Almost as famous for the coastal path walks as it is for its kippers, Craster is so well set up for day-trippers like us, it’s basically given them their own car park – but unlike most of them, we’re not striding into the village to head north along the coast to Low Newton. We’re slipping along a green path in the other direction, into the Arnold Memorial nature reserve, an old quarry of woodland and scrub maintained for its numerous migrant and breeding birds by Northumberland Wildlife Trust. We take a left across a field, dodge a few cowpats, then cross over to a farm track, following the field edge – before hunger gets the better of us and we have no choice but to hunker down and eat our sarnies.
Passing a cheery-looking group at the stile, we followed the path under the impressive looking escarpment of Whin Sill – which we all agree would be a perfect place to lie in ambush if ever there was one. No time for a diversion to Howick Hall on this occasion (though the snowdrops were very lovely last visit), but a vast field of harvest-ready wheat proved more than a little diverting. With a few ears stuffed into our pockets and a conversation about food and farming well underway, we nibbled the kernels (“it tastes just like flour! I love it!”) as we continued on our way.
Turning left brought the sea straight in our sights once again, and as we joined the coastal path the clouds suddenly cleared, as if gusted away by the sea air. It’s no secret that dramatic views abound along this stretch of the Northumberland coast, but the late summer light seemed to bring a cinematic quality to the brilliant white waves crashing and foaming over jagged black rocks. We pass the ‘secret beach’ at Rumbling Kern and the 19th century Bathing House (built for the 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister and Newcastle monument-topper famed for his tea-blend, former resident of Howick Hall) and pause for a moment of awe on the clifftops at Cullernose Point. Before us is a veritable sea-bird spectacular, for this is the summer nesting spot for the dainty, noisy kittiwakes and graceful fulmars that power through the air just feet away, like gleaming steel fighter jets.
The path dips back into the hedgerows jewelled with ripe blackberries – another opportunity for nibbling – then opens up once more for the final stretch towards Craster. Crop fields blaze golden in the sun to our right, the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle beckon broodingly beyond and a flock of redshanks (note: remember binoculars next time!) performs an aerial ballet over the sea to our left, undersides flashing silver like a school of herring. Breathtaking in more ways than one; the air is so exhilaratingly fresh and clear it’s like medicine.
And the route ends up in the back garden of the Jolly Fisherman pub, where we’re too late for the crab sandwiches but not too late for a pint. At 9k, it’s the longest we’ve attempted so far and the kids have coped with minimal whingeing, so strawberry ice-cream and a glass of Fentiman’s Dandelion & Burdock each are well deserved.
Start/finish: Craster Quarry car park (postcode NE66 3TW, OS ref NU256198)
Length: 6 miles / 9 kms
Time: 3 hours
More info: www.northumberlandcoastaonb.org