Northumberland coast offers unrivalled family adventures

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With its ancient history, majestic castles, natural beauty and abundant wildlife, the rugged Northumberland coastline is a popular holiday destination.

Having explored the south coast for a few years now, we decided to turn our adventure compass north east and head across country, following the route of Hadrian’s Wall for a large part of our journey.

It’s around three and a half hours from Lancaster to the small harbour town of Seahouses, located about 20km north of Alnwick within the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

We had booked four nights at Spring Hill Farm, which caters for caravanners, campers, and has a number of holiday cottages and wigwams, about a mile west of Seahouses. As we pulled onto the site on a sunny but windy April day we could see we had made the right choice.

The site has stunning views across rolling countryside towards the sea and Farne Islands, with Bamburgh Castle jutting out on its rocky outcrop to the north.

My parents, who are seasoned caravanners, had agreed to meet us there as part of their new nomadic lifestyle, and let us (my wife Liz, me, and our children Will and Zoe) stay in their home on wheels while they retreated safely to one of the wigwams available on the site.

We found the site to be extremely friendly and well run. There were plenty of showers, toilets, and washing areas, with a well-stocked reception and shop that sold fresh bread, eggs and logs as well as hiring out fire pits for £3 a night.

A must in my eyes for a proper camping trip, but it was the views, especially when waking up in the morning, that really made this site special.

The kids’ play area too was perfect, safe, and our six-year-old son Will happily spent hours until bedtime playing with the other kids on the site.

We were spoilt for choice when it came to days out.

On the first day we headed down into Seahouses, a bustling little place with a stone harbour and distinct maritime heritage.

The car park, where you pay £4 for a days’ parking, was packed, but ample, with many people heading down to the harbour for one of the boat trips.

We chose the one and a half hour grey seal cruise with Billy Shiel’s Farne Island Trips.

Tickets can be purchased (£13 adult, £9 children) from the kiosk on the harbour’s jetty.

We boarded the Glad Tidings IV with around 100 others, and found seats inside the boat. The water was choppy and the boat rocked from side to side but the kids were loving it (and not going green) so we ventured out to the front of the boat for the best views.

Glad Tidings took us around the Farne Islands and their wild natural beauty, as the captain pointed out sights of interest.

The closer we got the more wildlife started popping up around us. Literally.

Inquisitive seals studied our approach from the water close to the shore, and beautifully coloured puffins flew around us.

As we rounded one island we saw hundreds of grey seals basking on the rocky beaches, slipping into the water or popping their heads out from the shallows.

The kids loved it, and we didn’t expect to see so many seals in one place. We also saw guillemots and numerous other seabirds.

This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

Along the coast to the north, Holy Island, or Lindisfarne, is steeped in history dating back to the 6th century. It was an important centre of Celtic Christianity under Saints Aidan, Cuthbert, Eadfrith and Eadberht. After Viking invasions and the Norman conquest of England a priory was reestablished and a small castle was built upon it in 1550.

You can drive across the causeway when the tide is out, adding to the adventure as you have to leave before it comes back in, or stay until it changes again. We visited the ruined abbey and the winery, purveying the fabled Lindisfarne Mead, which we enjoyed back at the campsite later.

On the way back we visited Bamburgh Castle, again full of stories of bloody battles, conquests and power struggles.

In Seahouses, The Ship Inn pub is a must for real ale and traditional pub lovers, and it’s an easy walk back to Spring Hill Farm along the coast and down car free country lanes.

For great fresh fish, Swallow Fish Ltd can be found down winding streets in the old part of the town.

The business is based in The Fisherman’s Kitchen complete with the original smokehouses, which have operated on this site since 1843.

We barbequed their seabass and kippers on the last night.

Northumberland is an awe inspiring place, and needless to say, none of us wanted to leave. On the journey home we visited parts of Hadrians Wall, and vowed to return to the north east soon to visit Berwick-upon-Tweed, Alnwick Castle and more of the beautiful coastline.

By Nick Lakin

Accommodation:

We stayed for four nights in a touring caravan at Spring Hill Farm, Seahouses. Prices (4 adults, 2 children, one dog and awning) are around £31 a night. www.springhill-farm.co.uk, tel 01665 572180.

Boat tours:

Billy Shiel’s Farne Island Boat Trips, www.farne-islands.com, tel 01665 720308.

Local amenities:

There is a Co-op supermarket, bakery, fresh fish shop and numerous fish and chips shops and pubs/restaurants in Seahouses.

Bamburgh Castle:

Located in the village of Bamburgh, Open all year round, check www.bamburghcastle.com for details.