Northumberland

The Big Chill – ‘Costa del Craster’

Craster crew

The ‘Costa del Craster’ crew

It may be British Summer Time (BST) but the weather has a distinctly wintery feel as I discovered on a trip to Craster on the Northumberland coast a few days ago.

Even my Canadian friends found it as bracing as a trip to the Arctic extremes of their own country in winter.

Perhaps it was the wind chill factor that made the difference – or the constantly changing English climate which took in four seasons in a single day?

Here we are huddled together sheltering against a stone wall at Dunstanburgh Castle before running back to the village pub for a hearty lunch in warmer surroundings.

Dunstanburgh is a spectacular location with the dramatic ruins of the castle in a striking coastal setting to admire. Today, the waves were crashing against the shore below with such force that foam was rising up from the sea like a strange science fiction movie.

Here’s our Canadian friend Pierre looking very cold on the castle forecourt.

Dunstanburgh

Pierre – cool king of the castle

Craster harbour

Back in the village, even the birds were sheltering in the harbour behind the sea wall with a bunch of  busy turnstones running around looking for scant pickings on the shoreline.

You know that all’s not well with the springtime weather when Eider Ducks, the most resilient of sea birds, come right up to the harbour’s stoney beach.

These ducks are famed for their insulation – their fluffy feathers are used in eider downs and winter jackets.

Eider duck

Eider duck enduring the big chill

For humans, there’s the question of outdoor clothing and having the right kit…  a duck down jacket?

Perhaps we were simply wearing the wrong gear for a spring British walk along the coast? My husband Tony always says there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!

Layering is his recommendation – and on our trip you needed several layers more than on a regular spring day.

To be honest, we were pretty well kitted-out although Pierre had left his gloves – a really bad idea in zero temperatures, especially when the wind chill factor made it feel like minus 15 degrees.

Zara had packed her Canadian mountain jacket which ressembles a Russian scene from Dr Zhivago, captured here at Dunstanburgh Castle.

Cold at Craster

Zara at Dunstanburgh – so cold it could be Dr Zhivago’s Russia

The ‘Village People’

We may have some of the best beaches in Britain in Northumberland but we cannot compete with Spain’s Costa del Sol when it comes to the weather!

Back in the village we dropped into Robson’s, the fabulous kipper and sea food shop, but even here they were feeling the impact of the lingering Arctic conditions.

A local man told us that the Craster fishing fleet hadn’t been able to get out for two weeks because of the wind and high seas… so there was no fresh crab to be purchased.

It was a similar story to my previous blog post about how puffins are suffering out at sea – the birds have been unable to fish in the tumultuous waters.

Craster smoke house

Robson’s smoke house and shop

There was only one solution – a trip to the Jolly Fisherman pub which has recently undergone a much-needed renovation which has brought it into the 21st Century without losing its historic charm.

Gone is the smell of greasy chip fat to be replaced by the wafting aroma of delicious shellfish and kippers. The traditional fayre has also gone slightly upmarket with seafood chowder and prawn toast, keeping locally sourced products at the heart of the menu.

We sat looking out the pub’s steamed-up windows watching the waves thundering onto the shore below us. I’ve never felt happier to be tucked up inside with my crab sandwiches and soup.

Crab sandwiches

Crab sandwiches at The Jolly Fisherman

Barter and banter

Finally, we made a reluctant move outside – so we kitted up for one last saunter around the village but soon gave up after being blown along the seafront. By now it was snowing as well as blowing a gale force storm.

Our Craster crew ‘helm woman’ posed for this last picture before running back to the warmth of the tourist information centre to buy a replica puffin keepsake.

Craster

My fellow blogger on the ‘cold coast’

There was only one thing to do to warm ourselves up – so we headed inland a few miles to the cosy Barter’s Books in Alnwick.

With its roaring log fires, warm lounges and large mugs of hot drinks, this was the best way to warm up and defrost after our wintery walk along the coast.

Barter's Books

Pierre and Annelise in Barter’s Books

This former railway station has been converted into a great independent book shop which serves hot drinks and cool cakes… and is the best way to warm the cockles of your soul.

It’s also the place where they found stacks of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ wartime posters – which sparked a revival in this merchandise. Somehow the sentiments seemed appropriate after our big day out in the cold.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On – in Northumberland

Our detour was the ideal antidote to a cold and chilling trip to the ‘Costa del Craster’.

Next month I’m off to Spain – let’s hope their coastline lives up to its reputation for hot weather, sunny beaches and instant tans.

But I will be taking my woolly hat, ski jacket and thermo-pants – just in case!

Tammy’s top tips

As you’ve guessed, the best times to visit Craster and Dunstanburgh are summer and early autumn on bright, clear days.

In a previous blog post I covered a whole load of interesting places and sights to visit in Craster and Dunstanburgh.

A trip to Craster can be combined with a half day visit to nearby Alnwick which offers a range of interesting attractions including  Alnwick Castle & Treehouse Restaurant, Alnwick Gardens and Barter’s Books.

Find out what my Canadian friends made of their trip to Northumberland on the Dear England, Love Canada blog which I can heartily recommend.

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