rustic, the 300-year-old Holly Bush Inn is the pub-equivalent of a warm hug on a winter’s day. Described by locals as “a proper little country pub”, it offers great ale in its bar, while its restaurant serves up a surprisingly varied menu (everything from pies and sausages to Spanish chicken, antipasti and lentil dahl) if you’re after something more substantial. It’s located in the heart of Northumberland’s ‘Dark Sky Park’ – Europe’s largest area of protected night sky – so be sure to crack out the blankets and enjoy the views come the evening.

Pay them a visit…

National Trust hot spots, Cragside and Wallington, are less than half an hour away, providing couples, groups and families with acres of gardens, woodland, lakes and rivers to enjoy. Kielder Castle and Kielder Observatory, which is hosting special Christmas-inspired stargazing sessions from 21-23 December, can also be found nearby. For those in need of some post-walk pampering, Harwood Health & Spa is less than a 10-minute walk away. The dreamy countryside retreat is a spa-addict’s paradise, serving up a range of luxurious ESPA treatments within modern and serene surroundings, complete with private jacuzzi, sauna and gym.

nationaltrust.org.uk
visitkielder.com
kielderobservatory.org
harwoodhealthspa.com


Newcastle

 

Grab your boots…

Jesmond Dene is an ideal place to escape the hustle and bustle of Newcastle’s vibrant City Centre. Stroll at your leisure along the wooded valley, which is a haven for wildlife (look out for kingfishers and red squirrels) and stretches over three kilometres, or take advantage of its many guided paths and enjoy a mini adventure of your own. The Dene’s nature and history trails are fun choices for families, but if slopes and steps are more your thing, there are a handful of slightly harder, mile-long routes available that leave no area of the park uncovered. Christmas playlist at the ready…

Fill your baskets…

If you’re visiting on a Sunday, head up to the park’s famous iron landmark – Armstrong Bridge – for a wander around its popular arts and crafts market. The market, which has been running for around 50 years, regularly attracts some top notch stalls to forage through, making it a great place to pick up a few vintage Christmas cards and other festive trinkets. Foodies, meanwhile, should pop along to Newcastle’s Christmas International Market at the city’s Monument area (14-29 November) for mulled wine, mince pies and festive delicacies from around the globe. Don’t forget to stop by on 5 December to catch the city’s festive Farmers’ Market, as part of its annual Christmas market (2-6 December).

newcastlegateshead.com/winterfestival

Rest your feet…

Head up to Ponteland – just a 15-minute drive away from Newcastle City Centre – and stop by The Badger Pub for seasonal grub in surroundings so cosy they will make your eyelids heavy. Reserve a table by the roaring log fire and tuck into the gourmet festive menu, packed with show-stoppers like slow-cooked short rib of beef and orange scented creme brûlée with home-baked cranberry cookies. Drooling? Us too…

vintageinn.co.uk

Pay them a visit…

Embrace the cold and head along to [email protected] outdoor ice rink at Newcastle’s Times Square from 14 November. Complete with Christmas tunes and twinkling lights, it’s a great way to keep kids entertained – though adults are welcome! Over in Gateshead, the ever popular Enchanted Parks event returns to Saltwell Park from 9-13 December. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the ‘outdoor arts experience’ promises a thrilling mix of Christmassy visual arts, performance, installation and interactive works for the whole family. Artists from across the last 10 years will also be showcasing new work.

enchantedparks.com


County Durham

Grab your boots…

Hamsterley Forest is Country Durham’s largest forest, boasting nearly 5,000 acres of mixed woodland and the kind of fresh air that makes your cheeks pink and your lungs happy. Nestled between the Wear and Tees valleys, it’s the perfect place for long winter walks, either with a loved one or a furry, four-legged friend. Go it alone at your own pace, or get your hands on a map and pick from one of the forest’s five waymarked routes (the Bedburn walks are our favourites). The forest is also a magnet for mountain biking if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, and equipped with play areas if you’re visiting with kids. Whatever you decide to get up to, be sure to pop into the forest’s very own tea rooms for a well-deserved cuppa and slice of Christmas cake before you set off home.

Fill your baskets…

Head up to Durham City Centre from 4-6 December for its annual Christmas festival; a three-day extravaganza of festive fun. Among the groups of carol singers and live reindeer, look out for the craft and gift marquee on Palace Green, which hosts over 180 traders offering a variety of Christmas gifts, and the local food producers’ market inside the grounds of Durham Cathedral for Christmassy nibbles to take home.

durhamchristmasfestival.com

Rest your feet…

Worked up an appetite? Stop off at the Cross Keys Country Pub and Restaurant, less than 30 minutes from the forest, where you’ll find a fuss-free menu of pub classics to hit the spot. Enjoy everything from lamb dinners and lasagne, to scampi and steak pie.

crosskeyshamsterley.co.uk

Pay them a visit…

High Force – one of the country’s most breathtaking waterfalls – is less than an hour away, in the heart of the Durham Dales. We think it looks even better in the winter, so wrap up warm, throw on some wellies and follow the gentle woodland pathway right down to the base of the falls for the best views.

highforcewaterfall.com


North Yorkshire

 

Grab your boots…

When it comes to the North East’s top walking destinations, North York Moors National Park has to be up there with the best. With its rolling purple hills, jagged cliffs and ancient woodlands, it’s as pretty as a picture, not to mention a great place to really stretch your legs. As you’d expect, given the park’s size, there are tons of walks to choose from, but our favourites are the Esk Valley Walk – a waymarked 37-mile route following the River Esk from high on the Moors to the beautiful coast of Whitby – and the gentle, 3-mile White Horse Walk, taking you from Sutton Bank to the famous hillside landmark. The jaw-dropping views are some of the best England has to offer.

northyorkmoors.org.uk

Fill your baskets…

However far you venture, exploring the Moors is guaranteed to work up an appetite. Luckily, the area is dotted with a range of delis and farm shops, full to the brim with mouth-watering Christmas-inspired produce. The multi-award winning Beadlam Grange Farmshop & Tearoom, just outside of Helmsley, is up there with the best. Drop in for delicious homegrown meats, Yorkshire cheeses and smoked fish from the nearby Yoadwath Mill Trout Farm. It also serves cooked brekkies and hearty Sunday dinners in its cosy Old Granary tearoom and has both a patisserie and an interiors shop on-site for a bit of Christmas shopping.

beadlamgrange.co.uk

Rest your feet…

The White Swan Inn is less than a ten-minute drive away from the Moors in the cosy market town of Pickering. Renowned for its relaxing ambience (think roaring log fires and sofas you can sink into) and “true” Yorkshire hospitality, it’s the perfect place in which to kick-back with a pint after an energising walk. Foodies will also be pleased to know that it holds two AA Rosettes and is recommended by both the Good Food and Good Pub Guides.

white-swan.co.uk

Pay them a visit…

Cropton’s annual Brewery Beer Festival runs from 20-22 November  and celebrates its 21st birthday this year. Expect live music, a ton of homemade grub and more than 80 real ales, lagers and traditional ciders. For those after a little more R&R (perhaps a post-walk pedicure?), the nearby Verbena Spa (pictured above) at Helmsley’s chic Feversham Arms Hotel, is one of the area’s most luxurious retreats.

fevershamarmshotel.com

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