Well not quite, but that’s almost what it felt like. Without much notice, I found myself heading upto Northumberland for a few days and the Mrs came with me. The reason for this will become apparent but it meant we had a good 3 clear days available to us – even if the clarity was of diary commitments rather than the weather which obviously hadn’t received that message! It’s the first time I’ve been to Northumberland for any time. This Devonian Expat has made it to various places considerably further North than she ever thought, but you can’t get any further away from Devon before reaching the national border! It meant I was rather keen to explore and eager to see what is so special about this area of which I’d heard so much about. All the people I’ve met who have spent much time in the North East have praised it very highly.
So, our travels started with a good drive through mid Northumberland along the coastal road with a rather keen castle-spotter telling me about each as we found it. Devon’s not big on Castles… Northumberland on the other hand… We stopped for lunch at a really beautiful village (with a motte and bailey castle, apparently) for lunch. Should you ever find yourself in Warkworth and need a bite to eat I would very highly recommend the pub on the left, although the one on the right looked good too. Also, the cake shop with the chocolates looked an experience worth having although we were rather stuffed from the food at the Mason’s Arms. The whole area is beautiful.
We headed over to join the coast road in order to see the views… we hadn’t, however, managed to combine this sightseeing trip with appropriate weather. It was foul! Visibility was non-existent and it’s worth saying this was the weekend of the severe weather warnings and flood alerts for Northumberland! Despite this, the environment still managed to look good. We headed up through Seahouses to Bamburgh, whose Castle was the most impressive in stature of all we saw that weekend. Bamburgh, too, was very beautiful but very different to Warkworth. The plan was to stay there for a couple of nights and head over to Holy Island. The weather, however, suggested this wasn’t the best plan.
The following day, rather than head to Lindisfarne (barely visible due to the morning weather), we went back and explored a couple more coastal settlements. Seahouses offered us a good set of proper fish and chips as well as a look over the very large waves to the Farne Islands. It wasn’t the day for a boat trip round there either! We carried on, and the weather improved so we set off for yet another castle… Dunstanburgh. Accessible from Craster, it’s a walk along the coastline and it was truly stunning. The rough seas had brought with them the beauty of a soggy and windswept environment but it also meant only a few people had decided to do the walk. The moorland, complete with sheep, went right down to the coastline. The coast I’m most familiar with has cliffs but these gentle slopes meant we had such a great view. The castle looked like it had always been there; it’s ruined form looks truly part of the landscape and I could never imagine it in its fully functioning state. We didn’t make it over to the castle itself, and heard later that the tide made it inaccessible. What, for me, was also an interesting part of the landscape was both a sad but rather striking aspect of the pollution. The strong tide had left a track of foam in its path. The foam formed interesting shapes and danced in the wind, reminiscent of some of the mythical creatures seen in Hiyao Miyazaki’s films. They did almost seem to have lives of their own, especially when the wind caught them and they began to dance. Our return to Craster wouldn’t have been complete without picking up some of their world famous kippers, and the smell of the sea and the smoke house was definitely a defining memory.
Our evening trip included a trip to Seahouses for some fish and chips which we duly ate in the car while watching the sea and the lighthouses of the Farnes. The final element of the trip was a visit, on the final morning, to the RNLI museum to Grace Darling, a heroine of the area who I’d never heard of. It turned out she was a figure of celebration in the Victorian era who, along with her father, had been involved in a notable rescue. It turned out that she didn’t want to be a famous person so I shall not linger on her any longer, however interesting her story was.
What made the holiday so special was the knowledge that we didn’t have to rush around and see everything in that visit. While it’s not an area I’d seen much of before, I would almost certainly get the opportunity to go again as the Mrs and I will be moving to the North later in the year.
The holiday had been something of an accident, rather than a mistake, because I’d been up North for a job interview, and it was one I got. I found out the night before we set off on our Northumbrian mini-holiday. It is hugely exciting to know where we’re going, that we’re going together and we can settle. I always intended to move from this job towards the second half of this year and now we know to what role I’ll go, and when. Horray for these things, and horray for an exciting and beautiful place to settle.