Northumberland, Dunstanburgh and Wallington


The scenery was wonderful, sweeping and serene as we left the fringes of the Northumberland National Park and the Cheviot Hills and headed east back towards the coast.

Out of curiosity, I checked later just how far north we were and I was surprised to find that although we were still in England we were further north than the Scottish border at the Solway Firth in the west.  In fact the Scottish border there somewhere north of Carlisle is almost seventy-five miles south of the border in the east at Berwick-upon-Tweed, the most northerly town in England (the most southerly town in Scotland is Gretna).

That is why despite being in England, Berwick Rangers play in the Scottish Football League and Carlisle United play in the English Football League. If Berwick Rangers played in England (and assuming they were in the same division) than a match for the team at England’s southernmost and westernmost league team, Plymouth Argyle, would result in a round-trip of almost one thousand miles.

By contrast Gretna FC (2008) play in the Scottish Lowland League and not in England.

As it turned out we were even further North than Scotland in our caravan park at Whitley Bay, just outside of Newcastle.

Hadrians Wall

We were also some way north of Hadrian’s famous wall and although a lot of people think that the Roman Emperor’s Wall marks the border between England and Scotland it never has and never will because it runs a conveniently short distance between Wallsend near the River Tyne in Newcastle and the Solway Firth in Cumbria. When it came down to military expediency the Romans didn’t concern themselves too much about geography.

So we carried on now to Dunstanburgh Castle stopping briefly on the way at the pleasant but unremarkable little town of Alnwick where it was market day and which by all accounts has a very fine castle but is not National Trust and with our membership cards burning a hole in our pockets we drove straight by and on to the village of Dunstan, determined to get our money’s worth from the membership fee that we had forked out earlier.

As we drove some previous life memories came back to me and I remembered how in the 1990s I worked for an incompetent waste management company called Cory Environmental (I wrote some stories about them some time back) who had purchased some seriously unprofitable contracts in the North-East at Wansbeck and Castle Morpeth Councils and I chuckled to myself now as we drove through these two council districts and the towns of Morpeth and Blyth where the company had their depots and recalled just how disastrous the privatisation of public services had been at that time and continues to be even today.

Eventually we arrived at the coast at the fishing village of Craster with a sheltered harbour, with the tide out fishing boats resting up on the mud banks and lobster pots stacked on the quay ready to be taken out to sea later.


Do lobsters like bright colours I wondered?

From Craster there was a long walk to Dunstanburgh Castle, almost two miles as it turned out, but the weather was exceptionally fine and we made our way north along the coastal walk. A grassy stroll across a windswept headland and on the way we passed through flocks of sheep and herds of cows and as we stopped now and then to look out to sea over the salt stained black rocks decorated with vivid green seaweed and water polished barnacles I imagined the intrepid Vikings bearing down from the North Sea and sweeping westward across the land.

Viking Ship

Dunstunburgh turned out to be a very fine Medieval Castle, ruined of course, collapsed into the sea in some parts and pillaged over the centuries for building stone for nearby Craster but I liked it, it has a nobleness and a sense of the ‘Wars of the Roses’. I forgot about the Vikings now and imagined a Baron’s army laying siege to the castle or a great Lord of the realm leading his men out to defend against Scottish invaders from the North or possibly from the South depending upon which direction they came from.

So we climbed the towers and the battlements and walked through the courtyards which are no longer there and then we took the two mile walk back to the car park and began our journey back to Whitley Bay and the caravan park. Still determined to get full value from our recent National trust membership we stopped en-route at the stately home at Wallington.

I was pleased that we hadn’t driven too far out of our way because although it made for a convenient stop and there was a fine house and extensive grounds to explore it wasn’t especially thrilling but at least we were closing in now on break-even on the cost of our National Trust annual membership.

It was Father’s Day and everywhere was rather busy but we didn’t expect to see long untidy line of people queuing up outside a pastry shop in the small town of Seaton Delaval. We were intrigued by that and although we didn’t have the patience to investigate right now we made a note to return possibly the next day.

(We did that and it turned out to be an Italian bakery with the most delicious vanilla ice cream made from a secret recipe from Tuscany, which apparently draws people in from miles around).

Rather unimaginatively we ended the day at St Mary’s Lighthouse where we just sat with the local people who regularly turn up here at high tide and watch and see if any unsuspecting tourists get cut off and have to either swim for it or spend the night on the island.

Watching the Tide at St Mary's Island Northumberland


27 responses to “Northumberland, Dunstanburgh and Wallington

  1. I think I’d opt for spending the night on the island. D


  2. “A grand day out Grommet” 👍


  3. I hate to be a killjoy, Andrew, but it’s Dunstanburgh (like the village Dunstan) and I’ve walked that walk from Craster. Never thought about the lobsters though. Perhaps they do! 🙂 🙂 The water gardens at Alnwick are a bit special, but expensive, so it doesn’t surprise me you passed them by. How was the Irish weather?


  4. Gretna used to have a team in the English Unibond League, I think, perhaps 20 years ago. The played Gresley Rovers a couple of times but if my memory serves me well, like Rovers they went bankrupt and out of business. That’s not necessarily too big a blow for a non-league team and they both came back, as Gresley FC and Gretna FC. Gretna went into a Scottish League and Gresley FC were demoted a couple of levels in England.


  5. I like the look of the castle ruins. My kind of place. Sounds like a perfect day and you got to use your NT membership!!


  6. Ah, that coast is stunning, Dunstanburgh most imposing


  7. Never been to this area but it sounds right up our street. Love the lobster pot photo and the sound of that ice cream!


  8. Visiting Dunstunburgh castle was one of the highlights of an English visit I had many, many years ago. I’ll never forget the beautiful walk to the castle across “a windswept headland” (perfect description).


  9. Who says it’s always raining in the UK? Apparently not. Gorgeous landscape and the castle photo is spectacular. I’ve never seen such colourful lobster traps. Maybe it is like bee hives being painted brightly or with murals?


  10. It looks like a truly beautiful place and a time to be enjoyed. Watching the tourists sounds like an experience!


  11. Really liked the country in that first photo, Andrew. Bucolic comes to mind. And I have always been intrigued by Hadrian’s Wall, sort of like the Great Wall of China. Laughed about your desire to take advantage of your National Trust membership. If you are over 65 in the US you can pick up a national park pass for $10 that allows you into all national parks and monuments, plus lets you camp at half cost at national forest service campgrounds. It may just be one of the greatest bargains ever. –Curt


  12. Was that secret recipe ice-cream expensive? I’m guessing not, what with the queue, but maybe it’s so delicious that price doesn’t come into it?
    I can’t help but feel how cruel it is to watch if anybody is going to get off by the tide. However, I did a similar thing many years ago when on a cruise, watching people running for the ship as it was about to set sail from where it had stopped for the day.


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