In the heart of scenic Northumberland, you will find the town of Killingworth, Tyne and Wear which is an ideal base to explore the surrounding countryside, especially for those who enjoy outdoor pursuits such as hill walking and hiking. The Northumberland National Park, England’s most northern and rural parks of this kind, covers around a quarter of the county in an area of over 1000 km² that runs from the Scottish border to a few miles south of Hadrian’s Wall, so it is within easy reach of this north east town. The park’s lush, green landscape consists mainly of numerous hill ranges and rolling moorland where the purple haze of the heather dominates the land, with vast areas of forestry in between. It offers many opportunities for those who want to experience the great outdoors in a totally bucolic environment far away from civilisation as this isolated landscape sees very few visitors with most tourists in the area being attracted to its close neighbour, the Lake District instead.
Nature watchers will also find much to keep them occupied here aside from the area’s natural fauna and flora as it is also home to animals like the deer, fox and badger as well as many other small mammals and birds. Bird watchers will find many different species here with black and red grouse, curlews, merlins all thriving on the moorlands while the valley areas are home to heron and kingfisher too. Most of the park has public access for activities such as walking, riding, bird watching, cycling, shooting and hunting however the UK’s Ministry of Defence owns around 23% of the national park land so some areas used for training are off-limits, while others can be accessed only at certain times or with permission. In the northern part of the park lie the Cheviots, a range of hills which act as a natural divider between England and Scotland and these are a popular destination for hill walkers and climbers from both sides of the border, especially those who prefer to get off the ‘tourist trail’ and explore more remote locations.
Further south and closer to the town of Killingworth lie the Simonside Hills which are a favourite for many hikers in the area. There have been several derivations of this name over the centuries but one of the most accepted is that it is a corruption of the term “seaman’s sight” because the hills were visible from the North Sea and used by sailors to get their bearings. Situated near Rothbury, this range of hills has average peaks of between 300-400m with the highest point at Tosson Hill measuring 440m and also has some single pitch crags that are ideal for rock climbing. These can be found scattered around the hillside and the Simonside North Face and Ravensheugh, are particularly popular among rock climbers. However due to their isolated and large unoccupied environment, this particular range of hills has featured highly in Northumbrian folklore over the centuries and legend has it that malicious dwarves – referred to locally as duergar – are said to attack walkers in the hills or lead them astray, especially at night.