This month’s escape is by Colin Corlett of Northumberland Tales who loves to explore and write about the lovely county of Northumberland. We visit the Northumbria coast with him and he shares his recommendation for a great escape in Britain.
Where in Britain is it?
The Northumberland coast covers just over 100 miles between the Scottish border in the north down to Tynemouth beside Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
Why should I go there?
The coast is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Castles tower beside long sandy beaches. There are boat trips to see seals and puffins as well as many miles of long distance footpaths. The area has a rich history and is heavily influenced by the Scottish border wars (remember Mel Gibson and Braveheart?). Influence comes, too, from the industrial revolution which brought mining, shipping and great wealth during the 19th century.
Will I find interesting local products to buy?
Local produce is heavily influenced by the sea and the wealth it brings. I recommend a visit to the small fishing village of Craster where you can taste the legendary locally smoked Craster kippers (pictured right). A little further up the coast is Holy Island, also known as Lindisfarne. This is one of the cradles of early Christianity in Britain and the monks have traditionally brewed a strong fortified wine called Lindisfarne Mead (pictured left).
For something a little stronger there is also the locally brewed Alnwick Rum. Wool has always been a staple product in Northumberland, and we even have our own breed of sheep, the hardy Cheviots, which live in the hills. Historically the county has its own Tartan pattern which you can buy from the Northumberland Tartan Company.
Farmers have always faced a challenge in coping with fluctuating prices and demand for their products, and because of this many have diversified into successful sidelines. A good example is the Doddington Dairy which now offers quality ice cream and cheeses. There is a thriving industry for home made food and drink. From chocolates to proper sausages you are spoilt for choice.The Taste North East website introduces you to a selection of some of the best choices.
Where can I eat locally sourced food?
For us, the best food in Northumberland is a fish supper from Seahouses Fish and Chips where the fish is caught locally and very fresh. We love to sit beside the harbour, watch the boats come in and throw the odd chip to the circling seagulls.
The other place we like to visit is the White Swan Hotel in Alnwick (pictured). We go there because they have a dining room with fixtures and fittings from the RMS Olympic which was the sister ship of the Titanic. For us it’s easy to sit there and imagine yourself back in 1912 when the Titanic set sail for New York with such hope and enthusiasm.
Can I stay somewhere with a bit of character?
There are two self catering cottages which, for us, show what the Northumberland coast is all about. The first is The Bathing House at Howick (pictured). This was built by Earl Grey in the 19th century for his family to have easy access to the beach. These days he is better remembered for inventing Earl Grey tea but back then he was Prime Minister of England. The house sits literally on the edge, where the land meets the sea. Inside it is almost as if you are in a ship. The second house is Greystead, a large house which sits immediately below Bamburgh castle so you can sit in the garden and admire the view.
What should I see, do or visit while I’m there?
I am recommending three absolutely brilliant days out… First off you can take a boat trip from Seahouses to the Farne Islands to see the puffins and seals.
For the second trip I’d recommend the walk between Craster and the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle (pictured). The ruins are managed by the National Trust and seeing them on the skyline as you approach along the coastal footpath is unforgettable.
For the third day out we would recommend Alnwick Castle and gardens. The castle is the setting for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films and the gardens are beautifully maintained and can provide entertainment for the whole family.
When is the best time of year to go?
If you visit during term time, May or June, explore the beaches and castles with very few people around. Winter can be dramatic and with the early nights you will want a cozy house or hotel to retire to.
To find out more about Colin Corlett’s history of Northumberland visit http://www.northumberland-tales.com/.
For more information about visiting the area, take a look at http://www.visitnorthumberland.com/.
Map of Northumberland
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