This was one of the earlier walks I did on the Northumberland coast (a little over 10 years ago, as I write it up).
First I have a small confession. I had read a lot about the Northumberland coast before I had ever been there. I’d seen lots of photos of it in newspapers, magazines and photography competitions. So I knew much it was lovely. However having covered much of the South West Coast Path before I had ever stepped foot in Northumberland I wondered how it would compare. The maps suggested rather than high cliffs and small coves as I had often found in the South West, the coast of Northumberland was quite flat with long sweeping beaches. Sure it looked nice, but it also looked to be fairly flat and I suspected not so spectacular. Yes it had some nice beaches and some lovely castles, but Devon and Cornwall have lots of lovely beaches and castles. I’d seen lots of long sandy beaches in Norfolk, amongst other counties. What was so special about Northumberland?
Yet I was very quickly to fall in love with the coast of Northumberland and rate it as one of the best counties in terms of coastline (actually probably more than just the coast line). I can’t really put my finger on what it is exactly, but there is just something about the coast here I loved. Perhaps just the combination of wild and remote beaches, beautiful coastline, castles, some pretty villages and few (but very friendly) people, so it never gets crowded. This happened pretty much the first walk I did in Northumberland and made me very keen to come back again.
In fact I think my love for Nothumberland started before I had even started walking there. Like many walks I was doing this walk as a day trip from home by train. My love for the county begins with my train journey there.
Just before Christmas the previous year I had book a single train ticket from London to Alnmouth for £14.25 and another ticket back from Morpeth to London also for £14.25 (I had to book so far ahead to get such a good price). On the day of this walk I took a train from my local station to London Waterloo, two tube trains to London Kings Cross and then the train direct from London Kings Cross to Alnmouth.
Alnmouth is I’m told 276 miles by train from London whilst I live around 25 miles from London meaning I was now travelling a little over 300 miles to get to the start of this walk (and a similar distance home again at the end of the day). However Alnmouth is very lucky to have a station on the main East Coast Main Line (which is the main railway line from London to Edinburgh) and despite being a village, has a fair few trains each day which stop (all the other stops on the way being cities or large towns). This means it is possible to go so far for a day trip and as I had got such cheap tickets, that is what I did. Despite the name of the railway line having “coast” in it’s name most of the time it runs far from the coast passing through the flat (and rather dull) lands of Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and much of South Yorkshire. It is only once you get north of York it becomes spectacular, and you can view such delights as the Pennine Hills, Durham Cathedral and castle, The Angel of the North and the Tyne (and it’s famous bridges) from the window of the train. However the best is yet to come as as the train approaches Alnmouth suddenly you can see the coast for the first time (if you sit on the right, anyway) and a beautiful view of the small village of Alnmouth ahead, with beautiful sandy beaches on either side of it. It is a quite stunning view (I’ll share a picture of it on a later walk when the weather was better). In fact I read in the on-train magazine at some point that the Queen Mother used to request the Royal Train (en-rotue to Scotland) be slowed down as it approached Alnmouth so she could enjoy the view. It is a sentiment I quite agreed with, though in this case my train already slowed down because it had to stop there!
So I had very much enjoyed the last hour of the journey at least. It took around 3 1/2 hours to get here from London, but I had arrived around 11:30am. However today I wasn’t starting from Alnmouth but from Amble. I then headed out from the station to the road and took a bus onwards to Amble. At the time these were co-ordinated to connect with the trains to London which means I didn’t have long to wait (I don’t think that is the case any more, sadly).
It was only a 15 minutes bus journey and I reached Amble a little after midday. The bus dropped me in Church Street. From here I walked the short distance down to the coast, passing through this pleasant little square.
I then followed the road around to the harbour. Another great thing about Northumberland is that it also has a proper coast path, the Northumberland Coast Path (which pre-dates the England Coast Path, which hadn’t even been started when I did this walk). This means there is a proper signed coast path too meaning navigation and planning was also easy for this walk. The coast path ends at by destination for the day, Cresswell, so I’d be following it all the way.
The town is at the mouth of the river Coquet and beyond the harbour wall I could see the lovely sandy beaches on the other side of the river mouth.
I also spotted a sign that boat trips operated from here to nearby Coquet Island. I love visiting islands and considered abandoning the days walk instead and taking a trip out to this island. However it seems that these trips must be booked in advance by telephone only and you cannot land on the island, as it is an RSPB Reserve. I don’t think any trips were running on this date anyway, so I quickly abandoned that idea.
Rounding the harbour the coast path ran along the south harbour wall, which gave me a fine view up the river estuary, which is quite wide here.
The harbour itself was mostly empty, not sure if it is busier in the summer months (this was early March).
Near the end of the harbour wall I turned right where a pleasant sandy beach is just south of the harbour wall, though this little bay is also enclosed by a breakwater just to the south, because the outer harbour wall is more a jetty then a wall, as the water can pass under it.
At the end of this second sea wall I have a fine view back to the outer wooden wall of the harbour with a little lighthouse at the end.
Out to sea I can now see Coquet Island too, which also has a lighthouse on it.
I pass inland of a house at the end here and then follow the eastern edge of the harbour wall, passing two outdoor bathing pools, where there is a colourful mural on the wall. Ahead is a small sandy beach backed by dunes, with a row of houses at the far end.
This is Pan Point and the path follows through the dunes to reach these houses. The coast path goes the inland side of these houses and soon comes to a more rural small sandy beach, with fine views again of Coquet Island out to sea.
Rounding the corner there is a large caravan park to my right but then after that I have left Amble behind and now I have a beautiful sandy beach ahead.
Oddly, this isn’t named on the map but I think it is just Amble beach.
The beach is a mixture of sand and pebbles and so I head down onto the beach, preferring the firmer sand nearer the waves than the softer sand of the dunes. Sadly I’m not seeing this bit of coast at it’s best in the grey overcast weather.
At places the sea is quite close to the dunes, but I know the official coast path is in the dunes at the back so I can always head back there if it turns out to be impassible on the beach, but in fact I didn’t have to, as there was always room on the beach.
At the far end of the bay it becomes a little more rocky as I round the corner into Hauxley Haven. The village of High Hauxley is just inland here and I can see a couple of houses behind the beach, but that is the only signs of habitation from the beach.
The beach is soon clear of rocks and is now a lovely fine sandy beach, with a bit of sea weed and some reasonable sized waves, over which I can see Coquet Island still out to sea.
In places the coal in the cliffs is very evident, both in the low cliffs and in areas of coal dust on the beach itself.
At one point an artificial area of rocks (coastal defence presumably), stretches from the shore almost to the waves, so I have to time it between the waves to get past with dry feet!
Rounding the next corner there is a lake just inland, Hauxley Nature Reserve, and a small amount of water from it flows out onto the beach, but it spreads out over the sands so it is very shallow and easy enough to step through without getting water in my shoes.
Heading south from here the line of coal is now very obvious in the low cliffs. The North East was once very well known for it’s coal mining, but I don’t think any mining is done here now.
Ahead I have a few more rocks just out to sea at Hadston Carrs but beyond these is Druridge Bay.
This stretches for well over 5 miles! It is beautiful, backed by dunes and I have it almost to myself, with just a dog walker visible ahead.
The rest of the walk is easy! I just keep to this beach.
What a beach it is too, beautiful clean sands, backed by natural dunes and the sound of the waves to my left. This is a great stretch of the walk. I only really see people at each of the car parks, which are at roughly mile intervals.
At the base of the cliffs I can soon see a series of concrete blocks. These were put here during World War II in an attempt to prevent tanks from invading forces being driven off the beaches inland. They are still here now, but many have been buried by the sands, with only the tops visible, they would have been much higher originally.
At the top of the dunes, which form quite high cliffs in places, I can also see some old World War II lookouts.
As I head south there is more water flowing out onto the beach from Chevington Burn but again there is little water on the beach itself and so it is no bother to just step through.
At the waters edge I keep coming across Oyster catches, making their distinctive calls. After a while I briefly headed to the dunes, which you can see are very extensive.
I continued south on the beach past the small village of Druridge, after which the bay is named. However you can’t really see much of it from the beach.
I was not the only one enjoying this part of the beach as these two horses (and riders) soon passed me, also clearly enjoying it. It is nice to have so many large beaches so there is plenty of space for all.
In fact the beach here was now proving quite popular with walkers, perhaps because the weather had improved a little as the afternoon wore on.
I continued passing more large dunes and remains of World War II pillboxes in the sands.
Talking of the sands, I quite liked the ripples the receding tide had made in the soft sand.
As I headed south on the beach the tide seemed to be racing out, soon leaving extensive areas of sand.
It was really beautiful and I kept close to the waves for most of the time.
Soon I was approaching Cresswell, my destination for the day and could see the houses of this small village directly behind the beach.
A pretty place, but there doesn’t look to be much to defend them against winter storms.
Further on a small sea-wall had been built provide some protection for most of the houses.
This wasn’t a long walk and having walked most of the way along the flat and open beach meant I had made good time and had some time before my bus back. So I continued a little south past the rocky beaches to the bay beyond.
It is quite surprising how quick the coast can change. I had walked for miles and miles along a wild, natural and unspoilt beach, but ahead I could see the industry of the power station and aluminium works at Lynemouth ahead and all the associated chimneys. It was not an attractive sight.
However I knew I didn’t have time to get to the next town (Newbiggin by the Sea) so I ended the walk here (I hadn’t done this part of the coast in order).
I sat on the beach for a while and then headed to the road behind, into the small village of Cresswell.
Despite it’s small size, the village is the served by a bus, so I then headed to the bus stop.
The bus goes in one direction to Widdrington Station. This is a village that grew up around the railway station of the same name. Sadly whilst the station still exists the train service from it is terrible, with just two trains a day heading south, one early in the morning and one in the evening (too late to connect with a train back to London). So the train service was useless for me. Instead I took the bus from here to Ashington Bus station. Ashington is a large town, but to my surprise it also doesn’t have a railway station, so I took another bus from here to Morpeth. This is quite a pleasant market town but I didn’t have time to explore, as I had to walk from the bus stop to the railway station in order to take the train home (it was also dark by then). This was another reason it was a short walk today as it took a while to get back to a rail station for my train home and being early March is still gets dark early. I took a local train from Morpeth to Newcastle (a very noisy bouncy train, but with plenty of seats) and from Newcastle changed onto a train back to London. I didn’t get home until around 11:30pm so it had been a long day, but a very enjoyable one.
This was a short but very enjoyable walk. Despite the grey overcast and windy weather I could really appreciate the wild and unspoilt beauty of this coast. It is rare on the British coast to be able to walk as much as 5 miles all the way along a single beach, which is what I had done today and it had been lovely. It was also good there was a proper coast path along this part of the coast (even though I mostly walked along the beaches, rather than the coast path). It was also my first coastal walk of 2009 and it was a good one to start with and also a gentle one to ease me back into coastal walking after the winter months!
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. Two buses are needed to get back to Amble from Cresswell, changing at Ellington. Bus 1 runs from Cresswell to Ellington whilst route X20 runs between Ellington and Amble. You can also use bus X18 by changing at Widdrington Station instead. All the buses are run by Arriva.
Arriva bus route 1 : Widdrington Station – Ellington – Cresswell – Ellington – Lynemouth – Wansbeck Hospital – Ashington (Bus Station) – Stakeford – Bedlington Station – Bebside – Cowpen – Blyth (Bus Station). Hourly Monday – Saturday and once every 2 hours on Sunday. It takes a little over 20 minutes to reach Ashington bus station from Cresswell.
Arriva bus route X20 : Newcastle (Haymarket Bus Station) – Regent Centre – North Seaton – Ashington (Bus Station) – Wansbeck Hospital – Lynemouth – Ellington – Widrington Station – Red Row – Hadston – Amble – Warkworth – Alnmouth Station – Alnwick. The bus runs hourly Monday – Saturday. There is no service on Sundays.
Arriva bus route X18 : Berwick-upon-Tweed station – Berwick-upon-Tweed – Scremenston – Haggerston – Beal – Belford – Budle Bay – Bamburgh – North Sunderland – Seahouses – Beadnell – Embleton – Craster – Longhoughton – Alnwick – Alnmouth – Warkworth – Amble – Broomhill – HMP Northumberland – Red Row – Widdrington Station – Pegswood – Morpeth – Regent Centre – Newcastle (Haymarket Bus Station). Roughly once every 2 hours Monday – Saturday between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Newcastle, with an hourly service running between Alnwick and Newcastle. 3 buses per day on Sundays.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link