A first look at Ad Gefrin, Northumberland's Anglo-Saxon museum and distillery
Five years in the making, the new Ad Gefrin museum and distillery mixes Anglo-Saxon history and whisky tastings.
On the cusp of the Cheviot Hills and Northumberland National Park, a new museum dedicated to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria has opened in the market town of Wooler, aiming to breathe life into the stories of the area’s forgotten kings and queens.
The Ad Gefrin Anglo-Saxon museum and whisky distillery is less than five miles from the archaeological site of Gefrin, a seventh-century palace where Anglo-Saxon kings such as Edwin, Oswald and Oswiu held court in a vast complex of timber buildings, around 70 miles north of Hadrian’s Wall. Aerial photographs led to the site’s discovery in 1949 near the hamlet of Yeavering and it became one of the most important archaeological finds in 20th-century Britain, though little of it remains.
It’s hoped the museum will encourage more people to visit the area and discover its history. “The kingdom of Northumbria was massive, and people came from all over the world to visit it,” says co-founder and Northumberland local Alan Ferguson. “Ad Gefrin is a chance to rekindle the sense that this place matters.”
A key feature of the museum is a replica of the Great Hall at Yeavering, created in partnership with the Gefrin Trust, which works to preserve the archaeological site. Audio-visual displays shine a light on figures of the time, and a small exhibition space displays Anglo-Saxon artefacts from Yeavering and beyond. Highlights include an astonishingly well-preserved glass claw beaker from the County Durham village of Castle Eden, discovered in 1775 and one of several items on loan from the British Museum.
Another important pillar of the museum is its sister project — the first (legal) whisky distillery to open in Northumberland for 200 years, which plans to release a Northumbrian English single malt in 2025. Visitors to the museum can buy a ticket that includes a tour of the distillery, cask store and tasting room. Museum tickets £10 or £25 including a distillery tour and tasting.
Lilidorei at the Alnwick Garden
On the doorstep of Alnwick Castle, Alnwick Garden is expanding to include an enormous children’s play park. Opening this summer, the £15m project is billed as a world of wonder and will include pixie houses, daily activities for kids and story-time sessions; the centrepiece will be a giant, fantastical play structure.
Gourmet getaways at Pine
A stone’s throw from Hadrian’s Wall Path, Michelin Green-starred restaurant Pine has opened contemporary ‘Hygge’ cabins at Vallum Farm on the same site as the restaurant. Next to the kitchen garden, the cabins run on renewable biomass heating and have decks overlooking the countryside. From £150 per night, room only.
Last Kingdom at Bamburgh
Fans of Netflix series The Last Kingdom, based on the conflicts between the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes in ninth and 10th-century England, can explore the props and costumes in a new exhibition at Bamburgh Castle. It runs until 5 November, and visitors can have their photo taken on the Wessex Throne used in the series.
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