Review: A Breakaway to Apple Tree Barn in Northumberland Made for a Perfect Winter Retreat
A beautiful bolthole for a winter retreat, we make Apple Tree Barn, a luxury holiday cottage in the tiny Northumbrian village of Denwick, our base for a weekend to visit some of Northumberland’s most loved attractions and watering holes
We’ve been receiving handy updates about our stay all week, and checking in after a day at Living North HQ is easy peasy (a comprehensive digital guide book to the cottage has already been sent to us for our perusal). We park up at the nearby garages as the sun sets, and follow the fairy lights to the door. When we step inside we’re just glad to be out of the freezing temperatures but we’re thrilled to see someone has seriously decked the halls in the lounge (and we’re already eyeing up the wood-burning stove in here) before we find a hamper of treats awaiting us in the kitchen/diner.
We quickly make ourselves at home, connecting to the WiFi, popping dinner in the range cooker, pulling a cracker and setting up a game of Trivial Pursuit, with a film on Netflix providing background noise. A large glass of cabernet sauvignon and a mince pie seemed in order before we headed upstairs to bed. There’s only two of us staying in this cottage, which sleeps six, and of the three bedrooms we unpack in the largest – the one with the ensuite.
The next morning we’re able to see the views over the rolling fields in all their glory, and get a courtesy call from owner Lisa, checking that everything is in order (which it is) and providing helpful ideas on how to spend the day. Apple Tree Barn really has everything you need so we wouldn’t judge if you chose to stay inside (especially when it’s cold outside), but after a quick breakfast and a coffee, we’re heading out to explore.
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'The next morning we’re able to see the views over the rolling fields in all their glory, and get a courtesy call from owner Lisa, checking that everything is in order (which it is) and providing helpful ideas on how to spend the day'
First stop, the small fishing village of Craster. We bypass The Jolly Fisherman and head straight for Dunstanburgh Castle (one of very few of the North East’s castles we’re yet to see – and one our Editor says we must!). My partner has taken a liking to some of the fishing boats bobbing in the harbour but even from this distance, the castle looks majestic. The sea views as we stroll are so stunning we almost forget about our numb fingers and toes, and the sheep seem unbothered by our rambling (we’re very much on the beaten track, although we usually recommend going off it).
After playing king and queen for a while we’re keen to refuel, so we retreat into the comfort of The Jolly Fisherman, where we meet plenty of four-legged friends who have enjoyed a good walk too. Ordering a toastie, salt and pepper squid with garlic aioli and two portions of beef dripping chips, we were expecting a light lunch but we’re shocked (and delighted) by the portion sizes and need a lie down in our home-from-home before we head back out into the cold. Maybe it was all that sea air, but we’re exhausted.
That doesn’t stop us from heading to The Alnwick Garden for their award-winning winter light trail (after a detour through the town centre to see their lights) – we’re big kids at heart. After a giant pig-in-blanket, mac and cheese and a Biscoff hot chocolate we’re officially stuffed, and we make it back to the cottage just in time to watch England’s World Cup defeat, followed by a less tense watch – Nativity. With the log-burner roaring away, we each have a bath and make the most of the complimentary Temple Spa toiletries. That bottle of red is going down nicely too.
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Our final day at Apple Tree Barn is a lazy Sunday. Emphasis on the lazy: we’re so comfortable in bed our breakfast turns into brunch and we only make it as far as Apple Tree Snug (the summerhouse on the frosty front lawn) before lunchtime. We drive into Alnwick to browse the shops (taking a particular liking to Robinson’s and The Bonny Hoose). A Sunday roast is calling, and on a whim we pop into Adam and Eve on Clayport Street, and what a great decision that was. After sharing some pigs in blankets and sourdough, I opt for the roast chicken while my partner orders the pork belly (but I wasn’t expecting half a chicken to arrive; I’m officially defeated). He’s happy to finish my leftovers and I’ve substituted my planned dessert for a cocktail; never a bad idea.
In a last effort to see more of the sights, we drive through Boulmer, past the RAF station and park up at The Fishing Boat Inn for a pint and a chat with the locals, then head back to Apple Tree Barn for one last relaxing evening with Strictly on the TV – we’re gutted to be leaving so soon. We read the guest book and find even more inspiration for new places to visit (there really is so much to see on your doorstep here), and decide next time we’ll want to stay for longer, especially if we visit in warmer weather. While this was a lovely weekend for the two of us, the cottage is so spacious your whole family could enjoy a stay here (in any season) without stepping on each other’s toes, and your four-legged family member is welcome too.
Apple Tree Barn, Denwick NE66 3RG