7 of the best walks on the Northumberland coast

Surely one of England’s best-kept secrets, Northumberland’s coastline is ribboned with long sandy beaches, castle ruins and quaint fishing settlements offering enticing seafood and cosy tearooms...

5 mins

1. Bamburgh Castle to the wilds of Budle Bay

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland (Shutterstock)

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland (Shutterstock)

Once home to a medieval King of Northumbria and burial place of lighthouse heroine, Grace Darling, this handsome village with its clifftop castle complex at the end of a golden strand, is a great starting point for a walk.

Drop down to the beach below the castle and walk in the direction of Bamburgh Lighthouse, before climbing up to The Wynding, a quiet, cul-de-sac coastal road. On reaching the golf club, continue along the grassy path skirting Budle Bay. This is a wild place of tidal estuary and shimmering sands and shallows, home to waders and wildfowl.

Turn inland after Budle Point and follow the path, keeping left to the B1342. Turn left to walk on the grassy verge, then pavement back into town. It’s worth dropping into the RNLI Grace Darling Museum to find out about the lighthouse keeper’s daughter who braved high seas to rescue ship-wrecked passengers. Turn right and drop down to Front Street.

Stop for tea (or something stronger) at the Victoria Hotel, or the modest Castle Inn. The quaint Copper Kettle Tea Rooms is another option. As you pass the low-lying cottages with their arched windows, the imposing fortress of Bamburgh Castle fills the street view. Take time to explore this Norman stronghold and family home, packed with historic heirlooms.

2. Hauxley Nature Reserve

Hauxley Nature Reserve, Northumberland (Shutterstock)

Hauxley Nature Reserve, Northumberland (Shutterstock)

Come in spring and summer when the reserve is blooming with wildflowers: viper’s bugloss, cranesbill, and marsh orchid. The wildflowers and flooded quarry attract butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies. The half-mile circular route, passing between sea and lake before circling the west side of the lake, is a delightful ramble for anyone who loves nature. 

Park at Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre (drop in and get up on information about the reserve) and head along the north side of the lake. Turn right to follow the Hauxley Links path southward between lake and coast. From Bondi Carrs Parking, head north-west into the reserve.

Continue along the newly created path on the west side of the lake. Look out for the bird hides surrounding the lake, where you may spot grey herons, tree sparrows, and shelducks. Finish your walk at the Wildlife Centre café, directly on the water’s edge. It’s a fine spot for cream tea.

3. A walk through history on Holy Island

Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island (Shutterstock)

Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island (Shutterstock)

Rising from a rocky bluff, Lindisfarne Castle beckons ramblers across the causeway. Check the tides before driving across: the road to Holy Island is submerged twice a day. Then enjoy a wonderful five-mile walk around the island.

Feel the ghostly presence of the Vikings, Anglo-Saxons and monks, who claimed the island across the centuries. Watch out for some of its present day occupants, too: grey seals and migratory birds. Lose yourself in the rolling sand dunes, sandy bays and historic landmarks that dot the island. 

From Holy Island Car Park, walk back along Chare Ends Road until you see an information board and fingerpost on the right. Go through the gate and follow the grassy path along the fence. Continue along the meandering path through dunes until you meet a sandy bay. Turn right to cross the beach before climbing back onto the sandy dunes. Continue eastwards to Emmanuel Head.

From here, head south along the coast, with views to the Farne Islands, Bamburgh Castle, and the Cheviot Hills. Ignoring the path leading back to the village, keep walking south. The path curves round to Castle Point Lime Kilns and on to the castle.

Keep going along the grass above the beach, with its upturned boats (storage huts), to Lindisfarne Priory, the ruins of an expansive medieval monastery, and round to Holy Island village. Finish your walk at the 16th century, National Trust-owned castle, then relax in the Ship Inn or one of the village coffee shops.

4. Old Hartley to St Mary’s Lighthouse

St Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay (Shutterstock)

St Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay (Shutterstock)

This is an easy, level two-mile walk along the Northumberland coast, the gleaming white lighthouse and keeper’s cottage enticing the rambler on. Come on a bright, sunny day - whether in winter or summer - to enjoy the intense blue of sea and sky.

Follow the England Coast Path from Old Hartley south, keeping left to meet The Links road, then cross the causeway to St Mary’s Island and the lighthouse (which is technically in Tyne & Wear, though was historically part of Northumberland). 

Make sure you do the walk at low tide when the causeway is above water, and check the St Mary’s Lighthouse website for opening times in advance. There’s also a small admission charge for the visitor centre and museum. Recharge your batteries at the cafe, then climb the 137 steps for superb views of the north east coast. The ‘part-time island’ is a nature reserve, known for its seals and birdlife. Drop down to the rocky shore and explore the rock pools before continuing on your walk. 

After exploring the lighthouse and island, continue south along the tarmac path that runs parallel to The Links. Cross the grass and road when you see the second car park on the roadside. A signed path at the end of the car park heads back north to Old Hartley.

5. Warkworth Castle to Alnmouth

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland (Shutterstock)

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland (Shutterstock)

The starting point for this seven-mile hike is the charming settlement of Warkworth with its prominent castle ruins and streets tucked into a loop of the River Coquet. Walk the breezy coastal path of St Oswald’s Way and enjoy expansive views across shore and sea.

Your end point is equally charming: the coastal village of Alnmouth, cradled by river, estuary, and strand and known as the Tobermory of Northumberland. Take time to wander the streets of elegant red-roofed townhouses and brightly painted frontages lining the estuary road. 

To start, visit the 12th century castle ruins in Warkworth, before heading through town and over the medieval bridge to Warkworth Car Park and beach. Follow St Oswald’s Way coastal path north, then west to skirt the wetlands south of the Aln estuary. Continue through fields to the main road.

Turn right and join the pathway that runs parallel to the A1068, bearing east with the path as it veers away from the trunk road. The path then turns north where it meets the B1338. Turn right and walk the pavement into the pretty fishing settlement.

Quench your thirst in The Village Tearooms or The Schooner on Northumberland Street, explore the beach and estuary, then hop on a bus back to Warkworth.

6. Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle and Newton-by-the-Sea

Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland (Shutterstock)

Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland (Shutterstock)

Another spectacular piece of coastline, this three-mile walk follows the Northumberland Coast Path. Enjoy views of cream-washed cottages, coastal grasslands and magnificent views of the imposing Dunstanburgh Castle on the shore, plus the sweep of Embleton Bay as you walk north.

Come in spring when the shoreline meadows are bright with wildflowers and the skies are filled with birdsong. Start from the coastal village of Craster, with its sheltered harbour and fishing cottages. Follow the shoreline path north, the craggy ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle looming ever closer. Pause to explore the English Heritage monument and rest up at a picnic table with a rucksack snack - or one from the shop.

The path curves around Embleton Bay. Drop down to walk the beach if the tide is out and enjoy superb views of this long, dune-backed strand with its off-shore islets. At the end of the bay, stop at the Ship Inn in Low Newton-by-the-Sea for a well-earned pint, before cutting across to High Newton-by-the-Sea to catch the bus back to Craster.

7. The Hitchcock Birds experience on Inner Farne

Puffins on Inner Farne, Northumberland (Shutterstock)

Puffins on Inner Farne, Northumberland (Shutterstock)

The half-mile stroll on this tiny island is filled with historic and avian interest. Aim to do the walk between April and July, when the island is alive with nesting birds. Bring a picnic, settle down on the cliff edge and watch the stubby-winged puffins fly in with beaks full of fish. 

Take the boat to Inner Farne from Seahouses and climb the path from the jetty towards St Cuthbert’s Chapel, a sanctuary for the Anglo-Saxon hermit. In the breeding season, the pathway is lined with the nests of Arctic terns. They rise up to defend their nests - sharp, red beaks aimed at ramblers’ heads. Bring a hat! The chapel doubles as a place of worship and visitor centre, where modern-day pilgrims can take sanctuary from the attacking terns. Admire the stained glass windows and carved wood before braving the birds outside. 

From here the path continues south, past the puffin colony - a great chance to get close to these charming and comical birds. Take the right-hand path towards the cliffs, crammed with nesting kittiwakes, guillemots, cormorants, and yellow-eyed, punk-tufted shags that lord it over their twiggy thrones. Look out for grey seals.

The path curves round to meet Inner Farne Lighthouse. Detour to the Lighthouse Cliff Viewpoint, where the seacliffs are at their highest and admire the views to Dunstanburgh Castle on the mainland. Take the northbound path back to the jetty.

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