February 29th 2016

England’s Northumberland is full of surprises and one of them is undoubtedly Barter Books. Behind the façade of a former Victorian rail station in the old town of Alnwick, a book-lover’s heart will skip a beat, for here is a second-hand bookshop with more than 400,000 volumes on the shelves. Exploring Northumberland with The Wayfarers Dubbed the 'British Library of second-hand books', it is an enchanting space, with a model train layout running above the stacks. Barter Books hit the headlines in 2000 when the owner discovered, in a box of old books bought at an auction, an old World War II poster from 1939. The slogan, "Keep Calm and Carry On", and the simple design has turned it into an international phenomenon, and has been on the walls of places as diverse as Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street.

Northumberland facts

What else can we tell you that perhaps you didn't know about this most northerly English county and the home of our Walk celebrating the ancient kingdom of Northumbria?
  • *Capability Brown, born Lancelot Brown (1716 – 1783), famous landscape architect whose influence can still be seen at Blenheim and Warwick Castle and whose tercentenary is being celebrated this year, was born in Kirkharle, Northumberland.
  • *Victorian Britain’s greatest heroine, Grace Darling, was born in Bamburgh, Northumberland. In 1838, aged 22, Grace rowed more than a mile in an open boat through storm-ravaged seas to rescue 13 survivors from the wreck of the SS Forfarshire.
  • *Once described as the ‘palace of a modern magician’ Cragside House was the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity in 1878. The family home of Lord Armstrong, Victorian inventor and landscape genius, the house and grounds are now run by the National Trust.
  • *Northumberland has its very own clog dance. A neat and precise dance with minimal upper body movement re-created by local pitmen, traditionally accompanied by the Northumbrian Pipes – smaller in build to the Scottish pipes with a sweeter sound.
  • *Whin Sill is a famous geological feature found in Northumberland. Bamburgh Castle, Dustanburgh Castle, Lindisfarne Castle and Hadrian’s Wall all take strategic advantage of high rocky cliff lines formed by this hard, igneous rock. The Farne Islands are also an outcrop of whin sill, now famous thanks to their popularity with sea birds.
  • *Bamburgh Castle was the first castle in Britain to fall to cannon fire. Built on a basalt hill and previously immune to attack, it was the Earl of Warwick who forced the surrender of its garrison in 1464 using three great cannons named London, Newcastle and Dijon.
  • *Northumberland is often called the "Cradle of Christianity". It was on Lindisfarne, a tidal island north of Bamburgh, that Christianity flourished when monks from Iona were sent to convert the English. Lindisfarne was the home of the Lindisfarne Gospels and Saint Cuthbert, who is buried in Durham Cathedral.
  • *Sir Henry Percy , 1364-1403, alias ‘Harry Hotspur’, born at Alnwick Castle, was immortalised by Shakespeare. The most famous nobleman and military commander of his day he was characterised in Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1.
  • *The Cheviot Hills mark the border between England and Scotland. Formed millions of years ago by volcanic lava flow, iron-age forts dot the landscape and many a Border Reiver Battle has been fought in these heather-clad hills – a hiker’s paradise.
Read more about our Northumbria Walk here.

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