In history

From Roman and Viking invasions to shipbuilding and coal mining industries, the North East has a lot of history just waiting to be explored. Jen Rea, from Visit North East England, shares her top places to stop along your historical trail.

Whether you're visiting the area or simply want to know more about the place you call home, there's so much to see and do in the North East that can tell us about centuries past. From the ancient border wars of Berwick-upon-Tweed to the prehistoric forest on Redcar beach, this remarkable region is steeped in a unique and complex history.

In fact, the sheer number of historical sites mean it can be difficult to know exactly where to start. So, I'll be sharing a few of the highlights in the area to help you make your decision.

Archaeological sites and ancient forts

The North East has been home to many different settlers from the Vikings to the Normans but, by following Hadrian’s Wall, you will encounter plenty of archaeological sites of interest that tap into the region's ancient Roman influence. One such site is Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum, based around a fort older than the wall itself, where you can explore the culture and history of a population that lived thousands of years ago.

Situated less than 50 miles away, Alnwick Castle is an exceptional example of architecture built during the Norman conquest. The second largest inhabited castle in England behind Windsor Castle, it's lovingly maintained and in extremely good condition — so much so that it was used as a location in the Harry Potter films. But the North East is also home to lesser known but equally historically significant castles, such as Warkworth and Chillingham, which have their own unique charms that make them worthy of a visit.

Local history and museums

Through local museums and exhibits, you have plenty of opportunities to explore the heritage of Newcastle and Sunderland, the North East's major cities. Ecclesiastical history can be explored in the city of Durham, where you'll find Durham Cathedral — arguably the region's main hub of the Church of England and the resting place of Venerable Bede, the 'Father of English History'.

You can also learn about places like Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, major ports and industrial towns that have been key players in shaping the Britain we know today. There are plenty of small museums in these towns that specialise in maritime and shipbuilding as well as Roman Britain, but none are as immersive as Beamish.

Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, provides the unique opportunity to explore a North Eastern rural town during the industrial revolution. An open-air museum, it includes: a Victorian high street with a bakery, sweet shop, and pub; a colliery, pit village, and farm; and authentic transportation such as trams and early steam locomotives. The actors, animals, and replicas really bring this town to life, and it's perfect for people who are looking to experience North Eastern life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The North East boasts some of the most glorious Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK, including our share of the North Pennines in Northumberland and County Durham. Further north you'll find Northumberland National Park and Kielder Forest, the largest man-made forest in Europe, between Hadrian's Wall and the Scottish Border.

Of course, it is the Northumberland Coast that really takes your breath away. If you want to see what the seaside has to offer, the market town of Seahouses is a great place to start due to its fishing port, boat trips to the Farne Islands, and wildlife habitats.

Whether you prefer countryside or coasts, these stunning landscapes have been the backdrop to the North East's rich history for tens of thousands of years and have contributed just as much to the region's identity as its many settlers.

From castles to countryside and coasts, the North East has a lot to offer. These are just some of the historical highlights that can give you a valuable insight into its complicated yet fascinating past.


Related

Alnwick Castle
Castle / Fort
Alnwick Castle

Home to the Duke of Northumberland's family, the Percys, for over 700 years; Alnwick Castle offers history on a grand scale.

Chillingham Castle
Castle / Fort
Chillingham Castle

Medieval fortress with Tudor additions, torture chamber, shop, dungeon, tearoom, woodland walks, furnished rooms and topiary garden.

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