After nearly 700 years as the ancestral home of the Border Reiver Charlton family, the picturesque Hesleyside Estate in the North Tyne Valley of Northumberland National Park is opening its gates to holidaymakers with accommodation that is right out of the ordinary.
Hesleyside Huts are a new style of deluxe accommodation for back-to-nature holidays. These traditional Northumberland shepherds huts, locally hand-crafted in reclaimed oak, have been designed for those who hate the chill of camping but love the thrill of stargazing, roaring fires and the great outdoors.
Tucked into their own oak copse in private parkland landscaped by Capability Brown, the fully insulated huts are beautifully and thoughtfully appointed, with woodburning stoves, king-size feather beds and a high standard of cooking and power shower facilities. Outside, there is a campfire and exclusive access to the natural beauty of the Estate and the Hesleyside beat of the River North Tyne – one of the best salmon and trout rivers in England.
Hesleyside is just 15-minutes walk to the bustling market town of Bellingham, with its shops and cafes secret waterfall walk and award-winning heritage museum. A short drive up the valley is Kielder Water and Forest with its sailing, mountain-biking, sculpture trail and astronomical observatory. All around is the stunning natural beauty of Northumberland National Park with walks and cycle trails through summer haymeadows, heather moors and quiet wooded roads.
The Reivers were feuding Border families of the Middle Ages, when ownership of Northumberland was hotly disputed between the Lords of England and Scotland and cattle raiding was common practice. The legend of the Hesleyside Spur (still in existence) tells of a powerful Charlton matriarch who used to place the Spur on the table to prompt her sons and their men to a little profitable raiding when the cupboard was bare. Hesleyside and the surrounding area is steeped in history and remains of the stone built fortified farmhouses (bastles) of the Reiving days can be visited through the local Tarset Bastle Trail.
While neighbours have been surprised to hear about the Estate’s new tourism venture after centuries of being a private place, owners William and Anna Charlton and their four children are cheerfully enthusiastic about sharing their beautiful landscape with visitors in the future. William said:
“It is a privilege to live at Hesleyside but this comes with a huge set of unique and costly challenges. In order to secure Hesleyside for future generations and keep pace with the rising costs of running a large historic house we are having to diversify from the traditional farming income of the estate. We are looking forward to sharing our beautiful surroundings with our guests and giving them a holiday to remember.”
The Charltons were supported in their investment with a Leader grant from the Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group which aims to encourage new ways of improving the local economy in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way. Anna added:
“Thanks to this Leader grant we have been able to invest in developing new income streams that will make the estate more self-supporting in future. We have already been able to give business to local craftsmen and professionals and hopefully there will be more work and orders as we go forward.”
Michael Nixon, Chair of NULAG said: “We are delighted to support this unique development in the North Tyne Valley as it will bring a number of joined-up benefits to the area, not least by attracting more tourists to the local economy and helping to establish new products created by local crafts people.”
Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park Authority and board member of Northumberland Tourism, Tony Gates commented: “High standards of accommodation that sit lightly in the landscape, like these charming shepherds huts, are essential to help expand the County’s offer to visitors and to make the most of our special tranquillity. I’ve no doubt they’ll be a great hit.”
Hesleyside Huts are open now and will be available all year around for families, anglers and people seeking the exceptional tranquillity of the area. Both huts have ensuite bathrooms and sleep 2 adults plus 1 child. They were built by the Northumberland Shepherd Hut Company with solid reclaimed oak chassis and hand crafted wheels and ironwork.
Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group was established by Northumberland National Park Authority with the aim of directing European Leader funds into the North East upland rural economy through an independent panel of community champions – the Local Action Group. The NU Leader area covers 3,042 km2 of Northumberland from the River South Tyne to the River Till. Since its inception, NULAG has aided 77 community and business enterprises with £2,035,000 of grant funding, helping to bring £2.3 million of match funding into the region and creating 40 new jobs.
Northumberland National Park Authority is lead partner and host for NULAG at its base in Rothbury.