Coastal Retreats owner Fiona McKeith has holidayed in Northumberland since she was a child. Come summer or winter, rain or shine, here are her ten favourite things to do…
1. Do the circular walk from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle, enjoy some fish soup and crab sandwiches in The Jolly Fisherman and stock up on freshly smoked kippers for supper from Robson's Smokery.
2. Visit The Alnwick Garden and Alnwick Castle. Let the children explore the interactive water gardens, learn about how common garden plants can be deadly in the poison garden and walk the wobbly bridges at the Treehouse Restaurant. The Treehouse is a truly magical restaurant, especially at night, but you will need to book ahead as it is extremely popular. At Alnwick Castle you can see where Harry Potter was filmed and undertake a spot of broomstick training yourself.
3. There is a beautiful walk from Seahouses to Bamburgh along the beach (at low tide, parts of a shipwreck can be seen half way along). Visit the interactive Grace Darling Museum, pop over the road to see the beautiful little church where this young heroine is buried, then walk back to Seahouses at high tide along the beach or dunes. There is a superb spot on the rocks at Seahouses, next to the old war time ammunitions hut, where you can have an evening beach BBQ. It's an amazing place to watch the sun go down while the children are doing a spot of rockpooling.
4. Take afternoon tea at the former home of Earl Grey (namesake of the tea), Howick Hall and Gardens. It's like stepping back in time and is a marvellous place for tea and cucumber sandwiches.
5. A trip to Holy Island. Holy Island is linked to the mainland by a causeway only passable at low tide. It is important to check the timetable for safe crossing times before setting out as you don't want to get caught out. It is truly unique and mystical place to visit with amazing sea views, the iconic ruins of Lindisfarne Priory and the weather-beaten Lindisfarne Castle (currently undergoing renovations, due to reopen in spring 2018),
6. Cycle to Ross from Bamburgh. Leave your bikes locked up at Ross and walk over the sand dunes (about 30 minutes) to the most beautiful deserted beach with amazing views of Holy Island. Once on the beach if you head north for another 45 minutes, and the tide is very low, you may be lucky enough to see a shipwreck.
7. Walk from Beadnell along the beach, dunes and bays to Newton-by-the-Sea and dine at The Ship Inn. Football Cove, along the route, is a real find, but don't swim there as the currents are strong. It's very sheltered and is a great place for sunbathing or fishing.
8. Browse through thousands of second hand books at Barter Books in the old railway station at Alnwick. There's a lovely cafe inside the store and some squashy sofas where you can browse the books at your leisure.
9. Spend the day, or night, at Chillingham Castle - known as the UK’s most haunted castle. Here you'll find an eclectic mix of artefacts ranging from invitations from Buckingham Palace, personal letters from Jules Holland, old wooden skis used on Everest expeditions, torture chamber contraptions and letters warning you not to steal the silverware or you'll be struck down by the curse! You can book a ghost tour at night and, if you’re brave enough, stay in one of the apartments.
10. Finally, you can’t beat a glass of wine in the lovely surrounds of one of our Retreats, taking in those amazing starry night skies clear of any light pollution.
Please note: some places mentioned above are closed in the winter months or have limited opening hours from the end of October to March, so please do check ahead before you visit.
For more information on what to do in Northumberland during the winter months, check out #NlandStars