You can see one of only a handful of traditional bastle houses that are open to the public, at Black Middens, northwest of Bellingham in the remote Tarset Burn valley. Better-off border families could not rely on feudal lords for defence during the troubled 15th and 16th centuries, so they fended for themselves by building these two-storey stone houses to protect their families and livestock. Bastles were usually about 35ft by 25ft in area, with two storeys. Animals occupied the windowless ground floor and people reached the upper floor by a removable ladder – the stone stairway at Black Middens was a later addition.
Facilities – at a glance
- Parking nearby
- Facilities: Dogs welcome but must be kept on leads as farm livestock is likely to be present
- Open all year
- Opening Times: Open at any reasonable time during daylight hours
Also in the area
About the area
If it’s history you’re after, there’s heaps of it in Northumberland. On Hadrian’s Wall you can imagine scarlet-cloaked Roman legionaries keeping watch for painted Pictish warriors while cursing the English weather and dreaming of home. Desolate battlefield sites and hulking fortresses such as Alnwick, Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh and Warkworth are reminders that this, until not so very long ago, was a contested border region. The ruins of Lindisfarne bear witness to the region’s early Christian history.
Northumberland also has some of Britain’s best beaches. On summer days, and even in winter, you’ll see surfers and other brave souls making the most of the coast. Inland, there are some great walks and bike rides in the dales of the Cheviot Hills and the Simonsides – just hilly enough to be interesting, without being brutally steep. There's dramatic scenery in the High Pennines, where waterfalls plunge into deep valleys, and there are swathes of heather-scented moorland. Northumberland National Park covers over 400 square miles of moorland and valleys with clear streams and pretty, stone-built villages. It’s just the place for wildlife watching too. You’ll find flocks of puffins, guillemots and other seabirds around the Farne Islands, and seals and dolphins offshore.
Places to Stay
Restaurants and Pubs
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