• Ruth Towell

Castles and Coastline, an exploration of Northumberland.

Updated: Aug 26


The hilltop castle on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

2020 is a year of focussing in, realising what's been underneath our noses all along. As international travel has been swept off the cards for many, I, like many other brits, have decided to explore what's right outside my door.

Northumberland is just a couple of hundred miles drive up the A1 from me, yet it's somewhere I had never explored. An ancient county, filled with history immortalised in countless castles dotted along the coast, with vast beaches and quaint harbour towns. Northumberland is a destination whose cultural heritage rivals countless European tourist towns.

Amble was my base, a small harbour town with the slight salty smell of fishing boats catching the breeze. Every evening, I'd go for a walk around the pier in the warm golden sunset light, watching fishermen as they'd congregate at the end of the day to try their luck off the walkway as the tide came in.

It's common to find a castle set into the Northumberland coastline, a historic frontline on the North Sea, defending England from the advances of the Vikings. Bamburgh Castle is a beautiful example, preserved throughout the years as it adapted to the changes of time.

Bamburgh, alongside most other Northumberland castles, sits overlooking the North Sea, with a vast stretch of wild beach acting as a border between the two. The beaches in this county are beautiful; untamed and natural, they rival the South Coast of England and lack the hoards of tourists you'd find in Devon and Cornwall.

Whilst it was hard to draw myself away from the wild coastline, I knew I needed to head to the old castle town of Alnwick to seek out a bookshop that had been highly recommended to me. Barter Books is a destination in itself, an old train station that had been beautifully repurposed into a secondhand bookshop. Shelves stacked with beautiful and interesting books, each bookcase calling out to be studied in depth in the search of a hidden gem. I could have easily spent all day there, flicking through books and enjoying a lunch at the 'station buffet' restaurant nestled inside.

I have not even scratched the surface of Northumberland and I'm sure I will return to delve deeper into this intriguing county, to explore its coastline and islands in more detail. If you're looking for somewhere new in the UK to explore, give Northumberland a go, you won't regret it!

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© 2020 Ruth Towell