In our B&B at North Sunderland, we ate our cooked breakfast as the rain battered down. Thankfully, by the time we left, it had eased a bit into a steady drizzle. We walked back into Seahouses and, once again, soon left the official Coast Path route to walk through the dunes and onto the wide beach behind Annstead Rocks. This was another open, wide expanse of sand with several walkers and dogs. We had to leave the beach just before we reached Beadnell, which in the drizzle did not appear to have much going for it. Although, according to tourist websites, it is a popular holiday destination. To be fair, the small harbour with its ancient lime kilns is very attractive.
We stopped here to take off our rather wet waterproofs since the weather seemed to be clearing up. This harbour is reputedly the only west-facing harbour on the east coast of England, but I did not know that when I was there. Half way along Beadnell Bay we had to leave the beach to cross a bridge over a stream, Brunton Burn. We then continued walking in the dunes until we reached Low Newton-by-the-Sea. On the way we had a close encounter of a bovine kind. A herd of cows and calves were in the dunes on the footpath and did not take kindly to us passing close by. We had quite a tricky detour through marram grass and very uneven ground to by-pass them.
Low Newton-by-the-Sea primarily consists of delightful rows of cottages set on three sides of a square with the open side facing the sea and a pub tucked into one of the far corners. By the time we arrived the sun was shining and the pub was very busy serving lunches. There was quite a queue at the bar. But the landlord told me, “This is quiet. In the summer the queue extends outside”.
After a drink and a sit down to recover from the angry cows we set off for Embleton. Once again we ignored the Coast Path signs and headed for the beach of Newton Haven then onto the beach of Embleton Bay with the distant view of Dunstanburgh Castle ruins. About half way around the Bay we left the beach and briefly joined the official Coast Path route before heading up a road and into Embleton. Here we caught a bus into Alnwick then another onto Amble. This gave us the opportunity of walking back along the coast to Alnmouth and thence to Alnwick where we would be staying for the weekend.
Amble has an interesting harbour at the mouth of the River Coquet. It also has good views out to sea towards Coquet Island, an important bird reserve. Amble harbour was once important for the export of coal. Starting around 1820, it reached its heyday in the early 20th century but declined and stopped completely in the 1960s. Nowadays, there are fishing boats using it but the new marina and yacht club seem to be busier than the true harbour. There is a novel walk around a breakwater by the harbour and a giant sundial by the tourist office but otherwise the town did not impress us. After spending some time seeking a suitable place to eat – there was not much choice – we found The Wellwood and had a passable meal. Our B&B was the cheapest and most basic of the trip and I think this just about summed up Amble.
The next day was gloriously sunny. We walked along the bank of the Coquet river on the Official Coast Path
towards Warkworth with its imposing castle jutting into the sky (and just about visible in the picture above.
The walk was splendid; lots of birds in the estuary and the Castle getting bigger every minute as we approached. We stopped and chatted to some Rivers Trust volunteers building a better “fish pass” to allow salmon and trout to access their spawning grounds upstream without otters, herons and seals picking them off in the shallow water of the current pass.
Although in a ruined state, Warkworth is impressive. It commands the countryside for miles around. It was home to Sir Henry Percy alias Hotspur in the 14th century. Although the Percy family also owned Alnwick Castle (of which more later). After many successful battles at the age of 39 in 1403 he was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury. Following his death his body was hacked up. His head was sent to York and it was dispalyed on Micklegate Bar and his body was quartered and sent to different cities in England. Later the parts were returned to his widow who buried him in York Minster in 1404.
From Warkworth we walked to the coast and along the beach towards Alnmouth. This was another glorious beach.
But, to avoid wading through the river Aln, it is necessary to leave the beach and walk through the dunes and eventually onto a path alongside the road. You still have some great views of the coast, the Aln estuary and Alnmouth village.
When we reached the road heading into Alnmouth we took the bus into Alnwick. Luckily for us it was about 15 minutes late. If had been on time we would have had about a 2 hour wait for the next one.
In Alnwick we celebrated the end of our walking tour with coffee and cake, then dropped our rucksacks off at our hotel and went to visit Alnwick Castle.
Probably the most impressive of the Castles we visited on this trip, the Castle has been home to the Percy family for over 700 years. It has been used as a setting for countless films and TV programmes including recently Downton and Harry Potter. It is eye- wateringly impressive. The library has 14000 books. In one room there were three Canaletto paintings and two Titians and it is still used as a family home. Please look at the website http://www.alnwickcastle.com/explore/history/the-percy-family for more information and pictures.
We had another day in Alnwick and the area looking around and meeting old friends. If anyone else has time to spare in Alnwick I would recommend looking into Barter Books located in the old railway station. This is a secondhand bookshop par excellence.