What is Northumberland 250?
Northumberland is an area seldomly spoken by the biking community, and the Northumberland 250 is a relatively new route for motorcyclists. When it comes to this area of England, it’s one coastal route that’s often overlooked in favour of greater Northern adventures.
Not only famed for grand architecture and landscapes, but Northumberland is also the birthplace of many notable figures of British history and I couldn’t help the desire to unravel some of the mystical stories, legends, and events that once unfolded here.
Northumberland is a county in North East England that borders Scotland. It is one of only two counties in England that border with Scotland. Northumberland is the most sparsely populated English county, and it has a mostly rural character.
Starting the Northumberland 250 route
So my journey for the Northumberland 250 began, as per usual in the Midlands at 2 pm on a Friday. I had taken the liberty to pack all my new luggage the evening before, an unusual step for my disorganised self – however, full of excitement for Rockets’ first trip after his new makeover, I was eager to get on the road as soon as possible.
From the Midlands, I rode up the motorway directly to Lancaster where I had my first layover. Now usually, I’ve always opted for the scenic routes and avoided the motorways, however, knowing I had 4 days ahead of me traping through British Countryside and with it being a Friday evening, I decided it was best to conserve my energy for the journey ahead.
I had one more layover at a service station just outside Carlise before venturing off the motorway and on to the A-roads, enroute to a small farm in Haltwhistle, which would be my new base for the next 2 days.
View Part 1 of the Northumberland 250 route below
The journey upwards took me 3 and a half hours, including coffee breaks – however, content with arriving before sunset, I decided to spend the evening unloading my luggage and getting an early night ready for 6 starts.
Heading to Hadrians Wall
The next morning, I was in fact up at 6 am ready to leave the house by 7 am to embark on the Northumberland 250. However, the weather had other plans. Determined not to be delayed by my frozen bike, I decided to rely on a good old trusty method for opening boxes: with a spoon.
Now that I was finally on the road, my first stop of the day was only 15 minutes away – in Hadrian’s wall.
What is Hadrian’s Wall?
Stretching 73 miles from coast to coast, Hadrian’s Wall was built to guard the wild north-west frontier of the Roman Empire. Whilst, Hadrian’s Wall is located near the border between modern-day Scotland and England, however contrary to popular belief, its never actually served as the border between England and Scotland.
Whilst the wall took over 6 years to build, Today, however, there are only remnants of great Roman Britain. Empire. Today you can explore the Wall’s rich history and its dramatic landscape at over 20 fascinating sites including a variety of forts.
Passing threw Once Brewed to Bellingham
So following the Northumberland 250 Fnorthumguide, I rode through Once Brewed and Simonburn eventually reaching the small charming town of Bellingham. Now Bellingham is located in the National Park meaning that for both bikers and non-bikers alike, it’s a perfect stop off for a brew to take in the spectacular countryside. However, as I travelled through the town, one particular sign caught my attention. Yes, ladies and Gentlemen, coffee on an old locomotive. How could this girl resist?
The Bellingham tea room
Now ordinarily, I’m not a fan of Northern Rail, but how could this girl resist a fresh cup of coffee. So the new train tea room can is located in and run by the Bellingham Heritage Centre to aim to preserve some of the histories of Bellingham. The centre is the home to over 2,000 historic archives of the area which locals and travellers alike are able to access. However, my favourite part was getting to listen to old ladies gossip about men.
Now that I was warm, happy and fed, I was on my way to Kleider forest.
Leaving Bellingham, I made my way to and through Falstone and then upwards towards the forest. The weather had begun to pick up, as did the ice on the road. I knew that it would be but a few hours until all icy patches would be dispelled and I was feeling optimistic about how well the trip was already going. However, I couldn’t help but shake this feeling that perhaps, things were going a little too well.
Determined not to be defeated by a wrong turn, I kept my spirits high and reversed direction towards the New Forest Drive. However, it was at this point that I found myself in a rather difficult situation that I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with.
Arriving in Kleider Forest
Travelling along with the Northumberland 250 guide, As we arrived at the starting point of the forest drive, it quickly became an o for superstitious viewers, this may blow your mind. However, for my anti-nonsense veterans, you may want to prepare to roll your eyes. You see, one month before I booked this trip, I had a rather crazy dream. I dreamt that I was motorbiking up a hill in which at the top, diaster was waiting for me. However, it was a dream that I had quickly forgotten about by the next morning and also something I didn’t give a second thought about for the next 4 weeks.
That was until I came across the exact spot that I had dreamt about. It was at this point I decided to pull over in disbelief. You see, I have never been to this section of the UK before, and I had certainly never biked here before.
Things started to go wrong at this point
Now. 24 hours previously, 50 miles East in Newcastle, a biker named Ian sat down to dinner and told his wife that today was the day he was going to ride the Kleider Forest Drive. However, for whatever reason, Ian decided to charge and pack two cameras in his back – something he later explained, is quite unusual for him to pack.
Flashback to the modern-day, as I was pulled over on the side of the road, I quickly realised that my action camera had begun overheating. Concerned that it was going to set on fire, I quickly ripped it off my helmet. You see folks, earlier that morning, as I defrosted my bike, I have unfortunately neglected to register that my charging cable had been sat in the frost overnight. The water ingress had damaged my GoPro causing it to overheat and break.
As I’m stood on Deja Vu Doom road, outside Kleider Forest Drive staring at my GoPro at Monday Lunchtime, it was at that exact moment, that Ian pulled up alongside me and recognised who I was. I mentioned the camera issues I was facing, and he quickly pulled out a fully charged camera which he explained that he had absolutely no idea why he had brought it.
View Part 2 of the Northumberland 250 route below
What is Kielder Forest?
Kielder Forest is a large forestry plantation in Northumberland 250, England, surrounding Kielder village and the Kielder Water reservoir. It is the largest man-made woodland in England with three-quarters of its 250 square miles covered by forest.
The forest is owned and operated by Forestry England who began the project back in 1920. Kielder is dominated by conifers and spruce trees and homes over 50% of the UK’s red squirrel population
To get a scale of how big the forest is, Forestry England, today has planted over 150 million trees. With the plantation being so remote, it is completely devoid of light pollution making it one of the best stargazing areas in the entire UK. For avid trail riders, Forestry England also operates the Forest Drive is a spectacular 12 mile (19 km) drive on unsealed forest road.
Visiting the forest drive
As we arrived at the gates for the forest drive, it quickly became apparent that we wouldn’t be able to progress any further. It was at this point, I decided that I need to alter my route via the Scottish Border and I invited Ian to join me until my next stop. Now my intention was to head over and around the border to Kirknewton in Northumberland. However, folks, it turns out that there is in fact 2 Kirknewton’s, one in Northumberland 250 and one up in Edinburgh., Unfortunately for Ian and I, we only discovered this when we arrived much further over the border, in Kelso.
We did eventually pull over and adjust the SatNavs for the correct destination and we eventually arrived in Kirknewton after an hour’s detour. We had lost quite some time to the mishap and after a quick stop off and a coffee, Ian and I parted ways and I continued alone to my next two destinations, Berwick upon Tweed and Holy Island. I followed the guy again, going via Ford & Etal, however, I chose not to stop as I had begun to lose light.
What is Berwick-upon-Tweed?
Berwick is often described as a Coastal Town Like No Other. The area is filled with remnants of hidden courtyards, medieval remains and fresh sea air. I tactfully chose not to stay long in
Berwick-upon-Tweed is a place full of unexpected sights and unexplored places. Adventuring down alleyways, stumbling upon hidden courtyards, climbing up a sand dune, peering at medieval remains – there’s always a view you haven’t seen or a story you haven’t heard. Berwick-upon-Tweed has all the simple ingredients for the perfect breakaway. Fresh air, sea and countryside, friendly folk, and rich history.
Now Berwick has been a popular tourist holiday destination for quite some time with its spectacular beaches and instagrammable drop. However, for these little motorcyclists, she was running on borrowed time and she was determined to make it to Holy Island before the tidal shift kicked in. So I continued on the coastal road South.
What is Bamburgh Castle?
Bamburgh Castle and the surrounding area is serious with a visit. According to history, the site was originally the location of a prior fort known as Din Guarie. Historians believed that it even may have been the capital of the kingdom of Ber-nice-cia from 420 to 547, eventually coming under Anglo-Saxon control in the year 590.
The original fort was then destroyed by the Vikings in the year 993 but later rebuilt by the Normans. After a revolt in 1095 supported by the castle’s owner, it became the property of the English monarch. In the 17th century, financial difficulties led to the castle deteriorating. The castle has changed many times throughout history but eventually became the property of era industrialist William Armstrong, who went on to restore the castle to its former glory. Today, the castle still belongs to the Armstrong family, who maintain and ensure the castle is open to the public.
Continuing on to Seahouses and Craster
So after a long mental debate, and a quick tinny of Redbull, I was ready to continue on with my journey along the coast road through Seahouses and on to Craster
To say I was feeling optimistic would be an understatement, I’m not sure if it was the caffeine talking or it was my newly found sense of adventure, but one thing was cor certain, and that was I felt determined more than an end to finish the Northumberland route off. However, I won’t lie, although I felt mentally awake, physically, I was suffering. My back was hurting, my wrists were hurting, and my calves were on fire.
Now, folks, This is where things get interesting. I had decided that I no longer wanted to stop in Alnwick, and would on through to Rothbury, which would be the final stop of the tour. From Rothbury, I would head directly back to my accommodation by 8 pm at the latest.
However, yet again, was the frost on the road. You see, when I got up earlier that morning, despite the amazing sunny weather, it has been immensely cold- and that was exactly where nightfall was taking me.
Motorcycling in Northumberland at night
I’m going to make a confession. The decision that I went with to push on with the route was poor judgement on my part. With the sun setting at an unprecedented rate, something that I had failed to account for was that whilst the weather was was amazing, we were still on the back end of winter. This meant extremely low temperatures at night. It was at this point, reality hit me and I realised that I was an idiot.
The road became icy
As ice started to build upon the road, and I left the street lights behind me, I realised that I had made a grave error indeed. I was riding in the pitch-black darkness, completely aware that there was ice on the road, but also aware that I would be completely unable to see it.
Despite dropping my speed down to 40mph, I was still riddled with adrenaline. I decided that at this point, my best was to get off the country lanes as quickly as possible and to find the nearest motorway or A-road in hopes that either the lighting may be better, or at least I could take frequent brakes.
The roads became more dangerous
Things just seem to go from bad to worse, as hail begins to crash against my visor. It seemed to be that every time I peered down at my satnav, no matter no far I had travelled, it seemed as if I was still the same distance from my accommodation
Even when I was travelling on roads with better lighting, unfortunately, the only advantage that it offered me was that I could not see the light rain and occasionally hail as it hit the road. To make things worst, I was now battling with the typical wind conditions that come with wideset roads
Travelling on main roads came with its own set of issues. Between the ice, hail, slippery road and the wind, I felt as if both me and the rocket were being pushed in every direction. To make matters worse, I was still unable to push past 45mph without the bike sliding. And then on top of that, I had to joy of watching 8 wheeled lorries overtake my little engine. Every time I looked at the clock, it felt like we were going truly nowhere and it seems to be the case that we were suspended in motion, forever 2 hours away from my accommodation
View Part 3 of the Northumberland 250 route below
As I started to make my way out of the Northumberland 250, I found my reflection on the day before and what lesson I’d take away from it. A lot had happened in the previous 24 hours, both good and bad and it gave me a lot to think about. The thing that I was most aware of, despite only being part-way through my second year of biking, it was clear to me that my thirst for adventure was growing faster than I anticipated and I knew. I knew that tomorrow would be the day, whatever the weather, that I would attempt the UK’s most dangerous road: Hardknott Pass.