THE county is about to get its very own Northumberland Day in a determined bid to stimulate an extra £100m in annual tourism spend.

The Langley Castle team who came up with the idea are thinking big, said general manager Anton Phillips.

“Our goal is to corporate fund-raise over £1m to get this off the ground, with the ultimate aim of attracting an additional five million visitors a year to sample Northumberland, spending another £100m along the way.

“This is not going to be small beer.

“I was told that if you aim for the stars, you might just hit the tree-tops, but if you aim for the tree-tops, you will hit the ground – so we’re aiming for the stars!”

While the castle and its PR firm came up with the idea to help generate more custom (“we will only get more guests if Northumberland attracts more visitors”), it wasn’t for Langley Castle ‘to do’.

“This is for Northumberland to do and for communities and businesses right across the county to do their bit,” he said.

Eschewing the format of a festival, which conjured up the image of a village fete with trestle tables, he said a Northumberland Day would be all-embracing. It would provide a powerful platform not only for our heritage and environment, but also for the food, music, theatre, arts, crafts and sport that rose out of it.

With their work cut out for them, the steering group – a loose formation of the 16 to 20 business representatives who have already got on board – has decided to go for a launch date in 2018.

The priority is to begin raising that £1m, with an approach to the EU-backed Leader funding programme on the cards, and the thinking is that a paid co-ordinator is going to be needed to pull it all together.

As for which date to choose, the suggestion it is attached to Northumberland County Show, which is always on the second Bank Holiday Monday in May, is gathering momentum.

Show secretary Judy Willis, for one, believes that would make sense. “The show is early in the tourist season and therefore a good time to promote visitor attractions,” she said.

“That, in turn, has led to talks about extending the county show as a result, from one day to two days, with the ‘other’ one being Northumberland Day. There’s a lot to sort out before then though.”

The business relationship manager for Northumberland Tourism, Natalie Wood, said the idea wouldn’t only prove attractive to tourists, but also provide a bit of a wake-up call to residents, too.

“It will highlight what’s right under their noses and perhaps encourage them to visit somewhere they wouldn’t normally go,” she said.

The idea has gone down a treat with the businesses the Courant spoke to. Dianne and Eric Horn, of Slack House Farm in Gilsland, said they would been keen to harness the Northumberland branding for the organic meat, cheese, yoghurt, raw milk and eggs they produced.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea!” said Dianne. “We would definitely support it.”

Deb Humble, who, along with husband Steve, runs the Country Concierge catering business and the Waiting Room holiday let out of the one-time Staward railway station, is also right behind it.

She said: “Eighty two per cent of businesses across Northumberland are micro-businesses and this will give people a chance to pull together and collectively celebrate everything we have to offer.”

You just had to look at the rapturous reception the Tour of Britain riders had received when they raced through Tynedale last September and the number of communities that had celebrated the Queen’s 90th birthday to see it gave people pleasure and pride to cheer on all that was good about our country in general.

“Having a reason to celebrate makes us all smile,” she said.

Kevin and Sara Robson, of Haydon Bridge, run Wild Dog Outdoors, a company busy rejuvenating the primitive living skills of prehistoric Britain. Teaching survival skills, giving weapons demonstrations and breathing new life into the Celtic language and mythology are all grist to their mill.

“Northumberland Day is a great idea, because this county is one of Britain’s best kept secrets,” said Kevin.

“People who land here are always amazed by what it has to offer, so we do need to get the word out there.”