I knew of Northumberland but I didn’t know it until we spent a week just north of Alnwick. We had driven up from home and as we approached Newcastle we saw signs for the Angel of the North. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t have time to stop and find it, but as we rounded a bend there it was majestically looming over the trees. We were able to get up close to it a few days later when we visited Sunderland, the Addison’s home since 1779 (before that is still a mystery).
We were staying in a one time shepherd’s cottage 100 yards from the A1 with sheep in the field opposite, llamas on the hillock behind, swallows on the telephone wires, and geese on the pond. Down south the A1 would be nose to tail traffic and a nightmare to be anywhere close to it. Here it was a pleasant open road with a modicum of traffic, busy at times but hardly noticed in our cottage (although further south round Newcastle it had been a raft of roadworks and slow moving traffic).
First thing on our first morning we headed for the nearest beach so that the dog could have a run and we were delighted to find Embleton beach which was a wide expanse of sand stretching into the distance where it ended in a headland crowned by a ruined castle.
After a good walk we were made welcome at the Golf Club (open to visitors) where we had coffee and toast.
Northumberland is awash with castles, both magnificent ones like Alnwick and Bamburgh and smaller ones like Etal and Preston Tower (which is now literally only half of what it was, two of its four towers having been demolished). With the turbulent history of the border with Scotland the smaller ones were a necessity for the protection of the various communities while the larger ones were statements of power for nobles jockeying for position and even seeking to overthrow a king or install a new one.
Like the Scottish Borders (of which geographically it is a continuation) Northumberland has great rolling hills and we found some stunning views down to the Cheviot hills. We had a chat with a local couple who were also admiring the view and they gave us a bit of the history of the area and suggestions of where we should go.
Great open countryside, wide open beaches, castles galore, and a warm welcome; Northumberland was a revelation.