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Northumberland Area Guide

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland Image courtesy of Flickr user James West

Sitting in the north eastern corner of England on the Scottish border, Northumberland is one of the country's most remote and sparsely populated counties. Culturally, it has more in common with its northern neighbours than the rest of England and is fiercely proud of its many unique traditions - from the infamous 'Clog Dance' to its own monochromatic tartan.

To the east, Northumberland has a long and often stunning dune-backed coastline. It borders Cumbria to the west, County Durham to the south and Tyne and Wear to the south east. The geography is diverse, with the low and flat land near the North Sea growing increasingly mountainous towards the Cheviots and the Pennines in the north and west. But this is no untouched idyll - the countryside still bears the marks of the Industrial Revolution.

Most of Northumberland's population live in Blyth Valley and Wansbeck to the south of the county, mostly in the towns of Ashington, Cramlington and Blyth. There are no big cities but the area is known for its close-knit and friendly communities.

Perched right on the northern edge of Northumberland, Berwick-upon-Tweed is a charming and eclectic Georgian market town, albeit with a violent past. The town is surrounded by a thick stone wall built during Queen Elizabeth's reign to protect this stronghold from yet another invasion. Today, Berwick-upon-Tweed is characterised by its tourism industry and a burgeoning slow food movement.

An hour south brings us to Alnwick, another pretty Georgian town. And a few miles further south is Ashington - one of the largest towns in Northumberland. It has a shorter history than most other settlements in the area, coming into prosperity with the arrival of the collieries (and suffering with the pit closures of the 1980s). Today, the Wansbeck Business Park and the relatively short commute to Newcastle upon Tyne have filled the area with modern housing development and industrial estates. The nearby Cramlington and Blyth are similar in nature.

Demographics

Northumberland has a population of just over 300,000, 46% of which live in Blyth Valley and Wansbeck. The region has one of the lowest percentages of ethnic minorities in the country. Unemployment is below the national average (apart from in the south east), but average earnings are significantly lower.

Education

Northumberland has a completely comprehensive education system and some of the largest schools in the country. Cramlington's 'Learning Village' has around 400 pupils in each year. There's one independent Catholic school, St. Benet Biscop, attended by students from all over the county. Some students travel beyond the county borders to attend independent schools such as the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle. 53% of pupils at the end of KS4 achieve five or more GCSEs grade A*-C.

Transport

Although the south east of the county is well connected because of its proximity to Newcastle, much of the rest of this region is quite remote and served only by a handful of A roads. The new East Coast railway line connects Morpeth, Alnmouth and Berwick-upon-Tweed with major cities to the south, ending in London, and Edinburgh and beyond to the north.

Amenities and Shopping

Northumberland has a long and bloody history: tourists are attracted to the many castles, battlegrounds and, of course, Hadrian's Wall and as such tourism is an important pillar for the local economy. Alnwick's castle is particularly noteworthy because it was chosen as the film location for Hogwarts School in the first two Harry Potter films.

England's 'most tranquil' National Park has its home in Northumberland, and there are several Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This makes the region a paradise for bikers, hikers, climbers and other outdoors enthusiasts. The coastline is also a big attraction. Holy Island is one of a handful of small islands in the county. Named for its Christian heritage, an impressive castle dominates the landscape and the chance of spotting rare birds and the grey seal draws nature lovers in their droves.

When it comes to shopping, the older market towns, particularly Alnwick and Berwick-upon-Tweed, tend to feature craft shops, book shops, art galleries and some extremely old-fashioned department stores, as well as a lot of the usual high street names.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact editor@primelocation.com

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.