Such a perfect day along the Northumberland coast
PUBLISHED: 17:23 11 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:41 20 February 2013
The oft-quoted 'Perfect Day' finds expression in a journey from the Tyne to the Tweed, taking in all that the breathtaking coastline has to offer, as Louise Brown discovers
To many, generally speaking, early rising has little to commend it and is to be avoided rather than indulged. But even the most committed conscientious objector to rising early would find his or her principles seriously challenged if, bleary-eyed, the opportunity is taken to witness daybreak over a distant North Sea horizon from Tynemouths Longsands.
The event is even more rewarding if it represents only the first episode in a day spent hugging the coastline, travelling from the Tyne to the Tweed, commencing, to be geographically accurate, in Tyne and Wear and ending in Northumberland, but representing, for those who remain ill-at-ease with the synthetic feel and very existence of the former, the imperious Northumberland Coast.
The northbound journey from Tynemouth passes through Whitley Bay and the hamlets of Old Hartley and Seaton Sluice before reaching the town of Blyth, which proudly proclaims its status as Northumberlands Premier Port.
The promenade at Blyths south beach (or second beach as it was commonly known) provides the perfect pit stop for excellent fish and chips from the nearby chippy and, perhaps improbably, ice cream emporium, best enjoyed al fresco looking out over a gloriously
unpredictable North Sea landscape.
Suitably refreshed, opportunity should be taken to stroll along Blyths newly developed quayside and promenade, taking in the new or refurbished seaside architecture in the process, including the colour-varied beach huts, which in their still short life have acquired near iconic status.
Responding to the loss of the towns traditional industries and re-shaping its economy, to its credit the now lost (and to many lamented) Blyth Valley Borough Council identified the value and potential in both aesthetic and commercial terms of its port, harbour and seaside. Driven by the economic imperative, these areas were developed to truly impressive effect, a lovely quayside sculpture being commissioned to remind the town of its industrial heritage.
Departing Blyth, the A189 so-called Spine Road passes by the towns of Bedlington and Ashington. Rich in heritage and tradition, both worthy of stopover in themselves, these near neighbours famously possess much-loved Northumbrian dialects which those who are said to find a certain high-profile Tyneside celebrity difficult to understand, would regard as totally incomprehensible.
From the Spine Road the coastal route brings the traveller to Amble which, like Blyth, boasts a tag-line, in its case Northumberlands Friendliest Port, an epithet well-earned as casual contact with the locals readily confirms.
The town has undergone major redevelopment over the years, a fact remarked upon by Julia Aston, Director of Amble Development Trust which, along with partner organisations, has been at the forefront of the regeneration process.
She said: Anyone who remembers the town from the past and revisiting now will be surprised by the changes. With fantastic beaches, access to stunning countryside, fabulous local food and the friendly inviting atmosphere of independent shops, we really do have it all.
Walking around Amble, this significant recent change is clearly visible. Local shops and boutiques are punctuated with a range of eateries, including quality restaurant Zecca where the stamp of acclaimed local chef and part-owner Richard Sim is evident. Producing principally Italian fair, the restaurant takes full advantage of the rich North Sea larder on its doorstep, using ingredients measured from source to kitchen, an indication of freshness, not in food miles but food yards.
Continuing northward, a short hop introduces Warkworth, a stunning village picture- postcard pure in appearance. Entering the village, its unspoilt allure is instantly apparent. The view along the main street is truly lovely, charming independent shops and cafes lining a path down from the castle ruins to the centre of this quintessentially Northumbrian village.
Enjoying must-visit status is Fenwick Gallery, home to works by some of the UKs finest contemporary artists and designers. The gallery benefits immensely from its location in Warkworth, said founder Dorien Fenwick, adding, It has everything, great location next to the river and beach and a nice community.
Dorien herself is a leading landscape artist, her work capturing all aspects and the very essence of the Northumberland coastline. She runs the gallery with her daughter Nicole Fenwick, an artist, illustrator and freelance designer.
Journeying further north, the intoxicating aroma of smokehouses testifies to the proximity of Craster, a small fishing village and home to the famous Craster Kipper. Those responsible for the delicacy with which the village has come to be identified are the Robson family, whose company L Robson & Sons Ltd produces some of the worlds finest smoked salmon and kippers. If tiring, respite is available in the form of a harbour seat, offering a window on the maritime world of a village whose existence and identity it has produced.
Energy levels restored, the short walk to the dramatic ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle along one of the most beautiful stretches of the Northumberland coastline is a pleasure not in any circumstances
to be missed.
Travelling ever northward, the port of Seahouses comes into focus. Known as The Gateway to the Farne Islands, Seahouses is the ideal destination for those seeking to access the islands and the most famous sea bird sanctuary in the British Isles. The Islands are also home to a large colony of Atlantic, or grey seals and, with exemplary conservation, nurturing and protection, offer a refuge for the environmentally committed traveller, access being gained by regular boat trips from Seahouses.
Late afternoon by now but the beautiful village of Bamburgh, guarded by its magnificent seashore castle, and the Holy Island of Lindisfarne beckon and cannot ever be passed by. Their serenity and history are legendary and need no further expansion by me on this whistlestop tour.
As dusk descends, the journey enters its final leg at Berwick, Englands northernmost town, where the Northumbrian coastline ends and that of Eastern Scotland begins.
A day given over to travelling from the Tyne to the Tweed, taking in the many attractions along the way, richly rewards an early rise for the intrepid traveller. With every justification recognised officially as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the awe-inspiring and breathtaking Northumberland coast can rightly lay claim to being the regions principal natural asset.
Bamburgh Castle - A Gentlemans home?
No journey along the Northumberland coast is complete without a visit to the dominating Bamburgh Castle.
Chris Calvert, Castle Director, said: The castle has been attracting visitors to Bamburgh since the late 1800s but then only to look up and admire from the outside. Now you can tour 14 public rooms and see over 3,000 artefacts. The views from here are incredible and with more events and activities this year than ever before, it makes a great day out.
Although the castle dates back to the 6th Century the castle fell into disrepair until purchased by Lord Armstrong towards the end of the 19th Century who set about restoring the building with the intention of creating a country mansion as a convalescent home for retired gentlemen. It remains in the ownership of the Armstrong family.
This summer the castle is introducing more live events to its programme. July 9 sees Bamburghs first outdoor theatre production with a performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream performed by the acclaimed Chapter House Theatre Company. As part of this years Archaeological
Festival St Cuthberts Land will be returning to the castle with their Anglo-Saxon living history village, talks and demonstrations.
Then on the July 23 theres a chance for young and old to decorate a tile in the style of the Lindisfarne Gospels. There will be live archaeology until July 31 as the Bamburgh Research Project continues to explore one of the most important excavations in the country.
For full details visit www.bamburghcastle.com or follow us on Twitter @Bamburgh_Castle or Facebook, or simply call 01668 214208.