Craster is one of Northumberland’s coolest locations.
No, I don’t mean the weather although admittedly it’s often chilly and windswept on the North East coast.
I’m talking about the joys of sea, sand and shell fish…. in one of the most dramatic locations on Britain’s coastline.
Last weekend we took the camper van to Craster, a fishing village renowned for its fantastic kippers and attractive coastline.
Dunstanburgh Castle dominates the coast with its craggy towers, ruined gatehouse and imposing walls almost falling into the sea. It sits on the Great Whin Sill, a lump of volcanic rock which forms this spectacular rocky headland.
The castle was once one of the largest fortifications in England but fell into disrepair during the medieval period Built on top of an earlier prehistoric fort, Dunstanburgh was built in the early 14th Century and was twice its present size in its heyday. This must have made it a fearful proposition to any potential invaders from Scotland or across the North Sea.
It’s always a pleasure to walk the coastal route to this impressive ruined castle even though I’ve been at least a dozen times.
One of the best times to visit the castle is at sunset when the changing light can create a very special, timeless atmosphere which has inspired artists including Turner who was a big fan of this Romantic site.
Nature is close to hand on any trip to this coastline.
Although it was windy we spotted some interesting birds including Linnets, Cormorants and Eider Ducks.
The Eider is sometimes known as a ‘Cuddy Duck’ in these parts, named after St Cuthbert who once undertook a hermit-like period of reflection on the Farne Islands up the coast from here, with only these birds for company.
It’s one of my favourite sea birds, with the males sporting pure white plumage with a splash of mint green and black. The Eider also makes a fabulous ‘ooh-ooh’ sound reminiscent of the camp British comedian Kenneth Williams.
There was also a small group of Linnets hanging out in the rock pools, enjoying an impromptu bath, and displaying their pink plumage whilst posing on the rocky boulders.
At other times of the year this is a good bird watching spot for winter waders (Oystercatchers, Dunlin, Redshank etc) and summer breeding birds like Kittiwakes on the cliffs.
Kippers and crabs
After walking back to the village it was time to head up the hill to Robson’s smoke house to buy the local kippers.
We opted for the delicious kipper pate over the kippers themselves for a change. It was a tough choice as their lobsters (at only £5 a shot) also looked fantastic!
It was only the thought of grappling with the lobster in the kitchen and steaming the poor creature to death that put me off.
Then, we drove the camper van up to nearby Boulmer harbour to eat our kipper pate with a fresh Parisien (the loaf not a French person!).
Watching the breaking waves of the sea from the truck whilst we ate the delicious Craster kippers was pure bliss!
Tammy’s top tips – Craster
- Check for tide times before you set off on your trip. High tide at Craster is great for rock pooling whilst low tides are perfect for sand castles and beach combing.
- Don’t forget to visit Robson’s smokerie shop in the village on the way home for a great selection of crabs, kippers, lobsters and sea food.
- Park your car in the public parking area on the edge of the village but allow plenty of time for a coastal walk. It’s about a mile walk in each direction to Dunstanburgh Castle – and there are no short cuts.
- The Cottage Inn is a pleasant country pub with an attractive garden on the edge of the village. Bar food and meals are also served daily. I prefer this inn to The Jolly Fisherman in Craster village but the latter does boast great sea views.
- There’s a tourist information office and small shop next to the car park if you need help with orientation and maps.
- Walkers will enjoy the Craster circular walk, a six mile route to Low Newton-by-the-Sea and back down the coast.
Where to find it: Craster is located on the Northumberland coast north of Alnmouth and Amble. Take the A1 north from Newcastle, turn off onto the coastal route signposted Warkworth and follow the signs up the coast.
There is also a good cycle route up the coast if you’re a keen biker. It has the advantage of being largely flat for those who don’t have the legs for uphill rides – a bit like Tammy.
Other places nearby: If you’re in the vicinity there are many interesting half day and day trips including Warkworth Castle, Alnmouth, Bamburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle and Gardens, and the Farne Islands (via Seahouses).
Places to stay: There are many holiday cottages in Craster and nearby. There is also a large Caravan and Camping Club site at nearby Embleton.
RV and camp site: Dunstan Hill @ Embleton
The Embleton site is a large club site with hard standings and grassy pitches for caravans, camper vans and tents.
This family friendly site is large and well-serviced with showers and toilet blocks. It’s located in a very good area for getting to Northumberland attractions.
But be warned this isn’t a site for those looking for solitude and peace & quiet.
A plus point is that cyclists can ride down into Craster along a series of quiet roads. It’s also about 5 minutes to the Cottage Inn pub by bike.
Places of interest ****
Total 15 (out of 25)
Price: Moderate/high price range – £18 per night (without a hook-up).