Geoff Holland is a walker and writer and a Northumbrian by birth. He has written four books of self-guided walks: The Cheviot Hills; Walks from Wooler; The Hills of Upper Coquetdale and Walks on the Wild Side,The Cheviot Hills.
He is a regular contributor to a number of publications including www.thisisnorthumberland.com, TGO (The Great Outdoors) and Country Walking magazines and can be heard reading a selection of his poems on the spoken word website www.listenupnorth.com. He also operates the highly acclaimed website www.cheviotwalks.co.uk. Geoff’s books are available online from www.trailguides.co.uk.
How long have you lived/worked/visited in Northumberland?: I was born within sight of the North Sea at Tynemouth when the village was still part of Northumberland. Since then I have never lived more than one mile away from the coast. I am a Northumbrian through and through and hugely proud of it and no alteration to administrative boundaries will ever change that fact.
What is it about the county that appeals to you?: The wild and beautiful coastline of Northumberland, the vast empty expanse of the Cheviot Hills, the endlessly big skies and the diverse and complex DNA of Northumberland.
What’s your favourite Northumberland/Borders beauty spot?: There are so many favourite places which conjure up fantastic memories whenever I re-visit them. However, if push comes to shove, I would have to choose the Hen Hole, one of the most remote and primeval landscapes in the Cheviot Hills, a place where waterfalls tumble between cliffs and rock buttresses, where ravens nest and legends abound.
Tell us about your favourite view or walk?: For someone who spends an awful lot of time devising new and, hopefully, unique walking routes for others to follow, that is almost impossible to say. However, as I tend to prefer my walks to be on the long side I would have to say that a walk from the Harthope Valley over the top of The Cheviot, visiting the Hanging Stone en route to Mallie Side on the Scottish side of the border takes some beating. The return route via Auchope Cairn and Cairn Hill, whilst pretty muscle-testing, is the icing on the cake.
The list of places to visit is endless. But some are more special than others. A trip to Northumberland/the Borders wouldn’t be complete without . . .: Hadrian’s Wall.
Why is locally produced Northumbrian/Borders food the best?: My wife Ellie and I are big fans of the Northumberland Cheese Company, particularly their Kielder cheese, and, of course, Doddington Ice Cream which also well and truly tickles our tastebuds. These are definitely brand leaders.
Do you have a preferred place to eat out in the county and why?: I suppose it depends where I/we have been walking. If it is north Northumberland then a visit to Breeze on Wooler High Street for a warming soup and a bun would be the obvious choice. If it happens to be Upper Coquetdale a visit to the welcoming farmhouse tea room at Barrowburn for a bacon buttie would round the day off nicely in an idyllic setting. Otherwise, if it has been a walk along the coast then Hardy’s Bistro at the White Swan Hotel in Alnwick would be the place we would choose to chill out over a coffee and a toasted sandwich.
Northumbrians and people from The Scottish Borders are renowned for the warm welcome they offer holidaymakers and day trippers alike. What do you think is the secret ingredient for this friendliness?: That really would be telling! It is like asking a chef at a top restaurant what are the ingredients of his most sought after dish. Secrets like that are worth their weight in gold. However, if the special ingredients did inadvertently become public knowledge no other area would ever be able to successfully imitate Northumbrians. It is just the way we are.
Coast or country, and specifically which part?: We are lucky to have both in such large quantities but it will come as no surprise when I say ‘country’ as I am a bit of a Cheviot Hills obsessive.
Your favourite market town?: Morpeth. In the past few years it has made something of a comeback and with a wide selection of things to do and see it is always high on our list of places to visit.
Your favourite historical site?: Dunstanburgh Castle. The walk from Craster with the wild North Sea on your right and the castle ahead getting bigger with each footstep takes some beating whatever the season. Best caught on a quiet day when you might just have the place to yourselves.
And the best road to take a leisurely and scenic drive along? It has got to be the 12-mile drive from Alwinton to Chew Green along a winding single track road which is surrounded by an endless array of green, rolling hills. It is lonely and isolated. What could be better.
What would be your perfect day out in Northumberland and The Scottish Borders?: Anywhere in the Cheviot Hills on either side of the border, preferably with my wife and with a tasty lunch tucked away in the sac.
Category: Northumberland Best Kept Secrets