Thursday, August 11, 2022

Walking the Northumberland Coastal Path - Day 4 - Seahouses to Bamburgh

with a zoom lens you can see the castle from Seahouses.
For our last day on the Northumberland Coastal Path, we had planned a relatively short walk from Seahouses to Bamburgh in order to have plenty of time to visit Bamburgh Castle, one of the main attractions of the trip, and allow for the long bus journey back to Newcastle. 

I felt rather envious of the horse riders. That must be a fun place to ride.  

The path out of Seahouses runs between the main coast road and North Sunderland Beach for a short while then veers to the right, away from the road. It then stays so close to the coastline you can choose whether to stay on the path or walk on the beach. 

The weather in the area is known for being unpredictable but that day it seemed to be going from overcast to sunny every ten minutes. 

Looking back toward Seahouses. What happened to the blue sky?

A short rocky section separates North Sunderland Beach from Bamburgh Beach.


Once past that we were once again on a long stretch of beautiful beach. And we had it all to ourselves!

Perfect timing for the sun to come out again.

Is that a castle I see between those high sand dunes?

The castle dates back 1400 years and has a varied history. In 993 the existing castle was ransacked by the Vikings but in the 11th century the Normans built a new castle on the site.
In 1464 during the War of the Roses, it became the first castle in England to be defeated by artillery after coming under cannon fire during a siege by the Yorkists.
In the 18th century, it was passed from the monarchy into private hands but the cost of upkeep meant the castle soon fell into ruin. Restoration work started in the 19th century but financial difficulties forced the castle's sale in 1894. 
It was then bought by Lord William Armstrong, a pioneer in engineering and an environmentalist (his other home in Northumberland, Craigside was the first in the world to be lit by hydroelectric power) and while he died before the restoration was complete it has remained the private home of the Armstrong family ever since, although now parts of the castle are open to the public.  

Approaching the castle from the south

The sight of the castle on the dunes above the long sandy beach is fantastic. 

It is well worth a visit. There's plenty to see both inside and outside.

The keep is the oldest surviving part of the castle

View from the Keep

The Armoury is open to the public and has an impressive range of weapons and armor.

Imagine having to wear this for work!

The King's Hall was built on the site of the original Great Hall and features a magnificent wood beam ceiling. 

Fourteen state rooms are also open to the public including: 

The Cross Hall

The Library/Billiards Room 

And let's not forget the scullery.  Lord Armstrong was apparently keen to take the drudgery out of his staff's work and so introduced an early dishwasher and a vacuum to make their lives easier. 

Each sink had a different purpose.

And of course, no castle is complete without a dungeon:

The old stables have been turned into a cafe:

The village of Bamburgh is small and quaint, but offers a multitude of cafes and pubs along the main street. My favorite is the Copper Kettle Tea Rooms which does scrumptious scones with cream and jam, the perfect accompaniment to a pot of tea!

view of the village from the castle

All in all it was another great day on the Northumberland Coastal Path.

I was a little sad I didn't have time to do the rest of the walk to Berwick, but it's something to look forward to for my next visit to England!

Mel writes contemporary fiction with a twist of mystery and suspense and the Detective Rigby series.
For more information about her books visit her website, or sign up for her newsletter.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Wallking the Northumberland Coastal Path - Day 3 - Howick to Seahouses

After a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast at The Old Rectory in Howick it was time to set off on day three of our walk. 


Howick's village is so tiny that it only took a few minutes to walk through it. There are no shops or pubs, but there is a post box and a bus stop! And it's absolutely charming.

It didn't take long to get back on to the Northumberland Coastal Path with its sweeping views. 

Once again, the day started off overcast although temperature-wise it was perfect walking weather.

Just under two miles from Howick is the small fishing village of Craster which is famous for its kippers. L Robson and sons have been in the business of smoking kippers and salmon for over 100 years and still use the original smokehouses. 

Unlike Howick, this village does have a pub, The Jolly Fisherman, which is hard to miss if you are walking the coastal path as the path cuts through the patio! 

Unfortunately, it was too early for the pub to be open otherwise it would have been a nice spot to have a drink and look out over the picturesque harbor. 

In the distance to the north, you can also see the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle. From Craster, the path cuts across over a mile of farmland to the ruins.

The castle, built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster, dates back to 1313 but was the focus of fierce battles during the War of the Roses between the Lancasters and the Yorks in the 15th century. With the defeat of the Lancasters, the castle ended up in the hand of the Yorkists and subsequently fell into decay.

It is still an impressive sight. The ruins are open to the public but we decided to just view them from the outside. 

The twin-towered keep

Lilburn Tower

Once past the castle, the path hugs the coastline.  

Looking back, we had wonderful views of the sweep of sandy beach at Embleton Bay with the ruins in the distance. And finally, there was even some blue sky!

Looks like we've walked a long way!

After all that walking, it was definitely time for a rest. Luckily, at the north end of the beach is Low Newton, a village almost completely owned by the National Trust, with a pub in the village square.
It was a popular place. We hadn't seen this many people at any other point on our walk. And it seemed especially popular with dog owners! I think we might have been the only people there that didn't have a dog. The bar area inside is quite small but there were plenty of places to sit outside. 

The Ship Inn

Rested and refreshed, it was time to get back on the trail. 

One of the few stiles, we came across on our walk. Most of them have been replaced by gates.

Eventually, we came to Long Nanny wildlife sanctuary maintained by the National Trust, which provides a nesting place for Arctic and Little Terns. The path veers inland to keep walkers away from the nesting sites in order not to disturb the birds which tend to nest at the mouth of the estuary.

The Long Nanny Bridge

View of the estuary from Long Nanny Bridge

After crossing the bridge, the path goes through Beadnell Bay Sand Dunes and into the town of Beadnell itself. Beadnell is considered a watersports paradise and is a popular tourist spot, but we were there pre-season and it was very quiet.

A bench on Harbour Rd, Beadnell offered a welcome break.

The last two miles of our walk took us through Annstead Dunes Nature Reserve, up onto the main road past Seahouses Golf Club, and into the village of Seahouses. Seahouses is a fishing village with an active harbor.  From here, there are boat trips out to the Farne Islands, famous for the large number of seabirds and seals that make it their home. 

Seahouses Harbour

After logging 13 miles on our walk since we left Howick, our night's accommodation, The Links Hotel, was a welcome sight. It had been another wonderful day on the coastal path.

Mel writes contemporary fiction with a twist of mystery and suspense and the Detective Rigby series.
For more information about her books visit her website, or sign up for her newsletter.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Walking the Northumberland Coastal Path - Day 2 - Alnmouth to Howick

After a good night's rest at the Schooner Hotel, day 2 of our walk began with a stroll along the main street in Alnmouth.

The village dates back to 1150 and most of it was designated a conservation area in 1972. In 2020 Conde Nast Traveler rated it among the 20 most beautiful villages in the UK and Ireland.  
Alnmouth Village Golf Club sits between the village and the beach. Established in 1869,  it is the fourth oldest course in England.  It certainly has beautiful views. 

The view from the village across the golf course to the beach.

We hadn't been walking long when the gray clouds started to look distinctly more threatening. 

Talk about changeable weather!

On the beaches and clifftop, remains of World War II fortifications dot the landscape, but the gun battery below was actually built in 1852 by the Duke of Northumberland who feared a French invasion. 

But there was nothing old about the charming small campsite further along the clifftop. 

This looks like my idea of camping!

Further on, a picturesque tunnel through the trees helped distract somewhat from the uphill gradient.

But then it was back out into the open. 

With a meadow of purple wildflowers on the left.

Three miles from Alnmouth is the village of Boulmer, a tiny fishing village, so small it doesn't even have a shop. But of course, being an English village, it does have a pub. Which was just as well for us, because no sooner had we got into Boulmer than the skies opened in another torrential downpour. Unfortunately, we got into Boulmer just after eleven and the bar didn't open until twelve, so we had to take refuge in an old stone bus shelter in the interim! The state of the interior suggested it's main occupants were birds, but it was better than getting soaked yet again.

The Fishing Boat Inn

It was worth the wait. The Fishing Boat Inn is a friendly place with excellent food. It was only a shame we couldn't enjoy their outdoor patio with wonderful sea views. Maybe next time! Not surprisingly several people who came in also looked like walkers taking refuge from the rain. By the time we'd finished our lunch, the rain had stopped but just as we were about to leave it started again. We took that as a sign that we should have another drink. 

Finally, we got back out on the path. 

Flat and low, the path was easy to walk.

And within twenty minutes we had blue skies again!

Sometimes it felt as if we had the path all to ourselves. 

At times it headed in across moorland

But regular glimpses of sandy bays confirmed we were still on the right path.

We crossed moorland 

and farmland

and everywhere there were bursts of colorful wildflowers.

Originally my plan had been to walk from Alnmouth to Craster, a village two miles further north from Howick, but I couldn't find any accommodation in Craster for just the one night. Luckily a search of places nearby came up with The Old Rectory in Howick which is only a five-minute walk from the coastal path. 

What a find. Howick is a tiny village, most famous for Howick Hall, the ancestral seat of the Earls Grey. The 2nd Earl Grey was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1830 - 1834 and it is widely believed that Earl Grey tea was named after him.

The Old Rectory was built to provide accommodation for the church at Howick Hall and is believed to date from 1746. It's a beautiful old house, lovingly restored as a country B & B by the owners, Jude Leitch and David Gourdie, who were most welcoming hosts. The bedrooms are large and comfortable, there is a cozy lounge, and a dining room serving not only hearty breakfasts but also evening meals. The latter is a real plus if, like us, you don't have a car. I chose the Butternut Squash Curry which was absolutely delicious. 

The Old Rectory, Howick

If you find yourself looking for accommodation in the area, I highly recommend you check The Old Rectory out. And if camping is more your style, they even have a glamping tent in the garden! 

It was a perfect place to wrap up a great day's walk. 

Mel writes contemporary fiction with a twist of mystery and suspense and the Detective Rigby series.
For more information about her books visit her website, or sign up for her newsletter.