2018 has been hailed as a momentous year for the Northumberland National Park and tourism in the county.
In March, for the second time, the park won the prestigious title of National Park of The Year in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2018.
Almost 180,000 votes were cast by nearly 30,000 people, representing the biggest response in the award’s history and resulting in Northumberland National Park winning the 'strongest and most debated category'.
This has been followed by Northumberland recently battling it out in a public vote against nine other regions to be crowned the Best UK Holiday Destination at the 2018 British Travel Awards. Northumberland’s gold award brought an end to Cornwall’s four-year reign in the hotly contested category.
The event is the largest travel-awards programme in the UK with travel and tourism organisations viewing it as the highest of all travel accolades because it’s the visitor who determine the winners.
In August, Northumberland National Park Authority’s flagship Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre on Hadrian’s Wall, welcomed over 172,000 visitors at the end of its first year of operation, well ahead of its expected visitor levels. During September, the Park also made national and international headlines when HRH the Prince of Wales carried out the official opening of The Sill.
Glen Sanderson, chairman of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “This has been a tremendous year for the Park and the county as a whole. Northumberland winning gold in the Best Destination category at this year’s British Travel Awards really cements everything that is wonderful in the county and our National Park.
“Winning these awards and the national recognition they bring is fantastic news for the tourism and hospitality industry both in Northumberland and the wider region. Through working together with our industry partners and businesses, we play an instrumental role in ensuring that the visitor experience and the welcome they receive to the area is of the highest quality.”
Tony Gates, chief executive at Northumberland National Park Authority and a director of Northumberland Tourism Limited, said: “There’s no doubt 2018 has been a momentous year. Northumberland National Park offers some of the very best outdoor recreational experiences in the UK and currently attracts more than 1.5million visitors a year to the area.
“In December, we celebrate the five-year anniversary of our International Dark Sky Park – still the largest ‘gold tier’ Dark Sky Park in Europe. Our Dark Skies have brought a welcome boost to tourism in the quieter months and a new set of first-time visitors to the county.
“Northumberland National Park Authority has been at the forefront of its development as a tourism asset, also encouraging its conservation and working in collaboration with our partners Kielder Water & Forest Park to promote dark skies as part of the county’s visitor economy and ensuring the public appetite for such experiences continues to grow.”
Glen Sanderson added: “Northumberland is a beautiful and rightly ambitious county. We look forward to welcoming more visitors to have exceptional experiences in the National Park in 2019.
“For example, the Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail and the Sandstone Way Cycle Trail are two of Northumberland’s most popular routes which are managed and coordinated by the National Park Authority and our partners.
“In this year’s National Park Visitor Survey, visitors cited peace and tranquillity and our beautiful scenery as the most special qualities they experienced in the National Park and 94% of them scored their overall experience as very good or exceptional.”