(23rd March 2014 – 11 miles including 2 miles off-route)
After an all right breakfast Jim, Tracy and I left The Blue Bell Inn – for ever – and set out on our short day’s walk to Bamburgh.
We passed quickly, quietly, hobbit-like through little Embleton, crossed the local golf course and returned to the beach.
The weather was still glorious and I wondered how many more clear, sunny days we could have for goodness sake. We pulled out our sunglasses – again, rubbed in sunblock – again
and traipsed on northwards – again. I thought it warm but Jim insisted on a funny hat – again.
I gazed back at lovely Dunstanburgh Castle and worried if I would ever revisit.
Sure would, I now know. Northumberland has developed a strong pull on me and I was back within 16 months.
After a mile, we arrived in Low-Newton-by-the-Sea with its attractive pub … but even I don’t drum my fingers outside bars at 9.50am. Usually.
Without a stop, we climbed a slight headland beyond the village
and passed more empty beaches
on a sandy path through marram grass.
I automatically lifted my camera at a flicker of life in a bush and, zooming in, realised that what I had thought to be an unexciting house-sparrow was nothing of the sort. I’d have to wait until I got home, however, and peruse my ‘Beginners Guide to Sparrow-like Birds With a Black Bib‘ (a slim volume) to learn its true identity: a male reed bunting. Fancy. Seeing a new species is always gratifying for me … in an anorak-wearing, tick-tick kind of way.
Tracy and Jim waited patiently for me to catch up after yet another twitcher diversion. They’ve become used to my frequent stops and hardly even grumble any more. (I’m still not sure of that hat, Jim. Gives you a look of Mrs Overall).
Back on the shore, and whilst lost in a beach-comber-sea-salt moment, I missed the slight detour to Long Nanny Bridge for an easy crossing of Brunton Burn which otherwise blocked our way.
Instead of back-tracking, if fearful of wet feet, we gingerly sploshed and splashed across the wide, shallow stream picking our way through a network of deeper channels and sandbanks. But heroically we did so without wet socks! Which was a pleasing triumph of the “you had to be there” sort.
We had a cup of sad coffee in a Beadnell pub garden, set up the self-timer on my camera, smiled to show just what an enviable time we were having and marched on to lunch.
Off to our right lay the Farne Islands with the largest – Inner Farne – closest. I lied in my last post saying that Dunstanburgh Castle sits on the last outcrop of the Whin Sill: the final vestige is actually the Farnes. (This is the same rocky escarpment that Hadrian’s Wall clung to for so many miles before I started on the St Oswald’s Way). Boat trips from nearby Seahouses run out to the islands during the summer – a trip I’d long dreamed of. When, in July 2015, I finally made the voyage to the huge raucous bird colonies it was a gold star day. (There’s an account of that trip and the wildlife I saw – here).
But boat trip or no, there was plenty of bird-life right here on the mainland. Some birds coyly refused to come within camera range but I did snap one of many Oystercatchers,
a curlew (not many of them)
and a pair of eider ducks. As usual with birds, the female eider pulled the short straw from the flamboyance fist.
Oh, and a starling. I took a photo of a starling. Not terribly exciting but at least this one was personal-hygiene-aware. I can’t abide a smelly starling.
At Seahouses we squeezed into arguably the best pub of my two-week walk – The Olde Ship Inn. The main bar is a madness of brass ornaments and, on our visit, a comprehensive collection of salty old sea-dogs. The Ship, first licensed in 1812, is a charming warren of corridors and public rooms. They serve a delicious crab sandwich and lager lunch too. If you ever find yourself in Seahouses, do seek it out. Sated and jolly we rolled down to the harbour and a view of two more castles. Directly ahead was massive Bamburgh, our day’s goal;
whilst further off, and marking the end of the St Oswald’s Way, sat Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island.
The SOW cuts inland after Seahouses but, as it was low tide, we pooh-poohed that silly idea and stuck to the firm beach for the last mile or two. Gusts of wind whipped up the sand into mesmerizing currents leading us on like spooky mist. (Not that spooky, you’re right).
At 3.30 we arrived at Bamburgh Castle on the site of King Oswald’s capital.
Bamburgh is impressive but aesthetically it leaves me a little cold. I think a heavy Victorian renovation has robbed it of the charm of say, Dunstanburgh or Warkworth. But hey, that’s just my opinion.
We circled the ramparts and found a tea-shop garden where Jim and I chatted to a Weimaraner-owning couple as only those who’ve owned a Weimaraner can and will do. Tracy quickly glazed over and nodded face first into her carrot cake.
We prodded her awake, wiped the butter-cream off her face, promised not to talk about Weimaraners anymore (today) and set off on a final mile out of the village to our night’s rest, Glororum B&B. This was another great choice (by Tracy) and we didn’t begrudge that extra mile, nor her disinterest in Weimaraners.
I even forgave it a pink and lime colour combo which led me straight back to my similar room at The Queen’s Head, Rothbury. Am I missing a trick with lime and pink bedrooms? Do I know nothing about interior decorating? Probably not … but I remain unconvinced. Lime and pink indeed.
After a freshen up, we walked the mile back into Bamburgh for dinner and ale but couldn’t face the third mile back yet again to the Glororum. We agreed it was hardly cheating to hail a cab … and besides Tracy got to chat up the driver. So that was nice.
We were now only a day and a half from Berwick and Walk’s End. Tomorrow – our last full day – would be easy-going under a warm sun. Maybe I wasn’t so bad in a previous life after all.