Boarding the bus in Alnwick, we hopped on the Arriva X18 Sightseeing Tour Bus and headed up to the top deck and the back of the bus like naughty school kids. Really, we just wanted to be best-positioned near a speaker to listen to the voiceover that was about to accompany the ride, and for the amazing views that we knew were coming up.
One of the best things about this trip was learning facts that we had never heard before from the tannoy that introduces each calling point on The X18. The voice was carefully chosen by Arriva to evoke the familiarity of the local accent and lingo and make you feel right at ‘hyem’… but without baffling non-locals too much with Northumbrian slang! As a North-Westerner myself, I thought the choice was absolutely perfect, as the voice filled the silence while we waited in anticipation.
The narration doesn’t play throughout the whole journey, so you can natter to your friend or sit quietly and ogle at the views without missing out on any information. But, on the approach to each destination, the voiceover offers a fascinating and informative overview of the area and a couple of hints and tips of what to do in each coastal village.
Countryside, Coast and Kippers
The journey began with a ride through the countryside, which made me realise just how quickly you can feel in the middle of nowhere when you’re in Northumberland. Straight out of the bustling market town of Alnwick and into the tranquil nature within minutes, we headed through winding country roads and out towards the coast.
The first taste of the coast (or should I say smell) was the approach to Craster, when the delicious, smoky scent of L. Robson & Sons Craster kipper smokehouse filled our nostrils while Craster Kippers, local cafés and Howick Hall were all being spoken about on the tannoy. The bus pulled in, manoeuvred and turned in this gorgeous fishing village to give everyone a full view of the winding lanes, the small fishing boats lazily floating on the harbour waters and Dunstanburgh Castle sitting in the distance. A few passengers hopped off here to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and the picturesque walk to the castle that is preceded by sweeping coastline and crashing waves.
From there, nothing less than stunning sea views, quaint cobbled villages and stone cottages passed the bus window. Lesser known, peaceful Embleton Bay drifted past us on our right as we fought for the best position to get some pictures, and the bus travelled through lovely Beadnell Village, which sits on the end of Beadnell Bay. We spotted a few eateries that we are determined to go back to (The Salt Water Café and Box Social just to name a couple), as well as newly renovated, luxury hotel Beadnell Towers and tiny St Ebba’s Church.
The Money Shot Moment
While the whole journey was spectacular, there was something extremely magical about rolling past Bamburgh Castle. As we drove directly below the magnificent, ancient castle walls, almost every passenger had their nose up against the glass to take the views in for as long as possible. Its position on a plateau above the coast makes it all the more awe-inspiring to look at, as it towers over the road and has a dominating presence on the coastline. Once the castle was out of sight, the gazing didn’t stop there, as continuous, staggering coastal views followed closely behind it.
There are so many spots to stop off for lunch en-route of the X18. Craster, Beadnell, Seahouses and Bamburgh all have excellent eateries, but we chose to finally hop off the bus at The Sunnyhills of Belford.
A delicious, frothy cappuccino and an abundance of sandwiches stuffed with creamy, fruity Coronation Chicken, thick cuts of ham and mouth-watering cheese filled us up nicely. And as an added treat, we decided to sample a refreshing bottle of local ale (Alnwick Amber Ale to be precise) in the outdoor seating area as the sun was shining for us. One of the many benefits to getting the bus – bring on the bevs!
The tour ended there, and we left feeling satisfied after a delicious meal, and desperate to head back to the coastal calling points that we had learned so much about.
Just in case you need a little more persuasion to get yourselves on the X18 Sightseeing bus, here are a few of the perks that are exclusive to passengers that go rolling on Arriva:
- Your Arriva bus ticket grants you 20% off entry to Warkworth Castle, Bamburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle and Dunstanburgh Castle (all en-route).
- Informative voiceover for the duration of the journey giving inside information about each destination en-route.
- This is an easy, hop-on, hop-off service that covers the whole coastline.
- Leaving your car behind means you can enjoy a local tipple during your day out.
- You can go home with the smug satisfaction of knowing you had an environmentally-friendly day out.
- You can actually admire Northumberland without having to keep your eyes on the road as the designated driver, or without having to crane your neck out of the small car window.
Discover more ways to get around the Northumberland Coast with Northumberland AONB.