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Walking on the Northumberland Coast

Walking on the Northumberland Coast

Sun 5th February 2012

The stunning Northumberland Coast is renowned for its quality walks not just on the coast itself but also a little way inland.

There is so much variety, with not just the picture postcard scenes but also the remote beauty for which the county is famous and for those ‘hidden gems’ that not many people know about.

Below I have looked at some of the key areas, not only on the coast itself but also a little inland that are great bases for starting your walking trips.  I have also summarised the kind of walking you will experience from each of these areas, from the large, empty beaches of south Northumberland to the rocky cliffs of north Northumberland, which are in stark contrast to the high rolling hills of the Cheviot Hills.

The walking in Northumberland is so varied and that is why it is so special.  Once you get away from some of the main honey pots you will not see another soul all day. The sense of isolation when exploring the exceptional walking we have in Northumberland is second to none.

The list below is not comprehensive, to list all the wonderful walks in Northumberland would take up the whole publication, but hopefully it will give a good overview of what we have to offer.


Coast area


Berwick

Starting in the north, Berwick is a walking destination in its own right. From the historic town walls built in the 16th Century it is a great place to explore the rich heritage of the cross border conflicts.

With convenient public transport, mainly the East Coast mainline, it is a perfect place to start and to then explore the Northumberland Coast.

Don’t be scared of walking north up the coast from Berwick as the coastline is very different than that which is to the south. It is a rugged and rocky section and offers some exceptional walking. Why not walk up the coast into Scotland and catch the bus back to Berwick, a great days walking.  Alternatively walk south from Berwick following the 64 mile Northumberland Coastal Path all the way to Cresswell.


Bamburgh

The iconic castle stands tall above this small village.  Try walking away from the village and head north along the coastal path to Budle Bay, passing through Bamburgh Castle golf course, which was founded by Lord Armstrong in 1904.

If you navigate well up to Budle Bay you can make a great little circular walk passing old  limekilns and gaining a little bit of height, which treats you to some great views of Bamburgh itself.

It is a very interesting section of the coast to explore on foot and has plenty of walking options for all abilities and with the stunning beach to the south of Bamburgh it gives you plenty of possibilities to explore the area.


Holy Island

Holy Island is a really honey pot, not only for walkers, but for people who enjoy everything about Northumberland.

If you do visit Holy Island leave the often crowded village centre and on foot head north on the island, discover the stunning north and east sides of the island and look out to Emanuel Head. The sense of wilderness is second to none and you will get to see the real Holy Island. Don’t forget to take your binoculars and often you will not see another soul all day.

A truly special place.


Craster

In Craster you first of all have to tempt yourself away from the Craster Kippers, which have been traditionally smoked here for nearly 100 years.

Once you have done that you are in a great location to create some superb circular walks, taking in both the coastline and also some of the inland area.

Why not head north to the famous Dunstanburgh Castle, but don’t stop there and turn around as most people do. Continue on up the coast and you are treated to the stunning Embleton Bay, one of my favourite bays in Northumberland. You can continue walking up to Low Newton for a welcome drink in The Ship inn, or alternatively head inland half way up Embleton Bay and make a nice circular walk back to Craster.

From Craster don’t be scared to go south on foot along the Northumberland Coastal Path. You will get away from the crowds and again you have a number of options to make circular walks taking in the picturesque inland countryside for your return trip. So as everybody else is heading north from Craster those in the know also like to head south.


Alnmouth

Alnmouth is again another great base to explore on foot.

From here you can head north up the coastal path and do a circular walk taking in Lesbury and Hipsburn and then continuing to head south on inland footpaths before walking back north up the coastal path to Alnmouth.

Also from Alnmouth walk up the coastal path to Boulmer, one of the few traditional fishing villages and visit the Fishing Boat Inn where a well deserved drink can be savoured.

Alnmouth is also the finish for the 26.2 mile Northumberland Challenge Walk which takes place in May every year. This linear walk is an epic day walk down the coast from north of Bamburgh to Alnmouth.

There are plenty of different options to choose from.


Druridge Bay and Hauxley

The walking options from here are far too wide to even start to list.

The whole area just inland is peppered with ponds and with so many good easy access paths around many of them it provides a great location for every kind of ability. By using the coast and these inland ponds you can easily make up some lovely circular walks for all abilities.

Druridge Bay itself is truly stunning and again one of the most popular bays on the coast.

If you are looking for something a little more leisurely why not try Druridge Bay Country Park. With way marked routes and good paths underfoot it provides great walking for all abilities, including wheelchairs and pushchairs.

With a tea room and toilets open during the season it makes a perfect day out.



Inland


Belford

I personally think Belford is one of the hidden gems of Northumberland.

Just a few miles inland Belford itself is a good walking base with some interesting circular walks to St Cuthbert’s Cave to the north. St Cuthbert’s Cave themselves are some natural caves that according to legend might have been amongst the places in which the monks took shelter with their holy relics or where St Cuthbert himself lived as a hermit before moving to the Farne Islands.

With a small number of pubs and small shops Belford is an ideal location to stock up before you head out walking and to have a well deserved drink upon your return.


Wooler

A little further inland is the market town of Wooler, commonly known as the ‘Gateway to the Cheviots’.

It is the perfect base to explore The Cheviot Hills and maybe even The Cheviot itself. The Cheviot stands at 2,676 feet. Not the greatest summit in The Cheviots but a must for any keen walker.

The variety of walks in The Cheviots are endless and for all abilities. It is a very different area to anything that has been described previously. Big round topped hills and mountains, with the border ridge running through them. There are not many places you can walk in such a stunning landscape and have your picnic lunch in Scotland at over 2000 feet. There are many valleys that run up into the Cheviots, which are all very different and make it a place to explore again and again.


Alnwick

Alnwick is more often known for its castle and gardens but there are some real walking gems to hunt out.

Hulne Park, which is owned by The Duke of Northumberland has public access for much of the time but is occasionally closed during the shooting season. It has many great way marked walking routes in what is a truly special place,   so it is a must. Within the park, you can walk by the river, visit Brizlee Tower and even see the ruined Abbey. You can check the opening times of the park on the Northumberland Estates web site - http://www.northumberlandestates.co.uk/walks_hulnepark.php

Also in Alnwick why not head down and walk along the Alnwick Pastures, which are on the far side of the River Aln to the town itself. With stunning views up to Alnwick Castle it makes a short but lovely evening walk passing through countryside that was created by the landscape gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.


Rothbury

Rothbury sits in the Coquet Valley and has some very varied walks, from riverside walks up the River Coquet to the hugely popular Simonside Hills.

The Rothbury Walking Festival in late June is one of the walking highlights of the year. From the village itself you can head south up onto Simonside or alternatively go north up onto the ‘Carriageway Drive’. Originally this was part of the Cragside Estate in Lord Armstrong’s day but in those days the estate was not open to the public to walk through. From the Carriageway you get some superb views of the village down below and the Cheviot Hills to the north.

With such varied landscapes and walks to choose from in this region you are truly spoilt for choice.  So pull on those walking boots and go and explore for yourself,   you will not be disappointed - I promise.


Jon Monks
Shepherds Walks – www.shepherdswalks.co.uk



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