In the county of Northumberland,on the river Tyne in Tynedale,situated nearly in the middle of the country between Newcastle on Tyne,near the east coast and Carlisle,near the west cost and very close to the Roman Wall which links both cities,is Hexham.
Hexham is a very historic town,so why not arrive here by driving along the historic road to Hexham;leave the A69 at the Brocksbushes A68 roundabout and drive through pretty Corbridge and just a couple of miles along the B6530/A695 you approach Hexham passing by the recently built Hospital,opened by the Duchess of Northumberland in 2008. Or if driving from the west you leave the A69 on the B6531 and drive past our beautiful St Andrews Cemetery,opened in 1859. Or perhaps you will come by train,alighting at one of the oldest railway stations in the world,welcoming visitors like you since 1835. The beauty of the station with its hanging flower baskets is but one of the many floral displays which will show you why Hexham has won Britain in Bloom ‘Best Town’ and Northumbria in Bloom ‘Best Town’. Hexham was also voted Country Life ‘England’s Favourite Market Town’ and Britain in Bloom ‘Best Tourist Town’. On leaving the railway station cross the road and follow the well signposted Hall Orchard Road to the town centre. Despite its name this is a pedestrian pathway but the name recalls the fruit orchards that used to cover the site of the Wentworth car park that you can see to your right.
The Tourist Information Office is just below you on your right as you walk along the pathway so perhaps you will wish to pick up one or two of the Hexham walks leaflets to guide you on your visit. Pass on and up Hall Orchard Road to the town centre Market Place,dominated by the dramatic setting of the 13th Century Hexham Abbey,built on the site of St Wilfrid’s earlier church of 674AD,whose fascinating crypt still remains for you to explore,beneath the grandeur of its successor.
Your approach to the Market Place will take you past the Old Gaol,oldest in the country. Pause there,(you will be released after your visit) and find out about Hexham’s past – dominated by the Border Reivers of the Middle Ages. They were independent,tough and warlike;Northumbrians are still tough and independent,but very friendly people and you will get a real welcome here – we are proud of our town and want to share it with you. Leaving the Old Gaol and passing under the Moot Hall arch you pass into the Market Place,bustling with market stalls on Tuesdays and Saturdays and beyond looms the Abbey.
The town centre has a variety of excellent shops,numerous cafes and restaurants,many nestling in the medieval streets,intriguing to explore. To the left of the Abbey stretches the imposing Beaumont Street,dominated by the Queens Hall Library Theatre and Arts Centre. Drop in and see what’s on today. Opposite are the beautiful Abbey Grounds. Take a stroll through them and turning right at the Bandstand,carry on to Cowgarth and into the grounds of Hexham House with its bowling green and magnificent flower displays. You will then pass under St Wilfrid’s Gate,the north entrance to the Abbey and emerging on to Market Street and Gilesgate. This name recalls the road which led to St Giles Leper Hospital,now home to Hexham Golf Club. 200 years ago you would have gained a very different impression from the elegant buildings of today,for downhill to your left was the old tanning and glove making centre of Hexham. Famous for its high quality leather gloves (the ‘Hexham Tans) still recalled in the name of the restaurant in St Mary’s Chare (also called locally ‘Back Street’),this area was an unhealthy sweat shop tanning ghetto. In its heyday in 1828,23,504 dozen pairs of gloves were made but today only five known pairs remain. Downhill from here is Holy Island House (the oldest dwelling in town) and you could visit the Skinners Arms,then go back uphill to the Market Place and perhaps a well deserved meal.
After that how about a refreshing walk along the river on Tyne Green or perhaps you haven’t finished your tour of the Abbey or a browse in the shops.
There is much to do and see in Hexham and of course we are the gateway to our wonderful Northumberland with its many castles,walks,Kielder Forest [the largest man made forest in Europe] and Kielder Water,Hadrian’s Wall and many more so easily accessible attractions at Alnwick Castle;Alnwick Garden;Lindisfarne [Holy Island];Wallington Hall and more,far too many to list here. Then there are the more recent attractions – the Metro Shopping Centre;Baltic Art Centre;the Angel of the North. You can easily make visits to the historic centres of Newcastle or Carlisle and if you set off a little early the Lake District to the west and Edinburgh to the north and Durham to the south east are just car day trips away.
So come and see us soon,you will enjoy it here.