Here’s Sue Austin writing in the Shropshire Star in October 2004.
Slow Down For Pleasure
Sue Austin samples the delights of a holiday cottage amid the calm and beauty of Northumberland.
We had been at Beacon Hill for 24 hours – and were finding it difficult to make the effort to go out and explore. I had always wanted to visit Northumberland and see for myself its magnificent castles, deserted beaches and rolling hills. But here I was, in its midst, and perfectly happy to remain just where I was!
After all, Beacon Hill Farm was the very essence of Northumberland countryside. Why go further when the farm itself is on the site of an ancient beech wood, has a lovely lake and 350 acres to explore? Sitting in the garden room of Beacon Hill Cottage enjoying the spring sunshine, watching red squirrels play just yards away and with a spectacular view to both the east and the south, what else did I need? Already, we had enjoyed a walk in the woods, a couple of games of tennis and the luxury of the sauna, steam room jacuzzi and superb swimming pool, all within a couple of minutes walk of the cottage. I had worked out in the gym and even had a wonderful de-stressing massage at Beacon Hill’s very own beauty salon.
The complex is part of the Premier Cottages organisation, which offers more than 700 self catering, independently owned, cottages across the United Kingdom. Originally a working farm, it opened the first of its holiday cottages about 16 years ago after the owner, Alun Moore, suffered a spinal injury and was unable to continue farming. Since then, he and his wife, Clare, have restored and converted some accommodation, built new holiday cottages, and created a small, but luxurious leisure complex.
There is fly fishing on the lake, country rides are available in the summer and, as a pilot, Alun is even able to offer shared costs flights over Northumberland. He believes that holidaymakers should slow down their pace of life, saying too many people spend their vacation racing around trying to see everything and never find time to relax. ‘Why travel 30 miles to have a picnic, when you can walk down to Meg’s Lake and enjoy the beauty and peace of Beacon Hill?” he said.
It is easy to run out of superlatives to describe the cottage accommodation. Beacon Hill Cottage is a very worthy owner of its prestigious, five star rating. Clare’s flair for colour and decor shines through in every room and while the historic country cottage retains its olde world charm it has every mod con imaginable. And Alun and Clare ensure those little touches that make a holiday special, from welcoming lights on as you arrive, fresh flowers, coal and logs and even a pot of homemade marmalade.
However, eventually rested and relaxed, we did set out to explore part of England’s most northern county. The journey there had in itself been an exploration of the most ancient Northumberland landmark – Hadrian’s Wall. We drove off the busy A69 and on a deserted, switchback road, followed the route of the wall, stopping off at the various National Trust points along the way. So, having seen parts of the countryside, we decided against the Keilder Forest and headed for the coast and Northumberland’s castles.
With Alun’s warning of not to try to do too much ringing in our ears and the tide tables showing that getting on to Holy Island would be difficult, we decided against a visit to Lindisfarne, a slight disappointment to me.
Disappointing for the kids was that Alnwick Castle, turned into Hogwarts for the Harry Potter films, was closed until Easter. But the two castles we did see more than made up for any disappointment. Bamburgh Castle is perched on a basalt outcrop on the very edge of the North Sea. It is itself dramatic. But one of its joys is the historic village at its base, a step back into time and the home of heroine, Grace Darling.
After a brisk walk along a dramatic, deserted beach, we all decided that, rather than eat out, we would prefer to go ‘home’ and enjoy a meal in the garden room at Beacon Hill Cottage, from which red squirrels could be seen through the windows.
The following day saw one of those magic moments that make a holiday – a short drive to Craster and a quite outstanding coastline walk to Dunstanburgh Castle. Craster is another of those villages that seem to be in a time warp. The picturesque fishing village which dates back to the 17th century is famous for its traditionally oak smoked kippers.
It was a perfect day, blue skies, a breeze whipping up the white horses crashing on the rocky beach and up ahead the dramatic ruins of the castle coming ever closer into view. We enjoyed the scenery so much, we lingered far too long and by the time we were finally leaving Beacon Hill for home, the sun was beginning to set.
It only added to our perfect weekend. For the Northumberland hills looked so mysterious as the sun began to drop, they could have come out of the pages of Tolkien. And the icing on the cake was seeing the sun set over Hadrian’s Wall as we again forsook the trunk roads for the ancient Roman road heading west.