Reading Northumberland: Books to devour before you visit

Published: Thursday 26th Apr 2018

Transport yourself to the wildly beautiful scenes of Northumberland, from its castles to its coastline, through our recommended reading list of books all set in this wonderful part of the UK.

1.The Vera Stanhope Mysteries by Ann Cleeves

Many of Ann Cleeves’ crime novels about the middle aged, overweight DCI Vera Stanhope and the cases she investigates, feature Northumberland at its most gritty and rural.

Famously made into the ITV drama, Vera, you’ll read of the hot summer on the Northumberland coast when a killer makes art out of death in Hidden Depths and windswept landscapes and a remote country retreat where a murder takes place in The Glass Room. If you find yourself gripped, there are eight books in the series, so plenty of material for you to read while on holiday as well.

2. Monument to Murder by Mari Hannah 

Following on with the crime fiction theme, Monument to Murder is part of Mari Hannah’s DCI Kate Daniels series and is set in the coastal areas of Bamburgh, Newton and Alnwick. Skeletal remains are found beneath the walls of an ancient castle, cue Bamburgh Castle, and DCI Daniels is forced to call on a forensic anthropologist to help her investigate.

3.Deception by Joan Aiken

This historical romance about two ladies swopping identities will take you into the world of Northumberland high society – think Jane Austen up north!

4.Wife in the North by Judith O’Reilly

This biography about Judith’s move from London to Northumberland, with two toddlers and a new baby, features her now holiday home, Coastal Retreat House in the North. Definitely one to read while you are staying there, so you can literally walk in Judith’s shoes.

Judith has also written her first piece of fiction, The Killing State, published in paperback last month, which is a psychological and political thriller, partly set in Northumberland and also partly written at House in the North.

5.The Life of Grace Darling by John Harper and John Pagan

A factual account of this Victorian heroine who famously rescued survivors of the shipwrecked Forfarshire in 1838 when it ran aground on the Farne Islands. It includes some wonderful illustrations by Moira Pagan who is a relative of Grace Darling and should be a definite pre-accompaniment to a boat trip out to the Farnes to see for yourself the waters she braved from the still standing Longstone Lighthouse. Grace is also buried in the churchyard of St Aidan’s in Bamburgh and the RNLI has a museum about her story in the same village.

6.The Northumberland Coast by Joe Cornish

Visual impressions of Northumberland from this acclaimed photographer will hopefully leave you inspired to recreate some classic shots of your own.

If you love books then we recommend you make a trip to Barter Books in Alnwick. This secondhand bookshop, located in a former railway station, is a real treat where you can browse the shelves, snuggle on a sofa with a hot drink, grab a spot of lunch and certainly pick up some of the books on this list, and maybe discover some more.