Beaches of Northumberland
When staying at Beacon Hill Farm on a luxury self catering holiday near the coast, why not sample some of Northumberland’s finest beaches? The beaches and coastline in Northumberland are some of the most spectacular in the UK.
Northumberland BeachUnlike many parts of Britain, there are still uncrowded, room-to-breathe and unspoilt beaches in Northumbria – often stretching for mile after mile, with hardly a soul in sight. Check out this wonderful coast with beaches, some of which were voted, in a survey conducted by the National Trust, amongst the 50 best beaches in the UK. Our region excels in great beaches and Embleton was voted the best beach in the Britain! I can only think that it was an error of judgement that caused Bamburgh and Druridge Bay to be omitted. Maybe they didn’t want too many beaches in one county! Below are descriptions of the Northumberland beaches than you can see whilst staying at Beacon Hill.
Embleton Bay, Northumberland
There’s also an intriguing collection of wartime pillboxes, which remain only because access across the adjacent golf course was denied to the demolition gang. This is the favourite beach for guests enjoying a self catering holday at Beacon Hill Farm.
Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve
Holy Island Sands and South Fenham Flats – together about 10 Square Kilometres of beach – are wonderful areas for wildfowl, bounded on the north by the coastal dunes of Holy island. Six species of birds that spend the winter here are of international significance: pale- belied Brent geese, redshank, bar tailed, godwit, greylag gees. And in the sheltered areas of fine sand around the southern end of Holy Island, look out for fawn, heart-shaped urchins densely covered in yellow spines and pink, stripy, translucent sea cucumbers. (This is the beach I call Ross Sands in the file.)
Boulmer Haven, Northumberland
Arm yourself with a tide to plan the best time to visit this small sandy beach sheltered by about three kilometres of rocky reef running parallel to the shore, which is exposed at low tide. It has deep gullies and pools and many overhangs, and is thickly grown with all the most familiar inter-tidal seaweeds and rich in every kind of marine invertebrate – especially animals that are permanently attached to the rocks – such as sponges, bryozoans, sea firs and the soft coral, dead-man’s fingers, aconitum digitatum.
Beaches of Northumberland from North to South
Enclosed by the best surviving Elizabethan town walls in Europe, Berwick is attractively situated on the northern shore of the wide mouth of the River Tweed. But it is the three bridges spanning the river that catch the eye. The present Berwick Bridge was begun in 1611. It carried the Great North Road until 1928, when the graceful concrete arches of the Royal Tweed Bridge were built alongside. Upstream are the tall, slender arches of the Royal Border Railway Bridge, opened in 1850 as the last link in the London to Edinburgh railway. Between 1147 and 1482, in the border troubles between England and Scotland, the town changed hands 13 times. Its walls, over a mile long and 22 feet high, have been preserved intact since they were completed on orders from Elizabeth I in about 1560.
On the seaward side of the pier is a sandy beach sheltered from the waves by a rocky reef. The reef continues northwards for about a mile to a cove where there is another sandy beach, behind a stone breakwater, and a swimming pool on the foreshore. Soft white sands on the southern shore of the river mouth are exposed by the tide. Here salmon fishers, using distinctive blue rowing boats with spoon-shaped bows and wide, flat sterns, set their nets across the river. There is a sailing club, and a lifeboat and inshore rescue boat serve the area. Swimming from the pleasant sandy beach at Spittal, south of the river mouth, is safe except for an hour each side of low water.
The long stretch of white sands is fringed by sandy grassland on which sheep and black cattle graze. The beach is reached by paths across this grassland but is unsafe for swimming. Unexploded wartime relics are occasionally exposed.
Access by a narrow lane to sprawling mudflats that are cut by tidal channels. The area provides a habitat for many kinds of marsh and seabirds.
Access by path across links grazed by cattle and sheep to a spectacular sandy beach with safe swimming and little more than a farmhouse within three miles in any direction. North of Belford, with Bamburgh Castle at one end and Lindisfarne at the other, this has been called the most spectacular beach in England.
A narrow raised road crosses the mile-wide tidal sands to Holy Island, then continues along the island’s foreshore for nearly two miles. It is impassable for about 3 hours before and 3+ hours after high water: warning notices indicate when it is safe to cross. When the tide comes in it covers the road, which has a good surface, to a depth of up to six feet; tidal currents could sweep cars into the sea.
One year some guests got stuck on the causeway and had to seek refuge in the box on stilts. It is not much fun watching your car being submerged in salt water – it is a write-off automatically. The tide comes in at 34 mph, so don’t take chances!! Many people have lost their lives on this causeway. (See tide tables in the entrance to the swimming pool.)
This low-lying island, whose ancient name was Lindisfarne, was the cradle of Christianity in England. St Aidan founded the first English diocese here in AD 635. The castle, on a knoll near the foreshore, was built c1550 and restored as a private dwelling in 1900. Owned by the National Trust, it is open between 10.30 am and 4.30 pm – subject to tides (except Fridays) from April to October (Wed only in June) and on certain other days indicated by a flag hoisted above the castle. The ruined 11th-century Lindisfarne Priory is open daily.
The village is on the south-west point of the island. Below it is a sheltered bay where a tiny pier protects the small fleet of fishing boats. Swimming is safe, but the beach is pebbly at low tide. The grassy shore of the bay is dotted with the upturned hulks of herring boats which have been cut in half, propped up, covered with black tar, and turned into fishermen’s huts. (Be warned – the island is usually very busy during the summer months.)
This shallow estuary fills with water only at high tide, when the sea flows around the sand bar at the entrance. Swimming is extremely dangerous here. The marshes are frequented by many types of wildfowl and are part of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, which protects the dunes and wildlife in the area of Holy Island. East of the hamlet of Waren Mill, on the B1342, is a grassy roadside area, fenced by white rails. From it there are views over the marshes where birds such as duck, pink-footed goose and oystercatcher can be seen feeding.
The sight of red-sandstone Bamburgh Castle, standing on a rocky outcrop above a magnificent beach of clean white sand, is breathtaking. The walls and rocks below form a 150-foot precipice. Most of the visible parts of the castle were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was used as a boarding school to train servant girls. The first fortification was built in AD 547 by King Ida and was rebuilt by the Normans. The castle is open daily, Easter to September. North of the castle a cliff-top lane leads to a small lighthouse. The sandy beach, stretching southward to Seahouses, is studded with rocky reefs, but there is safe swimming away from the rocks.
The village of unpretentious and charming sandstone houses is best known for its heroine, Grace Darling, who was born in 1815 in a house opposite the church and died of tuberculosis at the age of 26 in a house that is now a gift shop. At the height of a storm in 1838 Grace rowed an open boat to the rescue of shipwrecked sailors. The 21-foot boat in which (with her father, a lighthouse keeper in the Farne Islands) she saved five people from the wreck of the steamer Forfarshire is displayed in the Grace Darling Museum. Open daily from Easter until the end of September.
A fantastic experience in the nesting season. This trip has made a big impact on some visitors. The National Trust allows visitors to land on Inner Farne and Staple Island between April and September. This is a world-famous seabird sanctuary and has the largest grey seal colony in England.
Fishing village with a busy harbour from which regular boat services run to the Farne Islands during the summer. The fishing cobles go mainly after lobster, crab and prawns. The harbour and cottages date from the last century but are now surrounded by modern houses. Swallow Fish is an excellent place to buy fresh fish and crustaceans. The Old Ship Inn above the harbour is an excellent pub with very high standards and is full of character. The beer is kept very well and the genuine fishing memorabilia is a joy.
Village of holiday houses built on a low-lying headland, with a rocky eastern shore and a delightful bay of sheltered water and sparkling clean sand to the south. The ruins of limekilns built c.1790 and now owned by the National Trust overlook a tiny stone haven, which accommodates a handful of fishing boats called cobles. Swimming is safe though the beach becomes exposed further south. A large caravan park is well concealed behind the beach south of the village.
An offshore reef creates an almost perfect natural harbour for a few fishing boats and shelters a sandy beach backed by dunes. Low Newton-by-the-Sea is a quaint square of terraced fishermen’s cottages with a public house.
A mile-long sandy bay with paths leading over the golf course to the foreshore: swimming is dangerous at high tide but there are many picnic spots among the low sand dunes fringing the high-tide mark. The ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle are an imposing sight to the south, and this is one of the best beaches on this coastline.
The tiny harbour of this historic, unspoilt village was built in 1906 to export whinstone, a hard rock used for road-metal. It used to accommodate a herring fleet, and Craster kippers, smoked in curing sheds, are a speciality. The few cobles still using the harbour now land lobster and crab. Good crab sandwiches in the Jolly Fisherman pub. From the village – an absolute must in my view – walk along to Dunstanburgh Castle.
The impressive ruins of the great early 14th-century fortress look down on a rocky inlet that once sheltered Henry VIII’s navy. The castle (open daily), changed hands several times during the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century and has been a ruin since 1538. Coloured quartz crystals, known locally as Dunstanburgh Diamonds, can be picked up on the shore beneath the castle. If it is closed, just climb over the field gate to gain entry. The National Trust are quite aware of this practice and have made no attempt to stop it.
Sandy cove set in extensive rocks that skirt the headland and are exposed at half-tide. Access to the cove is by road from Low Stead Farm.
Sandy beach and natural harbour for cobles sheltered by a half-mile-long rocky reef with only one seaward entrance. The small village of grey houses is next to a former airfield just inland which is the base for air-sea rescue helicopters, and a local rescue boat is also based at the Haven, so this is a good place to be washed out to sea!
Just south of Seaton Point there is a bay of clean white sand where swimming is safe. This beach, which is backed by low, sandy cliffs, can be accessed from the car park of
Northumberland’s oldest port, granted a charter by King John in 1207, this village of red-roofed houses has a good beach running north from the estuary.
A cluster of rocks in the centre of the three-mile sweep of white sands between Alnmouth and Warkworth. A path leads to it from the A1068, south of the signpost to Northfield Farm.
Bounded on three sides by a loop of the attractive River Coquet, and centred on the ruins of the 12th / 14th-century castle mentioned by Shakespeare in Henry IV, this quiet town of grey stone houses is one of the most attractive in the North East. Half a mile up-river from the castle (open daily) is a 14th century hermitage and chapel cut into the cliff; it can be reached by hired boat. A boat trip on a warm day is great fun and very attractive. When I was younger a few drinks in the Hermitage Inn and then a row up the river with a bottle of wine was one of my regular courting techniques! Incidentally, the old bridge in Warkworth is one of the few remaining fortified bridges in the country, built in the 14th century.
Built as a coal port in the 19th century, the harbour area has been attractively restored and now has one of the countys largest fishing fleets. Between May and August boat trips operate from the old harbour.
Low-lying rock-girt island with a lighthouse. Until the 16th century the island was a refuge for monks and hermits. Although monks have not died out, there are very few hermits left and none here. It is possible to hire a boat to go around this island on private bird-watching trips.
Nearly five miles of magnificent beach backed by low sand dunes. The closest beach to Beacon Hill and is almost due east of here; about eight miles as the crow flies. It is a vast deserted bay and a good place for a long walk with firm sand and few natural obstructions. To get here drive down to the A697, turn towards Morpeth. After 200 yards turn left (opposite the Garden Centre). Drive to the end of that road and you hit the A1. Turn left and drive north for about 4 miles past the Causey Park Bridge turn. Turn right for Widdrington. Once you are on this road keep going straight at every junction or round about. On arrival at Druridge turn left and drive at the back of the dunes and park wherever you wish. This is an excellent Beach and it is only 15 minutes away from Beacon Hill.
That’s it folks: a definitive guide to the main beaches of Northumberland. There are some excellent beaches, as good as any you would find anywhere in the world… but Beacon Hill guests return after a day at the beach and swim in the Beacon Hill pool which is a tad warmer!