8.5 miles (14 kilometres) round trip, from Low Newton by the Sea to Craster for kippers. October, sun, clouds, showers & rainbows. With the fam.
From far away down the coast you can see smoke billowing from the fishing village of Craster. We wondered if someone was having a bonfire, and it took me longer than you would think to realise what we could see in the distance along the bay was L. Robson and Sons’ famous 100 year old smokehouse, the home of the Craster kipper. As you approach the village you get a penetrating wave of oak smoked fish in your nostrils, and this is what we are setting out for today.
We began our walk a sensible distance away to work up an appetite, at Low Newton-by-the-Sea near the Ship Inn. This is part of the Northumberland Coast Path, now renamed the England Coast Path and is a beautiful stretch of coastline which takes in Newton Haven, Embleton Bay and Dunstanburgh Castle.
I can tell the rockpooling here is magnificent, and if I had a day to myself I would be peering in at the universes under water to see who I could meet, but Shovell has sea air in his snout and wants to run and get thoroughly soaked and he hasn’t the patience for crab gazing. The bay is long and sandy and, as the tide is out, wide, edged with fishermen’s cottages with a view to envy for as long as the memory of them lasts.
By the far sea rocks and the magnificently named Scadpallet there are parcels of oystercatchers with their distinctive red bills (and yes, the collective noun for oystercatchers is a parcel). There are also two flights of birds murmurating, at first in seperate swirling clouds and then merging into one before disappearing. This is where I need my dad to tell me what I’m watching, I think they could be dunlins. Idiot dog sees them in the sky and thinks he can reach them and goes beserk again.
As I walk along the sand I am stop-stepping over rivulets of water to keep my boots dry. It’s a complicated geography of sand with sand countries and sand continents divided by seawater rivers and seawater oceans, a planet on the beach. I’m a giant striding over the Mississippi delta. On the return journey this is impassable, the Skaith is filled by a river, Embleton Burn, and we have to go inland.
Ahead is the ruined Dunstanburgh castle up on the promontory, so some of us climb up the path into the dunes, my most loved geographical feature, and the view of the castle is perfect with the warm dying colours of the bracken.
We press on towards the castle, along the cliffside, the shore is rocky now with black boulders and Shovell has to behave among the cows.
Dunstanburgh castle is set on iron age fort earthworks on an outcrop of the massive Whin Sill layer of ignaceous rock, magma which flowed from a volcano 295 million years ago. It was built in the 14th century and was already falling into disrepair a hundred years after. It is, however, an extremely good looking old wreck and you can visit, with your dog, for a fee.
Around the headland we walk through grazed pasture towards Craster, and as we approach there’s that mouth awakening smell of the smokehouse and we get very hungry.
The smokehouse and shop is in the centre of town, you can’t miss it. There’s a shop and restaurant so we bought crayfish tails, crab sandwiches and kippers and brought it all down to the harbour to scoff. There is nothing quite like eating fish outdoors in sight of the sea, and we ate ours in sight of the Bon Amy, the fishing boat which goes out to catch fish for the smokery. Shovell got none and was dejected, a face he practises daily, resting his chin on your knee and making his eyes as big and brown as he can.
We head up the hill to return via The Heughs, which I have no idea how to say aloud, but means the crags. We find parrot waxcap mushrooms, as bright and yellow as the gorse. The weather has turned and a light rain starts, bringing moody brooding clouds and a rainbow. The path brings us around the crags back to the castle which is looking stolid under an unsettled sky now.
As we walk back between the sand and the dunes we hear the sound of a hundred birds flapping at once, a whoosh that carries your heart up into the air as they ascend into the sky. Shovell can’t decide whether to walk on the beach or above on the dunes so he does both, covering three times the distance and wearing himself out. We wave at our own shadows on the beach from the top of the dunes, our shadows wave back.
Son and I find a super slidey sand stairway deep in the heart of the dunes, a steep slope that kids are sliding down on toboggans. The feeling of your feet sinking down and taking you with them as you walk down a steep, deep dry sand slope is one I heartily recommend. You’ll pay for it climbing back up but isn’t that what life is about?
Well that, and rainbows to lead you back home…
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More walks in this area
We parked at Low Newton by the Sea where there’s a pay carpark and walked along the beach and dunes to Craster for crab lunch, and then back via the Heughs, and part of the England Coast Path. Depending on tide times it is easy to move between paths as you fancy. Our GPX is here. You can also use a traditional OS map, 332.
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