The King Of The Castle


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March 29th 2022
Published: April 4th 2022
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Vera scampered excitedly amongst the sand dunes. Overhead, the magnificent Bamburgh Castle loomed. Below were the pristine white sands that stretch into the distance in both directions. Bamburgh is the sort of place that can make you wonder why you ever consider leaving the shores of Blighty. Perfect. Well perfect, if the weather plays the game. We'll come back to Bamburgh later.

We set up basecamp in Beadnall. The bungalow had all that was required for our short stay. The garden was fully enclosed, so Vera could patrol the doorstep and remind all who passed, that there was a new dog in town. The threat of an ASBO failed to silence her. The local four legged gang took it in their stride and were well used to these canine holiday types gatecrashing their patch. They largely carried on walking past with their owners and didn't feel the need to reply. The main Beadnall beach was no more than 20 minutes away in one direction and importantly, the pub in the centre of the village was a swift 10 minutes heading the other way.

I said in my previous blog, that the secret of Northumberland was out. The visitor numbers though can be put in perspective out of season and nowhere ever feels too busy. This assertion was reinforced on entry into a near empty car park at Craster. I doubt that this would have been the case in the summer months mind. The warning signs abound, as you enter the edge of village. No parking for visitors beyond the artificial barrier in the road cautions the sign. The direction leads you conveniently into the adjacent car park, now extensively expanded into the old quarry. £4.50 buys you a mere a 3 hours. Ouch! The price seemed a bit extreme. £6 all day - still pricey, but a better bet. Why would you take the risk? The location within the quarry doesn't lend itself to the new post COVID cashless society. The wi-fi signal is non existent, but helpful notices point you in the direction of the toilet block at the entrance where a signal can be obtained. My research suggested this was not always a guaranteed option, so we raided the cash reserves instead and had those to hand.

Craster is unbelievably popular. Pleasant enough, but make no mistake this is no Staithes or Robin Hoods Bay or one of those picturesque little villages in Devon or Cornwall. The real attraction lies on the headland back towards Beadnall - Dunstanburgh Castle. We made that our primary focus. Dunstanburgh is no Alnwick, (which incidentally is the second largest inhabited castle after Windsor). Dunstanburgh Castle sits in superb defensive position on the headland, just north of Craster. The cliffs descend steeply into the sea on one side. The Castle in its present form dates from the early 1300s and saw considerable action in the Wars of the Roses. It was also a handy defence against any Scottish incursions into Northumberland. After the Wars of the Roses, the Castle fell into disrepair and today standa as a ruin on the cliff. English Heritage operate the site, but check it is open before you visit. A number of folk looked deeply disappointed that it was only open weekends in March.

It takes about 30 minutes walk across National Trust land to get to the castle. Vera was more interested in the sheep in the adjoining fields. We weren't sure whether she had seen sheep before, but clearly had no idea how to respond to them. She settled for distant observation and retreated further, once any of them took 2 paces towards her. We retreated back to the village. There was little life at the harbour. A few fishing vessels were up out of the water. A low cloud of smoke wafted across the road. The smokehouse was busy curing the kippers. The smokehouse dates from the 1850s, but the current business of L Robson has been operating out of there since 1906. Traditional oak smoked product. Open every too, complete with a little restaurant. I was tempted on a takeaway, but our accommodation had a polite notice suggesting that you having them for breakfast in the property the following morning would not be appreciated.

The most optimistic of folk wouldn't have brought their sunglasses with them today, but the damp, misty overcast day took a turn for the worst. Rain lashed down. I was pleased we had completed the morning walk. The trusty Berghaus waterproof trousers had done their work. We beat the rush into the Shoreline Cafe. They deserve a special mention in the dog friendly stakes and indeed, the friendly welcome to the humans too. The coffee and snack was also of a great standard in a village where arguably you could forgive the odd off day. The walk to Dunstanburgh, the wander round the village and coffee stop had taken just over the 3 hours. The "investment" in all day parking had been worthwhile.

The evening was spent in the convenient location of the Craster Arms back in Beadnall. The pub seems to have been further developed since our last visit and now sported an extensive outdoor operation, complete with covered pavilions. The outdoor section wasn't going to be required today, but there was a very healthy number inside. I bet quite a few city centre pubs would have been delighted with this turnout on a wet midweek night. I settled for a Beadnall Blonde out of the local Alnwick Brewery stable. I liked the bitter, but not the price. Oh well, we were on holiday. The Other Half reminded me that everyday from here on in was a holiday. Vera, after an initial inspection of everything, was on her best behaviour and settled down tired from her busy day. We both opted for the Giant North Sea Cod. I emphasise the word "giant". You often find servings can be deceptive and a small plate can
Bamburgh Bamburgh Bamburgh

Grace Darling Memorial
make a fish look bigger. I doubt you would be disappointed in the Craster Arms. This was certainly a "giant" cod - served on a tray, not a plate!. I was that impressed, we repeated the experience the following night and I order exactly the same. There can be no higher accolade.

In complete contrast to Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh Castle is no ruin. It stands imposingly overlooking the fine white sands. The village is tucked away neatly behind on the landward side. A huge car park greets you on entry to the village, but we proceeded up the hill where a convenient space awaited on the road. The Castle towers over, as you walk back down Front Street. The buildings draw your eye towards it. We cut round the side of the cricket pitch, which sits beneath the walls. As with Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire which provides a panoramic grandstand over the local football club, here we have one of the finest views in cricket. We cut through the dunes on the beach below the Castle. Vera had yet another attempt at breaking the Norfolk Terrier land speed record on the firm sand. She raced around excitedly and indulged her usual hunt for any poor unfortunate stranded sea creatures. We got talking to some other visitors, who described Bamburgh as their "happy place". It is indeed.

A table conveniently became vacant at the dog friendly Copper Kettle cafe. The Other Half eyed up some of the cakes near the counter, but decided it would spoil her upcoming lunch and settled for just a coffee. Vera once again did herself proud, behaving herself impeccably and convincing other customers that should they get a dog in the future, a Norfie would be a good choice. At the top of the village stands St Aidan's Church. The main point of interest lies in the corner of the churchyard. This is the final resting place of Grace Darling. Grace Darling, the daughter of a local lighthouse keeper, came to prominence inn1838. She helped her father in the rescue of the passengers from the SS Forfarshire, which was in trouble in wild seas. The rescue earned her medal of distinction from the forerunner of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Her Memorial is a grand gothic creation and said to be raised up so it is visible to passing sailors. The RNLI Museum across the road didn't let dogs enter, so we gave that a miss.

It was time for lunch. There were some fine looking pies in the local butchers, R Carter - "Butcher, Baker, Sausage Roll Makers". It featured on a recent Hairy Bikers TV programme. The Victoria Hotel was listed as venue, who would accommodate Vera. The large and spacious bar areas were ideal. A mix of locals and visitors mingled. The Cheltenham Festival horse racing was on the big screen, which showed some pretty atrocious weather was happening elsewhere in the country. A good choice to be in the North East. We retrieved the car and drove the couple of miles south to Seahouses or North Sunderland, as it once was known. North Sunderland still exists as a tiny village just inland. Seahouses is the gateway to the Farne Islands. In season, it is the base for bird and seal watching trips. A number of huts on the harbourside compete for the tourist business. We walked around the largely deserted harbour. A number of the boats were out of the water, having been repaired and painted in the off season. The harbour sweep complete, the Other Half popped in
Craster Arms, BeadnallCraster Arms, BeadnallCraster Arms, Beadnall

Giant North Sea Cod
the Coop to father a few provisions. It is the nearest thing you will find to a supermarket in these parts. As much as I like this area, I always find Seahouses a bit underwhelming. We completed the day with a walk on the beach at Beadnall. The tiny harbour is dominated by the 18th century limekilns standing on the quayside. There were probably no more than half a dozen people wandering around in the late afternoon sun.

The beach walk on our last full day was to one of my favourite destinations in these parts - The Ship Inn at Low Newton by the Sea. We drove to Embleton, inland from the Dunstanburgh Castle. If you walk down the dead end road that leads to the Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Club, it is possible to access the beach. The walk involves crossing the links and staying to the left of the burn, as you approach the beach. The glorious stretch of sand one way leads to the Castle. However, turn towards the north and keep going to Low Newton by the Sea. It isn't really a village - more a collection of buildings centred around the pub and brewery - almost exclusively owned by the National Trust. Embleton Bay is a bit more difficult to reach than some other beaches in the area, so maintains an unspoilt feel. The pub has been here since the 1700s and was originally known as The Smack. Today, it serves great food and is home to possibly the most northerly micro brewery in England. The smell of brewing wafted from the outbuildings as we approached. The Sandcastles At Dawn bitter went down a bit too well, as did the crab sandwich. Vera joined the throng of other four legged friends. I literally would have stayed all afternoon, but the wise words of the Other Half suggested it would be good to walk away whilst I still could. Whatever you do, don't miss The Ship off your itinerary (and if you have the car, volunteer somebody else to do the driving).

The village of Warkworth beckoned on the way back south. The interestingly named River Coquet cuts into the coast behind Amble and the village of Warkworth nestles in a bend. The Church df St Laurence is one of the oldest Norman churches in the county. A pretty main street climbs to the 12th century Castle. Our friend, Harry Hotspur and the Percy family, from the previous blog have links to the Castle. Blue skies made the views even better than normal - if only we had them over Dunstanburgh. We sneaked a very acceptable sausage sandwich in Bertrams near the old bridge over the River Coquet. The Other Half had a purchased planned in Morpeth, so I to Vera tk Carlisle Park. A fairly recent addition is the sculpture of Emily Davison. In the cause if Votes For Women, she threw herself in front of the King's horse in the 1913 Epsom Derby. She was trampled and died 4 days later.

The temperatures had climbed to a dizzy 16 degrees, as we crossed the Tyne. Traffic built up on the western bypass, but the delay gave us the opportunity to decide on one last photograph opportunity. The Angel of the North soars over the Team Valley on the edge of Gateshead. I can't say that the weather has often been kind when l have passed, so the full scale of the sculpture is often lost. The Anthony Gormley sculpture has been in situ since 1998. It is 20 metres high, but
Morpeth Morpeth Morpeth

Emily Davison Sculpture - Suffragette
looks taller. The wingspan is 54 metres - larger than a Boeing 757. It is truly impressive. A small dog sat patiently beneath, whilst I worked out an angle to get her in the photographs.


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Beadnall Beadnall
Beadnall

Craster Arms
Dunstanburgh Castle Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle

View from Embleton Bay
Bamburgh Bamburgh
Bamburgh

R Carter "Butcher, Baker, Sausage Roll Maker"
Bedlington Terriers FCBedlington Terriers FC
Bedlington Terriers FC

Vera contemplates the formation of Norfolk Norfolk Terriers FC


5th April 2022
Craster Arms, Beadnall

ooooooo I love fish & chips!!
5th April 2022

Thanks for sharing!

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