Things to do nearby Milecastle
Being in a rural location offers a range of walks without having to drive to your start point, Bleatarn Cottages are located right on Hadrian’s Wall and a short walk through the owner’s fields at the back of the cottage takes you straight onto the Hadrian’s Wall Path, go in the evening and have it to yourself. You may not feel up to tackling the whole walk from Wallsend in Newcastle to Bowness on Solway but are ideally positioned for sampling sections of the path east and west from Bleatarn. Follow the path west and it will take you through Crosby-on-Eden and along the lovely River Eden, a great place to look for wildlife.
Other local walks just a short drive away include Gelt Woods. This steep beech woodland clings to the valley of the River Gelt and a network of paths lead you through the wood and alongside the tumbling river, the autumn colours here are second to none. For an easy stroll ideal for all the family, including pushchairs, head to Talkin Tarn Country Park just outside Brampton. Feed the ducks and walk round the tarn with the promise of tea and cake, lunch, ice cream or time in the play area at the end - bribes can be tailored to the preferences of those involved!
Hadrian’s Wall is the obvious starting point for exploring the area. All the way along the wall you can find forts, museums, visitor centres and cafes, the Hadrian’s Wall path can be picked up at numerous locations and in many places you are walking right beside the wall, where else in the UK can you experience such an impressive piece of history for free? Roman Vindolanda has an informative and fascinating museum with displays to suit all the family, there is also a gift shop and café to top you up before exploring the extensive remains of the town and fort.
If you have had your fill of the Romans but still fancy a bit of historical exploration try the ruins of Lanercost Priory, with its 13th century church just to the north east of Brampton, or the 15th century gatehouse which is the only remaining part of another priory at Wetheral. Carlisle Castle can trace its origins back to a Roman fort but has been altered by nearly every period of history since, quite a story to trace in a lovely location on the edge of Carlisle city centre. Carlisle also has a stunning cathedral and a range of shops to suit all tastes in its compact and attractive city centre. For yet more roman remains when the river is low enough the foundations of the roman bridge over the River Eden can be seen under the current Eden Bridge on the edge of Bitts Park.
Local family attraction Walby Farm Park is just a few minutes’ drive away with entertainment for all the family: playgrounds, animals, indoor and outdoor play areas and numerous other activities will wear everyone out - will you dare try the 24foot demon drop slide? Carlisle has all the usual wet weather family distractions, ten pin bowling, cinema, trampoline park and soft play, ideal for children to let off steam when needed.
The bustling little town of Brampton is only 10 minutes' drive away, with a good range of shops and eateries and a weekly market it should be your 1st port of call for local amenities. A range of supermarkets including an M&S food hall can be found close to junctions 43 and 44 of the M6 in Carlisle.
Cyclists will find an extensive network of quiet lanes to explore – the only problem being where to miss out! Hadrian’s wall cycle path (route 72) also passes close by and can be linked into local lanes to make circular rides in the area. Serious road cyclists can tackle routes up to Alston and back down Hartside to Penrith, not a route to be tried in winter but get a nice day and the views are stunning. Mountain bikers can challenge themselves at Whinlatter around an hours’ drive away where there are purpose built trails varying in difficulty to cater for all.
Anyone interested in wildlife should head down to the Solway. As well as the usual suspects for estuarine and marsh habitats both the English and Scottish sides have large flocks of geese providing a winter spectacle, try Caerlaverock in Scotland or Campfield marsh on the English side. Just north of Keswick is the Osprey viewpoint at Dodd wood, from May to August volunteers are on hand to show everyone the birds through telescopes and binoculars set up at the viewpoint. You may also be lucky enough to see a red squirrel on the feeders while you are there. For black grouse, whinchat and short eared owl try Geltsdale RSPB reserve on the North Pennines, a lovely spot for a walk even if no rarities can be spotted.
If modes of transport are more your thing the Solway Aviation Museum is just up the road with the finest collection of vintage aircraft, artefacts and associated displays in the north west. Have a trip on the beautifully scenic historic Settle-Carlisle railway; catch the train in Carlisle or at Armathwaite and let the train take the strain. How about a stop in Settle for a wander round and some lunch before the return trip? Another option for anyone with a fondness for being on the rails is the South Tynedale Railway in Alston. This narrow-gauge railway runs through lovely scenery with splendid views; many walks and cycle rides that can be done using the train one way and your own power the other! Discover Alston’s mining heritage and explore this compact market town while you are there. This is the highest market town in England and can be cut off in the winter, only the hardy can live up here full-time, but it is a lovely spot to visit.
No matter what activity you like you will find it nearby: fishing, golf, horse riding, flying, walking, cycling, shopping, swimming, there is no room to list all the options here, but rest assured they can all be found in the surrounding area.
Heading slightly further afield but within an hours’ drive, to mention but a few ideas; Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water for miles of quiet walking and cycling or stargazing in winter, Pooley Bridge and Ullswater for cruises on the lake the shore of which provided the inspiration for Wordsworth’s golden daffodils, Keswick the hub of the northern lake district, home of numerous outdoor shops and the Pencil Museum and starting point for some of the best short fell walks in The Lakes. The whole of the Scottish Borders and North Pennines areas are on your doorstep too.
There is so much to do in this area that maybe you should consider staying for 2 weeks to try to fit it all in? Or just plan to come back next year! Whatever you decide to do you know that Milecastle will be waiting, comfortable and cosy to welcome you back at the end of the day - perfect.