Tara’s Journal: A Guide to Northumberland
There is nothing quite like staycation-ing down by the sea, is there? And since Northumberland has over 40 miles of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty coastline to take in and explore, visiting this beautiful, tranquil landscape is a top priority for all those looking to holiday in the UK.
With so much to discover, it can seem quite daunting to plan the holiday agenda; Catch the Breeze Retreats’ very own Tara recently stayed in one of our Craster, Alnwick properties, Middlerigg, and kept a fantastically detailed journal of her experience with her family.
During her stay, Tara, her husband Simon, and her 14-year-old son Noah visited a number of locations central to Craster that offer a wide variety of activities suitable for any party size or type; so let’s delve into Tara’s journal and find out the best towns and villages to visit while holidaying in Northumberland.
Friday 1st April
“We arrived in the sunshine at around 4pm. Middlerigg was waiting for us in all its glory with just the best location in Craster! There are fabulous views of Dunstanburgh Castle and the harbour from all around the house.
I arranged for a Sainsbury’s delivery with a few breakfast essentials to arrive that evening, after we’d checked-in, so we didn’t need to think about shopping. Although there was a lovely welcome basket on arrival with fresh eggs, Northumbrian biscuits, milk, bread, butter, teabags, coffee, and even jam.
We spent the evening at Middlerigg just relaxing, getting settled and looking out at the amazing view!”
Saturday 2nd April
“The sun was shining this morning, so we took a walk around Craster to familiarise ourselves where everything is; the quaint seaside village of Craster may be small, but it has a lot to show for itself. We then did the 1.1 mile walk over to Dunstanburgh Castle which is always in view at Middlerigg. The beaches along the way are home to lots of wildlife, especially in the rock pools. From playful starfish to crafty crabs and shy limpets, the beach is full of fun and hidden sea creatures.
After all that walking and exploring, we headed over to have lunch at Pipers Pitch which is just a 5-minute walk from Middlerigg. Pipers Pitch is a food truck located in the main car park of Craster, and it has a few tables and chairs for you to enjoy your food on. Pipers Pitch serves breakfast baps, burgers, chicken, or Craster Kippers; but we went for the famous Auchtermuchty which is a blend of haggis and bacon in a bap – which is really delicious with the chilli jam!
After lunch, we drove to Turnbull’s Northumbrian Food Hall. This award-winning food hall is full to the brim with delectable food stalls run by local businesses and the food itself is also mostly sourced locally. You can try a range of delicious food from award-winning pies, succulent meats from the butchers, or indulgent cheeses from the delicatessen. We visited the butcher to buy some local produce to cook for dinner at home this evening. We came away with some gorgeous and reasonably priced steaks and a few bottles of the local Alnwick Ale. I could have bought the shop though to be honest! And it was very handy having M&S food just next door where we popped in for some other bits too.
I made a steak dinner that evening, and absolutely loved using the kitchen. At home, when I am cooking, I usually have my music blasting, but honestly, it was just so lovely to be cooking and listening to the sound of the sea and seeing Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance.
We found dominoes and scrabble amongst the games so had a games night after dinner.”
Sunday 3rd April
“We had a very busy day planned today – we pre-booked tickets to Alnwick Castle, Alnwick Gardens, and The Forgotten Gardens Crazy golf; we parked at Alnwick Gardens which was just £3 for the whole day.
We planned everything so it ran smoothly. We arrived at Alnwick Castle for opening time at 10am. They had a load of free tours and activities going on, from learning about the rich history of the castle to broomstick training and even on location tours highlighting all the various films and TV shows that were filmed on-site, including Downton Abbey and Harry Potter, Alnwick Castle truly has it all. We spent about two and a half hours at the castle, other highlights included touring the state rooms where the Percy family still live when the castle is closed and for the younger children the Dragon Quest is great fun.
From Alnwick Castle we went to The Alnwick Gardens, just a short walk from the Castle. The gardens are lovely, there are many captivating routes and areas to Alnwick Gardens, such as the Rose Garden, the Cherry Blossom Orchard (which blooms from April till May), the Bamboo Labyrinth, the Serpent Garden where science meets sculpture with enchanting water features, and many more. Alnwick Gardens is a fantastic day out for adults and children alike with the fascinating water features, hypnotising light displays, and of course, the picturesque gardens themselves create hours of fun for everyone.
And there is even more fun to be had at Alnwick Gardens with the Forgotten Gardens Crazy Golf. Situated directly across from Alnwick Garden, this classic holiday activity is good fun for the young as well as the young at heart! I would book this in advance on the website as it does get busy.
After a long day of taking in all the sights and fun Alnwick Castle and Garden has on offer it is time to relax and sit down for some delicious food. And there is no better place than Alnwick Garden’s very own infamous The Treehouse Restaurant. Just as the name suggests, The Treehouse Restaurant is a magical setting that can offer guests a truly unique dining experience, with the whimsical theme and twinkling lights mesmerising all who enter. This restaurant serves an incredibly appetising menu, making the restaurant very popular with locals and visitors alike, so booking in advance is crucial in order to experience this amazing restaurant.
Afterwards we relaxed back at Middlerigg in the evening. Noah loved the snug above the kitchen and claimed this as his space for the whole of our stay!”
Monday 4th April
“We decided to have a leisurely morning, Simon went running along the coast to Boulmer, I sat on the terrace watching the waves and the people walking by.
We spent this afternoon at Bamburgh Castle and had lunch at their new Clock Tower Tea Room. This castle is truly a sight to behold, the architecture and size of the castle is impressive, and the coastal views that span for miles are truly breath-taking. Bamburgh Castle has seen many sights, visitors, and residents during its 1,400 years of watching over the Northumberland coastline. Bamburgh has many different sights and attractions to enjoy while visiting, from the armoury and Victorian stables to the sprawling green ground and state rooms. Afterwards we visited The Armstrong & Aviation Museum which tells the story of the remarkable achievements of William Armstrong one of the greatest inventors and engineers in British History. The small museum houses aviation artefacts from two world wars.
We travelled back to Craster via Seahouses where we stopped off for a walk around and an ice-cream. Seahouses is a lovely harbourside town just a 20 minute drive from Craster. If you enjoy a more traditional seaside town with fun and colourful amusement arcades and gift shops selling every kind of souvenir imaginable along with fishing nets, beach games, and balls, Seahouses is the place to visit. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from selling fresh seafood, donuts, teas, and coffees; we sat on one of the many benches and watched the world go by for a while. The car park gives an hour of free parking which is great if you are just stopping off for a bit.
Back at Middlerigg we had dinner and then we went down to the sea in front of Middlerigg to do some rock pooling; it is so fabulous having this on our doorstep!”
Tuesday 5th April
“After a relaxing day yesterday, we got an early start this morning to visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. We checked the website the night before to find out the safe crossing times for today and we were safe from 09:10 until 16:00. Some people walk across and follow the Pilgrims journey, but we drove over and parked in the main island visitor car park which is around a one mile walk to the main town. From there we followed the signs and walked a further mile to Lindisfarne Castle. Although the castle may be small in stature, it tells the interesting story of when it was the private holiday home of Edward Hudson, founder of Country Life Magazine. The staff were also really friendly and added to the stories by pointing out other things of interest such as the colony of seals that we could see….. we would never have known they were seals otherwise!
After Lindisfarne Castle, we took the bracing walk back to Holy Island Village where we made a stop for a coffee and a delicious scone at the Pilgrims Rest outdoor café before we took a walk around Lindisfarne Priory and visited St Aidans Winery – home of Lindisfarne Mead. They sell lots of Mead and mead-based products along with amazing fudge that is made on site. You can taste the different meads that are made, and the welcoming staff are always on hand to offer advice and share recipes that the mead can be used in. We came away with a few bottles of the Lindisfarne Mead, locally distilled rum, and more than a few bags of fudge!
We stopped off in Seahouses again on the way home from Holy Island at Lewis’s Fish and Chips for a hearty lunch!”
Wednesday 6th April
“We had a busy day today! Simon and Noah went Coasteering this morning from Beadnall Bay. The quaint little seaside village of Beadnell is the location of one of the best water sports centres in Northumberland, KA Adventure Sports. The centre offers a wide range of water sports at a variety of levels to suit the entire party. Simon and Noah met them in the carpark by the beach where they took part in the lite adventure which is suitable for all ages. They thoroughly enjoyed the experience but there is a more adventurous session too that goes from nearby Howick and includes higher jumps, which I think they would opt for next time for more adrenaline pumping activities. The staff were great and very friendly and made it fun. For me who didn’t participate in the Coasteering, it was easy to follow the coast and the route the group was taking so I could see them on their adventure. Beadnall itself has a magnificent beach which is lovely to walk on and there are lots of other activities available here such as surfing, paddle boarding and kite surfing.
After our adventurous morning, we had a gorgeous lunch at The Stable Yard which is just a 15 minute walk or 5 minute drive from Craster Harbour. The Stable Yard serves delicious, fresh food, including sandwiches, paninis, cakes, and scones and has a cosy atmosphere with a small log fire. There is a nice outdoor seating area too for when the weather is warm.
This afternoon we went to explore a few of the nearby towns. Alnmouth was a very pleasant town to walk around with several gift shops and cafes, and of course another fabulous beach. We did a lovely walk that circumnavigates the village taking in views of the beach, the estuary and the River Aln.
Next stop was Warkworth, just a short drive from Alnmouth. The highlight here was by far Warkworth Castle! What a surprise this was – we were in two minds whether to go in as we had already done a few castles, but we are so glad we did. It was fairly small in comparison to Bamburgh and Alnwick, but it was really well organised, and we were given a free audio guide to listen to as we walked around which really brought the castle to life.
Later we arrived in Amble and just walked around the harbour. We loved it and would definitely come back to spend more time here in the future. There were excellent dining options including the well renowned Fish Shack and quaint cafes. It’s a busy harbour so lots of life here, and you can take a boat trip around Coquet Island which is home to more than 35,000 nesting birds.
After such a busy day, cooking was not on my list of things to do that evening. Thankfully, we had booked a table at The Jolly Fisherman, quite literally just 10 steps away from Middlerigg, and is very popular with the locals so booking in advance is essential. The menu is full of indulgent food choices, but I would highly recommend any of their special catches of the day which are caught fresh just off Craster Harbour that same day. I had the special of the day for Wednesday which was the fresh Craster caught lobster salad – delicious!”
Thursday 7th April
“The weather was not being kind to us today with heavy rain and strong winds. It was actually great to see the sea so dramatic and snuggling up in Middlerigg playing games and listening to the waves crashing.
We ventured out for a few hours to Alnwick to visit Barter Books. This quirky second-hand bookshop is one of the largest in the UK and is housed in an old Victorian railway station which the owners have restored and have kept the rich history of the building intact. It is the perfect rainy-day place to visit, and you could spend hours there wandering the rows of every book imaginable. There are comfy areas to sit and read in front of open log fires, and the station buffet serves good food, teas and coffees. I loved the little touches like the model railway in the Central Room which linked the book columns and a children’s room with plenty of toys and children’s books. It was a bit cold to try one of the ice-creams from the newly opened ice cream parlour, but they looked good!”
Friday 8th April
“Sadly, our time at Middlerigg had come to an end. We packed up, took out the rubbish out, left the place clean and tidy, signed the guest book, and made our way home with the most special memories of our precious family time together!”
As you can see from Tara’s in-depth journaling, both Craster and the surrounding areas are some of the most amazing, beautiful, and fun places that guests can visit while staying with us in our Northumberland properties. Northumberland has so much to offer as a staycation, and the range and variety of activities and attractions in these towns and villages speak for themselves.Back to archive
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