ANDY beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see and castles that soar into the sky.
That’s our most vivid memory of a weekend exploring Northumberland’s stunning coast.
After starting our day with a tasty breakfast at our base of Morpeth’s St Mary’s Inn — chosen from a lengthy menu the night before and cooked to order — my girlfriend Harriet and I headed down the A1 in search of the sea.
A 40-minute drive took us to Lindisfarne — also know as Holy Island. It felt like we were leaving England behind as we made the two-mile crossing to the remote island.
For all but five hours a day Lindisfarne is a two square mile island. Making those five hours a very busy time as tourists flock over the narrow neck of sea bed towards the ancient ruins left by 11th century monks.
Signs pepper the route with scary pictures of what happens when cars have left too little time to return to the mainland before the water rushed back in.
But, once over on the island, you get a sense of why the Celtic monks led by St Aiden chose the place to build a monastery in 635AD, and later St Cuthbert lived as a hermit for two years.
Nothing remains of the original monastery but the red and grey ruins of a priory that was re-established in the 11th century are yours to explore.
A breezy walk out to Lindisfarne Castle is well worth the views — and even includes a toilet that claims to be the “best loo with a view”.
The castle has an evolving exhibition describing its use since it was built in 1550, including how its role as an essential lookout during World War Two.
A 17-mile drive down the B1340 took us to Bamburgh — and the sight of its dramatic castle dominates the quaint English village — towering over a large cricket green one side and sand dunes on the other.
The Norman-era castle has a turbulent history of various rulers but is still inhabited to this day — by Lord Armstrong’s family. It is filled with many artefacts, including a room dedicated to weapons from pretty much every century.
But I found the wood-panelled neo-Gothic King’s Hall the most impressive room in the castle, with large windows offering spectacular views out to sea.
After walking up an appetite along the three-and-a-half-mile stretch of beach to Seahouses we stopped for a pub lunch at Bamburgh Castle Inn.
Our tour of castles went on into the afternoon with a visit to Low Newton by the Sea.
The view from the top of the hill is stunning, overlooking Embleton Bay. At the bottom of the hill there is a microbrewery in the little hamlet. The beers are fantastic
After a visit to Warkworth Castle, we were ready to head back to St Mary’s Inn, where we collapsed by one of its open fires with a local ale and a delicious three-course meal of chicken liver parfait, homemade fish cakes and a divine chocolate tart.
The hotel and pub was the perfect base for exploring England’s northernmost county — a 20-minute drive from Newcastle but deep enough into Northumberland to relax in the quiet comfort of the countryside.
Even your dog would be living in comfort, with three of the hotel’s 11 spacious rooms boasting comfy-looking beds for your four-legged friends.
STAYING THERE: One night’s B&B at St Marys Inn is from £49.50pp based on two sharing. See stmarysinn.co.uk.