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The Northumberland Coast
three days along St Oswald's Way



This walk is described in more specific detail than usual because we weren't sure if we could do justice to this magnificent coast in three days including travel from London. It turned out to be a hugely satisfying walk, perhaps helped by the mild mid-October weather of 2021. We had much enjoyed St Cuthbert's Way, and had wondered about St Oswald's Way; at 97 miles, with some long sections, it might be a bit much for us. This version includes most of the coast, and could easily be extended to include Holy Island.

We used the 1:2500 OS Explorer maps 332 and 340, but you might get away with something smaller - navigation is easy and the signage is good. With the exception of Seahouses, the towns are really settlements, not reliable for provisions etc. In a way this enhanced the walk - nature was predominant, not human activity.


Day 1: Alnmouth to Craster (9 miles)
We caught the 9:30 train from Kings Cross, arriving at Alnmouth at 13:07. I was concerned about the time, because we hadn't been able to find accommodation in Craster and were catching the 17:13 bus back to Alnmouth, where there are several hotels. However, the walking is easy and level (photos 1 and 2), and we approached Craster (photo 3) with an hour to spare in the drizzle, walked about a bit and sat in the covered bus stop waiting for the 418. It arrived exactly on time, here is the current schedule. (There was a later bus but we needed to be back in Alnmouth.) Going back to where you started didn't feel as silly as we thought it might, and...

Day 2: Craster to Seahouses (12 miles)
...next morning caught the 9:15 bus back to Craster, where we saw the harbour (photo 4), bought fresh crab sandwiches at Robson's Smokehouse and had a wonderful breakfast (photo 5) at the Shoreline cafe. This second day was magnificent. The walk to Dunstanburgh Castle (photo 6) is justly famous. The path goes round to the left (photos 7 and 8), but you have time for a visit, we only took 5 hours for the day, including stops. There is a nice-looking pub at Low Newton-by-the-Sea, but it was shut the day we were there, so it was soon on to our next goal, Beadnell, and we also began to notice geological features (photo 9). After a last look back (photo 10) we left the path to take the sandy route across the exhiliarating Beadnell Bay (photo 11), to eat sandwiches with a view of its harbour (photo 12). Going through Beadnell (photo 13) we didn't see any shops, and as the path goes along a road we were soon back on the beach (photo 14 - plenty of room for all users) and the interesting cliff (photo 15) into Seahouses.

Day 3: Seahouses to Belford (10 miles)
Could this day match the previous one? The path goes inland because of the road, so we found a way past the rocks (photo 16) and down to the beach, with a lovely view of the Farne Islands (photo 17). A little further on we went over the stream at Monks House and came to Greenhill Rocks (photos 18, 19 and 20), noticing huge variations in geology. Just beyond there was a group of Primary school pupils (photo 21) - they were very excited, they had spent last night on Holy Island and had just seen a dolphin. Then came the second great castle, Bamburgh (photos 22 and 23). Past the castle (there is plenty of time for a visit) we picked our way up through the dunes to rejoin the path and on to a small road (photo 24), which continued as a path through a golf course (photo 25) to some wonderful benches looking across Budle Bay (photo 26) - colours, wind surfers, and (in the distance) Holy Island. Soon after this we followed the map carefully up a left turn, across the golf course (photo 27), over Lonsdales Hill and through the countryside. This was pleasant, but what most attracted us were the views back (photo 28). Our speed was slower, but we were in plenty of time to get across rail and road links and other human activity (photo 29) to Belford (photo 30). With plenty of time before the 16:20 bus back, we did find a place to drink and eat before the bus (again arriving on time) meandered us back over the places we had been. Our train was not until 19:43, so we went to Almouth town and later walked to the station (1½ miles) to get back to Kings Cross at 23:33 - although a signalling failure at Hitchin made it 02:13 next morning. London's good night bus system helped us to not let this little hiccup spoil three wonderful days.

(Click on a photo to see a large version.)
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