The rivers North and South Tyne begin high in the fells above Allendale and Keilder, the waters meet just to the west of Hexham and the Tyne itself runs east to Newcastle and Tynemouth. North Tynedale lies to the north of the Roman Wall and nowadays is chiefly involved in farming, with some quarrying and, from Kielder, forestry and logging.
In the past the dale was an important coal and iron ore mining area with a large iron works at Bellingham. All that remains of this industry are a few cuttings and bridges from the old Tyne railway which ran as far as Kielder, before the valley was flooded in the 1970's to form the current reservoir.
Tourist Information Centres are situated all year round in Hexham and during summer season at Bellingham, where there is also a small museum and heritage centre devoted to Tynedale.
Northumberland – England's Farthest North
The wild lands to the north of Hadrian's Wall have a romance all of their own.
For drivers it is like stepping back 60 years; although still in England it is possible to drive for half-a-day down twisting country roads without seeing another vehicle, apart from the odd tractor or forestry lorry. At every turn is a castle or turret or fortified Pele tower – the landscape is dotted with ancient settlements, stone circles and mysterious 'cup and ring' marks (Northumberland has more castles within its borders than anywhere else in the world). And through it all flow the rivers of North and South Tyne, the Wansbeck, Till, Coquet, Aln and Rede.
This is the land where Romans held back Picts, where Celts were driven out by Angles and Saxons, where major battles between the Scots and the English were fought.
Here are the finest stretches of Hadrian's Wall, the most substantial ancient monument in the land. Here are abbeys and churches linked with the earliest story of Christianity in Britain. Here, still guarding the river crossings and the heights where men waged battle in the far-off days of border strife, are strongholds of great stature; even in ruin they have a noble grandeur.
Joining it all are remote high moors, Cheviot hills, hundreds of glittering burns and streams and a spectacular 70 mile coastline of rocky headlands, sandy bays and raucous sanctuaries of seabirds.
A spectacular county just waiting to be explored.
Wark was once the capital of North Tynedale and stands on the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle, the remnants of which can be seen as the grassy hill directly opposite Battlesteads Hotel. A castle probably stood here in earlier times as the Anglo-Saxon name of Wark, signifies an earthwork. Stones from the castle and nearby Roman wall have been incorporated in many of the village’s buildings. Roman remains have been found in the vicinity, suggesting that this was a crossing point during the Roman occupation.
The most imposing castle locally is Chipchase, which stands on the other bank of the river, just over a mile to the south.
There are many picturesque walks around Wark village and salmon and trout fishing can be arranged on the River North Tyne by prior notice.
Look above the door to the bar as you enter and you will see the date 1747 carved into the lintel. This is the date of the farm building – it would have been a single room in depth, probably with a central staircase as is typical with Northumbrian houses of that era. The rear of the building is a later addition (the original external wall, behind the bar, is over 2 feet thick). An earlier farm would have stood on the same site.
Battlesteads was a working farm until the early 20th century, the village cattle market stood on the site of the doctor’s surgery just over the road.
The hotel, originally a Temperance hotel, occupied the southern half of the building. The ground floor bedrooms occupy the former stable and bier areas. For a while this end of the farm became a garage, but by the mid 1960’s the farm was completely taken over by the hotel.
The relevance of the word ‘Battlesteads’ has been lost in time, but the area was probably linked to the castle and courthouse complex, some experts have suggested that the farm was originally stabling for the court. Forge Cottage just over the road tells us that a smithy stood here in earlier times.
Gravestones of former Battlesteads tenants in the 18th century, the Moore family, can be seen in the churchyard at Simonburne a few miles to the south.
Kielder Water & Forest the largest man-made lake and forest in Europe. Kielder stretches along the North Tyne Valley for about seven miles, has 27 miles of shoreline and a surface area of 2684 acres. It features many outdoor sporting activities including shooting, fishing, riding, boating, windsurfing, walking and much more.
Hadrian's Wall crossed the River North Tyne only a few miles south of Wark, near the Roman fort of Chesters (CILURNUM) and the modern day village of Wall. This fort was one of the biggest in the Wall Country and was originally built to house a cavalry regiment
Golf the Battlesteads is ideally placed for a number of county courses including Bellingham, Haltwhistle, Hexham, Slaley Hall, Tynedale and Allendale. Very reasonable rates at all courses, so good value for 3 or 4 night stay
Gardens The region boasts many interesting and historic gardens including nearby Chesters Walled Garden (with one of the largest collections of herbs in Britain), the Alnwick Garden, complete with its Poison Garden and Treehouse, Belsay Hall and Castle with 30 acres of Grade 1 Listed gardens (unchanged for 200 years), Wallington Hall, Cragside – the former home of Lord Armstrong at Rothbury, the Garden Station at Langley and many more.
Others include Alnwick Castle to the north east, Bamborough Castle and Lindisfarne on the coast, Durham Cathedral and Beamish open air Museum to the south east.
For the sharp-eyed north Tynedale abounds with wildlife. The most obvious are Pheasant, which can be seen in the fields and often on the roads. Wood Pigeon, Robin, Kestrel and Buzzard are also common.
Fox and Badger are often spotted after dark. The dale is full of streams and Otters are abundant but fairly shy.
The area is one of the last havens for the Red Squirrel - one was photographed at Warksburn, half a mile from Battlesteads, in September.
Deer can be seen further north – we’ve seen them at Hareshaw Linn in Bellingham and at Kielder.