Portobello to Eyemouth / Berwick to Tyne Tunnel / South Shields to Hayburn Wyke


Northumberland is the home of the great shipbuilding towns and popular seaside resorts but much of it is empty and bleak. The coast has many wide sandy beaches with castles on stony outcrops.. Its name is Anglo Saxon in origin - Norohymbraland - and means 'the place of those north of the Humber'.

Berwick-upon Tweed


Berwick rampartsThe town is sandwiched between the rocky seashore and the River Tweed – famous for salmon. We went to the wine museum but it was a glorified shop selling local mead and then we wandered round the town. The town walls were updated by Elizabeth I against a French invasion that didn’t happen. BarracksThey are the best preserved ramparts in Britain and we took a very pleasant stroll along the top of them. In places, dark alleys are cut through them.

The Barracks now belong to Historic Scotland and there is a regimental museum (boring) and the borough’s museum as well as a gymnasium housing short arty exhibitions. We couldn't get a cup of tea there so we went in search of a cafe.

There is an impressive railway bridge with 15 arches that was built by Robert Stephenson in 1847. The road bridge we crossed ran between it and a pink 17th century Jacobean bridge.

Railway bridgeRoad bridgeJacobean bridge

Berwick-on-Tweed has been snatched between England and Scotland many times (13 between 1300 and 1482) but is currently in Northumberland not Berwickshire! Berwick Rangers are only English football team to play in the Scottish League.

SpittalAt the southern side of the harbour is the tiny resort of Spittal. We stayed at the caravan site in August 2007 on the way to Edinburgh. There is a Victorian main street and a small promenade. Salmon can be caught off the small sandy beach.

CocklawburnAt Cocklawburn Beach, I once spent a whole day on an Open University field trip studying ‘The deformation structures in the Yoredale series of the Namurian’. It was very interesting at the time!

Holy Island

Lindisfarne CastleFrom Scremerston we had our first sight of Holy Island or Lindisfarne. The treacherous sands are as much as 4 miles wide here and the only way to reach the island is by a causeway that is open for 11 hours out of the 24. The vast area of dunes and salt marsh are a nature reserve for wildfowl and waders, whooper swans and geese. Seals are often seen basking on the sand.


We drove over, before the causeway closed at 10.45 and were directed into a large carpark almost immediately. We walked down to the tiny village - still brewing the local mead – with its narrow streets and little harbour and did some gift shopping.

Aiden founded a monastery on the island in 634 but the Danes destroyed it. (Just for a change) The sandstone priory was built in 1093 and its red, impressive ruin now belongs to English Heritage.Causeway

We wanted to see the causeway covered in water so at high tide we had a drive over to it. There is a bridge over the main channel at one point and a retreat on stilts for walkers who get caught out! Don’t even try to walk on the mud, as it is full of quicksands.


We returned to walk to the fairytale castle, perched on a cone of rock, which was built in 1550 and restored by the architect Edwin Lutyens in 1902. To add to the eerie scene, there are storehouses made from upturned boats. It is a captivating place and a small garden that was originally designed by Gertrude Jekyll has been nicely restored.

Budle BayAfter a late lunch in a pub garden we left the island as a torrent of visitors arrived when the causeway reopened.

Budle Bay is a reedy salt marsh with fast incoming tides and there are the remains of an old mill. On our second visit we were staying in a nice hotel at Waren Mill with views over the bay.


BamburghThere is a very imposing castle overlooking the sea in this village. It stands 150 feet above the bay and it is difficult to tell where the rock ends and the building begins. This was the capital of Northumbria in the 7th century. The present keep is 12th century and some walls are 11 feet thick.

HarknessBelow this fortress lies a village green with a neat row of cottages along the side. As this is a tourist haven there are several hotels, pubs, restaurants and gift shops. One little store sold a variety of local cheeses, which we bought for tea when we were in the van. The local heroine is Grace Darling who helped to rescue the crew of a boat in 1838, and there is a little museum to her.

Just to the north are the Harkness rocks with a tiny square lighthouse.

Sea Houses

Sea HousesThe rocks give way to a lovely sandy bay all the way to Seahouses. Parts of this lovely coast are owned by the National Trust.

We joined the Northumberland coastal route and it led us right past the harbour at Seahouses. This is a centre for holidaymakers and has all the trappings of amusements and jolly pubs.

Boat tripsThe houses are on terraces around the harbour from where we took a boat trip out around the Farne Islands.

Farne IslandsThese are a group of 28 rocky outcrops 4 miles out to sea, also belonging to the National Trust, where there are huge numbers of nesting sea birds.

St Cuthbert lived alone there for 8 years in the 7th century.


BeadnellWe stopped in the car park at Beadnell which was surrounded by modern houses. Over the top of the dunes is a little sandy bay where a few people were walking and flying kites.

Low NewtonThe interesting honey-coloured buildings are actually 18th century limekilns. The dunes stretch for 2 or 3 miles to the rocks at Snook Point.

There is a steep road down from the carpark to the bay at Low Newton-by-the-sea where a row of fishermen’s cottages surround a small green. Dunstanburgh

A coast path leads round Embleton Bay past the golf links at The Skaith to Dunstanburgh Castle.

Sitting on a ledge of basalt rock, the original building was converted by John of Gaunt to a castle in 1313. Now a ruin, the castle can only be reached on the footpath.


CrasterFamous for its kippers, there are a number of smoking sheds overlooking the harbour. The herring are now imported from Scotland! A famous local dish is Pan Haggerty, which is a pie of potato, onion and cheese that is fried on both sides and sounds delicious.

gatehouseCraster Tower is a stone 15th century tower with a vaulted basement. In the 18th century the battlements were rebuilt and a fine Georgian house added, along with a gatehouse across the road.

Rescue helicopterWe drove to Howick Hall to see the terraced gardens but it was too long to wait for opening time - afternoons only. We went searching for a fighter plane that is supposed to be parked by the gate of RAF Boulmer, but we must have gone past the wrong gate as we didn’t find it. We did see one of the yellow air-sea rescue helicopters overhead though.


Alnwick CastleAlnwick is dominated by a huge Norman Castle that overshadows the Georgian streets surrounding it. It is the ancestral home of the Percy family, notably Harry Hotspur.

FestivalWe arrived on the day that the horse trials were taking place down by the river and the international music festival was on as well - parking was a nightmare as the town was full.

market stall

There was a carnival atmosphere about the place and the market square was brimming with stalls. A stage was set up and people watched musicians and Scottish pipers from rows of plastic chairs.

We were waiting for a phone call from Helen, who was taking her driving test and were elated when she passed. It was so hot that we had to take the roof off the car. I would like to come back here when it is quieter.


AlnmouthWe drove into the pretty village of Alnmouth to the harbour, but the best view was from the south of the river where the terraces of colour washed houses could be seen. In the middle ages, Alnmouth was a thriving grain port.

AlnmouthAs the harbour silted up, following a storm in 1806, it is no longer a fishing village but is now popular for sailing and golf. On our first visit the place was deserted, but on this hot sunny day it was transformed.

AlnmouthWe walked down to the estuary of the river Aln and watched families on the lovely beach. Little boats were moored and it was quite picturesque.

The only downside was that the pubs would not sell coffee without a meal and it was too early for lunch!


Warksworth We drove into Warksworth in search of a drink and found a little café advertising free sunshine in the courtyard – 'while stocks last'. We sat next to a stuffed gorilla and ate Derbyshire oatcakes!

CastleThe town is set on a meander in the River Coquet. The castle dominates the main street, set on a grassy mound at the top of the hill. Harry Hotspur was born here in 1364. It was a super castle to visit because it was so well designed and in good nick. It was very progressive for its time with good sanitation, communication between rooms.and a light well down the middle. There was an older castle and a newer compact keep. Just upstream is the Hermitage, a 14th century chapel that can only be reached by rowing boat.


AmbleAmble has a large marina and is a watersports centre. Beyond the marina and shingle beach lies Coquet Island with its lighthouse and colony of eider ducks. Druridge Bay is a long sandy beach that used to lie alongside an open cast coal mine. With the closure of all the mines, the area has formed a lake and is now a nature reserve. We only stayed long enough to watch some novice boatpeople and take a few pics.


NewbigginWe are now beginning to approach the industrial areas of the northeast and the first signs are the black coal dust washed onto the beach at Lynemouth. Although the mines are no longer used, there are still waste tips along the shore. The town has a power station and aluminium works. Very attractive.

BlytheAt Newbiggin-by-the-sea the beach was much the same and the view was pretty grim. In the car park, coal dust had settled between the cobbles and the blackened church looked quite out of place in its position on Newbiggin Point.

We had spotted a row of wind turbines from the road and realised that they were the dominant landmarks at Blythe. These white whirring monsters run along the outer sea wall to the narrow harbour entrance.

BlytheBlytheA power station also adorns the landscape but a delightful flowery park brightens up the scenery.

We stopped beside the sandy bay just south of the town where an optimistic hot-dog van sat looking rather lonely beside the sea.

St.Mary’s Isle

Seaton SluiceJust north of our campsite is a tiny harbour lined with massive stones that were put there in 1660. This is Seaton Sluice, the name coming from a long gone sluice gate between the harbour and river. Nearby Seaton Delaval Hall was built in 1720 by John Vanbrugh but it was closed.

St Mary's LighthouseWe were able to stop for the night a few yards from the cliff with a fine view of St.Mary’s Lighthouse. The island can be reached at low tide and is open to visitors.

At night it is lit up with green coloured lights and looks eerie out in the bay. The next morning we watched fishermen loading lobster pots on to their boat.

Whitley Bay

Whitley BayAfter negotiating the strange road system past the seafront amusements twice, we reached the tourist office and bought some more OS maps. The town was not endearing enough for us to explore.

It is connected to Newcastle by the metro railway and is the area's main resort. The sands are nice and sheltered from the sea by rocks.


PrioryThe resort merges with Tynemouth which is pretty much the same, ending at the north pier at the mouth of the Tyne.

TynemouthAs we turned inland, we stopped at the harbour where the ruins of the priory and castle stand on the site of a 7th century monastery; there is also huge a statue of Admiral Collingwood, Lord Nelson’s second in command.

N ShieldsWe needed to cross the Tyne and drove inland past the fish quay and pedestrian ferry at North Shields. To the left there is a new shopping complex on the dockside called the Royal Quays. It is like Hornsea, selling high street brands at supposedly low prices. We didn’t bother to investigate.

Tyne Tunnel

Tyne BridgeAlthough there are six bridges in Newcastle, including the green metal arch of the Tyne Bridge, (on which the Sydney Harbour Bridge is modelled) the most eastern route is via the Tyne Tunnel, so we joined the A19 and were swept into a queue at the tollbooths.

TunnelWe entered the long, curving tunnel which bypasses Newcastle itself and emerges at Jarrow, in County Durham.

Newcastle is in the centre of once great collieries and used to export lead, salt, salmon, butter and tallow. The great shipbuilding days are gone but the city is a thriving capital of the northeast.