Last year, I seemed to spend lots of time in Europe… between Paris, Berlin, Portugal and Greece I seemed to forget just what beauty we have right here in the UK so I made my 2019 New Year’s resolution to explore more of what the UK has to offer. Don’t get me wrong though I’m still booked up to visit Paris and Greece again a few times this year but you know I can’t resist those places.
The two main destinations I want to make more time out to visit this year are Scotland and Northumberland, both being relatively close to my home too so perfect for just packing up the car last minute and setting off… which is exactly what I did last week. I grabbed my best friend, loaded up the car and headed to Northumberland. So grab a brew and have a read of my guide on how to spend 24 hours well spent in stunning Northumberland. Ready, set, start the clock…
St Cuthbert’s Cave
St Cuthbert’s Cave is approximately a 1 hour and 15 minute drive north of Newcastle, just off the A1 near Lowick. The road leading you to St Cuthbert’s Cave car park is very narrow and bumpy so if you’re not used to driving on country roads, just take it easy. Country roads are second nature to me so this was a breeze compared to the roads I have to drive on to get to my Grandma’s house in Clennel.
St Cuthbert’s Cave is an overhanging outcrop of Sandstone rock, supported by an isolated pillar of stone. It is said that the monks of Lindisfarne brought St. Cuthbert’s body to this place of rest for a short period in AD875 following Viking raids on the Island and the subsequent abandonment of the Saxon monastery. The walk from the National Trust car park to the cave is a mere 0.5 mile walk, ideal if you have little ones, but if you want to make more of a day of it head to Raven’s Cragg, also know as Bowden Doors, which is popular with climbing enthusiasts.
The walk from St. Cuthbert’s Cave car park to the cave is stunning. With rolling countryside hills and exposed near by crags followed by the magical forest with towering trees overhead and the suns rays beaming down through the branches, you are greeted with the amazing view of the picturesque cave. It is like something from a post card and most certainly takes your breath away. The cave was used in the Mid 19th Century as a lambing shed and then once owed by the Leather family who used the area as a family burial place. After exploring the cave, we found a beauty spot at the top of the cave over looking the surrounding area and set down for lunch. Next up Lindisfarne Island…
Only a 20-minute drive from St. Cuthbert’s Cave is the Island on Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island. Steeped in history, Lindisfarne is a tidal island off the North East coast of England. The island is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Northumberland Coast. The ruined monastery is in the care of English Heritage. Lindisfarne also has the small Lindisfarne Castle, based on a Tudor fort, which is run by the National Trust.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is well known for mead. In the mediaeval days when monks inhabited the island, it was thought that if the soul was in God's keeping, the body must be fortified with Lindisfarne mead. The monks have long vanished, and the mead's recipe remains a secret of the family, which still produces it; Lindisfarne Mead is produced at St Aidan's Winery, and sold throughout the UK and elsewhere. A visit to the mead shop is a must and you’ll be spoilt for choice on souvenirs to purchase and mead samples to try and buy.
The drive over the Lindisfarne Causeway is an experience in itself and always fills you with excitement no matter how old you are or how many times you have been to the Island. Be sure to check the tide times before passing the causeway and nature waits for no one and you don’t want to get caught up in the tide. At low tide it is possible to walk across the sands following an ancient route known as the Pilgrims' Way. This route is marked with posts and has refuge boxes for stranded walkers, just as the road has a refuge box for those who have left their crossing too late. The isle of Lindisfarne is surrounded by the 8,750-acre Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, which attracts bird-watchers to the tidal island. Parking on the Island is £2.40 for 3 hours but more hours can be bought. The parking is situated pretty much as soon as you drive on to the Island on the left as you drive in and is easily found. If you are part of The National Trust and / or English Heritage, be sure to bring your passes so you can visit the Priory and Castle free of charge.
Bamburgh and Seahouses
With time getting on we decided to take a drive to Bamburgh and then to Seahouses via the Coastal Route. Bamburgh is a 30-minute drive from Holy Island and with the roof of the car down and wind in our hair we set off. There’s nothing better than driving around Northumberland on a beautiful sunny day with the roof down. Bamburgh is a beautiful coastal town in the heart of Northumberland. Thousands of people visit Bamburgh every year for its famous castle, coastlines & walking trails. Bamburgh Village not only boasts its own magnificent Castle, miles of white sandy beaches but also the Grace Darling Museum, St Aidan's Church, golf course, local shops and restaurants.
Leaving Bamburgh, we headed to Seahouses, en route to Craster, via the beautifully stunning Coastal Route. I love this stretch of road between Bamburgh, Seahouses and Craster. Running along the mesmerising Northumberland Coastline, you are greeted with flowing sand dunes, miles of rolling fields, majestic trees and alluring and marvellous coastline.
Seahouses is a large village on the North Northumberland coast in England. It is about 20 km north of Alnwick, within the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Only a short 7-minute drive from Bamburgh there is so much to do there. From shops in the town and booths along the harbour, several boat companies operate, offering various packages which may include inter Island landing on at least one Farne, seeing seals and seabirds, and hearing a commentary on the islands and the Grace Darling story or scuba diving on the many Farnes Islands wrecks. Grace Darling's brother is buried in the cemetery at North Sunderland, adjacent to Seahouses. The current Seahouses lifeboat currently bears the name Grace Darling. Next up Craster…
Another 30-minute drive from Seahouses is the quiet fishing village of Craster. Craster is my happy place in Northumberland. I love driving here when you need a little break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There is a small bench in Craster, which overlooks the small harbour with breathtaking views out towards the North Sea. This place is so good for the soul and always inspires me when I visit here. I’ve been here many times now and every time is as magical as the first time I visited.
A short walk from Craster is Dunstanburgh Castle, but make sure you go to the loo prior to your walk, as there are no toilets on the way. The castle is owned by The National Trust and maintained by English Heritage, with entry being free to both National Trust and English Heritage members. The ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle tower over the Northumberland coastline, with magnificent sea views and stunning views North towards Bamburgh Castle. The walk from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle is a picturesque 1.5-mile walk along the coast to the castle and perfect for families.
Craster is home to the famous Craster kippers, which are well known around the U.K. The Robson family smokes the locally caught herrings the traditional way. You can sample the kippers for yourself either by visiting their restaurant or purchasing them from their shop. A visit to Craster isn’t complete without a visit to The Jolly Fisherman. With charming sea views which will take your breath away, be sure to try their famous potted crab or crab sarnie – you won’t be disappointed. Don’t fancy food? A simple cuppa whilst sitting in their beer garden will make your day; you just can’t beat that view over the habour to Dunstanburgh Castle. One thing I love to do in Craster is watch the sun set; it has to be one of the best sun sets I’ve seen!
Calico Barn Bunkhouse
With the sun almost set, we headed to our final destination for the day – Calico Barn just outside of Morpeth. I stumbled across this accommodation whilst browsing Booking.com and what a find it was. Calico Barn is a beautifully restored barn that sleeps 18 people in 5 bedrooms. I’ve stayed in bunkhouses before and this one is something else, the owners really have thought of everything. Calico Barn is perfect for a girly weekend away or night away with the family.
Entering Calico Barn, you are greeted into a cosy sitting room area, with a wood burning stove, comfy sofas and TV. Next to this is a dining area with ample space, leading into a modern, clean kitchen with kettles, toasters, fridges, microwaves, hobs and even cake stands if you wanted to make afternoon tea during your stay. We were more than blown away with our stay here, we didn’t want to leave. We paid £50 for our stay, not each between us?! That wasn’t the best part, no, it turns out we had the whole barn to ourselves!
After an adventurous day sightseeing we changed into our PJ’s and enjoyed a G&T or two… more like too many! Steph rustled up a feast and a half whilst I lit the barn up with its bountiful fairy lights lit candles both inside and out and created the most amazing, roaring fire with the log burner.
After becoming a Stay and Gaze Accommodation Provider, Calico Barn is perfect for stargazing. The sky is pitch black and the amount of stars mesmerises you. It turns out the Barn offers Stargazing events, which I’ll certainly be looking into the next time they’re on. My friends will tell you, I’m always chasing sunsets and sunrises or looking at the stars so this is perfect for me. In the summertime Calico Barn is a hive of activity, with its picture perfect Gin Bar, alpaca treking as well as hosting weddings, the barn has something for everyone. This may have been our first visit but it certainly won't be our last. The owner, Alison, was the perfect host too.
The following morning, we didn’t even have to think about breakfast as cereals, tea and coffee are provided at Calico Barn or if you want a hot breakfast, this can be provided in a small hamper, using local produce, at an additional cost. The weather wasn’t on our side the day after but we couldn’t complain, after such a wonderfully warm and sunny day the previous day. After a quick cuppa at a local seaside café we decided to call the trip a day and headed home.
Needless to say, we had such an amazing time and cannot wait to do it again. We’re so blessed to have such beauty right on our doorsteps and we’re looking forward to exploring Northumberland further this year!