Today it's part two of our Northumberland adventures. I thought I'd share a few of the places we visited and also highlight a few little gems that we stumbled upon that are totally worth seeking out should you visit the area. I have to confess that the furthest north we went to was Alnwick as we didn't want to spend the majority of our time driving for day trips. Next time we will go to Lindisfarne and check out Bamburgh Castle etc, but for now these places were enough time away from the beach.
*I've put links to all the places we visited at the bottom of this post.
Firstly the beautiful village of Alnmouth. From the roadside you can see the little pastel coloured cottages that sit high above the estuary. There is nowhere to pull over and get a photograph but I thought I'd be able to get a picture when I went to the village. However, I could not find my way to them, and I started to think they were a figment of my imagination. But they are there! Alnmouth itself is a sweet and charming little village with great sweeping views of the coast. We had really good coffee and a salted caramel cookie which was out of this world good in the Dandelion Cafe. It has a nice little outside area to sit in the sunshine and is very dog friendly too. Also in the village we discovered the Alnmouth Country Store which had a great deli counter with local cheeses, pies and antipasti. We got some fresh levain bread and Northumberland Nettle cheese to have for supper later that day. Both were delicious with a big old glass of red wine.
Morwick Dairy Ice Cream is well known around Northumberland, and you can buy cones and tubs from a lot of shops and cafes all over the area. A visit to the parlour is better though as you can get a wider range of their flavours (Bakewell Tart, Kinder Chocolate, Eton Mess to name a few) and I have to say that we went twice as we loved it so much. But the most amazing thing about it was the Sea Buckthorn flavour. Oh. My. Word. It's unbelievable. It has a citrus and peach flavour and is the best ice cream I have ever eaten in my life. This is why we made a return visit and we savoured every mouthful.
Barter Books is of course famous around the world for bringing about the resurgence of the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster, as an original was discovered in a box of books bought at auction. It's also one of the biggest secondhand bookshops in Britain and is housed in Alnwick's Victorian railway station buildings. I was kind of in awe walking in the door, not only is it one of the places I have wanted to visit for years but I had no idea that there was a model railway passing overhead. How amazing is that? I was transfixed, blissfully returned to childhood and memories of Hornby trainsets. (I was such a tomboy. No dolls for me!). I could have spent a long time wandering the amongst the bookshelves and there is a great kids section too. We'd also gone there for some lunch as we wanted to try the station buffet. It's great, separated into different areas that were originally first class passenger waiting rooms and a boiler room. Each is decorated in keeping with their original purpose and are quirky and interesting, but sadly the cafe was packed with people waiting for tables and it was impossible to take any pictures. We did eventually get a table right beside the service counter and the food is simple, fun for kids and very reasonably priced. Next time though I think we'd go early and get some breakfast. It may be a little quieter.
Alnwick Gardens and Castle are usually top of the list for visitors to Northumberland. The castle looked spectacular and has been used as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies as well as featuring recently on Downton Abbey. There are lots of great events on there to for kids, like knight school and broomstick training but as Harry has reached the age of twelve, it's become harder to find things he might be interested in. So we chose to go to Alnwick Gardens instead, mainly as it has a great treehouse with wooden walkways and wobbly rope bridges as well as a restaurant and a cafe nestled amongst the treetops. It also has several events on for kids and the Garden of Fairy Tales looked really popular for the littles, as did the mini tractors next to the large water feature - the Grand Cascade. This has some spectacular displays on the half-hour, and there was a lot of shrieking as many people got pretty wet. The Poison Garden had a queue a mile long and whilst it did look appealing, I truthfully couldn't be bothered waiting. There are lots of other lovely areas of the garden to see, and I loved the Rose Garden and the Ornamental Garden. Harry enjoyed the Bamboo Labyrinth as did lots of other kids. Then hunger struck and it was off to explore the treehouse and have some cake in the treetops. We ate outside the little Potting Shed cafe amongst the twinkling fairy lights. It has a really nice laid back atmosphere even though it's busy.
And that's what we did on our holiday. A lot of cake eating, a lot of coffee drinking. Many, many photographs were taken of Echincea in Alnwick Gardens, probably about forty! Why? I think I'm mad that mine hasn't flowered this year and so I'm kind of obsesessed with it.
What did I like about Northumberland? Well, the beaches are stunning, quiet and clean. The villages are postcard pretty. Everything is quite close to one another and it doesn't take long to get anywhere. Vegetarians and vegans are not very well catered for though, it did seem like there were a lot of places that had the token vegetable lasagne as an option. But I have heard really good things about the Running Fox at Felton and Pulp Fiction Future Food at Whitely Bay so we'll try them next time we are visiting. And we definitely will be heading back to Northumberland soon. It's a special place indeed.
* Links to places I have mentioned: