9 Reasons To Visit The Sill in Northumberland National Park

The Sill is the 'National Landscape Discovery Centre'. Situated in Northumberland National Park next to Twice Brewed Inn and close to Sycamore Gap, the Sill is a perfect spot to visit as part of a wider day out exploring Hadrian's Wall (Vindolanda, Chester's Roman Fort and Housesteads are all within 10 miles). Probably not a contender for the best family days out in North East England, but still definitely worth a visit. I'd recommend planning to spend around an hour here with children, perhaps a little longer if you tend to read every single exhibit/take your time or plan on enjoying a bite to eat.

9 Reasons To Visit The Sill in Northumberland National Park

The Sill is open from 9:30am-6pm daily. The postcode is NE47 7AN. There's ample parking on-site (using number plate recognition so don't forget to pay) from £2 for a few hours or the AD122 bus stops at the door.

I'll be honest, I'd heard mixed reviews and The Sill doesn't have the best reviews on Tripadvisor which is why I'd put a trip off for so long (it is a bit of a drive) but lots of you still recommended it to us as well so I thought it was worth a shot. I'm so pleased we ignored the mixed reviews as we really enjoyed our time here. I wouldn't make the trip out just to visit The Sill but I'd definitely add it to a wider day out in the area. We paired our visit with a trip to Chester's Roman Fort which is an English Heritage Property up the road. Just a quick note to say that the Sill is not dog-friendly (but obviously assistance dogs are permitted).

Here are my 9 reasons to visit:

1 - It's FREE

The Sill is completely free to enter. You do need to pay for parking which is reasonable at £2 for 2 hours. The staff are super friendly and I'd recommend popping to the reception, explaining it's your first visit and asking their advice on which parts to visit first and they'll point you in the right direction. They also have giant maps laid out over the reception desk and can help with walking routes in the area (you could walk to Sycamore Gap from here - it's just 1.4 miles away).

9 Reasons To Visit The Sill in Northumberland National Park

2 - Hands-On Learning

Why not learn all about landscapes in the 'What is a Landscape' permanent exhibition? This was one of our favourite areas of the Sill and links information about life in Northumberland with thought-provoking exhibits asking what is a landscape. My three loved creating their own digital landscape which linked sand and state of the art technology and every single area of the exhibition was in excellent working order/condition (which is kind of a rare thing sadly) and very hands on. We listened to tales from Northumberland, read local myths, felt sheep wool, admired some Northumbrian pipes, discovered more about our own landscape and more. It's one of those exhibitions where I had to drag the kids away and I think it would be enjoyed by young and old alike. You don't need to visit with kids.

3 - The Rooftop Walk

You can walk on the roof of the sill which is partly made from grass. This is such a novel idea for kids and they had great fun running around. As far as I could see, this is accessible too (read more about accessibility here). The views of the surrounding Northumberland countryside are of epic proportions and there are little info signs giving you little titbits of info about the site, it's sustainability and some of the flowers growing there.

4 - Fantastic Gift Shop

Normally I try and avoid a gift shop but the shop at the Sill is fantastic. There's all sorts of Northumberland gifts and products for sale. It very much reminds me of the Lindisfarne Mead shop on Holy Island. I could spend a fortune here. If you're looking for a gift for somebody who loves Northumberland, you'll find one here.

5 - Grab A Bite To Eat

There is a cafe at The Sill which is managed by the same people as SIX at Baltic. We didn't visit as I was a little put off by their inflated prices (£4 for a toasted teacake) and the fact that it was empty but they have a beautiful terrace on the roof which looks like the perfect spot to treat yourself to a nice slice of cake or drink and take in the views.

6 - Stay Over

We're huge fans of staying with YHA (read our experience of staying in the YHA Eden Project here) and the Sill has it's very own state of the art Youth Hostel attached. As it's next door to a pub and in the heart of Hadrian's Wall/Northumberland National Park, I think it would make a perfect base for the evening. Facilities include free WiFi, community kitchens, bar, dining room and en-suite bedrooms

7 - Find A Walking Route

As mentioned earlier, the Sill reception is packed full of information for walkers. The staff seem like experts and were helping lots of visitors with suggested routes, there are maps on display or you can buy them too. I reckon the Sill is a fantastic base for a walking holiday and if we ever plan on walking some of Hadrian's Wall, I really think it's where we'll base ourselves. Sycamore Gap is just 1.4 miles away which should take just under half an hour. Live, Laugh, Go tried this walk with their young children - you can read about their experience here. 

8 - Visit A Temporary Exhibition

Discover Our Land is the temporary exhibition we managed to catch (available until July 2019 - you can see what's on at the moment here). This exhibition showcased some of the best amateur photography from around Northumberland and it really was fantastic to see so much talent in one room. There was everything from Blyth Beach Huts to Puffins, Waterfalls and Castles. The exhibition was accompanied by a short video made by Northumberland residents about why they love living here and why others should visit. It really made me feel proud to call Northumberland my home.

9 - Busy Events Programme

Most of the reviews I've read online have said that The Sill's event programme is the real reason you should visit. There does seem to be a lot going on and I bet it's a pretty inspiring place to meet new people and learn something new. There's something for everyone at Northumberland National Park from photography walks to cycle rides, nature crafts, archery, bushcraft skills, bug hunts, guided walks and even a spot of Shakespeare. You can see the full programme of events available at Northumberland National Park here.

I'm really pleased we finally got around to visiting The Sill. Like I say, I think you'd only need around an hour and it's best to plan and visit at the same time as Chesters/Vindolanda/Housesteads/Roman Army Museum or as a base for a walk along Hadrian's Wall/to Sycamore Gap. Let me know if you've visited or fancy popping by.

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9 Reasons To Visit The Sill in Northumberland National Park


1 comment

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this because, like you, we've been wondering whether it's worth a visit. Every time we pass the brown sign I think "mmm, should we go?"

    I think when we finally get round to doing our proper day trip to Hadrian's Wall we definitely will include it - I'm mostly interested in the views and the food (although I don't think I'll be having that ridiculous tea cake!)


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