The day started brighter this morning, with the sun hazily shining through the windows. We had a bit of a lazy morning before heading out to Alnwick where lunch was booked and did our usual meandering along the back lanes to get there. It was a different route with the long distance views still hampered by haze – high pressure is dominating our weather and nothing’s moving. Just outside Alnwick, a high stone wall appeared on the right and carried on for miles. It was a substantial wall too – high, built of stone and with symmetry. how many men and weeks that took to build, goodness knows. On the map, it’s marked Hulne Park and Priory, originally owned by the Percy family. It’s usually open to the public, but currently closed due to repair work after Storm Arwen.
The wall led us into Alnwick, the main town in the area. Just before the castle, the streets were lined with impressive 18th/19th century buildings, which made this part of Alnwick very attractive. We found a car park, just off the main shopping area and noticed it was free. Northumbria County Council doesn’t seem to charge at any of its car parks which is unusual – you expect to pay something, so it’s been a refreshing change to be able to park and not have to scurry around for loose change. We walked out of the car park and opposite was a grassy area surrounded by beautiful red brick almshouses, with little dormer windows and pitched apexes. It was quite charming until we looked on the other side of the road to be met by a shoddy heap of bricks that just needed a demolition ball. It was more than an affront – it was beyond ugly, an absolute abomination and we wondered which 1970’s town planning committee had passed that one. It was of watery brown brick, three storeys high with brick stairwells leading up to the top floor. You would see this type of archectural disaster in a inner city sink estate, not lovely Alnwick. Appalled we turned right and discovered “Harry Hotspur”, a 12th century knight and his statue.
It was while we were reading about Harry and surveying the local area, that I spotted our lunch venue. Our eldest had recommended to us to visit The Dirty Bottles pub if we ever in Alnwick and so we had booked lunch there. We were expecting to see a pub with a big swinging sign out front, but this was quite non descript and could be easily missed. We were glad to have spotted it!
It was decidedly warmer today as we walked around Alnwick. A few shops were opening up despite it being Easter Sunday. We walked down one side of the High Street and back up the other side, peering into shop windows, before sitting in the market square and having an al fresco coffee. With an hour to kill before our lunch, we waddled down to the river past the Castle and over a bridge. Here was a footpath that followed the river and offered excellent views of the Castle, perched on the hill. It was a pleasant stroll, despite sharing it with cows grazing – they didn’t seem bothered by us and kept their distance. We were on the edge of town with countryside all around us. We came up to one of the main roads back into town and followed that, passing Alnwick Gardens and Castle entrance reminiscing when we took the kids there many years ago. Soon we were back into the High Street and with perfect timing, arrived at The Dirty Bottles.
We went inside to low ceilings, beams, stone walls and a place stuffed with character. We were impressed. We sat down and spent many minutes trying to choose a meal – the menu was varied and had many options. Finally we ordered and enjoyed a excellent meal, which was huge that we declined pudding and sort of waddled out, feeling rather full.
Having exhausted Alnwick and in dire need to walk off some calories, we drove over to Alnmouth on the coast. Again, it was a place we had visited before, but only the beach. It also been featured on a BBC tv programme so we were intrigued. We drove down to the beach, paying £3.50 to park, opened the boot and let The Dog launch straight onto the beach. Today, there was no sea fret and we could see the sea, Alnmouth and it was pleasantly warm into the bargain too. We walked down the beach towards the groynes, The Dog venturing into the surf to retrieve sticks of seaweed or to check out a stumpy piece of wood. We went so far and then turned around back towards Alnmouth, the beach was busy with people, dogs, kids making sandcastles and a couple of teenagers jumping the waves. Brrr! We found a path into the dunes and popped out by the golf club, then followed the road around the headland where the River Aln meets the sea. There were some grand houses here overlooking the estuary with balconies and bi-folding doors – how lovely. We had been given a leaflet for a Sunday Market in the village hall, so we went and checked that out – mainly artisan craftwork, but I managed to buy an indoor plant to replace the one I had inadvertently killed within days of getting it. We carried on, following the curve of the road with the bend of the river. Here we were distracted by a loud horn being blown and went to investigate – it was the local sailing club hosting some yacht racing, so we interrogated the organisers to find out what was happening. It was basically three blokes operating out of a tiny wooden hut, rather than an exclusive yacht club, but there were five sail boats fighting the oncoming tide and the winds to get round the first buoy. They all struggled as there was a method to it, but eventually after many attempts they all got round and headed off into the far distance.
We followed the road which led us into the High Street – we had done a loop as we spotted the hall where the market was. We stopped outside a tearooms with a table on the pavement and decided it was a good place for a cup of tea. The sun shone down behind a hazy cloud and it was pleasantly warm – we sat and people watched and enjoyed the charms of Alnmouth. Opposite was a lovely delicatessen, full of cakes, pies and cheeses amongst other things. We got some food, wishing that there was a shop like this back home. We strolled up the High Street, admiring the attractive buildings, the little alleyways, the handsome church and the whole ambience. We could live here.
We found a little alleyway which eventually led us back to the Golf Club. The wind had picked up and there was a stiff breeze. We went back through the dunes and discovered that the tide had come in and there was just a slither beach left, the dog walkers, sandcastle building kids and picnicking parents heading elsewhere. We waddled back to the car along the little bit of beach available to us, dodging the incoming waves before heading into the car park, The Dog reluctantly leaping into the boot and looking wistfully at the sea. We decided to follow our noses – we can never go from A to B and back again – and headed up to Boulmer just up the road. We passed some fabulous “Grand Design” houses perched on a ridge so they had seaviews on one side and endless countryside on t’other. They were stunning. We came across Boulmer, a straggly hotch potch village of low buildings overlooking the sea. There was another car park and we was going to sit and watch three boats just offshore, but as we turned off down the track, two cars were gingerly reversing out, so we took that as a sign of the car park being full and abandoned the plan. so we meandered back to our cottage, across the beautiful Northumbrian countryside, down single track roads, past woodlands, fields and down steep hills. We stopped briefly to look the Brizlee Radar station and Brizlee Tower in the distance with our binoculars. The Radar Station is known locally as the Golf Ball and can be seen for miles.
We finally pick up the main road to Powburn and head back to the cottage. It’s been a lovely day of following our noses and discovering allsorts – our kind of day. We were still stuffed from lunch, the day had been very pleasant weatherwise (nice to feel some warmth) and we had seen more of Northumbria. Tomorrow we hoped to see our friend who owned the cottage to give her feedback and spend time with her. We snuggled down, tired, but happy.