A doggy friendly staycation in Northumberland
Despite this year (2020 the year of covid) being a shit storm in so many ways, there has been some upsides. One of them for me is seeing more people start to appreciate the value of a good staycation.
Don’t get me wrong I love travelling, I love the excitement of airports, flying (I even like plane food which I know makes me weird). For the last few years though I’ve really wanted to holiday more in the UK. For a pretty small country there is literally so much beauty. And with the growth of glamping, and airbnb we have so many more options to get away here on our doorstep.
Now I know weather can sometimes be huge clanger when it comes to talking about staycations, and I am going to talk about that elephant in the room later, but for now… on to one of my favourite places in the UK.
I’m not sure what it is that captures my spirit like Northumberland does. And I say spirit rather than heart, because you know my heart will always be betrothed to Yorkshire. In many ways Northumberland and Yorkshire are very similar. The beautiful rugged natural and rural landscape that appears to have dropped off a page of James Herriotts novel. The coast line. The farming. The family businesses. The hospitality. The food. The air. The sea. The landscape. All inspired by mother nature.
But the real gem for me, is the coastline.
There’s nothing like the sea air, space of the beach and the sound of mini waves crashing to give you that ‘put back together again’ feeling. And boy do we all need that this year.
We are spoilt in the UK for the plentiful and beautiful beaches we have around our coastline (wales, northern scotland, norfolk, cornwall to name a few hot spots). I’m yet to visit them all and excited about the possibility of so many more staycations to enjoy.
I have only visited Northumberland twice, and so I can’t claim to be a veteran visitor or an expert. A big family holiday was motivation for my first visit. The second time a smaller family group returning for some much needed R&R (post lockdown easing).
With my very active Mum, Dad and Aunt in tow as well as my furry best friend, we managed to fill quite a lot into our weeks stay and what follows are my highlights particularly those that worked with us having a dog in the tribe.
Best for ice cream and dog treats
Amble is known for its famous ice cream parlour Spurellis. With plenty of places to sit out or inside and a million flavours to choose from, this place is well worth a visit. It was pretty windy and cold the day we visited but dry. I mostly enjoyed taking my ice cream for a walk around the rows of beach huts converted into shops (Because you know, who doesn’t love shopping on holiday?). An array of shops from cheese, pets, trinkets, soaps, sweets, and coastal art. I always pick up something from the artists Su Fenlon (I can’t resist, her coastal pieces transport me to the peach I feel in northumberland). I’d definitely recommend the pet shop here. I think the owner is called Hazel and she is super knowlegable. Managed to persuade me to try a rabbits ear (for my dog not me *vomit*). Apparently its one of the best natural remedies for keeping the pests and worms out of their tummy’s and I also bought some magic herbal silver spray which healed Murphy Dog’s poorly paw in four days (Although I also think the sea salt of the ocean water helped).
Best for smoked fish, pubs with sea views and long walks
Craster is a little gem nestled into a cove by the shore line. You can find a local smoking house nestled into the cove where you can buy all your fresh smoked fish, dependent on what the fisherman have managed to catch that morning. There are two pubs, The Craster Seafood restaurant and the Jolly Fisherman Inn, both of which came highly recommended but we ran out of time to try (until next time).
Best for a good lung exercising walk
Our visit to Craster marked the start of a 6 mile walk that looped up the coast to Low Newton taking in Dunstanburgh castle on route. It’s listed in a popular guardian article for the top 10 walks in the UK and well worth exercising your legs and lungs to do it. It’s a National Trust walk. You can pre book tickets to do the castle tour if you wish (we didn’t this time around) as we were keen to get to the pub in Low Newton, My only challenge was that for a big chunk of the walk Murphy Dog had to be on a lead (he’s free spirited soul and a pain in the arse to walk for a long time on the lead because you know he’s a cocker spaniel and wants to be off). That said once you hit the beach part of the walk which was stunning, beautiful, spacious, clean invigorating… dogs are free to roam.
This walk is 6 miles and enjoyed by nearly all of my party. It was tough going for those less fit so definitely worth pacing yourself if you’re less active.
Best for a light pub lunch
The Ship Inn at Low Newton is famous for all those who venture to Northumberland. Not only do they do cracking light lunches to reefed those tired walking legs, they have a micro brewery and often have live music (check their website for details). They’re currently only offering a service outside and have plenty of places to sit, squat or lie down under the sky or cover. Well worth a visit.
Best for a beach day
I mean there are so many to choose for. Literally spoilt for choice. Every beach you find will be gorgeous. Each one feels like you’re the first to find it (after the fisherman maybe). They are so clean, litter free and unspoilt. The sand dunes create the perfect backdrop to make you feel you’re held safely somewhere secret and hidden from the craziness of the mad world.
My favourite beach from our last trip was definitely Beadnall. Partly because of the amazing coffee I found at the surf shack coffee shop in the car park by the beach. They use the locally produced and roasted Pilgrims Coffee produced on Holy Island. I bought some to bring home and although it’s still lush, its nothing like the latte that Bait at Beadnall made me (also check out their flapjack…. fu*k me never I’ve never had anything like it, not too sweet, smooth and just hit the spot). And they only had water in a tin to drink which I LOVED. In fact that was nearly everywhere in Northumberland. So nice to see local communities coming together to do good for their local economy and the planet.
You can walk for miles on literally any beach and so its very ideal for your furry babies. All other dog botherers were very responsible with their furry companions. We even caught someone walking their tortoise on the beach one day… (is that really a thing??).
Coming inland for some grown up food
To switch up my holiday and get a break from the family dynamic (!!) I went to Morpeth, a local market town to meet a friend for dinner. She recommended the Italian, Lollo Rosso and it didn’t disappoint. I had beef carpaccio and a pasta special with gluten free pasta. The venue was well decorated, spacious and the service was pretty five star too. Definitely recommend as a stop off or for a change of scenery from the coast. The market town looked like a pretty good place to have a potter and a shop too and was very pretty.
Lunchtime food not to be missed
We have visited the Craster Arms, run by Michael both times we’ve holidayed in Northumberland. We like it for a lunchtime feast. Both times we’ve visited we’ve been honoured with great weather and been able to sit outside in their ample outdoor seating area. It’s a very dog friendly venue (to be honest I didn’t find a venue that wasn’t). The menu is extensive enough to cater to all tastes and short enough to know all the food is fresh. I went for the beetroot /goats cheese salad this time (to balance out all the carbs I’d been eating oops). It was by far one of the nicest salads I’ve ever had. I was so full and satisfied I couldn’t finish it. Topped it off with a local bitter shandy. I hope one day to go and eat inside because the decor is beautiful and the service is also five star.
Now castles aren’t the best place for our furry friends. The first time we visited we did Warkworth castle which is dog friendly because it’s a ruin and it’s all outside. I have to say I wasn’t that bothered. I’ve visited ALOT of castles and they can start to merge into one. This time we decided to visit Bamburgh which we’d missed out on last time. We pre booked our ticket which included car parking (super helpful) and about 70% of the castle was dog friendly. There was one inside tour that wasn’t dog friendly (to be honest I was happy to sit and have a cuppa with some cake while the oldies went in). My Dad loved it.
There is also Alnwick castle, worth a visit if you’re into Harry Potter as it was used in much of the filming for the movies.
In addition to the castle which overlooks the local cricket ground (what a backdrop for sports photographers?)! There’s a nice little amble up the main stress in Bamburgh which also hosts a plethora of gift shops, pubs, hotels, B&B’s, and another famous ice cream parlour (recommended by one of may coaching clients). It didn’t disappoint. But before pudding, we had lunch at The Victoria Hotel (also recommended by said client). What a gorgeous hotel and gorgeous food. We opted for proper pub grub (fish and chips for me) and it was just what we needed. It was reasonably priced and they have some fantastically discounted winter stays available at the moment. And even better than that, they’re a dog friendly hotel. The Lord Crewe Arms there is also supposed to be top notch. Don’t forget to visit Wyndenwell Coffee shop for your ice cream pudding.
Alnwick at the heart
We stayed in Alnwick in a holiday home. We felt it would be a good central place to explore and have options for staying local which it does. The castle, gardens, and famous second hand book Barters book shop and cafe all a MUST visit (the book shop is dog friendly but watch your furry friend as Murphy dog piddled up a book shelf the first time I visited… there must be some serious marking of territory going on in there). I was mortified.
The market town itself you can lose a day in. Two of my favourite shops were Marilyn and Melrose (I bought an arm full of magic crystal rings. Eye candy for my fingers) and Robinsons (for really lovely women and children’s goodies). I also really enjoyed the antique shops, Notes of Northumberland (a fab scent shop) and the home ware shop Proudlock House and Home (which was actually dog friendly and had everything your holiday cottage might not have had). Obviously you need a dog sitter for this part. Thankyou Dad for not being into shops.
Food wise we were recommended the Dirty Bottles, the Mucky bottle as my Dad kept referring it to. It’s famous for spell casting dirty bottles still encased in the window from which they caste their final and deadly last spell. I would recommend it, although I didn’t think my food was that great. Mine came out cool and a little bland which was disappointing but to be honest the venue, decor and drinks were good enough for it not to matter.
I cannot finish without mentioning Alnmouth which I adore. It is a cove to run away to retire. It really is one of my favourite places, whether the sea is out or in, it’s a beautiful place to just be. There is a fab shop on the main street opposite the gorgeous deli Scotts of Alnmouth. Definitely worth a visit for the coffee (Pilgrims again). Also there’s the lovely old school gallery also not to be missed. And the walk along the sea front behind the village green is pretty too.
Places still on the list for next time
I have only touched the tip of the iceberg and I fully intend to visit again and again. In fact my eyes are scouring for a property (and a lottery win) to get myself a holiday bolt hole up there. But where to choose because everywhere is so nice…
Here’s what’s still on the list for next time
All the other million beaches
If you do go and you find other recommendations please add them below in the comments so I can update the blog.
PS don’t tell too many people, I don’t want it getting too popular ;-)
PPS want to thanks all the people who gave me their recommendations too. keep em coming