The rocky grandeur of England’s northern regions is well-known, and Northumberland is one of the most beautiful areas of the nation.
In effect, this is England’s northernmost county, with Scotland to the north, Cumbria to the west, and the North Sea to the east. Newcastle was formerly the county’s historic capital, but it is now considered to be a distinct district in its own right.
Northumberland is a county with a wide range of landscapes, from the agricultural plains of the east to the rocky moors and hills of the west, as well as heavily inhabited areas in the Blyth and Tyne river valleys to the south.
Northumberland is known for its natural landscape, with mountains and moorland covering more than half of the county. The British Forestry Commission manages vast portions of the area. The Cheviot Hills, as well as the Pennines, which begin at the Cumberland-Yorkshire boundary and go into the heart of northern England, separating Yorkshire and Lancashire, are significant features of the area.
The climate of Northumberland is chilly due to its latitude, relative elevation, and exposure to easterly winds, yet it has not been a barrier to settlement throughout time. There is substantial evidence of extensive ancient occupancy in Northumberland, and it was an important location for the Romans, who built Hadrian’s Wall from the line of the River Tyne in 122 AD.
The Germanic Angles took control of the region after the Romans left, and this control was reinforced by Angle king Ida and his grandson, Aethelfrith the Destroyer, who defeated the Scots and Strathclyde Britons in 603. Northumbria was the name of the region at the time, and it quickly grew into a strong Anglo-Saxon kingdom, while Lindisfarne became a Christian centre.
Because of its geographical location, Northumberland was especially exposed to Viking assaults, and Danish attackers started landing on the shore in the 9th century. At the same time, Scots in the north crossed the border on a regular basis. Northumberland’s tale was one of nearly continual border tension and conflict from the Norman conquest until the 18th century, but the province also created some solid economic roots, primarily via the trade in wool and heads.
The county also had abundant lead, silver, and iron reserves, and the coal traffic between London and Newcastle, which was centred on the Tyne, grew in the late Middle Ages. Northumberland’s economy also included shipbuilding, with the region producing many of the UK’s largest vessels during the Victorian era. Chemical engineering and other sorts of industry have also fueled the area throughout the years.
Despite the Newcastle region’s impact, the bulk of Northumberland is still rural and agricultural. Mountain and hill pastureland make up around half of its land, and cattle production has historically taken priority over arable crops. Sheep, notably of the Cheviot breed, are the most common livestock, although salmon fishing is also popular, and Northumberland’s forest area is used for both recreational tourism and lumber extraction.
Northumberland’s unique mix of metropolitan life, market towns, and remote villages, as well as strong nautical ties to the east coast, have resulted in a fusion of cuisines and culinary traditions that make it one of the country’s most intriguing food areas.
When it comes to tea, Northumberland has a lengthy history. A Chinese trader made the famed Earl Grey mix for Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey and British Prime Minister. Bergamot was added to the mix to balance the flavour of lime that remained in the water of Howick Hall, the Earl’s family residence, and it went on to become one of Northumberland’s most renowned exports.
This highly sought-after smoked fish is made in the coastal communities of Seahouses and Craster, where local smokehouses still employ old-fashioned curing sheds and secret recipes going back over a century. Craster Kippers are popular with the Royal Family and are shipped all over the UK and the globe. Their delicious flavour requires no complement other than butter and brown toast for breakfast.
A singing hinny is a kind of scone made in the area and customarily fried on a hot griddle pan. Along with butter, lard, flour, currants, salt, and milk, baking powder is utilised. The fatty components melt together when the cake mix cooks on the hot griddle, causing a hissing sound, as if the scones are singing. In the area, the term ‘hinny’ is used to express fondness.
Doddington Dairy Ice Cream
Doddington Dairy ice-cream is an award-winning dairy product prepared with only the best ingredients, including fresh, full-cream milk and double cream from Doddington Dairy Farm’s cows. The Dairy also strives to employ locally sourced products, such as Alnwick Rum and honeycomb from the Chainbridge Honey Farm in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Ice cream from Doddington Dairy is popular at numerous restaurants around the county.
Scotts of Ponteland
Scotts of Ponteland is a butcher’s shop run by grassland farmers Jack and Tim Oliver, who tend after Galloway cattle and sheep in the area. The animals are raised on ridge and furrow grass for three years, and the Galloway breed’s naturally high omega-3 content, along with their rich grass diet, results in top-quality beef.
Stotties with Ham and Pease Pudding
A huge circular flatbread with a tiny dimple in the centre is known as a stotty. It’s a thick loaf with a substantial texture, despite being leavened. Stotties are traditionally split in half and then filled to produce a big sandwich, with ham and pease pudding being one of the most popular fillings. This is a smooth, spreadable mixture prepared from ham and split peas simmered together. Even in Northumberland, it is a meal that splits opinion, but it has a loyal following!
Mead was a popular beverage in the Middle Ages, and the Lindisfarne variant is still enjoyed today across the county. It’s a fortified honey wine made from fermented grape juice, spirits, and herbs that’s combined with locally obtained water before being added to fermented grape juice, spirits, and herbs. Its roots are supposed to be in the mead created by the monks on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland. This mead is only manufactured at the island’s St Aidan’s Winery.
This is one of Northumberland’s most renowned meals. It’s an English version of the famous French dauphinoise potatoes, made with thinly sliced potatoes, mature cheddar, and fried onions. It’s excellent on its own as a warming meal, but it’s also good with lamb or local fish as a side dish, and it’s adaptable enough to serve with bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Cheese from Northumberland
Local cheesemaking has a lengthy history, which has been carried on by younger manufacturers such as the Northumberland Cheese Company, which has been producing award-winning farmhouse cheeses since the early 1980s. Their first cheese was Redesdale, a ewe’s milk cheese, but they now make 17 varieties, several of which are named after local sites such as Cheviot, Kielder, Hadrian, and Northumberlandia. All of their cheeses are prepared from single-source milk, resulting in an intriguing and diverse range of cheese flavours.
Seafood from Northumberland
Given Northumberland’s almost 100-mile coastline, it’s no wonder that seafood is an important element of the county’s culinary legacy. Local eateries are brimming with seafood, from Lindisfarne oysters to responsibly caught turbot, and a fresh crab sandwich is one of the region’s joys.
The Northumberland Seafood Centre in Amble, one of the county’s many important seafood destinations, promotes sustainable fishing and local fishermen while selling a variety of lesser-known fish and seafood, while the Lobster Hatchery works hard to boost the local lobster population, ensuring that Northumberland remains a seafood destination for decades to come.