Daleks are part of British cultural history and are as much part of the fabric of our national heritage as a listed building.
Neil Cole, Allendale Village
Quirky, Beautiful and Friendly: Allendale is an idyllic northern English village with a difference
There is so much to see and do here in Allendale Village, in the heart of Northumberland. Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and with Hadrian’s Wall, Langley Castle and the Angel of the North all nearby, you can spend weeks hiking, cycling, walkng, fishing and exploring the moors. But it’s the locals I love. They are friendly to outsiders but most importantly, they have a huge amount of community spirit. From digging their own broadband connections to mounting a Dalek resistance the local Council, you’ve got to love the warm and hardy folk of the north Pennines!
A 30-minute drive from Newcastle airport, or a two-and-a-half hours from Edinburgh through spectacular Anglo-Scottish Borderlands countryside brings you to a part of Northumberland known by cyclists and ramblers for its hospitality. Allendale is 18km south of the Roman town of Hexham and 55km to the west of Newcastle upon Tyne. The nearby village of Allenheads is one of the highest inhabited villages in England. Both villages nestle within the deep green dales of the Pennine Chain, an ancient range of mountains and hills that stretches south from the Scottish border to the Yorkshire Dales.
The Heart of Allendale Village: The Market Square
Allendale village is perched on a spur in a bend in the River Allen The market square is sleepy on weekdays unless there is a festival or gathering. One morning our house on the market square was surrounded by classic MG cars as the tea rooms welcomed the MG club for one of its meetings. The tea rooms, like the rest of the stone-built Georgian buildings on the market square, date from the 17th century through to 1875. Across the square is the Allen Forge (artist) studios, café and gift shop. Next door is the Allendale Inn. The grand old buildings around the square are available for short term rentals. The King’s Head and the Golden Lion Hotel flank the north of the square.
At the far corner of the market square is the cathedral with its lychgate, stone walls enclosing mature camellia trees and gravestones. A church has stood in Allendale since the twelfth century. St. Cuthbert’s was built in 1873. The lychgate is engraved with the names of those who died from the village fighting for England. Adjacent to St. Cuthbert’s church is a butcher’s shop selling local produce (triple cheese quiches!) as well as ready-made (minted-lamb!) sandwiches and pies to keep your stomach full on your long rambles over the moors. There is talk in the village of the butcher’s closing down, so you’d better hurry!
The local co-op will let you pay at the end of the month for wine, lightbulbs, easter eggs, bread, brooms and flowers, and anything else you can find on their eclectic shelves. The village also has a post office, pharmacy and gift shop.
Lead and Looters: A Dangerous History
Around Allendale there are forty buildings called Bastles. These are a kind of fortified farmhouse: a cross between a castle and a farmstead. The animals were housed on the ground floor of the Bastle and a wooden ladder led to a floor above where the family lived. In times of trouble the ladder could be pulled up. Regular windows were replaced by arrow slits. The cause of all this fortification came from the Anglo-Scotish borderlands. The borderlands were the home of marauders known as Reivers.
View of England from the Scottish border
Reiving means raiding or plundering. From the 1200s to the 1600s Border Reivers terrorised the folk of the Anglo-Scottish borderlands. Centuries of English-Scottish wars left the borderlands a political and economic wasteland where your allegiance was to your family and by extension, your clan or tribe. Arson and murder also occurred and farmers stopped planting crops because they would be burned by Reivers. Livestock were farmed and kept at night inside the Bastles. James I finally got the area under his control in 1605 and hanged almost a hundred Reivers. Many of the remaining Reivers became soldiers or mercenaries, and went to fight in European wars.
The Centre of World Lead Mining
Allendale chimneys on the moors
All around Allendale you can find strange structures. Chimney towers silhouetted against the horizon, rising from the fells. Long tunnels or tubes that seem to be half buried for miles. Horse-shoe shaped tunnels up on the moors and drainage tunnels and grates beside the rivers.
In the late 1800’s the population of Allendale was over 6000. That’s three times larger than its present size. Back then Allendale was the centre of the most important lead mining production area in the world. Lead chimneys dominated the horizons atop the moors and long flues carrying waste from the mine ore smelters ran to local rivers or vented poisonous fumes onto the moors.
And below the market square, on the banks of the River Allen, is an old stone mill. Unlike most stone mills this one serviced the lead mining industry – the source of old wealth in these now forgotten parts of the north Pennines. The mill, its quarry and ore smelter, and the grand buildings of Allendale are part of the infrastructure of lead mining that created a town large enough to have its own mayor. Today you can see the ruined chimneys of the lead mines on the horizon. Alamy
The Blackett Level drainage tunnel
Plunging global lead prices eventually caused the industry to collapse. The Allendale smelt mill ceased operations in 1896. The railroad to Allendale was decommissioned. But apart from the smithies that disappeared from the market square, Allendale village looks much as it does in maps from the late nineteenth century.
So now, armed with this fascinating and odd history, what should you do when you arrive in Allendale?
What To Do in Allendale Village
Stone walls, solid beams and low ceilings, with wood fires and snugs: pubs are the lifeblood of northern villages. In front of a roaring fire, playing pool, and perched on bar stools in these pubs you will find the residents of Allendale. They will be welcoming and charming as you drink beer from the local brewery while munching on cheese and onion crisps.
There are three pubs in Allendale and one at Allenheads. In the market square you will find that locals have a favourite and the crowd is slightly different depending upon the live music, Sunday roast or pool competition that might be occurring at each pub. The Allendale Brewery supplies its own ale to the pubs.
A middle-aged woman told me that after her husband passed away three years ago she had thought about moving “south” to her daughter. But she would not have had the courage to go to urban pubs or other venues alone. But not in Allendale. Here everyone eventually knows everyone else. The village pubs are small and welcoming. And that’s where she met her new husband.
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The Golden Lion
The three-story stone free house has been a pub since 1839. Everyone has a favourite pub in Allendale and this is mine. Unfortunately there was a period earlier in 2019 when it was sub-leased and it went downhill very quickly. The situation has now returned to normal and the guest reviews are as excellent as they had been in the previous years. It is interesting to chart the Trip Advisor scores averaging at 5/5 before 2019, then 1/5 until June, and then 5/5 again. The locals were unimpressed with the change and had boycotted the premises. It’s a relief to see it back to its usual standards.
The Golden Lion just has a vibe about it that makes it fun and welcoming. It is informal and with good pub ales and food. I love having to step over doge to get to the bar!
Accommodation is up steep stairs. Get a room overlooking the market square.
The King’s Head
Next door to The Golden Lion is another lovely three-story stone pub with accommodation on the third floor and a good website. The owners are former police officers and known for their warmth, large breakfasts and Sunday roast dinners. Similarly good food and ales, dogs and welcoming staff and locals! Sunday evening bingo, a log fire and and Old Git’s Club!
The Kings Head and the Golden Lion
The Allendale Inn
Live sports on wall mounted TVs, music, video games, a pool table and a juke box give this pub a slightly younger (and louder) feel that the other pubs in the market square. The owners are welcoming and the locals come for the Sunday lunch. There is a small outdoor area for sunny days.
The Allenheads Inn
Since 1770 the Allenheads Inn has been serving travellers on the Pennine footpaths and roadways. The pub is eclectic, loves dogs and has a separate dining room where the lasagna is good. It is on the National Cycle Route 7 and it is cycling groups that sustain the pub. It has mixed reviews for its accommodation.
Allenheads is 8 miles from Allendale and can be reached by road and by local bus (the 688 from Hexham to Allenheads).
But the locals don’t just sit around all day at the pub (well, some do). Mostly they’re busy doing stuff like participating in all manner of community groups like film screenings with free wine and cheese, dancing, chamber music and choir, community lunches and walks each week and sports including angling, cricket, badminton, tennis and golfing.
Being located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and needing to get some exercise after all that eating and drinking, there is no shortage of things for you to see and do in Allendale.
Walks from the Village
It is hard to think of a better or more picturesque way to spend an afternoon than to walk down the Peth, past the Dalek and the Red Squirrel habitat, and turn onto the path alongside the River East Allen. This riverside walk runs below the market square and St. Cuthbert’s church, past lambs and ponies frolicking among daffodils and beside the stone walls of the fields abutting the village. You can climb over stiles and make your way through the stone-walled fields to Catton or continue along the River. A stone walled lane will take you back into Allendale village.
There are many paths to take and they are each charming and romantic, especially in the Spring. The river route walk to Catton village, past farmhouses and along the
river back to Allendale is mapped out by Christopher Somerville. Click on the link below for his map: http://www.christophersomerville.co.uk/Walks/amap.php?f=Allendale.gpx
A walk around the River East Allen and Allendale Town is well mapped out by the UK Ordnance Survey. It is a 6.5km walk taking 1hr 36 minutes. I find these maps very easy to use. The walk can be found here: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/62585/w23-Allendale-Town-and-the-River-East-Allen
Allen Dalek and the Dalek Resistance: The Museum of Classic Sci-Fi
When the locals aren’t in the pub or joining in with their many community groups, they like to get up to the odd spot of activism as well. The latest form of activism involves raising a Dalek army against the short-sighted rulings of the local bureaucracy.
In 2018 a tiny science fiction museum was opened by Neil Cole, a teacher at the local primary school. The Museum of Classic Sci-Fi has over 200 items and is a “nostalgic” tour of the genre and of the “Dr Who era.”
It is open Friday through to Monday and is becoming an attraction and reason to visit the village.
The little museum would not have gained notoriety so quickly if it hadn’t been for a dispute with the local planning authorities that has outraged the locals.
The Museum of Sci-Fi is inside Cole’s house, Osbourne House. It is a Georgian heritage-listed terrace house on the road running from the market square down the Peth. Outside his house is a Dalek and a Dr-Who-tardis-car. The Dalek is of course called the “Allen Dalek.” So far, so good. But then the local Council became involved and the locals are not impressed.
The entrance sign to Allendale village now reads as Allendalek as local resistance mounts against the Council’s desire to evict the Allen Dalek. The existence of the Allen Dalek, made by primary school teacher Tim Cole and local children over a five-year period, is not the problem. It’s the little shed that shelters the Dalek. It sits on the street in front of the Georgian terrace that Cole owns. Daleks have begun appearing all over the village in a show of solidarity with the Allen Dalek. People from around the world have written to the Council expressing their dismay at the Council’s actions.
The Council relented and let Cole apply for retrospective permission for his Dalek shelter. The Council have said they are unlikely to grant permission because it is a heritage streetscape. A mood of compromise does seem to be growing however in response to the positive publicity the village has received from around the world as a result of the museum and its Dalek.
Rambling, Hiking and Cycling
Rambling and Hiking
All of the walks surrounding Allendale mapped by the UK Ordnance Survey are considered “moderate.” The two exceptions are the Allendale River walk and a Willimoteswick via Whitshields walk (12.2 km, 2hrs, 26 mins). These two walks are considered “leisurely.”
Ranging from 2 hours to 18 hours, the rambles, hikes and cycling routes around Allendale Village and the Allen Valleys are unspoiled, wild and sparsely populated. A list of routes and their detailed maps and directions can be found here
The North Pennines are one of the best cycling spots in England. Three National Cycles Routes pass through the North Pennines: The C2C, Pennine Cycleway and Walney to Wear (and Whitby). In addition to these epic cycling journeys are 10 cycle routes around Allendale village. The routes range from 14 km to 34 km in length. Details, maps and free downloadable pdfs of the routes are available here
Hadrian’s wall lies in the midst of stunning countryside and is a must-visit destination in the north of England. For almost 300 years this wall was the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire and of Britannia. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
The 73 miles-long Roman built stone wall runs to the north of Allendale village. There is much more at the main Hadrian’s Wall site than just the remains of the wall itself. The Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum is built on an escarpment and you can wander around and through the remains of this once vibrant Fort.
The site is open daily, 10am – 4 pm.
|Family (2 Adults + 3 children)||£21.10|
|Child (5-17 yrs)||£4.90|
An Overseas Visitors Pass can be purchased online for a number of United Kingdom historical sites through Get Your Guide here
A section of Hadrian’s Wall
Langley Castle (Hotel)
You’re never far from a castle in Northumberland. I like to dine at Langley Castle Hotel. Dinner starts with a drink in the drawing room and your order is taken. Presently you are escorted to the dining hall (Josephine’s restaurant) for an excellent meal. It’s fun to dress up and the I love the food. It has been awarded 2AA Rosettes.
If you’re lucky enough to stay at the Castle, you can eat like a king or queen or every night!
The fortified castle dates from the fourteenth century.It’s walls are seven feet wide. It is set in 12 acres of woodlands. On moonless nights the castle offers star gazing evening events.
A tour of the castle and its battlements is conducted each morning after breakfast.
Langley Castle hotel is 6.6km miles from Allendale Village via the B6295. The Housesteads Roman Fort at Hadrian’s Wall is 7.8km away.
T’ar Baal Festival
You may want to time your visit to a festival or village celebration. There are a number of festivals, fairs and sporting challenges that occur in and around Allendale. The most significant of these is the T’ar Baal Festival that occurs each New Year’s Eve. It is not, as is often stated, a pagan festival. But it is a silly one that causes a lot of merriment. Thought to have begun in 1864, the blowy winter conditions made it difficult for Christmas carollers to go from house to house, or inn to inn, without their straw torches being blown out. The idea was born of carrying a container of burning tar on their heads and setting it down each time the carollers wanted to sing.
This has evolved into a parade around the Allendale market square before midnight on New Year’s Eve night. Men known as Guisers dress in fancy costumes (Donald Trump made an appearance last year) and carry lit containers of tar upon their heads. In the past five years this festival has received considerable media coverage and it is important to book well ahead. It is also important to rug up well against the weather.
When to Go to Allendale Village
Spring and Summer are wonderful times to visit the North Pennines and Allendale Village. April is perfect because of the wildflowers and the baby lambs gamboling everywhere. Summer is your best chance of it not raining too much. The table below shows the average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Allendale.
|Precipitation / Rainfall (mm)||86||61||72||57||61||60||66||85||79||80||90||87|
|Avg. Temperature (°C)||1.6||1.8||3.9||6.3||9.3||12.6||14||13.6||11.4||8.4||4.7||2.5|
|Min. Temperature (°C)||-1.1||-1||0.6||2.4||5||8.2||9.8||9.4||7.6||5||1.7||-0.2|
|Max. Temperature (°C)||4.3||4.7||7.3||10.3||13.7||17||18.3||17.8||15.2||11.9||7.7||5.2|
|Avg. Temperature (°F)||34.9||35.2||39.0||43.3||48.7||54.7||57.2||56.5||52.5||47.1||40.5||36.5|
|Min. Temperature (°F)||30.0||30.2||33.1||36.3||41.0||46.8||49.6||48.9||45.7||41.0||35.1||31.6|
|Max. Temperature (°F)||39.7||40.5||45.1||50.5||56.7||62.6||64.9||64.0||59.4||53.4||45.9||41.4|
From this chart you can see that there are a few months of the year when the weather is reasonably mild. I prefer the months with the lowest rainfall and May-June are great months for being able to get out and about.
How To Get To Allendale Village
There are direct flights from 40 airports into Newcastle (NCL). See the following table below for a complete list of these airports:
|Aberdeen (ABZ)||Dublin (DUB)||Krakow (KRK)||Pisa (PSA)|
|Alicante (ALC)||Dubrovnik (DBV)||Lanzarote (ACE)||Prague (PRG)|
|Almeria (LEI)||Exeter (EXT)||Larnaca (LCA)||Reus (REU)|
|Amsterdam (AMS)||Faro (FAO)||London (LHR)||Rhodes (RHO)|
|Antalya (AYT)||Fuerteventura (FUE)||Majorca (PMI)||Rome (FCO)|
|Barcelona (BCN)||Funchal (FNC)||Malaga (AGP)||Salzburg (SZG)|
|Belfast (BFS)||Geneva (GVA)||Malta (MLA)||Southampton (SOU)|
|Bodrum (BJV)||Gerona (GRO)||Menorca (MAH)||Split (SPU)|
|Bourgas (BOJ)||Gran Canaria (LPA)||Munich (MUC)||Tenerife (TFS)|
|Bristol (BRS)||Heraklion (HER)||Naples (NAP)||Thessaloniki (SKG)|
|Cancun (CUN)||Ibiza (IBZ)||Newquay (NQY)||Verona (VRN)|
|Cardiff (CWL)||Izmir (ADB)||Nice (NCE)||Zakinthos (ZTH)|
|Corfu (CFU)||Jersey (JER)||Orlando (SFB)|
|Dalaman (DLM)||Kefalonia (EFL)||Paphos (PFO)|
|Dubai (DXB)||Kos (KGS)||Paris (CDG)|
There are an average of 5 fights per day from London direct to Newcastle, taking 1hr and 10 mins. British Airways, Southern China and Flybe all fly directly between the two cities.
The Carlisle-Newcastle line can be accessed by railway stations at Hexham (17km from Allendale) and Haydon Bridge (12km from Allendale).
The A69 motorway is 16km away at Hexham. Newcastle is 55 km or 40 minutes away by car.
The 688 bus travels between Hexham, Allendale, Allenheads and Langley. Download a pdf of the timetable here.
Best Places to Stay in Allendale Village
There are no hotel chains in the village. There is a range of accommodation that is variable in quality. It ranges from contemporary to traditional and cosy.
High Keenly Fell Farm for lovely countryside views and breakfasts a little out of town (4.5 km away). Hiking, fishing and horse riding for guests is available on the farm itself and family rooms are available.
Langley Castle Hotel is only 6km away if you hanker to stay in a fourteenth centurt fortified castle in the northern English countryside! 27 luxury rooms, wonderful dining and grounds and cocktails in the drawing room. Bliss.
The Golden Lion, right in the heart of the village, has accommodation on their upper floors but they are up steep stairs and so you need to have good mobility. It’s not far for a drink or meal!
The Kings Head Hotel, next to The Golden Lion, also offers accommodaiton on its upper floors in the very heart of Allendale village.
In the heart of the village, seconds away from pubs, the Co-op food store, good coffee, and so on, self-catering cottages are available such as the authentic Sunniside House, right on the market square. It is only available for a minimum of 7 nights, but it is dog-friendly and my favourite!
Links and Further Information for Allendale Village
The Golden Lion
The King’s Head
Market Place, Allendale, Hexham, B6303, NE47 9BD
Phone: +44 1434 683681
The Allendale Inn
Market Place, Allendale, Hexham NE47 9BJ
Phone: +44 1434 683246
The Allenheads Inn
The Village Square, Allenheads, Hexham NE47 9BJ
Phone: +44 1434 685200
Allendale Forge Studios
Market Place, Allendale, Hexham NE47 9BD
+44 1434 683975
The Museum of Classic Sci-Fi
Osbourne House, Allendale, Hexham NE47 9BJ
Allen Mill, B6295, Hexham NE47 9EA
Phone: + 44 1434 618686
Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum (Hadrian’s Wall)
Haydon Bridge, Hexham NE47 6NN
Phone: + 44 1434 344363
Langley Castle Hotel
Langley-on-Tyne, Northumberland NE4 75LU
Phone: +44 1435 688 888
Langley Dam Glamping
Langley Dam, Langley On Tyne, Northumberland NE47 5LD
Phone: 07711 288350
English Heritage Overseas Tourist Pass here
Northumberland Tourism Website
More detailed information on how to book transport, airfares, accommodation and travel insurance is available on my Travel Resources page.
Another great post on this wonderful village can be found here
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