Designated as an Area of Outstanding National Beauty, the Northumbrian coast runs for 40 miles along the edge of North East England. As part of one of the least densely populated counties in the UK, many of the beaches in Northumberland are wild and rugged.
Dotted with extravagant ancient castles, the Northumberland coast is also brimming with a deep and tumultuous history from it’s battles involving the once heavily contested border with Scotland. In fact, Northumberland has more castles than any other county in England.
A Guide to the Northumbrian Coast
We started our journey along the Northumbrian coast at the very top, just a few miles from the Scottish border, in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Working our way through the Northumberland AONB and down the coastline to the harbour town of Amble.
In this blog post I want to share with you all the best places that we stopped at along the Northumberland coastline. And if you’ve never thought about visiting this gorgeous part of the world, hopefully inspire you to do so.
Getting To & Along the Northumbria Coast
By Train | There are direct trains to mainline stations at Berwick-upon Tweed for the North, or Alnmouth for the South, from most major cities in the UK. To get to other places along the Northumbrian coast, you’ll need to choose an alternative method of transport.
By Bus | National bus services run into Berwick-upon-Tweed and Alnwick. You might need to change depending on where you are travelling from. The local Coast and Castles Connection service then runs between Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed, connecting the coast.
By Car | Travelling along the Northumberland coast in your own transport is by far the best option. It gives you the most amount of flexibility to stop off wherever and whenever you like. And means you can visit Northumberland beaches not accessed by public transport.
By Foot | Another option for exploring the beaches in Northumberland, if you enjoy long distance walking, is the Northumberland Coastal Path. Winding its way through pretty villages and over dramatic sand dunes, the 62 mile walking route is one of the most scenic in Europe.
Northumberland Coastline Must See Places
England’s most northern town, Berwick for short, is situated at the mouth of the River Tweed and just a few miles from the Scottish border. Having switched hands between England and Scotland numerous times throughout the past, this walled town has a long and bloody history.
Yet surprisingly, despite the violent battles that were fought here, Berwick’s defensive town walls are still standing strong. Grabbing some fish and chips and having a wonder around them as we did is a great way to spend a few hours here.
Entry is free and at various points along the wall you’ll find information boards taking you through the compelling history. The views along the coast are stunningly dramatic and don’t miss taking in the sights of the three iconic bridges over the River Tweed.
Owing to its shape shifting past, cultures and people in Berwick-upon-Tweed are a vibrant mix of Scottish and English. It’s fascinating walking around, hearing people’s accents switch sometimes quite dramatically between Scottish and that of North East England.
Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Adding to it’s mysteriousness, this ancient island can only be accessed at certain times of the day. Outside of those twice daily time slots, the Holy Island is cut off from mainland England by the tide of the North Sea.
Varying throughout the year, you can find the timetable for the sea road online here.
This stop off in the Northumbrian coast is a deeply spiritual place. The history of Lindisfarne dates back to 635AD when Saint Aiden from Iona founded a monastery that became the epicentre of Christianity. From here the religion is said to have spread throughout the world.
To have time to explore the more remote parts of the island, such as The Links and Northern beaches, you’ll need to stay for a tide. If you stay overnight you’ll also get to experience the island at its most peaceful and hopefully be treated to one of its show stopping sunsets.
Camping is prohibited and accommodation limited so you will need to book this in advance.
But there’s plenty to see and experience during a Lindisfarne day trip. Our top recommendations are to visit Lindisfarne Priory ruins, the Wild Window and the Lookout viewing points, Lindisfarne Castle, then stop by Pilgrims Coffee House and Fudge Shop.
Also a haven for wildlife, during the summer months, Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve will also treat you to some seal spotting. Favourite low tide resting spots are the sandbanks and Guile point. During hide tide they can be seen from the harbour to castle footpath.
On the drive into Bamburgh, you’ll immediately see what all the fuss is about this stop off on the Northumberland coast. That is to say, the majestic Bamburgh Castle. Looming over the pretty town and stunning beach below it, the dramatic views really are something else.
The site is thought to have been inhabited for over 10,000 years in various forms and once the property of the English monarchy. After falling into disrepair it was bought by the Armstrong family who restored it and still own it.
Despite being a private residence, it is open to the public. An adult ticket costs £12.50 and parking is £3.00. Which is much much cheaper than the Northumbrian Council car park and you don’t have to actually go inside the Castle to park there – just a quick tip for you there.
There’s a lovely 6 mile Northumbrian coast walk through Bamburgh Beach, between Budle’s Bay and Seahouses. It’s a linear route so park your car or camper in a long stay car park in Seahouses and take a local bus to the track leading to Kiln Point. You can check the bus timetable here.
A traditional fishing village, this Northumberland seaside stop off still has a working port. There’s not so much to do specifically here, but it is bigger than places along the Northumberland coastal route so is a good place to stock up on anything you need.
There’s a really picturesque space overlooking the harbour with a series of stepped benches that’s great to enjoy some fish and chips from.
Other than that, most people come here to visit the Northumberland attraNorthumberland coastal walksction of the Farne Islands National Nature Reserve.
A cluster of islands scattered a few miles off the Northumberian coast, boat trips run daily from March to October. During these months the islands are inhabited by an abundance of wildlife including dolphins, seals and puffins.
This was our absolute favourite of the Northumberland beaches. Parking in a place called Dunstan Steads, just over the sand dunes you’ll find a stunning beach with a view of the epic Dunstanburgh Castle ruins to your right.
Walking left and coming back up from the beach at Dunstanburgh Golf Club will bring you to the charming village of Embleton. We highly recommend stopping off for a drink in the tranquil beer garden of Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel.
Or you can walk in the opposite direction to explore Dunstanburgh Castle itself more closely. It’s a National Trust site so if you’re planning on visiting a few of historic places in the UK over the coming year, it’s probably worth nabbing a National Trust membership.
Dropping slightly inland here, a visit to the historic market town of Alnwick is another must for any Northumbrian coastal road trip. There’s plenty of things to do here, but two that are an absolute must are visiting Alnwick Castle and Barter Books.
Home to the 12th Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick castle is also a regular filming set. It has starred as Hogwarts in two Harry Potter films, regularly features in the English periodic drama, Downton Abbey and most recently in the latest Transformers film.
Then there’s Barter’s Books, which when it comes to the best things to do in Northumberland, is high on our list. Located in an old train station, it’s the largest second hand bookshop in the UK. We spent hours here and bought way too many books.
What’s more, if you happen to visit Alnwick on a Thursday or a Saturday, there’ll be an excellent local market going on selling lots of delicious fresh produce and handmade goods.
This looks like a lovely quaint coastal town. There’s pretty pastel coloured houses lined up along the shore and a wide sweeping beach. But I say it ‘looks like’, because that’s all we did, look at it from our campervan window.
The reason being that the only place that we could park was an extortionate £10 for motorhomes. It was a much more reasonable £3 for cars. There were some free on street parking too but unfortunately the spaces were too small for us so we dipped out.
But I want to include it here, because had we been able to get parked we think we’d have really enjoyed it. If you’re not travelling in your own vehicle it is on the coastal bus route.
There’s also a walk from Alnmouth that sounds fabulous. Walking back up the super scenic Northumberland coast path to the fishing village of Craster. Known for its buttered smoked kippers and crab sandwiches, it’s a popular foodie spot of the Northumberian coast.
It’s around 8 miles, so you can then hop on a bus back to Alnmouth, or do it in reverse if you prefer. Do let us know in the comments if you go to Alnmouth or do the walk to Craster and what it was like. It’s top of our list when we’re next back in the area.
It’s top of our list of places to visit in Northumberland when we’re next back in the area.
Tucked into a meander near the mouth of the River Coquet is our favourite village along the Northumberland Coast AONB. There’s a castle, a beach and an endearing village high street with plenty of traditional pubs. It’s just a really pleasant place to spend a few hours.
Warkworth Castle is run by English Heritage. So again if historical places in the UK are somewhere you’re planning on visiting on the regular this year, it might be worth taking advantage of picking up an English Heritage membership.
If you’re travelling down the Northumbria coast in a campervan as we were, there’s an awesome spot just outside the village and right near the beach for an overnight stop. There’s no facilities but it’s flat, free and has great views.
A popular port town at the mouth of the River Croquet. This final recommendation for places to go in Northumberland is a good base if you’re after plenty of things going on. There’s loads of pubs, cafes, shops and restaurants.
Then there’s harbour village retail pods selling art, crafts, gifts, food and drink. You can also walk north along the River Croquet from Amble up to Warkworth. The Amble Dunes Nature Reserve to the South is also well worth an exploration.
But the biggest attraction to Amble for most people is that it is a gateway for boat trips around Croquet Island. Every summer as many as 35,000 seabirds, including puffins, cram onto the tiny island to breed. Something very special to witness indeed.
Northumbrian Coast Accommodation
Northumberland Beach Hotels
The Joiners Arms | Uniquely decorated rooms in a gorgeous and central coastal location with an excellent restaurant. Check prices and availability here now.
Cowrie Guest House | Homely and welcoming ensuite accommodation surrounded by history with a home cooked hearty breakfast. Check prices and availability here now.
The Victoria Hotel | Elegant and pet friendly rooms in a scenic village setting with views of Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island. Check prices and availability here now.
Hallsteads Apartments | Comfortable, modern living with beautiful garden terraces within 5 minutes walking distance of the beach. Check prices and availability here now.
Warkworth House Hotel | Situated in a charming village close to the beach and a castle. Ensuite rooms with breakfast and free parking. Check prices and availability here now.
Northumbria Coast Campsites
Northumbrian Coast Wild Camping
Finding independent, free overnight camper spots near to Northumberland beaches were pretty hard to come by. Even though most Northumberland County Council car parks offer up to 72 hours parking, they explicitly state ‘No sleeping, cooking, or camping’.
Which is rather frustrating. But we did manage to find a few good spots, mainly through the Park4Night app. However because there are so few places, it’s easy to see how saturated places can become. For more choice, you are best moving inwards off the coast slightly.
The best spot we found for Northumbrian Coast wild camping was in Warkworth. The village there provided a specific overnight car park. There’s no facilities, but it was flat with lovely lovely views. Definitely stop by there if you’re in a self contained camper.