Hidden across the highlands of Northumberland are Bastle houses, relics which bear witness to a time when Northumberland was a lawless land.

Centuries of border reiving back and forth between Scottish and English clans, gangs and families had left the region in a permanent state of fear. Unique to Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, these fortified farmhouses were designed to protect people and valuable livestock from robbery and violence.

Bastle houses

A classic Bastle house has walls a metre thick and small or no windows. The ground floor was devoted to stable space for the most valuable animals. The family’s living quarters was on the floor above, which could only be reached by a ladder which would be hauled up at night.

Black Middens Bastle house, credit M Pinder

credit M Pinder


Oh, oh, starry eyed

It has been said that you can see approximately 2000 stars in Northumberland at any one time, but around 85% of the UK population has never seen a truly dark sky.

Thanks areas of protected night skies such as the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, it is hoped this will soon be a thing of the past.

The best time for star-gazing is during the autumn and winter months when the nights get longer and darker. You don’t need an expensive telescope. Just wrap up warm, grab a pair of binoculars (and perhaps a deckchair, hot drinks and a bite to eat!) and head to rural Northumberland for a star-studded show.

A shooting star and star-trails over the Simonside Hills in the Northumberland National Park

credit C Scrimgeour

There’s a starman waiting in the sky

If you’re looking to prolong your star-gazing memories, you might be keen to photograph all you see.

Last month, Northumberland National Park spoke to keen star-gazer Ian Glendinning ahead of his Astrophotography workshop at Ingram in the National Park on Friday 13th November.  Ian’s stunning photographs are renowned for showcasing the beauty of Northumberland. He hopes this workshop will help participants capture the wonder of the Northumberland’s Dark Skies.

Read on to discover what Ian had to say about photography, equipment and some of his favourite images.


A staycation holiday in a cliff top house on the Northumberland coast sounds like the perfect place to rest, relax, and escape the busy world for a while. For those of you who don’t get the chance to do this, then Sea Music by Briege Brannigan will certainly get you imagining that you are there.

Sunset at Budle Bay on the Northumberland Coast AONB

Sea Breeze

In the novel, artist Jess Cooper decides to get away from it all and to come and see the amazingly rugged Northumbrian coastline. The large house on the cliff’s edge however seems to give her a sense that she’s been here before somehow. Soon she becomes haunted by a woman’s name – Lydia  – and she even sees her face. This Northumberland retreat may not be the restful place she hoped for!

A house with a past perched precariously on the cliff edge in an area of Northumberland where history and secrets meet is the ideal setting for a novel of gothic tension.