Three Picture-Postcard Villages in Northumberland to Visit
This short stretch of coastline has everything from ancient history to a multitude of watersports opportunities, and plenty of wildlife and fabulous foodie outlets
The picture-postcard village of Alnmouth, with its colourful houses lining the estuary, has everything you’d expect from a traditional seaside community – cosy tearooms and cafés, quirky shops and galleries, charming pubs and a popular links course hugging the shoreline. A few miles to the south is Warkworth, arguably one of the most picturesque villages in Northumberland, with its ruined castle on a loop of the River Coquet still proudly dominating village proceedings. Just a short cycle south along the banks of the River Coquet, the bustling fishing town of Amble continues its transformation, with independent shops and award-winning harbourside restaurants. A mile off the coast, Coquet Island offers a safe haven for more than 30,000 pairs of nesting seabirds (you can’t land there but you can sail around it) while further south is the vast sandy stretch of Cresswell and the magnificent Druridge Bay, a popular riding, cycling, walking and surfing destination.
You’ll be spoilt for choice with the range of options from Coquet Cottages in this area; Lyndhurst, just outside Alnmouth is a fantastic five star, pet-friendly family retreat, sleeping up to 10 guests, overlooking Foxton Golf Course and the sea. But golfers can’t get much better than the dog-friendly Mariner’s House in Alnmouth, with a window seat which overlooks the village golf course and the sea beyond. Coquet Cottages also have quirky Ivy House on Warkworth’s Main Street, just a stone’s throw from the castle. This pretty, double-fronted, pet-friendly property oozes charm and character, sleeps eight guests and is just a 15-minute walk from the beautiful beach, while Coral Cottage in Amble is a contemporary holiday home in the centre of the town with all its great restaurants, pop-up shops and the beach just a few minutes walk away.
If you’re starting in Alnmouth, drop into Scott’s of Alnmouth for breakfast or coffee and a slice of homemade cake (sadly they’re not dog friendly, but there are a few tables outside if you’re just off the beach after a dog walk) before popping into The Aln Gift Shop and Gallery to peruse the many nautical-themed knick-knacks, or the gem of a Post Office which stocks just about everything. If art is your thing, The Old School Gallery always has a stunning range of paintings and prints and an ever-changing exhibition space. Arguably the highlight of any trip here is the the beach, bisected by the estuary and best on a sunny day when the tide is out. Catch your breath in The Village Tearooms, where you can refuel amid quirky vintage decor. If you fancy something a bit stronger, stop off at one of the village’s pubs for a pint of locally-sourced real ale, before popping into The Hope & Anchor for delicious takeaway fish and chips. The latest addition to the village, The Whittling House, is a restaurant with 10 quirky bedrooms and well worth trying for its reliably good, locally-sourced dishes – the cosy bar is a treat too. For keen golfers, there’s a nine-hole course in Alnmouth village, and just a mile north, the more challenging course at Foxton is the fourth-oldest golf club in England.
For any avid walkers or cyclists out there, enjoy the popular 3.5-mile route from Alnmouth south along the coast towards the beach at Warkworth. With a skyline dominated by the magnificent Warkworth Castle, this ancient village is just a 15-minute stroll inland. Explore the village to your heart’s content, visit Cabosse Chocolates for coffee and cake, The Greenhouse for unusual interior gifts and accessories, and Grays for perfect presents. At the opposite end of the village to the castle, a church has stood on the site of the Church of St Lawrence for 13 centuries and you can sense the history here. In 727AD the King of Northumbria gave the church to the monks of Holy Island, and the current church was built in 1132.
Keep tight to the riverbank and you can walk or cycle the entire 1.5-mile route to Amble, on the mouth of the River Coquet and home to a small fishing fleet. Take a tour around the Town History Trail to discover Amble’s hidden secrets before relaxing to the sound of halyards clinking in the town’s busy marina. Watersport enthusiasts should head for the Coquet Shorebase Trust, which offers plenty of watersport tuition and special summer holiday activities, or Northside Surf School for a paddleboarding or surf lessons on any number of nearby beaches. Leisure-seekers can pop into boutique ice cream makers Spurreli for the most innovative and delicious ice cream flavours. Just over the road, artisan pods make up the Harbour Village, and you’ll find a range of art and coastal-inspired crafts at Edie Pebble, food and drink specialists such as The Cheese Pod and Lindisfarne Mead, and even a lobster hatchery. Salt & Co on the harbour front is where you’ll find beautiful handcrafted silver jewellery by Martha Gothorp, whose unique pieces are all inspired by the Northumberland coastline. In the town there are plenty of independent shops including the specialist family-run haberdashery Amble Pin Cushion. Winner of Northumberland's Lifestyle Shop of the Year thanks to its personal service and community feel, it’s where to go for all things fabric and yarn (you can even join a workshop to make your own Amble puffin mascot). Hungry? Jaspers in the village is a go-to bistro for fantastic seafood (and cocktails). Freshly-caught Amble lobster at The Old Boat House is hard to beat, the rustic Fish Shack right on the harbourside serves delicious seafood fresh from the boats, or why not pick up Carlo's award-winning fish and chips to eat beside the marina?
Home to the UK’s only Puffin Festival (inspired by the colony nesting just offshore on Coquet Island), Amble offers Puffin Cruises around the seabird sanctuary, where you’re also likely to see the UK’s rarest seabird – the Roseate Tern – as you sail past the island’s 80-foot lighthouse, whose first keeper was Grace Darling’s big brother.
Just three miles south of Amble, Druridge Bay is one of the most impressive stretches of beach in Northumberland, backed by sand dunes, and is chock-full of family-friendly picnic spots (perhaps avoiding the bit of beach south of Chevington Burn, which is an unofficial naturist beach) while the nearby Country Park has watersports on Ladyburn Lake, as well as a visitor centre, play area and café.
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No trip to the area would be complete without exploring the medieval Warkworth Castle. Perched on the hilltop above the River Coquet, this mighty fortress is famed for being the ancestral seat of the Percy family and was immortalised by Shakespeare in Henry IV as the home of Harry Hotspur. Wander the circuit within the towering walls of this magnificent cross-shaped keep and imagine the lavish lifestyle of the Percys with a visit to the Duke’s Rooms inside, before being rowed across the river by the resident boatman to Warkworth Hermitage – a 14th century chapel hewn from the rock face and accessible only by boat. Today, you’re more likely to spot seals and otters swimming up to the curious, cave-like chapel than the monks that used to pray for the souls of the Percy family.