A Visit To Craster Village And Dunstanburgh Castle On The Northumberland Coast
This popular walk on the Northumberland coastline is a favourite of so many, but up until last week I’d never done it myself. Known for being a relatively easy, flat walk along a grassy path, from the picturesque coastal village of Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle and back, it seemed the perfect way to pass an afternoon outdoors. We drove the 45 minutes from Newcastle up to Craster to experience it for ourselves.
On arrival in Craster there is a big public car park sign posted almost as soon as you get there. It’s in the old quarry site and there are plenty of spaces. You do have to pay and display, so you will need change, but it was only a few quid for three hours. I can’t remember exactly but I think it was £1 per hour.
There is no parking permitted in the village itself as it’s so small, unless you are staying in one of the holiday homes that comes with parking. The Jolly FIsherman pub does have some spaces if you’re visiting them, but not many and it’s only a really short walk from the main car park anyway.
The little Pipers Pitch food stall is now open just by the entrance to the car park, serving hot and cold drinks, and a selection of food. The menu looked pretty good, with everything from sausage or bacon sarnie’s, to fresh crab sandwiches or the famous Craster kippers in a bun. The picnic tables close by did have people sat on them so must be open again, but I’m not sure on the toilets – I think they are as the local area has been approved as good to go following the implementation of COVID guidelines and restrictions.
From the car park and behind the visitors centre and Piper’s Pitch, you can head into the trees and discover the Arnold Memorial Nature Reserve. Developed over the old quarry this woodland area is a good place for a walk, and to spot the various birds and wildlife that inhabit it.
There are clear signs on social distancing measures to take, and there are kissing gates to open so take your hand sanitiser. It’s crazy having to think of this stuff now whereas before I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Also, another point I probably wouldn’t have mentioned previously before we got Arthur – dogs must be kept on a lead.
We didn’t venture into the nature reserve this visit, instead we walked along the off road path into the village. It’s so cute, but was sad to see all the gorgeous little holiday homes sitting empty. Thankfully they’ll be able to reopen again from this weekend, and it really would be a lovely little place to stay not too far from home.
The Mick Oxley gallery was still closed, but the Shoreline Cafe opposite was open, with another good menu of sandwiches, cakes, hot and cold drinks. They’re also dog friendly, and actually seemed really pleased to see people and welcome them in, pooches included.
Next we came to the famous Jolly Fisherman, somewhere I’ve heard a lot about and it’s on my list to return to in future. Their crab sandwiches sound amazing, and they’re in a great spot overlooking the harbour. They are opening from Saturday 4th July, with a new menu, and have a new pop up restaurant area in the car park called Dunes.
Their beer garden has new booths to help with distancing, and it’s table service only inside. They are accepting walk ins, but I think it might be best to book to avoid disappointment especially if the weather does improve next week. Have a look at the Jolly Fisherman website here, the menu already sounds like it’s worth another trip up soon.
For the world famous Craster Kipper, I’m told the place to get them is the family owned L. Robson & Son’s, who have their traditional smokehouse right next to the shop. It was still closed when we were there but again hopefully they’ll be open again from this weekend. They are taking online orders, and I’m told the Royal Family are frequent customers. If they’re good enough for the Queen they must be pretty good, so I’m going to have to get some when we go back.
As we continued to walk around the village it wasn’t totally quiet, locals were pottering on in their garden, and the lifeboat station had people working. The rows of sea cottages and houses were so cute, and the gardens were all in full bloom giving some colour to a bit of an overcast day.
We walked past the harbour and along to the fields to start the walk along to Dunstanburgh Castle.
You enter at the gate which is signposted as a National Trust landmark, but it is actually managed by English Heritage. From this point on you’re walking across the fields, right by the sea, towards the impressive 14th century ruins ahead. With the sun occasionally peeping out, it was an easy relaxing walk.
With it being midweek there weren’t loads of people about, but there were a few other walkers, dog walkers, and the odd family rockpooling, or couple having a picnic looking out to sea. The walk from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle and back is about 2 miles, including the walk around the walls themselves.
The castle is currently closed for access, but the English Heritage website confirms that it is reopening this weekend. As a member or a National Trust member your entry is free, and for non members it is £6.50 per adult, £3.90 per child, and there are concessionary and family options available too. To visit you do have to book, as they are limiting numbers to ensure social distancing is maintained. There is a kiosk to buy refreshments from, but there are no toilets.
In total a walk around Craster village and to Dunstanburgh Castle and back took us about two and a half hours, however I think I would definitely spend a bit longer in the village itself once things reopen again. The seaside holiday homes looked so cute, and it would be a nice little quiet weekend away with scenic views, pub food and plenty of walks to go on.
Alnwick, Embleton and Low Newton are all close by too, so especially now more places are reopening I think it could be a great Northumberland escape. Most places seem to require bookings, whether that’s pubs, restaurants or local attractions, so in the coming months I think it will pay to be organised to get the most out of your trip if you visit.
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