Northumberland National Park, established in 1956, encompasses the borderlands that were a buffer zone between the warring English and Scots during the 13th and 14th centuries. Today, the park comprises almost 1,035 sq. km (400 sq. miles) of the least populated area in England and is noted for its rugged landscape and associations with the northern frontier of the ancient Roman Empire.
Touching the border with Scotland, the park covers some of the most tortuous geology in England, the Cheviot Hills, whose surfaces have been wrinkled by volcanic pressures, inundated with seawater, scoured by glaciers, silted over by rivers, and thrust upward in a complicated series of geological events. Much of the heather-sheathed terrain here is used for sheep grazing; woolly balls of fluff adorn hillsides ravaged by high winds and frequent rain.
Northumberland Park includes the remains of Hadrian's Wall, one of the most impressive classical ruins of northern Europe. Footpaths run alongside it, and there are a variety of walks in the country to the north and south of the monument. One of the most challenging hiking paths in Britain, the Pennine Way, snakes up the backbone of the park. The 129km (80 miles) of the 403km (250-mile) path that are in the park are clearly marked; one of the most worthwhile (and safest) hikes is between Bellingham and the Hamlet of Riding Wood.
You can purchase a map of the trails, priced at 50p, at almost any local tourist office in the district. There are National Park Centres at Once Brewed (tel. 01434/344396), Rothbury (tel. 01669/620887), and Ingram (tel. 01665/578890). The Head Office is at Eastburn, South Park, Hexham, Northumberland NE46 1BS (tel. 01434/605555; www.nnpa.org.uk).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.