Ford and Etal are a pair of pretty, estate villages tucked away in north Northumberland beyond Wooler and not far from a couple of other beautiful and peaceful places to visit in this part of the county, including Duddo Stone Circle and Routin Lynn waterfall.
Both villages are steeped in history with plenty of attractions to visit, whether you enjoy castles (Ford and Etal each have their own castle), churches, Victorian architecture, Pre-Raphaelite paintings, antiques, farming heritage or battlefields.
There's plenty of interest if you enjoy nature too, including nature trails and nearby Ford Moss Nature Reserve and Colliery, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its lowland raised mire - more information on this protected habitat can be found here Ford Moss Nature Reserve and Colliery.
There's a pub in Etal, serving Northumberland brewed beer (The Black Bull, Etal) and each village has a post office/village shop/tea room - both do excellent cake and other bites to eat. There are a number of accommodation options in the villages and nearby too. I have visited and had breakfast or lunch in Ford Post Office cafe, Etal team rooms or the pub a number of times, all are excellent but my personal favourite is Ford Post Office, their bacon butties are excellent! This is a pretty spot that's easy to get around at any time of year and it's a lovely place to explore. There's even a light railway nearby at Heatherslaw Light Railway, a popular attraction with families (post note - I finally went on the train on a return visit, photos below - was really good fun!).
The villages host numerous events throughout the year, details of which can be found on their website Ford and Etal. 2022 example - an upcoming event is an arts and crafts trail around both villages, which will run over over three days, April 30 – May 2, linking venues and businesses at Ford, Etal and Heatherslaw Mill - more information here Art Fair Map | Etal Village Hall
On the edge of Etal village lies a very fine cricket ground and pavilion, overlooked by a field full of curious looking Jacob sheep. This is a nice place to wander along to in the summer months if there's a game on, to sit and chill and watch the cricket for a while.
From a photography perspective, the woods around Etal Castle are awash with snowdrops in January/February and the villages (with their immaculately kept gardens), cricket ground and surrounding countryside look very picturesque in the summer and spring. I've yet to visit in autumn, but I'm sure the woodland trail next to Ford village would be beautiful. And in winter, the view over to a snow-topped Cheviot is spectacular. February 2023 update - turns out the woods around Ford village are awash with snowdrops too, these two villages are snowdrop heaven!
A personal favourite spot is Ford Church, quite possibly one of the prettiest churches I've seen. In summer the churchyard overflows with a frothy mass of cow parsley and meadow flowers around the church and very old, ornate headstones. In March the churchyard is filled with a blanket of cheerful yellow daffodils. The church sits next to privately owned Ford Castle, with it's impressive walls and gate. The churchyard is surrounded by a low stone wall and sits overlooking the Northumberland hills, with stunning views across tree-lined pastures towards Cheviot. It's a very pretty and wonderfully peaceful spot. I should venture into the church one day, I'm sure it'll be lovely.
Tea and excellent carrot cake in the sunshine, at Ford Village Shop Home - Ford Village Shop
Heatherslaw Mill steam train, quirky antiques and things for sale at The Old Dairy (which also has a 'Champagne Bar' with superb views of Cheviot!), cake and daffodils.