A bumper summer for tourism in the county

With the bank holiday behind us and the high season coming to a close, the tourist industry can reflect on what’s been described as a bumper summer in north Northumberland.

With reports of packed-out accommodation, hordes of visitors to the area’s attractions and town centres full to bursting point, the early indications are that the visitor economy has fared extremely well.

Figures from Northumberland County Council show that there was a 20 per cent increase in visitor numbers and income to Northumberland attractions and tourist information centres up to the end of July 2014 compared with the same period last year.

“The profile of the county has been raised prior to this season which looks like it is having a very positive impact,” a spokesman added.

The recent spate of television programmes featuring the county appears to have dramatically raised the profile of Northumberland.

And with more filming taking place in recent weeks, including the global sensation Downton Abbey, there’s no reason why next year won’t see another boost.

Jude Leitch, general manager of Northumberland Tourism, said: “Thanks, in part, to programmes aired recently including Vera and Robson Green’s Tales from Northumberland, we are experiencing a bumper summer following on from a fantastic Easter.

“The fact that these programmes are now filming more series is testament to the beauty and popularity of Northumberland with residents and visitors alike.

“Every time the beautiful scenery of Northumberland is televised, it helps spread the word about what a fantastic holiday destination Northumberland is, so we are looking forward to the airing of the programmes that have been filmed this summer.”

That view is shared by both accommodation providers and visitor attractions.

Jeff Sutheran, chairman of the North Northumberland Tourism Association, said: “It’s been a bumper year, particularly for accommodation providers, which is the bulk of our membership.

“Between Seahouses and Bamburgh, people have said they have never seen it so busy with cars parked and people going to the beach. The sensation is that it’s been a very good summer.”

Jeff’s own bed and breakfast, St Cuthbert’s House in Seahouses, has been fully booked from Easter until the end of September and he agrees that the additional publicity has been a boost.

“There’s no doubt that lots of our own guests are reporting seeing something about Northumberland on the TV,” he said. “There has been some good exposure generally.”

Further west, John O’Brien, Cragside’s general manager, said: “As per the rest of this year, it’s been very positive in terms of numbers and we’re certainly in line to exceed 200,000 visitors.

“Our visitors are enjoying our art exhibition, LUX, which is on until November.”

And a spokeswoman for The Alnwick Garden said: “We are seeing an increasing number of overseas visitors at The Alnwick Garden, particularly from areas such as the Netherlands, China and America, but we have also experienced significant growth in local visitors becoming Friends of The Garden, which allows them to visit multiple times a year.”