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Reasons to visit North-East England

This is a big area, with big scenery and big skies. The moors of Yorkshire, County Durham and Northumberland just seem to roll on forever. Here and there they are divided up by rivers, vigorous torrents (High Force waterfall is a must) gradually taking on a  gentle, ambling gait as they make their way towards the sea.

History is a big part of a visit to the North-East, ranging from Hadrian's Wall and other Roman sites to the industrial heritage museums that have sprung up around disused coal pits and docks. It is Hadrian's Wall that is the grandad of them all as it meanders it's way 73 miles across the country from coast to coast. This was the final outpost of the Roman Empire for 300 years and has left a massive legacy right down to our own times. Some parts of the wall are well-preserved, along with Roman towns, forts and villas, while in other places just small traces remain, adapted over the centuries as roads field boundaries or house foundations. Those of an energetic dispostion can walk or cycle the entire length of the wall.

More recent history comes in many forms. You can visit the cottage where George Stephenson was born, or Haworth Parsonage, the home of the Bronte sisters (not forgetting their brother too, of course). The National Trust has a number of interesting country houses and estates, including Wallington (home of the oddball Trevelyan family), Gibside (a great landscaped estate that has crumbled and is being reborn) and Seaton Delaval Hall. It is Cragside that stands out though, because it is not just a grand house in a magnificent estate, equal to many of the best anywhere. It was also home to Lord Armstrong so it became the first house in the world lit by hydro-electricity and was the laboratory for many of his inventions.

Two cities stand out as being of special interest. York is famous for York Minster, one of the world's most magnificent cathedrals and a masterpiece of stained glass and stone. The whole city is very appealing though, especially the Shambles, a mediaeval street of timber-framed shops and houses. Nor should any visitor miss the Jorvik Viking Centre which celebrates the archaeological discoveries made right beneath the streets or York.

The other city that must not be missed in Durham. Durham is defined by its geography, perched on a steep-sided hill on a rocky promontory surrounded by the River Wear. To the Saxons who first established a foothold here, it was a natural defensive site, and the castle they built here grew and expanded over many centuries. The original little Saxon church grew too, and Durham cathedral is one of the best in the country, all the more so because of the new "Open Treasure" exhibition experience. No-one will be disappointed by Durham.

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