Play Hard

The ultimate North East staycation spots

Feel like you’re a world away without facing a long, stressful journey to get there.

Written by High Life North
Published 21.08.2020

By Jenny Brownlees

2020 will hereby be known as the Summer Of Staycations since the outbreak of Covid-19 has meant many are choosing to holiday in the UK this year.

Whilst yes, international travel to a handful of destinations is opening up, booking these is also fraught with the uncertainty of restrictions and quarantine upon return — causing heightened stress for would-be holidaymakers. Worrying before you’ve even set off doesn’t exactly create the ideal scenario for a relaxing break. Holidaying in beautiful Blighty however, is firmly back in fashion. Even pre-pandemic, access to travel brochures filled to the brim with exotic destinations meant those looking for a summer break often neglected the places nearest to home — but no longer. Whilst you can now travel openly in the UK, some areas further afield are facing second lockdowns, plus a long (not to mention hot, if this weather keeps up) car ride to far-flung cities isn’t always appealing. Luckily for us North East dwellers, we are blessed with some of the finest coasts and countryside right on our doorstep. Driving a mere hour and a smidge from Newcastle can take you to the could-be-far-off beaches of idyllic Northumberland, the rolling hills of the Cheviots or the postcard-worthy scenes of North Yorkshire. Think mile-long atmospheric beaches and picturesque rolling hills, rich in wildlife and begging for adventure. Better yet, these sites are rarely crowded — unlike their southern counterparts. There’s an abundance of places to set up camp for exploring, or for simply hunkering down to some serious relaxation. No anxiety-filled flight needed.


Whether you’re looking for a mid-week or weekend break, for now, or the coming months, there’s something for everyone’s style and budget. With so many events this year postponed or cancelled, this could be just the thing to look forward to. Plus, many are remote enough that you’ll feel safe in the knowledge you can remain adequately socially distanced with minimal effort. From getting into the wild to quirky properties and luxury haunts — the following gems really think outside the box. No bog-standard hotel rooms here. We’re taking you off-the-beaten-track with the following picks, for a truly memorable stay. So if you’re looking for something that little bit different, HLN has got you covered…

The Hayloft at Roses Bower

A true secluded gem located just outside the perfectly quaint village of Corbridge, this stunning barn conversion can house up to six adults and two children. Relax in the private gardens, explore the nearby Hadrian’s Wall or unwind in the wood-fired hot tub as you look out upon the peaceful Tynedale Valley. An ideal home away from home, this spacious house offers a true dose of escapism from day-to-day stresses. There’s a barbecue provided for al fresco at-home dining, and you’ll love popping on the wood-burning stove in the evenings for a cosy night in. With the charming market town of Hexham 3 miles from The Hayloft, despite feeling a million miles away, you’re equally not cut off from it all if you did fancy a pub lunch or tipple. This beautiful home makes a perfect base for day trips in the surrounding countryside, followed by chilled-out evenings.

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Sky Den, Kielder

You may recognise this unusual structure from Channel 4’s popular programme George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. The memorable, one-of-a-kind Sky Den was built by William Hardie and designed by George Clarke for the second series of his much-loved show. Staying in the Sky Den truly makes for a unique getaway, and the space is very much in line with the current ‘tiny house’ interiors trend — it houses a functional yet fold-away kitchen and living area, for space-saving living in the great outdoors. The circle area offers a dazzling viewpoint of the surrounding area, where you can settle down for a picnic, complete with a cuppa brewed over your own wood-burning stove. Better yet, the triangle loft space will provide a morning view like no other — in good weather with no wind, it’s possible to open the whole roof for an unobstructed view of the Northumberland Dark Skies. Stargazing from your bed? Sign us up! Set in the heart of the beautifully unspoilt Kielder Water & Forest Park, staying here is sure to enchant wildlife lovers and adventure-seeking families alike. If you wish, there are activities including water-sports, climbing, orienteering and more available. Or you could simply wind-down with a good book, enjoying the surrounding calming sounds and atmosphere that comes from being immersed in nature.

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The Glass House

Nestled in a small valley within the Northumberland Dales, this barn conversion forms part of a former bastle farmhouse, lovingly refurbished to the finest standard with design-led interiors throughout. The Glass House is the end wing of Knockburn Farmhouse, which was formerly the hayloft and storage barn. The site is rich in history, situated on the Sir Isacc Tea trail, in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Staying here for a calming, relaxing break means you’ll be treated to the truly tranquil views of surrounding streams, rivers and waterfalls, open fields, Dales and woods. You’ll instantly unwind when immersed in this beautiful setting, and may be lucky enough to spot the herons, hens and even hear the family of owls that call the area home. The Glass House’s stunning statue makes for a light-filled, spacious retreat that’ll help you get you away from it and back into the wild. The luxe, modern interior offers an open plan living and kitchen area with a double electric oven and hob, microwave, fridge, freezer and dishwasher. You can enjoy cooking and dining at the large farmhouse table, looking out to views of the stunning garden and rolling fields beyond. The Glass House hosts really have thought of every need — with a large Sky TV, a range of DVDs for all ages, a selection of board and card games and a library of both modern and vintage books. The bedroom has a deluxe King-sized bed and a single bed with feather and down quilt and pillows and a luxurious bathroom area houses a glass shower cubicle, his and hers contemporary washbasins and WC. What more could you possibly need? Guests can access the pretty, secluded garden area for private use complete with seating, a picnic-style table and benches, sun parasol and BBQ. Should you want to take your lunch out with your whilst exploring, a picnic basket, plastic crockery and glasses are all available on request. The Glass House is a true gem situated on the land of a working farm, with dogs, cats, sheep, horses and hens in the surrounding fields. Whilst you’ll feel a world away from worries and the business of city life — you’re just three miles away from the picturesque village of Allendale, offering shops, pubs, tea rooms, restaurants and more. This calming retreat offers the best of nature’s tranquil beauty — you’ll leave feeling refreshed and revitalised.

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Hadrian’s Wall Yurt

Glamping has never looked as good as in this rustic yet beautifully spacious staycation spot, set in a tranquil private meadow on over two acres of land. The central crown of this quirky yurt has been fitted with a clear canopy, meaning you can drift off after gazing at the stars and open your eyes to blue skies floating and clouds. From your base here you can easily explore the historic Hadrian’s Wall, enjoying the areas rich history — but can equally just relax around the campfire, happily content at the slowed-pace of life the countryside encourages. This spacious yurt is both comfortable and stylishly furnished, with an outdoor decking area complete with a fully equipped kitchen. You are not far from historic market towns nearby, meaning you can discover the areas great pubs and restaurants if desired. The yurt is furnished with an eclectic mix of Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian antiques, with a double bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers, table, two chairs, sofa, marble-topped washstand and a wood-burning stove. Owner Barry is more than happy for guests to come and say hello to his beloved animals that share the surrounding fields. These aren’t the only wildlife you might spot — wild rabbits, pheasants and deer, hares and stouts surround this relaxing rural spot. Around the edge of the Yurt there are several electric sockets and USB ports available to use, so no need to feel completely shut off from things if you don’t desire.

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Ramside Hall Treehouses

It doesn’t get much more luxurious than Ramside Hall’s lavish Treehouses. These heavenly ‘houses set on stilts are located in the picturesque woodland on the sites 350 acres of private ground. You’ll be leaving those notifications firmly unchecked as you relax in the treehouses exquisite comforts during your stay. Indulge in an evening watching the sunset from the treehouses extra-large windows, which allow beautiful natural light to flood in throughout the day. The truly one-of-a-kind accommodation has been sumptuously decorated with breath-taking interior touches throughout. Each treehouses features three ultra-stylish bedrooms, a sprawling living area and a state-of-the-art bathroom. Our favourite part? The blissful relaxation offered by the striking free-standing copper baths. With three treehouses available, you’ll be spoilt for choice when choosing the venue for your luxe staycay. Treehouse Peacock’s décor has been inspired by richly classic French interiors, Cuckoo mirrors the plushness of a chic but cosy Alpine lodge, with Woodpecker being the most modern of the three — complete with high-end contemporary finishes. These spectacular structures feature opulent, wraparound balconies that house sunken hot tubs for real a spa-like soak, and inside you’ll find Sky-equipped flat-screen TVs. This staycation is where rustic charm meets world-class glamour. Better yet, the treehouses are dog-friendly, so there’s no need for your four-legged friends to stay at home. Staying here, you can enjoy fine-dining in the Hall’s restaurant and make use of the newly re-opened spa. Ramside Treehouses make for a spectacularly breath-taking getaway, special occasion or not.

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The Shepherd’s Hut

This bespoke, environmentally friendly Shepherd’s Hut offers the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle city life. Located in a quiet, picture-perfect rural setting, you will be looking upon views of the nearby river Leven and sprawling fields beyond. Both have an instantly mindful and calming effect on even the most seasoned city-dwellers. You will love snuggling up in The Shepard Hut’s comfy double bed, relaxing and reading in the plush armchairs, or listening to the provided radio as you place a log in the wood-burning stove. You don’t need much to have a relaxing and fun stay — being warm, cosy and away from it all is the perfect recipe for some time-out. From your cute’n’chic hut you can step a mere few paces to the kitchen, shower and loos (with one toilet suitable for disabled guests.) The kitchenette offers a two hob stove, a microwave, a washer and dryer, kettle and toaster, and breakfast items are provided for the first morning. The hut’s hosts even have several rescue hens, meaning guests can be supplied with fresh eggs when the girls are laying! The welcoming hosts at The Shepard’s Hut are also happy to cater for vegetarian, plant-based and gluten-free diets if needed. You could make this a romantic getaway for you and your other half, or book both cabins for a break with friends. You’ll love taking in the surrounding views, with wooden table and chairs provided for al fresco dining. Guests are welcomed to walk in the fields and down to the river for a stroll, to indulge in a picnic or a paddle. With the pretty village of Great Ayton a mile away to the east, there’s exploring a-plenty to be had here.

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The Gingan

If you like a side of history with your staycation accommodation, look no further than The Gingan, a former threshing barn steeped in rich local history, which has now been stunningly restored into a charming four bedroom, three bathroom property. Located in the heart of Roman Wall country, The Gingan nods to its heritage with a slate roof, stone walls, traditional ceiling beams and a warming wood burner. An eco-friendly heating system and underfloor heating throughout the ground floor mean this property is always wonderfully cosy. The historic building is offset with luxurious, contemporary interiors — the elegant dining area seats ten guests comfortably and leads to a sunlit open plan kitchen and a separate dining area for relaxed breakfasts or lunches. Double doors lead out onto a patio area with garden furniture and a spacious enclosed lawned garden, allowing you to tune into nature even without leaving the properties grounds. Two dogs are welcome and will relish in walking in the beautiful surrounding countryside. Staying here, you’ll quickly be immersed in the vast open spaces and soaring skies around you, and for walking and cycling lovers — there’s an abundance of trails to discover the surrounding area. For families or groups wishing to holiday together, the adjoining Granary sleeps four and can be let in conjunction with The Gingan. There is a shared games room with ping pong table, storage for bikes and outdoor gear adding a versatile space for wet-weather days, teenagers, or evening entertainment for all. The Gingan is located just a mile from the historic gardens and grounds of Matfen Hall Hotel, where guests have complimentary use of the facilities. Matfen has complied strictly with government guidelines in a phased re-opening of their indulgent spa. They will be offering a selection of 40-minute treatments, excluding facial treatments for the time being. Ensuring you can relax completely during your tranquil escape, therapists will be wearing PPE, with guests required to wear a facemask during appointments. The swimming pool and jacuzzi will be working on a booking system, however, the thermal suite will remain closed at this time. Guests of The Gingan will love Matfen’s fine dining and an outstanding golf course, right on the stay’s doorstep.

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The Cabin

Host Ben is ready to welcome you to the chicest of cabin hideaways the North East can offer. This luxuriously converted space has been lovingly furnished to the highest of standards, making the entire set up a true Instagram-worthy gem. The large panelled windows offer panoramic views — allowing you to sit back and watch the endless countryside in all its natural glory. Fall asleep in the comfiest double bed, as the log burner glows and night sky stars are the only thing to be seen. Wake up to a hot shower, then prepare breakfast in the kitchen or have it provided from The Cabin’s local farm shop produce. Outside the decking area looks out onto serene surroundings, where you’re welcomed to the on-site river or discover neighbouring village Manfield, with real ale pub The Crown Inn. The farm is a mere 15 minutes from Darlington, perfect for exploring Raby Castle or the Yorkshire Dales. If you’re after an off-grid staycation that’s one-of-a-kind, look no further.

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North Farm Durham

If you’re looking for something on the luxe side, with an impressive seven bedrooms and five bathrooms, North Farm could be just the getaway for a larger group. This five-star detached farmhouse is set in 380 acres, overlooking postcard-perfect Teesdale. Belonging to her husband’s family, North Farm has been luxuriously furnished to an impeccable standard throughout by renowned interior designer Rita Konig. This exceptional home is truly one-of-a-kind, with Konig’s eclectic styling offering a feast for the eyes everywhere you turn. High-ceilinged rooms are adorned with a mix of unique interiors, maximalistic prints on print, classic antiques and opulent details throughout. White-paned windows look out upon rolling farmland at every glance, immersing you in the magnificent surroundings. This ultra-stylish property has unsurprisingly gained national press, and has been featured in Elle Décor and House & Garden. The stunning sitting rooms of North Farm host warm open fires and wood-burning stoves, and children will love the farmhouse’s playroom, with a games console and Smart TV. Make this your base to exploring the scenic surroundings, as just five minutes away to the south is the village of Piercebridge, with a must-visit farm shop and The Fox Hole gastropub. To the west, foodies will love the region’s only two-starred Michelin restaurant, the Raby Hunt. A little further on is the country-house hotel Headlam Hall, with a spa, golf course and tennis court, beyond is Raby Castle, Barnard Castle, Bowes Museum, High Force waterfall and so much more. You’ll be spoilt for choice in where to go, but we also wouldn’t blame you if you never set foot outside this spectacularly stylish home.

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Photography credit: Simon Brown

The Deer Lodge

Set in a peaceful, elevated wooded corner of a twenty-acre estate is this Hobbiton-esque ten-sided Finnish larch building with vaulted ceiling. You’ll feel as if you could be in Finland when inside this warm wooded site, complete with an ensuite bathroom and shower. Foregoing standard tourist-trap accommodation in favour of relaxing in an open plan cosy seating area with a complimentary bottle of wine on your arrival. No need to worry about changing temperatures, as this lodge comes with a built-in eco-friendly heating and cooling system that’s fully adjustable to meet your desired needs. With free WiFi, a TV, DVD Nespresso machine and selection of teas and coffees – The Deer Loge will quickly become a home away from home. Make the most of the cooking facilities in the BBQ hut with a fridge, microwave, camping stove and charcoal barbeque for dinner with a difference. Once you’ve finished a tasty lunch, explore the rolling acres of parkland and woodland, keeping your eyes peeled for pheasants, rabbits, moorhens and even the occasional deer. If you want to adventure further afield, the stunning landscape of the Yorkshire Dales is easily accessible from this impressive lodge.

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The Drey

Hosts Richard and Deborah have completely transformed The Drey from its humble beginnings to a place you’ll lovingly remember long after leaving. Building this space from a ‘shell’ allowed the pair to ensure every part of the redesign was made luxurious, with a lasting wow factor. Beyond the chic design, ultimately the couple wanted to create a place people could come to relax and unwind, and we think they’ve delivered tenfold. The interior has a modern cabin-feel featuring original artwork, a wood-burning stove and filtered natural water supply. Outside, an extended decking area and jumbo hot tub are the added perks of already-appealing site. The Drey is set on the edge of a small lodge park a mile from the village of Otterburn and with extensive landscaped grounds with two large lakes. If you are looking for a lovely stroll right on the doorstep, the local area is prime for exploring. There’s a gastropub in the village, a fantastic local restaurant on-site and being set in the national park, the local wildlife is easily observed via the cabins large windows, where you’ll spy red squirrels dining on the decking. A mere half an hour from Kielder water and with a number of National Trust properties and pretty local villages nearby, you’ve got day trips aplenty to enjoy. Whilst summer is undoubtedly popular, we can easily envision snuggling up by the fire in the winter months here too. Perfection.

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Huts in the hills

For a stay that offers boutique accommodation and a must-take-a-photo antique outdoor bath, Huts in the Hills is a jewel of a find. Wave goodbye to daily Zoom calls and work emails, as you enjoy this secluded area, complete with spectacular views of Northumberland. These charming huts are made from solid reclaimed oak with hand-forged wheels and sheep’s wool insulation — and care has been taken to fill them with only the most luxurious features — crisp Egyptian sheets, power showers, a fridge, oven and hob, toilet and cosy wood burner all within the hut. Guests can enjoy delivered breakfast baskets, picnic lunches or evening meals or self-cater if you’d prefer. The farm is at the foot of the Cheviot Hills in the Northumberland National Park, with many local walks, cycling trails and attractions nearby. Each as romantic as the next, the chic Dunmore and Hedgehope huts sleep two, the larger Cheviot sleeps four (with children’s bunk beds) and the largest, Maylies, sleeps five (with two double beds and a bunk bed). Each are spaced far apart, giving guest’s complete privacy for a truly secluded getaway. The remote location means you can enjoy a real escape from everyday life, surrounded by nature in beautiful Northumberland farmland. You will be immersed in the rustic luxury under the area’s magnificent dark skies. Whichever hut you choose, one thing’s guaranteed — your break will be unforgettable.

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The Farmhouse at Doxford Barns

Tucked away behind the Farmhouse at Doxford Barns you will find the Farmhouse Lodge, an impressively pretty home designed by interior designer Jo Aynsley. Check in to discover the farmhouse’s artful décor, complete with a luxurious king-sized bedroom and beautifully appointed cosy sitting room with smart television and corner sofa. Off the sitting room is a stylish bathroom offering a large walk-in shower. A mere ten minutes by car are the white sands Embelton beach, with Beadnell, Newton-by-the-sea, Craster and National Trust site Dunstanburgh castle also nearby. What could be better than days spent by the beach, returning to your own stylish dwellings?

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