At the end of March, we undertook walking the full stretch of the Northumberland Coast Path. For years we have enjoyed our favourite sections of the coast but the experience of completing the whole 62 mile path, has been on the bucket list for a while!
The best source of information is the official guide book which you can purchase from the website.
Using Guillemot as our base as it has a big hall way for all our boots and outdoor gear, a well equipped kitchen for snacks and pack lunches at the ready, we arranged to start walking by 7am each morning.
Due to our time constraints of family and work, we only had a weekend to fit this in! You don’t need to be a mathematical genius to work out that 62 miles at an average walking pace of 3 mph means we’d have to cover a large number of miles over two and a half days!
Would I recommend completing the coastal path challenge, absolutely! Would I recommend doing it in two and a half days? I’d say, be prepared for it to be tough!
The guide book suggests 5 days to a week for a more leisurely experience. You also need to consider your transport carefully. The guide book works on finding different accommodation each night. However, there are pro’s and con’s whichever way you do it.
We found that staying in one place worked well, we didn’t need to worry about transporting luggage or where our food stops would be. Being based in Seahouses meant we had the cottage kitchen to prepare all our breakfast and pack lunches and whilst there are a number of pubs along the way, it also meant that in the evening, there was a good choice of places to eat.
It meant that however we wanted to eat in the evening, those who wanted to go out and eat could, or those wanting to get a take away also had options.
Staying in accommodation on route along the way does mean you’d need to transport your luggage or carry everything and ensure that you had some places to eat in the evening.
That said our journey wasn’t without its challenges, we always try and promote public and local transport however we did find it a test to get things to match up at times. When one group member needed to head back, taxi companies were not that readily available or willing to collect. Had we done the challenge at a more leisurely pace though, then this would have been less of an issue. I’d say put loads of effort into your planning and the rest will be easy!
After a week of threatening down pours I can’t believe how lucky we were with the weather. The early start and 50-minute drive from Seahouses to get to Cresswell for 7am was well worth it! The stretch of beach up to Amble felt like a long walk but the views were stunning. The tide was out and the sun was on our backs! A great start to the morning!
Arriving in Amble late morning left us time for Mocha Mondo Coffee from one of the retail pods and an ice cream from Spurreli’s before meandering our way towards Warkworth past the Bord Waalk art sculptures and up to the Castle, looking magnificent!
Where the tide allowed (which was most of the way) we always took the beach route rather than the dunes if we could. This does make it slightly harder on the legs but by walking near the break water on the harder sand definitely helps. Always follow the guide and make sure that if the guide informs you there is a chance the path is cut off by the incoming tide, always proceed with caution or stick to the route map.
Warkworth was another enjoyable beach section but slightly sole destroying when approaching Alnmouth. Obviously, you can’t cross the estuary, this is far too dangerous and as the crow flies Alnmouth was only about 500m across the mouth of the river, however the coastal path takes you to the bridge which is around 2 miles in distance. Tired and weary and ready for lunch, these two miles seemed to last a long time! Never the less, I think we all did a little skip when we reached Scott’s Deli and piled in our orders for sausage rolls, cakes and coffee before grabbing a fabulous lunch spot looking back across to South Side beach at the other side of the estuary.
Powered by warming sweet chili sausage roll it didn’t take long to hop from Boulmer and then onto Sugar Sands, Howick Haven and Cullernose Point.
We had always planned to get to Low Newton in time for dinner/ early evening drinks with Craster as a fall back! So, we knew we needed to keep marching to hit our 27 miles and get to Low Newton before dark.
As much as it pained me to walk straight through the beer garden at The Jolly Fisherman, we carried on across the infamous Craster to Embleton route passing Dunstanbugh Castle. We all had to dig deep at this point, munch through the last of our snacks and conversation was sparse. We did however spot dolphins along the approach to Dunstanbugh Castle which in the golden hour of light was a fantastic end to the day.
With sore feet and a drink in sight, dropping down onto Embleton Beach was amazing, 10 hours after we started. The evening light was spectacular, the tide once again was out making the enormity of the beach stand out. We let the dogs off the lead and marched on to the very welcoming sight of The Ship Inn for a well-earned pint
We did however make the blunder of not booking a table when we thought the same lunch time rules applied of a no booking policy! Word of warning, if you want to eat an evening meal at The Ship Inn after 27 miles of walking, book ahead.
was tough, our feet were sore and we knew we had completed 27 miles, but also knew we had another day of 23 miles! It was a section of coast we didn’t know well and also where the coast route goes in land for much of the day!
We set off early from Low Newton after being dropped off and walked back to Seahouses, we were unfortunately too early for coffee at The Landing, however decided to call back in at Guillemot for quick coffee and a boot change. We collected a couple of friends and strode off around the harbour towards St. Aiden’s and onto Bamburgh taking the beach all the way while the tide was out.
There’s no denying that those of us who has done the 27 miles the day before were finding the day tough and it was a serious consideration of mine that I would resign at Bamburgh, admitting defeat that we had just taken on too much!
However, a well-earned rest stop at Wyndenwell Cafe, with hot cheese pasties and coffee was what we needed! It was at this point Rob recommended using the walking poles he had been carrying around in his back pack! Having originally scoffed at the idea, I was willing to try anything to help my feet hurt less! For anyone who hasn’t used walking poles, I am an absolute convert and I would highly recommend!
From Bamburgh we headed off inland across rolling hills, through sheep fields and steep woodland and eventually towards the industrial grain bins at Belford and the railway line. Having never crossed a railway line (not at a crossing) before it was a fun experience calling the control room to ask if we could cross safely, although I was less impressed by Rob’s response of, ‘30 seconds’, when he was asked how long it would take us all to cross. With nearly 40 miles in my legs and a style to climb over, 30 seconds felt ambitious!
Safely across and a saunter downhill to Belford meant a lunch stop in the market square and 30 minutes with our boots off and to assess any damage on our feet.
It was at this point I’m not sure if I wanted to laugh or cry. It was only 6 miles to Fenwick, our end point for the day and then knowing we only had 12 miles left to do the next morning, we were sprightly in setting off. It did all get much harder though when a large section of the path had been used for logging and was thick with mud. Much like my two years old’s ‘We’re all going on a Bear Hunt’, for those familiar with the story, there was no way over it or under it, so we had to go through it! This made the last section feel much harder. Don’t let that put you off though, if you did the coastal path in the summer, you wouldn’t have this problem.
Picturesque country views and a spot of forest bathing through the woodland areas soon had us dropping back down the valley to Fenwick, where our friends were eagerly waiting for us with flip flops and packets of crisps! Needless to say, we were all ecstatically glad we had just completed another 23 miles and it was back to the cottage for hot showers and a very welcome pub meal in Seahouses.
We set off in a sprightly mood with only 12 miles to go. Starting at Fenwick we could see the coast again and re-joined the coast just before the Holy Island causeway. The tide was out so we scooted round the old tank barricades and war time shelters before visiting the spectacular and deserted Goswick beach. We were enjoying ourselves so much at Goswick we took a wrong turn and where we should have headed back up to the dunes to the path, we got stuck by the inlet and had to double back. This did waste 40 minutes however it was a very scenic 40 minutes!
Once back on the right path and walking through a mating ground for toads, which was an eye-opening experience! We got to Cocklawburn and we couldn’t believe the difference in the landscape, having strolled through wide open sandy beaches we were now very firmly much closer to Scotland, with rugged coast lines, sharp cliff edges and crashing waves.
In the distance so close but still so far was Berwick!
I think we all felt it in our feet and legs and it was a slower than planned trudge around the headland and down onto Spittal promenade.
The Berwick bridges had never been a more welcome sight and it was a hop skip and heavy-footed jump over the bridge and finish line! Be warned the Coastal Path sign is a bit confusing and whilst the guide books say turn immediately right at the other side of the bridge, the coast path sign points over the town walls. As if we hadn’t done enough steps, we increased the step count just a little bit further by heading for a short jaunt around the walls before realising our mistake. Follow the guide book, don’t follow the sign post!
Waiting for us at the finish line was our friend with an amazing box of cakes from Marshalls at Berwick. Never have we enjoyed cakes as much as we did then!
Our top tips for the challenge:
15 minutes foot care each day will make a huge difference, take blister packs and dressings and spend the time looking after your feet. This made all the difference to us.
Make sure you are organised with lifts, or travel, this caught us out a couple of times and make sure that you do your planning in advance.
Heed the warnings in the guide book about where high tide can cut you off. This is really important.
Have somewhere comfortable to stay with lots of choice for food and drinks and a hot shower! We know just the place!
Take spare socks and change them regularly!
Our inside knowledge of places for coffees and cakes made a big difference to the group as I think we all enjoyed a place to stop for treats, so plan ahead on places to stop it will make the experience more enjoyable.
If you plan to tackle the challenge in two and a half days, it’s not an easy task! If you’d like to do it at a more leisurely pace, we’d definitely recommend staying for the week and doing it over 5 days.