Bait, ales and accidental birdwatching on the Northumberland Coastal Route

A step-by-step guide to making the most of a bank holiday and driving on some of the North East's best roads.

For some, the ideal bank holiday weekend involves a few Sunday sherbets and late-night kebab wrap, safe in the knowledge that there's no alarm the following morning.

For the driving enthusiasts among us, however, the long weekend is also an excellent excuse to get out on a long drive.

By that I'm not meaning the extended trip you make after getting halfway down the A1 before realising you've left the in-law's Christmas presents under the tree - a true story, but one for another blog post maybe.

I'm talking the sort of trip you make just for the sake of driving.

And in the North East we're lucky to have the Northumberland Coastal Route. It's got the food, the views, and most importantly, some brilliant sections of road.

It's got everything

Whether you're going for a runout on your own or looking to entertain a car full for an afternoon, there's plenty going on.

Alnmouth village from the beach

Starting in Alnmouth, and running 30-odd miles north to Holy Island, there is plenty to see, do and - crucially - eat along the length of the route.

Which is why I’d recommend having only a light snack before setting off. Mind you, if you spy the sarnies and pies on offer at The Village Tearooms in Alnmouth, your idea of ‘light’ might alter.

To Craster

If you’re able to fend off the urge to eat until you’re actually on the route, Craster is only 20-odd minutes up the road.

Food at the Jolly Fisherman in Craster
The Jolly Fisherman, Craster

Sitting right by the harbour walls you’ll find The Jolly Fisherman, with its excellent pub grub and choice of ales – perfect for lunch or the Northumbrian answer to a champagne brunch.

And after you’ve eaten, you can burn off the surplus by walking the coastal path towards the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, a National Trust spot.

It’s also worth a trip to L. Robson & Sons if you’re a fan of seafood. The traditional smokehouse is known around the world for its smoked salmon and ‘Craster Kippers’, so you’d do well to pack a few for the trip.

Up to Beadnell

Head west from Craster and follow Windyside Hill until you hit the B1339 again – the A-to-Z name for the Alnmouth end of the route.

The coast at Low Newton

There are a few worthwhile stops on or near this next leg, like the sometimes-overlooked beach at Low Newton, but if you’re the designated driver you might want to take full advantage of this stretch without pause.

The 8 or so miles between the point you re-join the 1339 and Beadnell offer a 15-minute mix of long straights, winding bends and the occasional butterfly-inducing dip in the road.

It’s not just the driver that’ll enjoy this route, though, as there are plenty of open fields and low hedges for great passenger views.

Follow the road up through Embleton and onto the B1340 just southeast of Brunton Airfield, and then all the way along to Swinhoe, our next suggested stop. 

Pizza with a view

Where the 1340 turns east by Swinhoe, you want to be taking the first right. Granted, there are more food options on the coastal route than there is time to even look at the menus, but this is one of the more unique eateries.

Box in Swinhoe serves up traditional wood-fired pizzas in a converted shipping container.
Box, Swinhoe

Box serves up wood-fired pizzas from a converted shipping container overlooking Beadnell Bay, as well as breakfast, lunch and drinks.

They have plans to expand in future, but for now this spot is the only permanent home for their unique take on al fresco dining.

From here follow the 1340 across to Beadnell and then up to Seahouses.

Something for everyone in the car

If you’ve followed this writeup step by step I doubt you’re ready for more food and drink just yet, but there’s a bit more going on in Seahouses, so it’s worth a stop anyhow.

Fishing boats at Seahouses

The Bunker, just opposite the lifeboat station on Seafield Road, has 18-hole crazy golf and a soft play area for the younger passengers.

And if you have more time to spare, regular boat trips run from the harbour out to the Farne Islands, a nature reserve just a few miles off the Northumberland coast. 

The excursions can last anywhere between a couple of hours and half a day, so you’re best off planning ahead to avoid landing on the birdwatching trip by accident and coming back to a parking ticket on the windscreen.

On to Bamburgh

The next stretch of road runs alongside the beach up to Bamburgh. The sandy beach behind the castle is ideal for a stroll, with a whole load of space for your four-legged pals to dart about on and the opportunity for some Insta-worthy shots.

Bamburgh's Front Street, with Bamburgh Castle in the background

Bamburgh Castle itself is open for visitors too, and offers an interesting look into the history of the grounds and the region.

The Grace Darling Museum is also just down the road, commemorating the life of the titular local hero who saved nine sailors from a shipwreck in 1838. 

Although the Coastal Route technically ends at Holy Island, you’d be forgiven for wrapping up the journey in Bamburgh. But not before a bit more bait. 

The final leg (of lamb)

There are a few pubs and restaurants to ponder while you walk the length of Bamburgh beach, but I’d be going for the Lord Crewe on Front Street.

Outside the Lord Crewe in Bamburgh at sunset
The Lord Crewe, Bamburgh

The beer-battered haddock and fries (with mushy peas of course) is my dish of choice – if it isn’t clear by now, I’m after stodge rather than presentation.

Given you’re still after some adventure, Holy Island is only half an hour up the road if you time it right with the tides, with yet more stunning scenery and history to match.

If you want more info on the route we’ve taken, or other excursions and days out you can fill your time with this weekend, have a look at the Visit Northumberland site or pop in one of their Tourist Information Centres.

 

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