Ecocabs is headquartered in Hexham, a market town in the west of Northumberland. Our founder, Matthew Kirkby, was born and bred in Hexham and he’s a passionate advocate for the town.
Here are 15 things that Matthew loves about Hexham:
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Love nature? If you zoom out from Hexham on Google Earth, you’ll see that the town is ringed by green for miles. We may only be 22 miles by motorway from Newcastle, but Hexham is surrounded by unspoilt countryside. You can live here for years and still discover new walks.
Northumberland National Park has its headquarters here in Hexham and you can reach lovely countryside walking straight from your door. There’s so much space and fresh air to enjoy and it feels great.
2) Hexham Abbey
This stunning building is right at the heart of our market town. The original priory was sacked by the Vikings in 875 and William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace in 1296. Having survived raids by Robert Bruce in the 1400s, the priory was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536. The beautiful buildings that remain only survived because Hexham needed a parish church. A close shave!
Hexham Abbey offers free tours; an excellent, interactive museum and a lovely café with a courtyard garden to enjoy. Tip – the café is hidden away, so it’s great for a day when Hexham is very busy.
NB: Don’t miss one of our favourite things to see at Hexham Abbey: the stone memorial to a Roman standard bearer called Flavinus.
3) Forum Cinema
An art-deco gem that’s easy to miss! The Forum is one of the best independent cinemas around. Not only does it look beautiful, have brilliant seats etc but it has great programming. It offers everything from Saturday morning kids’ club to main-stream Hollywood blockbusters and arthouse gems. It’s also a community enterprise, so all profits go back into Hexham and nearby areas. How cool is that?!
4) Queen’s Hall
The Queen’s Hall is on Beaumont Street, just up from Hexham Abbey. It’s one of a series of fine buildings erected around 1866. The Queen’s Hall originally housed the Hexham Corn Exchange Company. Over the years, it has been transformed into the Queen’s Hall arts centre with a 350-seat theatre, two art galleries, studios rented out to creative businesses, a spacious café, tourist information and a large library.
5) The Sele
Right opposite the Queen’s Hall and next to the abbey grounds, you’ll find Hexham’s main park – the Sele – and Hexham Abbey Grounds. The areas close to Hexham Abbey are landscaped with a traditional bandstand, stately Hexham House, large trees and swathes of flowers in the grass. Further on, you’ll find a grassy field rising into a slope that is the perfect spot to walk dogs, have a picnic, enjoy sports and generally chill out.
There’s also a very good kids’ playground and a skate park. The steep slope is also ideal for sledging in winter and makes a great spot to watch Hexham’s big Bonfire Night celebrations (free but with donations to local charities).
6) Roman Northumberland
What did the Romans do for us? Well, they certainly left behind some amazing history in and around Hexham. Our beautiful market town is an excellent place to use as a base to explore the rich history of this area. You can easily reach Hadrian’s Wall (built coast to coast after Hadrian’s visit to Britain in AD 122) from Hexham by car, bus, bike or taxi. It’s a wonderful place to walk and so unspoilt that you get a real sense of walking in the footsteps of Roman soldiers.
English Heritage’s Corbridge Roman Town is just a five-minute drive away from Hexham. This fascinating Roman site gives you a great insight into the towns that grew up to supply Hadrian’s Wall. The museum is also very good.
Further afield, but still within easy reach, we’d recommend a day at Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum.
7) Hexham markets
Hexham is a market town, so we most definitely need a market. There are stalls for fruit, veg, flowers, eggs and bird seed at The Shambles most days except Sunday. There are full markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays with more stallholders. We’d strongly recommend Ridley’s Fish and Game – do try some Lindisfarne oysters! Ridley’s also make very good fish pies and so on if you want to avoid cooking.
Hexham Farmers’ Market runs every fortnight from 9am-1.30pm. It always creates a lovely buzz in the marketplace and is great for foodies.
8) Take me to the river
A beautiful stretch of the river Tyne is one of Hexham’s most popular walking spots. Tyne Green is home to Hexham’s rowing and canoeing clubs, Tynedale Golf Club and lots of wildlife.
We’re blessed with a broad, straight stretch of water and most days you’ll see paddleboarders, rowers and wild swimmers making the most of it. There’s also an annual canoeing meet and Hexham Regatta.
9) Indie shops
Hexham has lots of quirky, independent retailers. Check out Market Street and St Mary’s Chare (commonly known as Back Street) in particular. Our favourite shops include The Grateful Bread for gorgeous sourdough and cinnamon buns, Matthias Winter for eco refills and funky gifts, Mr Wolf’s traditional toy shop and Cogito independent bookshop.
Beautiful Betty on St Mary’s Chare is a brilliant ethical beauty outlet and salon owned by our MD’s partner. It’s a great place to pick up a vegan-friendly gift to take home with you (or book in for a full body massage).
10) Café society
Hexham has so many great cafés that it’s hard to narrow favourites down. However, if you’re heading for the Sele park, then we’d recommend putting a picnic together at Deli at Number Four just across from the abbey – good coffee too. Small World Café is much loved by us locals. Salute on St Mary’s Chare has a very nice hidden courtyard as does the Garden Café on Hallgate.
11) Foodie heaven
So much choice! The Beaumont Hotel’s stylish dining room overlooks the park and is a great place to eat (also perfect for a coffee during the day). Bouchon is recommended for a special occasion and Zyka is our favourite Indian restaurant. If you are hankering for a pizza, Hexham’s Fire and Dough team rock up most Saturdays at the Abbey.
12) Pubs and bars
An English pub is a thing of beauty. We’re pleased to say that Hexham offers a great range. Choose from spots like the Tap & Spile, The Tannery (live music and filling scran) and The Heart of Northumberland (gastro pub).
The Vault is a funky, subterranean place that has some great bands on. If you’re more of a wine lover, then The Beaumont is recommended once more – sitting outside and people watching is fun. The Abbey Lounge has a large pavement area on the marketplace with views of Hexham Abbey.
13) Hexham races
Hexham racecourse is up a steep hill from the town and, as a result, offers wonderful views. It has 15 scheduled meetings a year including a Ladies Day and Derby Day. A glorious spot!
14) Historic architecture
Just strolling around Hexham is a real pleasure because we have so many beautiful buildings from different ages. Gems include the oldest purpose- built prison in England from 1333 and Hexham Old Grammar School, which is Elizabethan.
Visit Hexham has some downloadable walking guides such as Medieval Hexham to guide you around some of the highlights.
15) Cycling for miles
Our MD is a huge fan of the outdoors including getting on his bike. With lots of space and wide vistas, this part of Northumberland is a great area to explore by bike. Why not challenge yourself to complete the C2C or Hadrian’s Cycleway?
We hope that you’ve enjoyed 15 of our favourite things about Hexham. If you’d like to explore the Hexham area by foot or bike, do get in touch to see how Ecocabs can support your plans.