This 20 mile, two day walk represents the first half of the Northumberland Coast Path (65 miles / 101 km) which begins at Cresswell and finishes at Berwick upon Tweed on the Scottish border, with an option to continue northwards along the Berwickshire Coastal Path for a further 30 miles / 48 km to Cockburnspath in Scotland. It shares parts of the route with the Coast and Castles Cycle Route and forms part of the England Coast Path. Apparently it is now possible to obtain a walkers passport which can be stamped at various stages along the route.
From Cresswell the route broadly follows the coast as far as Bamburgh before heading inland to Belford and the Kyloe Hills. From here it joins the St. Cuthbert’s Way and returns to the coast at the causeway to Holy Island, before continuing to Berwick upon Tweed. Beyond Berwick, the more strenuous Berwickshire Coastal Path heads through Eyemouth, Burnmouth and St Abbs as far as Cockburnspath.
I had hoped that this would be my first wild camping trail on reasonably local turf, but unfortunately this was not to be. Although I took a full kit, I haven’t listed it as it never came out of my rucksack for reasons which I will explain. I managed to walk from Cresswell as far as Craster on this attempt. The second half from Craster to Berwick is still to come if I can work out the logistics.
- Cresswell to Amble 7 miles / 11km
- Amble to Craster 14 miles / 22.5 km
I took the bus from Newcastle to Ashington, and from there took another bus to the small coastal village of Cresswell. The village marks the start of the path with an information board next to the sparsely stocked shop. Cresswell marks the end of the industrial stretch of coastline north of the River Tyne which extends as far as Blyth.
1/ Cresswell to Amble
My route began with six miles of the sweeping white sands of Druridge Bay which is popular with local people in search of some bracing sea air. Just inland of the bay is a nature reserve called Druridge Bay Country Park, whose cafe was unfortunately closed when I passed on a weekday. Fortunately this area has been recently saved by the government from a proposal to develop it for open cast mining.
Round the rocky promontary at the end of the bay lies the small picturesque town of Amble, which looks out onto the nearby bird reserve on Coquet Island. The island is home to 40,000 nesting sea birds such as Puffins, Roseate Terns, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Artic Terns, Kittiwakes and Eider ducks which nest there in the summer. Also a Grey Seal colony can be seen on the eastern shore of the island. Coquet island is reachable via Puffin Cruises at Amble.
The town also has a small marina and some fine fish and chip shops.
Amble marked the end of my first short day. Unfortunately this stretch of the coastline is lined with no camping signs, so I reluctantly decided to take the bus home and rejoin my route the following day.
2/ Amble to Craster
Luckily the fine, settled weather continued into my second day. Skirting the edge of the town, my route followed the River Coquet inland to Warkworth with its 12th century castle. This is the first of several castles along this route.
After about four or five miles, the track diverts inland to cross the broad marshes of the River Aln estuary and into the town. Alnmouth is a picturesque coastal town with a hotel which claims to be haunted. It is a short bus ride from the market town of Alnwick with its well known castle and gardens.
The quiet path north of Alnmouth hugs the rocky coastline past RAF Boulmer where something ominously called battlespace management is based, alongside the local rescue helicopters.
At times I walked along the sands, while at other times my route followed a barely visible path through the tall bracken inland of the dunes which line the beach. Unfortunately during these stretches, the path often loses sight of the sea completely.
Finally the sands reappeared as I followed the final few miles towards the pretty former fishing village of Craster, known for its smoked kippers and popular short walk to Dunstanburgh Castle.
The next mile or so is very dramatic as it follows a cliff top walk around Cullernose point and into Craster. I enjoyed a quick drink at the pub, before catching the last, quiet bus back to Newcastle.
Impressions so far
This 65 mile / 101 km walk is pleasant enough during settled weather. First impressions are that this route is aimed at and marketed for B&B walkers rather than campers or backpackers, which may or may not be what you are looking for. There isn’t much decent camping or budget accommodation on the section that I covered, except for a couple of industrial sized caravan parks, and warnings against camping are prominent.
Amble, Alnmouth, Warkworth and Craster have accommodation, shops, pubs, cafes and the usual facilities of small towns, so it would be fairly easy to get B&B accommodation and to stock up for the journey. The route perversely diverts inland for some attractive coastal stretches, which is frustrating. As there is more to the route than simply walking northwards along the beach, more signposts would be helpful in places. I used the Northumberland Coast Path Harvey Trail Map for this route which also includes the Berwickshire Coastal Path.