252. Seahouses to Craster

October 2014

This section of the coast is one of the best parts of the Northumberland coast with some beautiful beaches and castles on the way.

This was the 2nd day of a 3 day trip to the Northumberland coast. I was staying in Berwick-upon-Tweed and had travelled to Seahouses by bus in the morning and had been visiting some of the Farne Islands before doing this walk.

Having finished my boat trip, I was in the village of Seahouses, presumably so called because someone looked at the village and saw the sea and saw that there were houses and decided “I know, I shall call it Seahouses”.

In fact curiously, the village of Seahouses borders another village a little further inland called North Sunderland, but the harbour (obviously, being at the coast), is called North Sunderland Harbour.

North Sunderland Harbour, Seahouses

Seahouses harbour itself now seems to be mostly used by boat trips to the Farne Islands (and Holy Island, or Lindisfarne), and some fishing boats. Unlike many other towns in Northumberland it has the feeling very much of a working village – the rather ugly buildings at the back of the harbour are in fact storage units for fishing equipment I think, rather than garages.

North Sunderland Harbour, Seahouses

The coast at Seahouses

Heading south from Seahouses, I was following the Northumberland Coast Path again, right along the cliff top. A short distance beyond the harbour the path enters a large caravan site, but I can continue along the coast, with a view back to Seahouses harbour. The eastern arm of the harbour wall is part natural, joined to the rocky foreshore, which acts as a natural defence.

The coast at Seahouses

Now south of the village there are low cliffs which the path runs right along the top of. The coast here is very rocky, with rocks sticking up above the waves in many places as I look out to sea – which are popular with the local birds.

The coast at Seahouses

Annstead Links

Beyond the caravan park is a field and then the path enters a golf course. Oddly here, the official coast path takes a slightly less coastal route than is possible – I did wonder if pressure from the golf course caused the path to be located a bit inland. However I followed a more coastal footpath marked on the map to North Sunderland Point (which involves crossing the golf course) and then along the top of the low cliffs overlooking the beach called Annstead Links.

This is a beautiful beach and I’m soon able to drop down onto the sands. The coast path here follows the B1340 road a little back from the beach so I planned to stick to the beach instead, as it is a more coastal route.

Annstead Links

Looking back at the low cliffs I had been walking on, the geology is again interesting with 2 clear parallel lines of harder rock at the base of the cliffs.

One of the reasons the coast path sticks to the road is that there is a stream that flows out onto the beach (Annstead Burn) but if I headed close to the waves the water from the stream had spread out enough I could just walk through it without getting wet feet. This was good as it looked like I could now follow the beach further south to the village of Beadnell, without any further hazards.

Annstead Links

At the back of the beach are concrete blocks left over I think from World War II when they were placed on the beach to attempt to prevent any invading enemy tanks that might be landed on the beach from proceeding inland. Fortunately, they never got tested!

As I headed south the beach became a little rocky in places, but there was always enough sand at the back that I could get past.

The coast at Beadnell

At the first houses of Beadnell, there was a path back up from the beach where I could re-join the official coast path. Here it follows the minor road along the low cliff tops through the village.

The coast at Beadnell

The coast at Beadnell

Beadnell locks as if it once had industry along the coast. Rounding the little headland I enter a rocky bay and here the foreshore clearly has broken up bricks mixed in with the natural rocks.

Nacker Hole, Beadnell

Nacker Hole, Beadnell

Presumably from buildings that were once here and demolished, with the waste material and bricks left on the beach. Possibly the remains of lime kilns which I later read once stood nearby.

As I walked along the road at the back of the harbour there was a brief shower, but thankfully only for a few minutes. At the end of this first bay was a rather ugly flat-roofed building. Beyond this was another rock and pebble beach.

The official coast path turned inland here, missing out a small stretch of the coast. I however ignored it and continued along the road ahead (signed as a dead-end) which led me along the back of this second beach and down to the harbour, where the road ended by this unusual turreted building.

Beadnell

The coast at Beadnell

I was excited to see now, looking out to sea, that I could make out the ruins of Craster castle. It was around 8 years since I had seen it last (as I’ve not done these walks in order).

Although a dead-end for cars I could continue ahead to reach the north end of the beautiful sandy beach of Beadnell Bay, which stretches for around 2 miles to the south. Just to my left too there was a small harbour, Beadnell Harbour. There were only a couple of fishing boats in the harbour, I don’t think it is much used now, though the numerous lobster pots piled onto the harbour walls show it’s not disused either.

Beadnell Harbour

Beadnell Harbour

Beadnell Bay

Now I headed down onto the sands. It was a windy day and this bay was seemingly proving very popular with windsurfers. It was interesting to watch them as I continued along the sands.

Beadnell Bay

The shower had now passed and the sun was making a rather weak return.

Beadnell Bay

It was quite windy down on the beach (presumably why it was so popular with wind-surfers!) and I soon removed my shoes and socks to walk along the water edges, which is wonderfully refreshing.

Beadnell Bay

Beadnell Bay

Beadnell Bay

The beach was popular with walkers and dog walkers too. For a while I seem to have made friends with someones dog, that followed a couple of metres behind me for much of the way.

Beadnell Bay

Roughly mid-way along the beach there is another stream, Brunton Burn, that flows out onto the beach. Again this is fairly shallow, but a bit deeper than the stream I had crossed earlier, so I kept my shoes and socks off to get through this. The official coast path is about 200 metres inland here and crosses the stream on a bridge instead, but I didn’t need it today.

I then continued south on the beach. The stream seemed to put most of the visitors off crossing so now now I had the beach largely to myself, and it was backed by an extensive dune system.

Beadnell Bay

It was a beautiful beach and a lovely walk along it. As I neared the south side I made my way off the beach In places old concrete blocks (the World War II tank traps) were again present. At the south end of the beach I followed the path off the sands into the small car park and then a path around the little headland of Snook ahead, because the south end of the beach becomes rocky.

Beadnell Bay

Beadnell Bay

Beadnell was now only just visible at the far end of the beach, as the beach is so long.

Beadnell Bay

At the end of the little headland at Snook it was obvious that this had once been longer and erosion had left a line of rocks sticking out into the sea ahead.

Here the official coast path misses out this little headland, but I found a path that followed right around it, so took that instead. On the far side I was overlooking another gorgeous beach. This one is, rather oddly, called Football Hole (I’ve no idea why) – no one was playing football.

Beadnell Bay

In fact although there were footprints on the beach there were now no people on it at all. That is another thing I like about Northumberland – it is the least densely populated county in England, which means nowhere gets very crowded, even in summer.

Beadnell Bay

I followed the path along the edge of the dunes behind this lovely beach. At the far end is another headland, this one Newton Point. Again the official coast path misses it out, but I found a good path around it’s edge, so took that instead.

Beadnell Bay

Beadnell Bay

At the far end of the headland was another very rocky foreshore where a man was fishing. He looked a bit more serious than most with a large cool-box presumably in anticipation of catching a lot.

Looking south the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle were now getting much closer and looked very impressive silhouetted against the bright sky behind.

Football Hole

I continued on the grassy path to the next village this one the small village of Low Newton-by-the-Sea. A little further inland there is also High Newton-by-the-Sea, which isn’t by the sea, despite the name.

The path took ended at the road at the village and I turned left to soon reach the village centre, a cluster of cottages (including a pub) around a lovely village green, with the coastal side open to the sea. It was very pretty, with all the cottages of the same design and size.

Low Newton by the Sea

Low Newton by the Sea

From the little village square I could again drop down onto the next sandy beach, Newton Haven. Once again the coast path went a bit further inland so I ignored it and stuck to the beach (having commented that Northumberland has a coast path, I hadn’t used all that much of it on this walk!).

Embleton Bay

Embleton Bay

This was another fine sandy beach backed by dunes and I followed the beach itself, close to the waves.

Embleton Bay

I could continue on the beach to round the corner into the next, larger, Embleton Bay. Here I had a wonderful view over to the atmospheric ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, now tantalisingly close.

Embleton Bay

In common with the other beaches I’ve been walking on today, this one is also crossed by a stream, Embleton Burn. This might be why the coast path goes a little inland but again it was shallow enough I could easily just cross it on the beach, without even needing to take my shoes off, and that was preferable to taking the more inland coastal path.

Embleton Bay

In around 3/4 of a mile I neared the end of the beach, the south end of which became rocky so I made my way off the beach to a path through the dunes behind.

Embleton Bay

Now I could see the ruins of Dunstanburgh more closely, and how they are built on a natural rocky outcrop that is almost an island, giving the castle a commanding view both north and south.

Dunstanburgh Castle

This beach is a favourite place with photographers, who often take sunset shots here, with the red light of the low sun reflecting off the damp pebbles at the waters edge. However I did not want to wait for sunset, so had to settle for this shot instead.

Dunstanburgh Castle

It was interesting to see how the geology had changed to with firmer (granite?) cliffs below the castle which are almost vertical, unlike the softer sand stone and dunes I’ve been passing until now.

I continued from the back of the beach on a path around the cliff tops, beside a golf course to reach the back of the castle. Up close, the height of the cliffs can be appreciated more.

Dunstanburgh Castle

However above me are the impressive ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle. This had largely fallen into disrepair by the 16th Century and has remained largely the same since then. Sadly, it is not possible to walk around the coastal side of the castle, so I went around the landward side to the impressive entrance.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

I remember how much I enjoyed the view of the castle before and the walk here and back from Craster and I had enjoyed the walk to approach the castle from the north just as much.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

Last time I was here, I hoped to visit the castle on my return. Now I’d returned but once again, it was after 5pm so the castle was closed (it is open to the public most days and free to both English Heritage and National Trust members). It is in quite a remote location, being a little over a mile from the nearest road, meaning it never gets that busy (because you have to walk here).

Still I had a bit more time this time and could take a closer look at the castle from what I could see outside and how it has been built into the natural rock here. It is stunning and I guess the cliffs must be very stable here because part of the castle is perched right on the top, just 1ft or so from the edge and yet it has been like this for hundreds of years!

Dunstanburgh Castle

The walls around the castle show that the land occupied by the castle was once extensive and the wall was barely above the high tide line at the lower points.

The coast at Dunstanburgh Castle

I had made good time, as I had been able to cross all the streams on the beaches (I had allowed time for inland diversion if needed, but they hadn’t been needed). So I sat on the rocky cliff tops here just taking in the scene. It had been a lovely walk so far. Of course the remainder of the walk I had already done, but it was so enjoyable it was nice to do it again (not that I had any choice, what with there being no road, so I had to head on to Craster ahead in order to get a bus back).

Having had a nice relaxing sit on the cliff tops, it was time to make my way on to Craster. I followed the far more walked path along the cliff south towards Craster (I guess this must be a very popular “out and back” walk). Last time I was here the gorse below the castle was in flower, but today it was all green, but despite this it was still a very beautiful scene.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

This time I also had some bovine company, but thankfully the cows were very docile and just ignored me, continuing to eat the grass beside the path.

Cow near Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

Cow near Dunstanburgh Castle

As I continued to look back the beautiful castle was now receding into the distance again, with the ruins of the tower poking up into the sky.

Dunstanburgh Castle

It did not take me long to reach Craster as the path is wide and easy to follow.

Craster

Craster

It was nice to see it in drier weather than on my previous visit, too. The tide was lower with the harbour part empty this time.

Craster Harbour

Craster

The harbour at Craster

The village was quite quiet (it was now almost 6pm and most visitor seem to leave by then). Craster is a picturesque small village, known for it’s kippers, though I’ve not had any, not really liking sea food. I headed a bit south along the cliffs for a look back over the village (having had the previous walk spoiled a bit by the rain), where I could get a lovely photograph of the village and harbour.

Craster

Now it was time to head back to Berwick-upon-Tweed where I was again staying the night. This was another reason I was in no hurry towards the end. I had fitted a lot into the day and this meant that I had already missed the last bus back to Berwick-upon-Tweed. However I had expected this would happen and planned for it. On my last walk I had also missed the bus from Craster, so missing a bus at Craster was becoming a habit! Thankfully I had not missed the last bus of the day from Craster, just the last one going north. So instead I had to catch the last bus of the day that was heading south, to Alnmouth Station instead. Here I then had about a 40 minute wait for a train that would take me north back to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

So I headed back to the bus stop in Craster. After my problems last time I headed further along the road to a different bus stop to get on at the tourist information centre car park. The bus duly arrived, a few minutes late. Of course this time, it did head right into the village and turn around at the stop I had waited at last time, only to find the bus hadn’t gone that far! From there it took me to Alnmouth station.

By now, it being October it was dark. I also realised I’d made a mistake. Rather than sit on the cliff tops at Dunstanburgh Castle it might have been better to continue straight onto Craster and then I might have had time to get something to eat in the pub there. But as I didn’t do that I didn’t have time to eat at the pub. There was nowhere to eat close to Alnmouth station and time was getting on.

It turns out the platform at Alnmouth station is wonderfully peaceful, as there was no one else at the station and unless trains were passing through is remarkably quiet. I could see many starts and soon I was delighted to also be able to hear an owl. Sadly not long after, some teenagers arrived in a car with music blaring and proceeded to sit in it in the car park eating pizza with the music going, so I couldn’t here it after that. I expect it was scared away.

The train soon arrived and took me back to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Unfortunately the train was run by Cross Country Trains, which means no buffet car. The station in Berwick-upon-Tweed is a little north of the town centre and rather than walk back into the town centre, I continued north to my hotel, the Berwick-upon-Tweed Travelodge which is around a mile from the town centre. There was a McDonalds next door to this which would have to do for dinner – at least I didn’t have long to wait!

Overall this had been a wonderful walk and indeed a wonderful day. I had passed many beautiful and deserted (or near deserted) sandy beaches, a couple of pretty harbours and, best of all, the stunning remains of Dunstanburgh Castle. I was really enjoying the coast of Northumberland, which was living up to it’s wild and beautiful reputation.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk :-

Arriva bus route X18 : Berwick-upon-Tweed – Scremerston – Haggerston – Beal – Belford – Budle Bay – Bamburgh – North Sunderland – Seahouses – Beadnell – Embleton – Craster – Longhoughton – Boulmer – Alnwick – Alnmouth Station (only some buses) – Alnmouth – Warkworth – Amble – Broomhill – Red Row – Widdrington Station – Pegswood – Morpeth – Regent Centre (Tyne & Wear Metro) – Newcastle (Haymarket Bus Station). Hourly between Belford and Alnmouth Monday – Saturday (and broadly once every 2 hours north of Belford). Three buses per day on Sundays. It takes around 30 minutes to travel between Seahouses and Craster.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link

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7 Responses to 252. Seahouses to Craster

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, I agree a lovely section of the Northumberland coast. Annoyed that the English Heritage Board outside of Dunstanburgh Castle makes no reference to NT members entering free. I suppose I should check my NT Handbook more carefully. Dunstanburgh Castle, like Lindisfarne, like Bamburgh and parts of Hardrian’s Wall (and other parts of the Northern Pennines) sit on what is known as the Great Whin Sill – a Doleritic intrusion into the Carboniferous rocks. I must admit I had forgotten that myself since my Uni Geology days.

    • jcombe says:

      Thanks, interesting to know about the geology. It reminded me a bit of parts of Somerset, where it’s mostly flat but you get a few hills appearing. There are a few NT/English Heritage join sites (Stonehenge is one).

  2. What a wonderful set of beaches, and a stunning castle too. Great walk.

  3. Still enjoying your Northumbrian walks – lovely to see places I once knew well such as Craster and Dunstaburgh Castle.

  4. Pingback: 253. Inner Farne and the Farne Islands | Round the Island

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