Touring Northumberland Coast AONB

What is an AONB? – it is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, that is protected. In Canada and the USA, I believe the equivalent is our National, Provincial & State parks. Having spent a full day driving the local roads, this area is an exceptional candidate for this designation. It also means that it is popular with tourists.

A couple of nights before leaving Strathkinness, I phoned a couple of the B&B’s I had shortlisted, OMG – none of them had any vacancies and it was the middle of May.

Accommodation

We tend to favour small, rural bed & breakfasts. As previously noted, the first couple I phoned had no vacancies, so I continued down my list. Of the 5 contacted, only 1 had a vacancy.

Boulmer Village B&B

This is your old traditional B&B, with only 2 rooms, and these days, Hazel prefers to only fill one of them. It is based in a small cottage dating from the 1700’s and the owners, Hazel & Matty are brilliant. On arrival, we were warmly welcomed and invited to take a break while Hazel brewed a pot of tea. An hour later, I got started emptying the car. Hazel even phoned the local pub to make us a dinner reservation.

View of the dunes & beach from our B&B

On return, we were invited to join them in the lounge for a chat. We spent every evening chatting with them, just a really great couple and very welcoming hosts. Breakfast in the morning was excellent – self serve cereals and/or Hazel’s freshly made fruit plate. Hazel then produced a huge plate of steaming hot “Full English”, washed down with the proverbial pot of tea.

Panorama view from the B&B

If you ever visit this area, we highly recommend Boulmer Village B&B; Hazel & Matty are great people and exceptional hosts.

Our first day included a slow drive along the coast to arrive in Seahouses, in sufficient time for the 14:00 tour to Farne islands.

Alnmouth

We headed about 4 miles south of Boulmer, starting the day in the village of Alnmouth.

River Aln meandering between Alnwick & Alnmouth

We started at Alnmouth Beach, which is accessed by driving along a narrow road parallel to the golf course. Arriving at the fairway you reach a parking attendant booth, which is manned from March to October. Parking costs UKP 1.50 all day. Access to the beach and parking is across the gold course, so watch out for golf balls.

Alnmouth golf course we crossed to access the beach

The parking lot has numerous deep ruts, so drive slow and thread the needle around the holes. The beach is accessed through the almost level dunes and is a gently sloping beach with reasonably fine sand.

Alnmouth Beach

Looking back across the golf course towards Alnmouth from the beach

It was way too cold, wet and windy, for any beach time, so after a quick photo it was back to the car. Alnmouth has a small harbour and one main street through the village.

Alnmouth Main Street, which is one way

The above photo shows 1 of the village pubs, but we stopped at the other one a couple of nights later.

Craster

A small fishing village, that promotes themselves as being the home of the “Kipper”, a smoked herring, produced in oak barrels.

Craster Harbour panorama

Craster Harbour boat launch

Looking across Craster Harbour at the older waterfront homes

Craster newer row type homes

No parking is available throughout the village. Pay parking lot is available at the entrance to the village, close to the tourist information centre. The North end of the harbour also provides access to the coastal path leading to Dunstanburgh Castle. From the parking lot it is about a 1.5 mile walk, which on a nice day would be a pleasant stroll. However, we had rain coming down sideways in the wind, so elected to give the castle a miss, preferring to remain dry & toasty inside the car.

Low Newton-by-the-Sea

Although a single road in and out, it is definitely worth the time. Continue through the first village to the top of the hill at Low Newton-by-the-Sea. Similar to Craster, the village has no parking, except the pay lot at the top of the hill. It is about 1/2 mile from the parking lot to the beach, but the hill is a steep climb on the return.

Low Newton-by-the-Sea

The above photo was taken from the top of the hill looking down to the beach, with Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance.

Beadnell

This is a village that is well developed with new housing extending down to a sheltered beach and huge mobile home park.

Bednall Church in the original part of the village

Bednall Village Pub, actually called The Craster Arms

We drove along the waterfront, which comprised a rather rocky shoreline.

Bednall Village rocky shoreline

We eventually found a parking lot at the sand dunes, next to a mobile home park and new housing estate. Parking was free and washrooms were available. The boat launch and walkway provided level access through the high dunes onto a nice beach.

Bednall Beach

Bednall beach & Harbour panorama

The rain had abated, so we escaped the car, for a stroll through the dunes and onto the beach. However, it still wasn’t beach weather, so back to the car and onwards to Seahouses.

Seahouses

No longer a village, Seahouses is the largest town on this area of the NE Coast. It has a large harbour servicing the fishing fleet and Farne Island tour boats.

Tour Boats belonging to Billy Shiels Farne Islands Tours

Inner Harbour

Seahouses harbour panorama

The Old Ship Inn, just above the harbour

Seahouses main street

Stained glass window in one of the homes adjacent to the harbour

Restaurants

The first night we visited the Fishing Boat Inn in Boulmer, which was a short 5 min walk from our B&B. We were seated out back in the sunroom, which overlooks the ocean. Table are jammed in rather tight, but it wasn’t busy and the view was amazing. Dinner and service the first night were excellent, so we booked a table for the next evening (Friday).

On our 2nd visit to the Fishing Boat Inn, it was busy, almost every table full. We were jammed into the corner of the sun room, with groups of 5 seated at each of the adjacent tables designed for 4. It was so crowded the waitress could not deliver our meals, which required a human chain to deliver the plates. The staff did not increase, with only 1 waitress and barman, consequently, service was slow to non-existent. The meals, when they arrived were ghastly and neither were as ordered. I ordered the sole & prawn special, which arrived without any prawns. The prawn, arrived when I was about 1/2 finished the meal, but was microwaved until it resembled concrete. On discussing with Matty, when we returned to the B&B, he wasn’t surprised, as apparently it has new owners and most villagers no longer eat there. However, the first night we received excellent service and a great meal.

For the 3rd evening we reserved a table at the Red Lion Inn, Alnmouth. An old 18th Century inn, located on the main street. Parking is a challenge, as you have to find a spot on the street. Driving along the golf course, we spotted a vehicle preparing to leave, so waited for them to vacate the spot. Great decision, as no spots were available on the Main Street. This is a traditional old fashioned pub. I had the bangers & mash (sausage & mashed potatoes). It was exceptional, and a huge serving. The sausage was made by a local butcher and came as an entire coil, which had the mash in the middle. The entire plate was then filled with onion gravy. Wow, exceptional dinner and so filling, no room for pudding. As the only driver, unfortunately I was unable to partake in any of their cask ales.

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