Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.


North Country, England 72-Hour Vacation

Rolling Through England's North Country
Spectacular Scenery Awaits
By Jennifer Olvera


View towards Steel Rigg from Hadrian's Wall in Northumbria
View towards Steel Rigg from Hadrian's Wall in Northumbria

A swooping, rough and tumble landscape scored with Roman ruins. Little cities with cobbled streets revealing pubs that pull perfect pours. Ancient medieval fortresses begging for Scooby Doo mysteries. Whether you encounter battering rain or shine (or, likely, a mixture of both), nothing can dampen the beauty of England's unspoiled North Country—a compact (yet seemingly expansive) countryside where ancient history, spa-centric small towns and quaint, sheep-dotted vales commingle in the most breathtaking ways. From iconic cathedrals and age-old castles to rambling parklands that give way to Manchester's once-industrial, hipster-populated streets, there's a great deal to do here in North Country.

Lending inspiration to the works of Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth and Arthur Ransome, to name a few, the region's beauty is all but unparalleled, with a rich and culturally diverse history.

You'll need a car to properly tour the area, so after flying into Manchester or Newcastle, secure a rental at the airport. The Newcastle Airport is closer, but generally more expensive from U.S. gateways. Something to keep in mind is that bmi, known for its haute, super-roomy business class, offers daily direct flights into Manchester from Chicago and also provides direct flights from Las Vegas twice a week. If you opt to fly into Newcastle, just get on A69 for Hexham, then follow B6314 to Chollerford—a quiet town that's the perfect place to rest your head. Just remember to drive on the left and look to the right!

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral

If you fly into Manchester first make fast tracks to Durham Cathedral—arguably the greatest Norman building in England—before continuing your whirlwind stay. It's the crown jewel of the striking town of Durham, which looks down on the River Wear and is adjacent to Durham University where Iowa-born author Bill Bryson is now chancellor.

Both routes reward with undulating vista views. You'll be coaxed to explore shops tucked into craggy alleyways and tempted to eat a full English breakfast, complete with fried tomatoes, 'shrooms and preserves-slathered breads. Indoor and outdoor markets, found in many towns, are the perfect place to score local artisanal cheeses and produce, while neighborhood restaurants and hotel dining rooms allow you to sample both homey and haute cuisine.

Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel & Spa
Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel

North Country hotels come in all shapes and sizes, from intimate B&Bs set amidst English gardens to gracious five-star accommodations boasting award-winning spas and championship golf courses. We recommend starting your journey at the intimate and stunning 17th-century George Hotel in Chollerford, a vine-covered beauty set along the crystalline River Tyne not far from Hadrian's Wall. Next, it's on to The Crown Hotel in tranquil Wetheral, a lovely inn in a residential setting. For your last night, there's no better place to toast a whirlwind getaway than at the Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel & Spa in the Yorkshire Dales. It's a half hour drive from the spa town of Harrogate, home to 80 miles of footpaths that wind through the Bolton Abbey Estate—the Yorkshire property of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire—and just moments from historic Skipton Castle.

Definitive guides to the area can be found at www.visitbritain.com.

DAY 1

If you're staying at the George Hotel, start your morning off right with a workout at the gym; a trip to the spa, sauna, or steam room; or a waterside jaunt for a breath of fresh air. Then grab breakfast at the hotel dining room, which overlooks the grand, landscaped gardens and River Tyne. If you're feeling adventurous, consider fishing for salmon or trout before heading to Hadrian's Wall, a stone turf fortification and UNESCO World Heritage Site that stretches across north England. Construction began in 122 AD under the watchful eye of its namesake Roman emperor, with the intention of using it to prevent military attacks on Roman Britain. Steeped in history, it features the remains of countless forts, mile castles, turrets and museums along the way.

Alnwich Garden
Alnwick Garden

One of the most scenic areas along the 73-mile path can be found at Housesteads. Perched atop the Whin Sill escarpment, it faces the rising sun and features some of the wall's most complete remains. Be sure to take note of the sophisticated under-floor heating system and look for the worn wheel ruts, which set the standard for the width of the British standard railway. Also not to be missed: the (rather humorous) community loo once used by soldiers. There's also an on-site museum brimming with cool gifts and informative, historical books. For a complete map and tips on navigating the wall by foot or bike, visit www.hadrians-wall.org.

By now, you're probably hungry. Refuel at the pub at the low-lit Twice Brewed Inn, where a whiskey will take the chill out. From the menu, try Guinness beef stew and steaming, sticky toffee pudding.

Spend the remainder of the day nosing around Hexham. Located south of the River Tyne, it's a picturesque market town studded with shops and cafés. Or consider stopping by the too-pretty-for-words Alnwick Garden, a 12-acre Northumberland Eden with flowers galore and a jaw-dropping tumbling water feature that runs from north to south.

For dinner, book a fireside table at Danielle's Bistro. If you're lucky, the leek and aged cheddar soufflé will be among the starters on the chalkboard-only menu. Follow it with the rib eye with green peppercorn sauce for a perfect meal.

Continue to Day 2

MORE NORTH COUNTRY INFORMATION

Hadrien's Wall

* Large and small Hadrian's Wall images by britainonview/ Rod Edwards. Alnwick Garden from www.alnwickgarden.com. Durham Cathedral by www.britainonview.com.

PSG093008
 

Whether looking to travel across the Australian Outback, the Canadian Rockies or historic Europe, these opulent trains will let travelers see the countryside in comfort.
Enter to win a trip to the posh Waldorf-Astoria Chicago, including round-trip airfare, daily breakfast and a credit for a luxe spa experience.