We Visit

Northumberland

Dunstanburgh Castle on the stunning Northumberland coast

Crab, casks, castles and coastlines – this area of the North East offers a feast for the eyes and food for the soul

 

Rolling dunes, craggy cliffs, sentinel castles and seemingly infinite beaches – it’s little wonder that the Heritage Coast of Northumberland is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). 

This stunning region offers a feast for the eyes and food for the soul. The inquisitive foodie can enjoy a fruitful meander along this 40-mile coastline between Berwick and Amble. 

Berwick-Upon-Tweed is the oft-exchanged border town of a historically turbulent region, passing frequently between England and Scotland for more than 400 years until 1482. 

Today, it’s a compact community, retaining a frontier feel between the Scottish border, the sea and the wide estuarine Tweed. 

A walk around the Elizabethan bastioned ramparts is a great way to appreciate its charms. Such exertions may well require refreshment. 

For the connoisseur of good beer, Berwick is well served with The Barrels Ale House and community-owned Brown Bear supplying local gems within yards of the walls. 

For those seeking greater finesse, restaurateurs Sarah Watson and Craig Pearson at Audela, offer elegant surroundings and an assured touch, having recently expanded into the former Berwick Cockles sweet factory by the old bridge. 

Expect local fish and game in rich combinations such as pigeon with pig cheek terrine or crab lasagne with langoustine bisque. If you’re inspired to recreate dishes at home – or just fancy a seafront snack – the Berwick Shellfish Company factory shop on Dock Road sells raw and prepared shellfish landed daily by locals. 

Heading south, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne is only accessible via a tidal causeway. The resident population of around 160 is augmented by some 650,000 visitors annually. Stalls selling fresh crab sandwiches and ice cream in the car park immediately set the scene.

The tiny village overflows with home baking and local eateries, alongside primary producers such as St Aidan’s winery and Pilgrims Coffee – scenting the island air from its converted yurt roastery. 

If caught by the tide on the landward-side then The Barn At Beale offers magnificent views and hearty all-day nourishment such as its locally inspired beer bun burger, oozing with rarebit and homemade chutney – perhaps even a cheeky sundowner outside its Bothy Bar. 

Continuing along the coastal road takes you to Bamburgh, famous for its dramatic castle and as the birth and burial place of Grace Darling – a Victorian heroine commemorated for shipwreck rescues. 

With its beach, extensive dunes and picture-perfect main street, it’s a delightful place. If it’s culinary decadence you’re after, then The Potted Lobster serves sweet local Lindisfarne oysters, triumphant seafood platters and truffle and Parmesan chips. 

For those on a budget, try The Pantry’s hot kipper roll or simply buy the ingredients for a ploughman’s lunch and enjoy the cricket below the castle walls. Doddington Dairy produces local cheeses from the raw milk of just one herd of cows – look out for locally resonant names such as Darling Blue, Cuddy’s Cave or Berwick Edge. 

You’ll know you’ve reached the rugged village of Craster by the smell of smoking kippers. A century ago the North Sea was full of herring and some 20 boats supplied the Craster smokeries’ daily demands for more than 2,000 ‘silver darlings’. Now just L Robson & Sons continues the tradition from its original 19th-century smokehouses. 

Sample the oak-smoked delights of this fourth-generation business direct from the shop or in the restaurant – alongside more exotic variations on local themes such as a Brazilian baked crab or Portuguese bacalhau (salt cod with potatoes). 

The Jolly Fisherman pub opposite the smokery has been welcoming hungry visitors for 165 years. A sunny day in the garden with a glass of wine and a Jolly Fishboard (tasters including crab, salmon rillettes, kipper pâté, smoked salmon, oysters and herring rollmops) is sublime.

After such feasting, what better than a bracing coastal walk to appreciate the provenance of your food? Dunstanburgh Castle is about a mile from the harbour at Craster and there’s usually an ice cream van at the start to fuel your endeavours. 

The marshy hinterlands behind Alnmouth’s largely empty beach lead to Amble and the conclusion of this foodie pilgrimage along Northumberland’s heritage coast. Perhaps it’s fitting to finish at the Fish Shack – a clapperboard, tin-roofed hut on the harbour. Mussels, fish and chips, kippers and crustacea can all be washed down with a local ale in the shadow of Warkworth Castle while overlooking the sea. 

Such direct pleasures encapsulate the culinary DNA of this north eastern corner of England.