The pretty northern town home that’s home to England’s oldest gaol

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Where is the oldest purpose-built gaol in England? A port with a colourful history? A city that was a hot-bed of revolution? Surprisingly, it’s a prosperous market town in a Northumbrian river valley.

Welcome to Hexham! Sitting high above the soft fields and meadows of the Tyne valley, dominated by its handsome abbey and leafy parks, and with a mix of independent shops and quirky tea-rooms, it doesn’t exactly set out to nab the tourists. It just does what it does rather well – an excellent programme at its Queens Hall Arts Centre, for example, and a scenic racecourse – and if you want to drop by, that’s fine. 

If you choose to do so over the first weekend in November (1–3), you’ll also have…

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