Although public transport in rural areas can be problematic, since I decided to sell my car and use local buses to get about I have to admit that I have felt much more part of the community in which I am walking. For this trip I chose to camp at a small campsite at Budle bay just north of Bamburgh which, apart from being a beautiful area, lies on the bus route from Newcastle. The bus twists around to reach as many small villages as possible and I enjoyed the chit-chat between the passengers and the driver as they picked up conversations started last time they were together on the bus.
This was my first weekend in a tent as I wanted to try out walking & camping in preparation for the Pennine Way. From Budle Bay I had planned 3 walks based on the local bus routes:
- Budle Bay to Bamburgh (5m)
- Belford to St Cuthberts Cave (10m)
- Craster, Howick & Dunstanburgh circular (10m)
Once I had chosen a spot near the river and away from the caravans, I pitched my tent, unpacked, made myself a cup of coffee and prepared for the circular walk to Bamburgh. I was the only solo camper on the site which was unexpected. Walk videos are available on YouTube and all the routes in this post are now available on Viewranger. Apologies for the quality of the photos which were taken on a poor quality camera which I used back in the day. They don’t do the walks justice. Maps on this post are courtesy of Viewranger and Ordnance Survey ©.
Budle Bay to Bamburgh. (5m)
It was a bright weekend at the end of September so the campsite wasn’t too busy but the combine harvesters were at full throttle. I headed out across the golden fields of bales towards Bamburgh. This is a very popular tourist village with a large portion of second homes which has meant that many local people have been priced out of the market. This means that it doesn’t feel vey Northumbrian any more to me. However it is a very attractive village dominated by Lord Armstrong’s restored castle, which employed many local people who were housed in purpose built cottages nearby.
After heading beneath the castle to the coastal track known as The Wynding, I turned south to head back down this lovely stretch of coast overlooking large expanses of sandy beach and rocks.
I followed the high coastal path along behind the top of the dunes with Bamburgh moor to my left and Harkness rocks to my right, past Stag rocks where you can just see the stag painted on the rocks.
I followed the coast path south around Budle point, with great views across the tidal sands of Budle Bay. I then turned inland at Kiln point and headed back along the road to the campsite as dusk fell.
My first night in the tent was alright but my guy ropes weren’t taught enough so the tent flapped a bit during the night. I therefore spent my first night under the stars listening to the sounds of the tent flapping and the rumble of combine harvesters bringing the harvest in.
Belford to St Cuthbert’s Cave (10m)
This is a lovely walk which I hadn’t done for some time so I was looking forward to revisiting it. I was a bit unsure whether the figure of eight route taken from an old book would still be accurate. I took the short bus ride from the campsite gate to my starting point in pretty Belford village, and headed off up the Wooler road. I set off along the easy track past Swinhoe Farm and on to the lovely Swinhoe Lake where I stopped for a snack.
From here I headed through Virgin Hill wood in the sunshine to briefly join the St. Cuthbert’s way heading north.
I continued along the track to Rabbit’s Hill where I followed the base of Raven’s crag round to the lovely village of Holburn.
At Holburn I sat on the grass outside the blacksmiths to enjoy the sunshine and eat my lunch. Here I turned south-eastward along the side of Greensheen Hill towards St Cuthbert’s Cave. This lovely spot can get busy with walking parties so I was not entirely surprised to find a large crocodile of charity walkers. I waited for them to pass before snapping a few pictures and continuing on my way back to Swinhoe Farm.
At Swinhoe Farm my route crossed the path I took on the outward leg and headed back into Belford via Square Woods and West Hall this time. I arrived back in Belford just in time for my bus back to the campsite.
Craster, Howick and Dunstanburgh circular walk (10m)
After another comfortable night in my tent I set off south by bus to the picturesque village of Craster for this combination of two of my favourite shorter walks.
I was glad that the fine forecast for the weekend had been accurate as I set off south on another lovely morning along the clifftop coastal path towards Cullernose Point.
It was a perfect day with only a light breeze on this exposed route. When I reached Stone House I turned inland towards Howick Hall.
At the large gates into Howick Hall I turned north to follow the fields edges to Hips Heugh crags where I had lunch in the shade of this tree.
I passed through Craster South Farm and across another field to emerge by the village Information Centre. Here I turned back to the harbour to head north along the popular walk up to the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle (painted by Turner) before returning back along the coastline pastures to Craster. Here I caught the bus back north for a cup of tea in Bamburgh before returning to my tent for a final night.
This ended up being a lovely weekend with beautiful scenery and good weather. I wish they were all like this one, which was entirely built around available bus timetables and routes, proving that it can be done.
On the kit front, it was a very valuable trial as I learned a lot about various items over the weekend. Most importantly, I discovered that the weight of my pack made it more suitable for car camping or campsite weekends than for backpacking on a multi-day walk, and so began the quest for lightweight kit.