After eventually finishing the Pennine Way, I had spent a few days in Northumberland, and spotted the Northumberland Coast Path while browsing some OS maps. I am always keen on good quality coastal walking, so I made a mental note to give it a go at some point. As it happened, Jill was ridiculously busy over the whole summer, but then by September she was up for unwinding a bit with a complete change of scenery. So the coast path looked ideal, with an interesting stretch of coastline, and fairly flat so nothing too taxing. After a bit of internet research we got some B&Bs booked, at reasonable intervals along the path, and then headed up North.
It was a bit tricky to get to the start on public transport, but my dad very kindly gave us a lift to the start at Cresswell, and then they headed off to Warkworth for a pot of tea! We got going at half past nine, it was dry but a bit dull, and there was quite a chilly breeze. The route started off along the vast beach of Druridge Bay curving off into the distance, with views back to Cresswell and the power station beyond. The beach was mainly inhabited by dog walkers, although half way along there was a person doing yoga. After a few miles the route left the beach and headed along a gravel track, past reed beds and some lakes. Eventually we popped out at Druridge Bay Country Park visitor centre, where there was a large lake, and lots of people about. There was a small cafe, which was a little bit tempting, but it it was a bit too early to stop, so we pushed on. The next section was along quiet road, and a lot of cyclists went past. Good views of Coquet Island appeared. At Low Hauxley there was a mini-village fete going on, with lots of cars parked up and people milling about. From there we joined a path through dunes and long grass, before popping out on the outskirts of Amble. The path went along the Jetty, to pop out on the quayside, where a market was in full swing.
We just managed to squeeze in to a small and very busy teashop, where we got a pot of tea and all-day breakfasts. We then headed up to the high street, which had a good selection of shops, and I stocked up on snack bars. In the tourist info centre I found a map which covered the whole path, and also included the Berwickshire Coast Path, which continued on where the Northumberland Coast Path finished. We left the town on a cycle path alongside the road, but with superb views up the river to Warkworth Castle, which sat on a grassy lump overlooking the village. The pleasant main street of Warkworth took us down to the River Coquet, where there was a short stretch to reach the old bridge, followed by a small climb, and good views through gaps in the trees back over the town and the castle.
Reasonably pleasant walking went through dunes, alongside a golf course, with the houses of Alnmouth getting closer and closer. However, at the very last moment, with Alnmouth almost within touching distance, the route played a cruel trick and headed inland for a long circuit to reach the bridge. Strangely, at this point the path disappeared under water, until we realised there is a short section that is actually tidal! A mountain biker went straight through the flooded bit, and the water reached over his feet, but we opted for a grassy bank alongside so stayed nice and dry. The path carried on climbing, then followed a cycle path, with good views over the river and the town. We finally reached town at about six, got booked in to the B&B, then headed out for something to eat at the nearby pub. Coming back, there were great views out across the river and on to Coquet Island in the evening sun.
There was a bit of drizzle as we were having breakfast, but it seemed to be holding off when we got going at half past nine. We headed off across a nine hole golf course, then climbed up a short hill to join a second golf course. A pleasant stretch of beach, took us to Boulmer, where there was a usefully placed public loo. Further on we passed a rock with a large hole through it, followed by a house perched right on the shoreline. I recognised Cullernose Point, from going rock climbing there once (a few decades ago), but it was a lot smaller than I remembered when we reached it, and the rock didn't look particularly solid either!
Eventually views of Craster appeared, and the path popped out right beside the fish smoking house, which had smoke pouring out some vents. There wasn't much in Craster, but there was a nice cafe and we got some lunch and a pot of tea. We got going again at half past one. The stretch from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle was surprisingly popular, easy walking along flat grassy path, although a chilly wind meant we had to put fleeces on for the first time in the day. The path skirted round the castle on the land side, and then followed the edge of a golf course, away from the sea a bit. We passed signs welcoming walkers to the golf club restaurant. After the golf course was fairly easy walking past dunes and long grass, and past some small cabins, scattered amongst the dunes. We arrived at Low Newton, where there was a small square of old fishermen cottages and a good pub, and we had a quick drinks stop.
From Low Newton we pushed on along a path through long grass and dunes, no views of the sea, before going through a large caravan park to arrive at the outskirts of Beadnell. We pushed on along the road through Beadnell, past lots of sea view houses, before reaching a small shop and chippy. There was a still a bit to go to Seahouses, and we were feeling a bit hungry by this time, so we succumbed to a bag of chips that we ate sitting in plastic chairs outside the chippy. From Beadnell the route pushed on along a cyclepath next to the road, and a few cyclists went past. Nearer Seahouses the route rejoined the shoreline, and there were good views of the Farne Islands, and back to Bamburgh Castle. Our B&B was a bit out of town, although still almost right on the path, and we arrived at half past six. It turned out to be a good place, very comfortable, and friendly owners. After getting booked in, I was dispatched back down to the centre of town to get a takeaway curry, and I only just made it back in time before some quite heavy rain started.
It was raining outside when we had breakfast at eight, but by the time we got going at half past nine it seemed to have dried up a bit, although there was a chilly wind, so we stopped and put our waterproofs on soon after getting going. A mix of fields and deserted minor roads took us towards Bamburgh, with increasingly excellent views of the castle. When we got there we had a short stroll round the village and then adjourned to a small cafe for a coffee and pot of tea. The path went right underneath the castle, then through dunes, with good views across the large beach. After passing a white stag painted on a rock, the path took to a golf course, and further on some great views across Budle Bay which was deserted apart from a couple of people kite surfing. From here the path left the coast and headed inland towards Belford, before eventually rejoining the coast at the Holy Island causeway. We had gained quite a bit of height since leaving Bamburgh, and as we started heading inland there were more great views back to the castle. It was warm and sunny by this time, and we took our fleeces off and put sun cream on.
A few fields led to a small caravan site, where there were signs for a cafe, then a few small stretches of forest before popping out at an old mill building and crossing a small river. Shortly after we passed a tower, which had been turned into an interesting looking holiday let. A series of fields paralleled a large forest, and views of Belford started to appear. We arrived at a railway line, which was actually the main line from Newcastle to Edinburgh, together with warnings of trains travelling at over 100 mph. and we had to use a special phone in a yellow box to get the OK to cross from the signalman. After the train line we passed some unusually coloured sheep, and some huge grain towers before reaching the A1, which wasn't too bad to cross, and we only had to wait about 90 seconds to get over. This was a shorter day, and we reached Belford mid-afternoon. There wasn't a huge amount in Belford, but there was a good small supermarket, and we stocked up on supplies, followed by evening meal from the chippy, which seemed like the most popular venue in town.
We had breakfast at eight, alongside three French people on the other table. It was drizzling outside, so we needed full waterproofs on when we got going at quarter to nine. There were quite a few wet grassy fields to start off with, so we were glad of the waterproof socks and overtrousers. Near Swinhoe we skirted the edge of a forest, which kept some of the drizzle off, before popping out on a nice heathery moor, where the path was joined by St Cuthbert's Way. Some more forest, including some pleasant singletrack sections brought us to Fenwick, where we crossed back over the A1 again. It was still drizzling, in fact it was getting a bit heavier. The route crossed back over the mainline railway that we had crossed over near Belford, and we had to phone the signalman again to check it was OK to cross. After the railway there was a hive of activity with marquees and fencing being set up for the Lindisfarne Festival, and the chaps setting everything up let us slip through a gap in the fences.
After passing the festival site, we finally rejoined the coast. It was about lunchtime by now, and we were feeling a bit hungry, so we stopped in amongst some giant concrete blocks and had some bread and houmous with tomatoes, whilst watching the comings and goings on the tidal causeway across to Holy Island. It had some small refuge shelters on stilts in case you mis-time the crossing! We could see cars crossing over together with lots of spray, so it looked like it had only just become uncovered, followed by a team of colourful cyclists heading over to the island. At the start of the causeway were signs telling drivers to check the tide tables before crossing, together with a picture of a submerged car as a warning! From the causeway the path followed marshy ground, beside a line of grass and small crabs showing where the tide had got to. There was quite a strong headwind, but at least the drizzle seemed to have subsided a bit.
At Goswick, there was a campsite icon on the map, but there didn't seem to be much sign of it as we passed. The path now moved away from the beach and followed a road, paths, and a cycle path past a driving range and golf course, where there was a sign welcoming walkers to the club house. After a while we got a bit bored of the path and crossed over the dunes to go along the beach instead, The beach turned out to be a good section, lots of interesting rocky sections, each different to the last, and some superb fossils. Eventually it petered out though, and we joined a small road at Sea House, where there was a sign pointing to coffee, wigwam accomodation and camping for walkers and cyclists 250 metres inland. From here the route took a grassy path high on the cliffs, although there was a strong wind, and it started drizzling, and then raining more heavily, so we needed to put full waterproofs back on. Good views of Berwick appeared, and we finally descended to take a long road through the Berwick suburbs, past some rather grand old houses, then took the old bridge to cross over the River Tweed. A final short section along the river, with good views of all three bridges, then a steep climb up steps, which brought us out right at the railway station just before five o'clock. It was only a short wait for a train, and we were back in Newcastle in 45 minutes.
All in all the Northumberland Coast Path was a pleasant route, some nice coastline, with little villages. views out to small islands, good beaches which are mostly deserted, and some particularly excellent castles. It is all fairly easy walking, mostly flat, so good if you fancy something a bit more leisurely! There are quite a few bits where the official path took us away from the beach and the sea views, where it would have been more interesting to stay on the beach, and I would recommend doing this, as long as the tide is out! The statistics, according to my smart phone were:
Update: We managed to do the extra two days of the Berwickshire Coastal Path a few months later, in March 2016 - details below! More good walking and excellent clifftop scenery, and well worth combining with the Northumberland Coast Path to do the whole lot in one stretch.
We got to Berwick for just after nine, and adjourned to a coffee shop for a quick cup of tea and a toasted teacake before pushing on at about quarter to ten. The weather wasn't too bad, quite chilly, but some blue sky and weak sunshine. The route started off round the impressive Elizabethan walls, before heading out along the top of the cliffs. It was interesting scenery, a mix of red sandstone cliffs, and steep grassy hillside, down to a rocky platform at sea level. Not long after leaving Berwick, a big sign told us we were crossing over into Scotland. Along here were some picnic tables, but the wind was too cold to stop, although nearby we found a sheltered spot beside a wall, and stopped for a Clif bar. .
Near Burnmouth, the path surprised us by making a sharp turn, almost back on itself, and dropping down a little valley to a row of terrace houses that were almost at sea level. It continued alongside Burnmouth Bay, past a small harbour, with piles of lobster pots. It then had a stiff climb up a narrow road to get to the main village of Burnmouth. It was about lunchtime, and we detoured off the route a little to walk the short distance up to the A1, and "The First and Last" pub, where we got a pot of tea. Just after leaving the pub, a cold wind got up and it started raining, so we needed full waterproofs on, but it quickly blew through. There were superb views back down to Burnmouth Harbour, and further along you could see the Harbour and village sandwiched between the sea below, and the railway and the A1 above. Nearer Eyemouth the path skirted round the edge of a golf course, with some excellent strata, before reaching Eyemouth harbour. We made it to the B&B for four o'clock. On the way back from a restaurant, we spotted a seal swimming alongside the harbour wall.
On the morning radio there was lots of news about Storm Katie that was apparently battering the South of England, and causing power outages and transport chaos. When we got going at quarter past eight, the sky was a bit grey, and there was a chilly wind, so we needed fleece jackets, waterproofs, and hats and gloves on. It looked like it had rained quite a bit overnight, and some of the path was on slippery red mud, accompanied by red sandy cliffs, and beaches of red sand. There were good views of St Abbs in the distance, with cliffs looming behind it, and we reached it at about quarter to ten. A flight of wooden stairs climbed away from the harbour, and there was a well-positioned cafe in an old school, but we were a bit too early so it wasn't open yet. Some great walking took us round St Abbs Head, the cliffs got taller, and we passed by a lighthouse and fog horn perched on top of more red cliffs. There were views of the inland lake of Mire Loch, before descending on narrow road to the small bay of Pettico Wick.
There were quite a few ups and downs on the next bit, including a notable stretch at Westerside Dean, where a steep grass descent took us almost all the way down to sea level, to see a slightly underwhelming waterfall, and then climbed steeply all the way back up again! There was still quite a chilly wind, which made it too cold to stop for a snack, although eventually we crossed a small valley which gave a bit of shelter, and we stopped and had some bread and houmous. From here the route got a lot easier, and moved away from the sea a bit and through fields to Dowlaw, passing some rusting old farm machinery. At Dowlaw Road, views appeared of the Torness Nuclear Power Station, way off in the distance. We passed by the caravan site at Pease Bay just after three o'clock, and we adjourned to the cafe for a pot of tea and baked potatoes. Here we met up with the Southern Upland Way, which then stayed with us until the end of the walk at Cockburnspath. It felt a bit touch and go to make the half past four bus back to Berwick, but the last stretch turned out to be quite easy going, and in the end we made it with plenty of time.