I’m not a morning person. If anyone ever called me a lark, it’s because they caught me singing in the kitchen, not because I’m a naturally early riser. So my 5am alarm call on Tuesday 17 August should have been painful. But, reminiscent of setting off for an early flight, I rose with a half-forgotten flutterfly feeling. I was excited. After nearly 18 months out of the office, only seeing my colleagues’ faces framed by a rectangular screen, I leapt at the chance to take a coastal walk in Northumberland with some of them. We only had a day, a dash to the Border County and back, hence the early start. The alarm-clock dawn chorus was a small price to pay.
On arriving in Craster the car park, though not full, had a definite buzz and not just from the engines of the other vehicles. We pulled on our boots and waterproofs, double checked our rucksacks, and set off along the coast path, trusty Inntravel notes in hand. Inntravel delights in the path less taken, so we soon left any crowds behind. We wallowed in the glorious landscape. We drew deep breaths of sea air. We remembered how wonderful a walk with friends can be.
Dunstanburgh Castle dominates the skyline around Craster, and it hardly seemed to come any closer even as we walked ever more towards it. Eventually we passed its gates, grinning wide to welcome new visitors after so much time in lockdown. Every so often we encountered such pockets of life, of travellers relishing possibilities long held in check – a golf tournament, kite flyers, people taking tea and cake in a beachside café. But just as quickly we were alone, far removed (or so it felt) from the thrum. On one occasion we clambered through a path bordered by lush fern which, in my imagination, became a remote Jurassic forest, just for a minute!
Our lunch was that old favourite – fish and chips enjoyed while overlooking a bustling harbour. The seating tiered down and round like an amphitheatre, the perfect venue for people watching and surveying the scenery. If all the world’s a stage, Northumberland provides the ideal backdrop. It’s such a beautiful part of the country, packed with varied walking and ample sightseeing, that we shouldn’t be surprised that so many chose it as their summer holiday destination in 2021. The hotels we visited paid testament to this – all enthusiastically hospitable, and all fully booked.
So the moral of this story, if there is one, is that travel is most definitely back, and the Northumberland coast is right at the heart of it. Be sure to book early for 2022 and, take my advice, go for longer than a day – if only to avoid getting up at 5am in the morning!