Amble is one of the most under-rated tourist centres on the Northumberland coast with its fish, ships and picturesque harbour.
It’s a great place to stroll along the beach, watch the boats come in, and enjoy some of the best fish and chips in Britain.
This unpretentious coastal town has something for every taste. It may not be posh, chic and trendy but it is authentic and honest.
The best way to discover Amble is to take two easy coastal walks – one along Warkworth beach and the other around the town’s quayside. A good place to start is the other side of the River Coquet in Warkworth village.
Distance – 2.75 miles. Easy going walk on largely flat terrain.
Discover Amble from the opposite side of the River Coquet, starting in the car park north of Warkworth village.
I discovered this section of the walk on a bird watching trip a few years ago but the full circular loop is a revelation, taking in fantastic beaches and sand dunes.
Start your walk behind the dunes near Warkworth golf course, turn right and walk for about 3/4 mile along the river flood plain.
Nature lovers will love looking for interesting birds in the habitats of the dunes, wetlands and coast. Look out for stonechats and meadow pipits posing on tree tops and scrubby bushes whilst raptors hover in the air looking for prey.
Scan the watery habitats on your right for wading birds, gulls and little egrets. Redshank, oystercatchers and shelduck were a common sight on the ponds and mud flats during my trip.
As you reach the beach area, divert down onto the sand if it’s low tide. From here you’ll get great views over the Coquet to Amble harbour on the opposite side of the water.
Look out for working boats on the river or battered ships on the sands, awaiting tender, loving care or the scrap heap.
During high tide, follow the coastal path till you reach a small rise in the landscape from where they are excellent views across the river estuary. Take your binoculars for the best views.
Don’t forget to look out towards the centre of the estuary where ruined black coal staithes are a reminder of the area’s historic connections with the mining industry.
The landscape is full of surprises around this river mouth with a variety of habitats.
Nature lovers will enjoy the fabulous views of dozens of sand martins whizzing overhead as they return for the summer. They are best spotted from the near end of the North Pier.
Looking across the harbour at low tide, I like to imagine myself owning one of the smart yachts sitting on the sands waiting to sail out to sea at high tide.
Amble has a shallow harbour entrance so boats can wait around for quite some time to find a suitable window when they can get into the town or out to sea.
In the meantime, skippers and sailors have to remain patient and watch the world go by, like this yacht spotted on my recent trip.
I had to drag myself away from this quiet spot but enjoyed a quick peek over the pier to see the panorama across the beaches on both sides of the breakwater.
On the beach
Turn left at the breakwater warning sign (see above) and take the short path down onto the beach below. It’s a great sight – half a mile of golden sands lie ahead of you.
One of the joys of being on this beach is the lack of people and the vast expanse of pristine sand.
On a quiet day in spring, you can walk along the whole stretch of beach without seeing anyone other than a few dog walkers.
Tourists fly hundreds of miles to sit on a beach like this. But a word of warning – Amble is not Benidorm or the Maldives – the weather isn’t its greatest attraction!
The up side is a huge expanse of pure sand stretching as far as the eye can see – and solitude that you won’t get in southern Spain or the Canaries.
Wrap up warm and bring a jacket… although on a summer’s day, you might risk stripping off and having a quick dip in the North Sea.
On a clear day you might be lucky enough to see great views of Alnmouth in the distance. This charming coastal town is also worth a visit on a future trip with its boats, bays and beaches.
Beach combing is one of my favourite ways of relaxing so why not take a leaf out of my travel book?
As you amble along the sands, look out for objects that have been washed up on the beach including lovely sea shells and razor clams.
Sadly, we saw a dead seal on the beach on our trip but if you’re lucky, you might see a group of passing common seals bobbing about in the waters.
We spotted some strange structures which fellow beachcombers had built from flotsam and wood… a bit like sculptures by a land artist.
Continue walking along the Warkworth beach for about 1/2 mile. Look out for gulls and terns in the skies above.
Further out on the water, I spotted a lifeboat rescue, a warning that this sea can be unforgiving even on a quiet day.
Turn off and scramble across the dunes near the golf course and return to the car park, the end of this section of the coastal walk.
If you’re feeling energetic, walk on through the car park, turn left and walk into Warkworth village and its lovely historic centre.
Don’t miss Warkworth Castle, a ruined fortress and reminder of the fortifications which once defended the town in this war-torn area of the English and Scottish Borders.
The castle was once home to ‘Harry Hotspur’, immortalised in Shakespeare’s history plays, and the bane of Scottish raiders. These are spectacular river and coastal views from the castle walls.
Amble around Amble
Distance – 1 mile. Easy going circular harbour walk on flat terrain.
Amble is the main attraction on the second part of your trip. Drive across the River Coquet and turn down the A1068 to the town’s harbour – or catch the bus from Warkworth.
Amble’s working class roots mean that this feels like a working port, a living, breathing community. It’s no surprise that it prides itself on being “the friendly port”.
Lying at the entrance to the River Coquet estuary, Amble has been an important coastal town down the centuries. The Vikings arrived in the 600s and the fishing industry has been its lifeblood for centuries.
It also played a role in the region’s coal mining history, shipping out the black stuff for export to other ports.
Today, you’re more likely to see sailing ships visiting the marina or fishing vessels bringing in their daily catch.
Walk along the harbour front for lovely views across the river which take in everything from modern ships to yachts, canoes and fishing boats.
On the waterfront you’ll spot plenty of wildlife from large groups of eider ducks to the locals shivering in the cold winds whipping off the North Sea.
I love to watch the boats coming in and out of the harbour. There’s always something new and interesting to see whether it’s the local lifeboat crew responding to an emergency call or the fishing boats returning with their catches.
Walking along the quay front, you’ll see a mixed assortment of boats going about their business as well as amateur anglers fishing on the harbour wall.
At weekends there’s a busy market on the quay, selling everything from cheap clothes to hardware, high visibility jackets and working boots. It’s practical rather than pretty, but has a strange charm.
Walk on the wild side
From the quayside, grab your binoculars and scan the waters on the opposite bank for birds such as cormorants, gulls, terns and redshank.
My favourite bird is the eider duck – these hardy sea ducks love hanging around Amble harbour in gangs.
From the quayside you’ll see Coquet Island, a tiny rocky isle, a mile away. Although you can’t land on the Island, the action on and around its shores is one of summer’s great spectacles.
Thirty thousand puffins live here during the summer months and you’re guaranteed to see the brightly coloured puffins everywhere you look – on land, at sea and whizzing through the air.
Hundreds of Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Gulls and Terns can also be seen flying above us or swimming in the water. Take one of the Puffin Cruises for an immersive hour-long experience which will put you in the centre of the avian action.
Look out for Roseate Terns, one of Britain’s rarest nesting seabirds, which is a summer visitor to Coquet Island which has 90% of the Roseate Tern population in the UK.
This year, Amble has seen a transformation of its harbour with the opening up of a new pathway which means that visitors can walk all the way around the quayside. I was impressed by how this has opened up a much bigger area of the waterfront.
Walk along the harbour and stop for fish and chips, some of the best to be found on the Northumberland coast. I love sitting eating my fish supper on the harbour walk, but there are several indoor restaurants too if you want the ‘posh’ experience.
The Amble Quayside Chippy is Ant and Dec’s favourite – and mine too . But watch out if you’re sitting outside because it’s also a firm favourite with the local black-headed gulls.
Leave your fish dinner unattended and it’s likely to get pinched by the voracious gulls zipping around overhead. I’m sure that chips are bad for the gulls but it doesn’t stop these hungry marauders from pinching them.
After lunch, take a walk along Amble’s new harbour village with its wooden huts or ‘pods’ selling arts, crafts and gifts. There’s even a Dog Pod with a cosy ‘Canine Cafe’ for you and your dog.
The regeneration project marries old and new without spoiling the town’s authentic atmosphere. It’s low-key but in keeping with the town’s laid-back feel.
Amble around and perhaps pick up a crazy ‘I’m Crabby in the Morning’ sign before walking over to the nearby Northumberland Seafood Centre to buy authentic, local crabs.
The Northumberland Seafood Centre stocks its fish directly from local fishermen, and offers a range of seafood from familiar favorites to less well-known varieties of fish.
I was surprised at the range of fish which includes gurnard, pollock, sand dab, squid, witch, red fish, ling, monkfish and red mullet. I fancied trying the witch fish but chickened out!
The centre is part of the Amble Harbour Village development which aims to transform Amble into a visitor destination excelling in seafood, attract new visitors, help the local economy and create jobs.
The regeneration of Amble doesn’t stop there. Coble Quay development next door is an exclusive waterside development consisting of apartments which will create some of Northumberland’s most desirable waterfront residences.
Who wouldn’t want a waterfront view and an address that reads simply ‘The Boatyard’? The name ‘Coble’ also has local origins. In the 1870s Amble’s boat yard was famous for building ‘cobles’, a traditional form of fishing boat made from wood.
From the footpath which circles the development, there are outstanding views across the River Coquet and Amble’s marina towards the dramatic Warkworth Castle in the distance.
Sailing and water sports
Why not wander along the new coastal path around Coble Quay and become a yachting voyeur. Imagine which boat you’d like to sail from Amble Marina.
My partner Tony had his eye on a small wooden skiff designed by Ian Oughtred, and built by the local community – it’s the small red and white boat to the mid-right in the photo below.
Naturally, I had my mind set on something much bigger – a superb yacht with a large deck with seating for champagne drinking and dining.
But a word of warning, if you do sail into or out of Amble, it has notoriously tricky tide times.
There’s a fair chance you might get stranded temporarily, like this yacht on the sands between Amble’s two piers.
Then again, the views isn’t bad on a beautiful sunny day. I could sit there quite happily on that ‘beached’ boat watching the world go by.
Amble is a lovely place to spend a few hours. It may be grimy around the edges and a little windswept at times, but its harbour and beaches are truly lovely.
I love a great day trip to the seaside, especially when there’s fantastic fish and ships to enjoy. Just don’t forget to pack your bucket and spade for the beach excursion.
Tammy’s Guide to Amble
Amble is located 40 minutes drive from Newcastle upon Tyne on the Northumberland coast off the A1 road.
The Amble tourist information centre is located in the town square next to the clock tower and memorial. There’s plentiful parking in the town centre including a large car park close to the Boatyard and Coble Quay.
Look out for the Amble Puffin Festival which takes place in late May/early June every year – read Tammy’s Coquet Island and Puffin Festival blog post
Amble Marina is at the near end of the town centre and provides around 250 berths for a variety of visiting boats.
The marina office, toilet and shower blocks are located in one building next to the main gate to the pontoons at the South end of the marina car park. The marina office is open between 9:00 and 17:00 daily.
If you enjoy shopping and eating, the harbour village huts and Northumberland Seafood Centre can be found next to the main harbour area in Amble. The Quayside Chippy is located further along from the huts.
The Seafood Centre is open for fish ‘sale days’ to the public on Thursdays 13:00-16:00, Fridays 12 noon – 16:00 and Saturdays 10am–12noon.
Why not find yourself a comfortable seat – like this cool cat – and enjoy your takeaway fish and chips?
Amble Harbour Village is open throughout the year, seven days a week. There are 15 retail pods plus several nearby cafes, a restaurant and ice cream bar.
Water sports fanatics will love Amble. This is brilliant canoeing and kayaking territory whilst the long stretches of sandy beaches and windy climate make it a popular destination for kitesurfing.
The Coquet Shorebase Trust in Amble provides water sports for all ages and abilities including windsurfing, canoeing, and kayaking. There are even skiff boat trips for club members.
It isn’t possible to land on Coquet Island because of potential disturbance to the nesting birds but cruises run around the island from Amble harbour. Details of sailing times are available from Amble Tourist Information Centre on 01665 712313.
Wrap up warm. It can be chilly on the boat trips so wear outdoor gear and bring a hat. Don’t forget to take binoculars and a camera (with a zoom lens) for unforgettable views of the birds and seals.
The best time to see puffins and terns at Coquet Island is between May and early August when the birds are nesting on the island.
To the east of the island there’s also a large colony of Grey Seals which can be seen year-round on the rocky shore and bobbing up and down in the water.
Take a trip down the road to nearby Warkworth, a picture-perfect village with a medieval castle. Take a trip around the castle which commands an impressive site overlooking the River Coquet. It’s open daily 10-6 in the summer season. Check winter times carefully as the castle takes a break in the winter.