Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Alnmouth to Holy Island - 31 Miles - 11 & 12 April 2006

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The journey to Alnmouth was by Virgin Trains, when they held the Cross Country fanchise, leaving Birmingham New Street at 0803 and arriving at an isolated Alnnouth Station at 1204. The weather was fine and warm for April with lots of sunshine. Alnmouth itself (1 mile) is just down the road from the station, past a wood and over a bridge that crosses the River Aln. The place is peaceful and unspoiled with views over the estuary to sand dunes beyond.

An easy walk along the coast path brought me to Boulmer (4 miles). There nothing here to speak of except three or four stone buildings and a similar number of small fishing vessels. Despite this, the place, a small fishing community, had real atmosphere. The path then continued near to Red Stead where a reproduction Neolithic hut had been built close to the path. The path now rose and there were real cliffs for the next part of the walk into Howick (6 miles) and Craster (8 miles).

Craster makes its living from smoked fish. The wonderful aroma that can be sensed from a mile away is delight to the senses. The town itself is businesslike and stone built with a few expensive fish restaurants. There was an empty working harbour - presumably all the boats were out at sea. The local lads were amusing themselves by jumping off the harbour walls into the water.

The impressive ruins of Dunstanburgh then loomed into view just over a mile away and, for the first time on the walk, I was accompanied by quite a number of other people with this attraction in their sights. Rounding the castle, I took to the now almost deserted beach which had low dunes on one side. This turned out to be a mistake as I missed the bridge that crossed the stream and found I had to ford the water at The Skaith (11 miles) or add a mile to my journey. I chose the former option and spent the next hour or so with wet feet.

Low Newton by Sea is a grassy square surrounded on three side by whitewashed buildings. On the other side is the sea. Fortunately one of the buildings housed a pub, so I spent a few enjoyable minutes "resting" here, before continuing over the green fields and cliff tops with a view of the Farne Islands. All too soon, I arrived at Beadnell (15 miles) which can only be describes as a dump. It is approached through a rough caravan site on to seafront shacks that housed the businesses of purveyors of candy floss, wind shields, hot dogs and the like.

Needless to say, I hurried along the road to Seahouses (17 miles) which, although picuresque, had clearly seen better days. I stayed there for a while and ate my fish and chips at a harbourside cafe before making my way along the shore to Bamburgh (20 miles), the Castle walls glowed orange in the setting sun. Finally to my home for the night, the Mizen Hotel which turned out to be both comforable and good value.

After a full breakfast I set out on my second day of walking. There were two obvious routes to Holy Island. The route that kept closest to the sea appeared relatively flat and uninteresting compared to yesterday's walk and, more importantly involved a 1 1/2 mile stretch along the busy A1 road. I therefore elected to walk further inland through the town of Belford, onwards to Fenwick before dropping down to the Holy Island causeway.

I left Bamburgh along the B1341 to a spot that has the lovely name of Glororum, thence across a few fields and down a lane to Spindlestone. The lane then twisted its way through a wooded vale and past a stone windmill. Near Warren Mill, I joined St Oswald's Way which took me into Belford (4 miles)in an almost straight line. Crossing the East Coast Main Line was interesting as I had to telephone the signal box before proceding.

Belford is a delight to the eye with its lovely stone and rustic brick buildings. The centre is spacious and there are a number of attractive looking inns in the town, no doubt built when the A1 ran straight through the town.

I climbed out of Belford along the old A1, and past the fairy tale gateway of Middleton Lodge until I teached Detchant (6 miles). By now, the weather was warm and sunny, very unseasonable for April. The walk along the ridge to Fenwick (9 miles) was hot and tiring, so I was very pleased to be able to purchase refreshment when I arrived there.

From Fenwick, I descended along St Cuthbert's Way over the A1 and under the East Coast Main Line. At that point I discovered that St Cuthbert's Way had been diverted along a new route leading to the Holy Island Causeway. Perhaps research should be undertaken to establish exactly which route he actually used!

Having reached the Causeway (11 miles), I was tired and it was obvious that I did not have time to walk through to Berwick in time to catch my train. I therefore walked along the road to the A1 at Beal and caught a bus into Berwick. I had time for a tour of the town and a meal before catching the 1752 Virgin Train service to Birmingham New Street where I arrived at 2217. Home was then only a short train ride away.

See the photos

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom
    Some very nice images- my favourites are your shots of Dunstanburgh.