Oh gosh, where does one start when touring North East England? There's enough landscape, coastline, city life, village pubs, hills, activity and adventure to last a lifetime. Take the Yorkshire Dales National Park for example. Its beauty is sufficient to entice the visitor to return year on year and never see anything else of the region. Alternatively, you may hanker after the smugglers' coastline of the North York Moors National Park, or the long, sweeping bays of Northumberland, where the skies are wide – and the beaches empty.
But then, what of those towns and cities? Exploring the Romans in Haltwhistle, the Vikings in York, the Danes in Newcastle or the Victorians in Sheffield? It might even be the need to taste test one toasted teacake after another in tearooms across the provincial towns like Knaresborough, Settle, Market Weighton or Alnwick. And then there's Antony Gormley's Angel of the North, the contemporary sculpture found just to the south of Gateshead.
So whether your thing is to walk behind waterfalls, bungee off buildings or cast a glance over castles, you’ll be able to do it in North East England.
Top five things to do in North East England
Opt for a train ride along the Carlisle to Settle Railway. You can pick it up at Garsdale Head, in the north of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and alight at Settle, by which time you’ll have passed over the impressive Ribblehead Viaduct.
An iconic symbol of Humberside, take a trip across the Humber Bridge, once the longest single-span suspension bridge of its kind at 1.38 miles. It's still the seventh longest in the world and you can walk or cycle across, in addition to driving. The Humber Bridge Information Centre is situated in a large, free car park on the north side, adjacent to the Humber Bridge Country Park.
Take in the sights along Hadrian's Wall either walking the National Trail, cycling along the designated cycle route or by rail, using the Hadrian's Wall Country Line that links Newcastle and Carlisle. Chesters Fort, Carrowburgh, Housesteads Fort and Vindolanda are all worthy Roman attractions along the way.
Enjoy a visit to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, off the Northumberland coast. To get there, you can walk or cycle across the causeway (taking serious note of the tide times), or take a boat trip from Seahouses. And you can camp at The Barn at Beal, the closest campsite to the causeway.
When to visit North East England
Events take place very much all year round in the north east of England, kicked off by the Tar Barle New Year celebrations in Allendale, Northumberland. Also in Northumberland, the Snowdrop Festival at Howick Gardens provides a welcome display in February, while in the same month York enjoys the huge Jorvik Viking Festival where boat burning and all-things Nordic come to the city.
In April, it's Gateshead that puts on the annual International Jazz Festival, the biggest UK jazz festival outside London. For food lovers, there's the Bishop Auckland Food Festival in April, the Dales Festival of Food and Drink in May and the Bridlington Seafood Festival in July.
Harrogate, North Yorkshire, lights up the region with two large-scale flower shows, the spring event held in April and the Autumn Flower Show, in September. As a town that's used to putting on big events and conferences, Harrogate also hosts the annual Great Yorkshire Show every July and numerous literary/arts festivals, including the, simply named, Harrogate Festival and, in honour of one-time visitor Agatha Christie, a Crime Writing Festival, both in July.
If August has seen too much slouching on the beach, you can get active in September with the Kielder Challenge Walk, the Yorkshire Wolds Walking Festival and the Great North Run. And, in November, enjoy a walk through the streets of Durham during Lumiere, a city-wide celebration of light in the run-up to advent and Christmas activities, of which York always seems to have the upper hand with numerous events across the city.
Cheap overnight stops
You'll find a handy selection of budget-priced places to stay with your 'van with our Nightstops scheme. Places such as the Pickering Antiques Centre that's perfect for visiting the town, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, or South Moor Farm, in the heart of the Park and great for accessing the cycle tracks within Dalby Forest.
Or you could consider The Highlander in Belsay, Tyne and Wear, where you can stay overnight free of charge if you're eating and drinking in the pub. A good one for visiting the gorgeous spa town of Harrogate is The Moody Cow, free if you're buying a meal or a very nominal charge if you're not.
Motorhome access and information
You'll find rural country lanes to be considerably quieter than in other parts of the country, particularly in Northumberland and the more remote areas of the Pennines.
Only a few minor country roads are best avoided if your 'van is particularly large and cumbersome. These include routes within the centre of the North York Moors National Park and Sutton Bank on the western perimeter of the Park, and within the Yorkshire Dales, bulkier 'vans should consider avoiding the route from Thwaite, Swaledale to High Tan Inn, Arkengarthdale and the road from Kettlewell to Leyburn. Care should also be taken approaching campsites at Malham – consider phoning ahead to check for specific arrival and departure times to avoid meeting oncoming traffic along very narrow lanes.
Motorhomes exceeding 3.5 tonnes pay £2.50 more on the Humber Bridge than those below this weight. Potential users of the Tees Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough should make prior contact as, while motorhomes under three tonnes are accepted, the overall length of the outfit may be considered too long.
As regions go, motorhomes actually have it quite good for parking in North East England. You'll find designated motorhome parking in both Durham and York Park & Ride car parks (though motorhomes are not allowed to park in city centre car parks in York). Motorhomes can also park in the Priory Park & Ride site for Hull, the Seaton Carew car park in Hartlepool, and the HGV parks in Middlesbrough (Cannon Park) and Newcastle (Ord Street). Many town centre car parks elsewhere also allow motorhomes to park using more than one bay, provided the correct number of bays are paid for.
Northumberland County Council's website provides a useful list of town centre car parks suitable for motorhomes in addition to their country parks where 'vans may also park during the day.
How to get to North East England
The M1 motorway is one of the quickest routes from the south, which runs as far as Leeds. From there on, the A1(M) picks up direct to Newcastle and the predominantly single carriageway A1 thereafter to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Travelling east-west, the M62, off the M1, serves the East Ridings and Humberside best while the A66 cross-Pennines route between the M6 at Penrith and the A1 (Scotch Corner) and the A69 between Carlisle and Newcastle-upon-Tyne provide scenic cross-country touring.
The A171 from Scarborough to Middlesbrough offers one of the best coastal routes, skirting the edge of the North York Moors; given its location on high ground, remember that weather conditions can change unpredictably fast, especially in winter.