Sunny days, rainy days, a castle every day


I saw a great saying on a hillwalker’s T-shirt the other day – ‘Better a rainy day on the hill than a sunny day in the office’. The same applies to our trip, although the last couple of days have tested it somewhat!

The promised photo from the last campsite/field didn’t happen – the following morning was pouring with rain. D got a bit wet when he went to sort out our sanitation, but the heavy stuff waited until I had to leave the van to pick up the anti-slip mats that we put under the wheels to provide extra traction. Being nearly 4 tonnes, we do sink a bit overnight and run the risk of getting bogged – the mats are brilliant and stop the wheels spinning. Anyway, leaving a grassy, slightly sloping campsite when it is pouring with rain is fun – although we were able to drive away from our spot with no trouble, thanks to our mats, getting up the slight incline back to the road was another matter. D had great fun, hurtling the van in a huge arc backwards and forwards to build up momentum, whilst yelling at me to ‘MOVE!’. I ran around the field getting wetter and wetter but managed to stay out of the way.

We decided to go for a walk after dinner and what a strange walk it was. We did a circuit of the tiny country roads around the campsite while the fog came in – by the time we got back to the site, we couldn’t see far in front of us and our hair was wet from the fog. But, being August of course, it wasn’t cold – it was very odd. We met a nice chap on the way and had a chat with him – he didn’t mention the weather at all which is very un-British, so maybe it is normal for up here?

We travelled through some great countryside again and made the most of the crappy day by doing our shopping, filling up with fuel etc. All the exciting things. By the time we got to our next campsite just south of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the rain had stopped and the sun had made an appearance, although there was still a lot of cloud around.

Wednesday was a complete contrast – hot and sunny and perfect for our trip across to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. One of my favourite songs is Lady Eleanor by Lindisfarne, so I’ve had to put that on while I type this. Anyway, Holy Island is reached by a tidal causeway – the causeway is open for about 6 hours at a time, a couple of times each day. It does mean that the island gets quite busy, although not as bad as I had expected for this time of year. There is something pretty cool about driving across a causeway to reach an island. Maybe that is just me.

Holy Island is a fantastic place. Most of the island is a nature reserve with plenty of walking tracks and there is one small village with Lindisfarne Priory and Lindisfarne Castle nearby. The castle was built in 1570, partly with stone from the previously dissolved priory. It was built to protect Holy Island harbour, the last deep-water port before the Scottish border. Although it didn’t see much action, it was garrisoned for over 300 years, suggesting it was considered pretty important to national security (you can tell I’m copying from the information leaflet, can’t you?). Its main interest for us was its time as a private residence – the founder of Country Life magazine bought the castle at the turn of the nineteenth century and commissioned his friend, Edwin Lutyens to convert it into a holiday home. Remember Edwin – designed some of the houses at Port Sunlight and one of D’s favourite architects? Would probably be one of my favourites too if I knew enough about architecture to have a favourite. Anyway, he did a grand job – it is a quirky home with lots of tight staircases and narrow corridors to remind you that you are in a castle.

We took it in turns to go into the castle, while the other sat outside with the dog. I took the opportunity to do some people watching, while pretending to read so I didn’t look too obvious. There are some huge limekilns on the island which are a Scheduled Ancient Monument. A family came over to look at them and I loved the comment from the teenage goth son – ‘So you’ve made me walk all the way over here to look at some holes in the ground?’.

It wasn't really this weird colour - I'd left my camera on Dusk/Dawn setting by mistake!

The main photo at the top of this entry shows a Holy Island tradition – using old, upturned keel boats as sheds. Cut it in half, stick in a door in the end and Bob’s your uncle. Keel boats were commonly used in Northumberland – the keel running the length of the boat (in Viking style) stops the boat being blown sideways in strong winds.

We felt bad about abandoning our plans to go to Scotland, so decided to drive home via Coldstream and the River Tweed for good measure. We noticed that Scotland welcomed us as we crossed the border, but England didn’t when we crossed back. I wonder why? Is it just that the English are rude or the Scots are desperate for visitors? Or maybe the English just don’t want to welcome people from Scotland. I wouldn’t have thought the Scots want to welcome too many English either – anyway, I think there are some Scots/nearly Scots reading (Hugh, Dana, David – are you out there?), so maybe you can enlighten us?

Today was wet again, although we didn’t require as much effort to leave our campsite. Despite the weather, we decided to do some of the Northumberland Coastal drive, thinking that the views might be quite good even in the rain. We drove into Bamburgh, home of Bamburgh Castle and, wow, what an impressive castle it is. It completely dominates the village. Not surprisingly, I didn’t have the camera up front as we drove in – must do better next time (this might become a bit of a theme). As the castle isn’t owned by National Trust and as we are tight-arses, we didn’t go in but thought we would walk the Bamburgh Heritage Trail which is signposted from the car park. Turns out that is the only signpost – you have to make up the rest of the trail up as you go.

The rain stopped as we started our walk but it looked pretty grey, so we were sensible and headed off in all our waterproofs. The rain held off while we pottered about on the beach for an hour or so, so we walked through some long wet grass on the way back to justify having worn our waterproof trousers. Wouldn’t you know it, 5 minutes from the van, the heavens opened and it poured. Although we could (and did) feel smug that we were properly dressed and nice and dry, it was a little annoying that we had to fill the bathroom with dripping clothes and backpacks for the sake of 5 minutes!

D trying his luck at the Bamburgh casino

We drove through Seahouses (mental note to avoid that town) and Warkworth (another castle) before reaching our current campsite just outside Amble. I love Northumberland – huge skies, fantastic coast and room to breathe – but plans for the next couple of days will depend on the weather – either exploring around here a bit more or making a dash south to see if it is any better down there.

S

AUSSIE DAD AND JAN
You see, I was born in Yorkshire. In that hallowed part of the world (and I’m being magnanimous – as we are – by including Northumberland even though they are a bit foreign) anyway, in that part of the world, though realising that some folk might sometimes want to go somewhere else, they will usually be back soon. So, instead of “Welcome to UK” or whatever, our signs would just read “What kept you?” We also went to Lindisfarne the other day. Lindisfarne Tasmania, that is. This bizarre little State was short on imagination in the early days. Lindisfarne is not far from Devon, Richmond and many other nostalgic place names.

AUSSIE DAD AND JAN
By the way, according to the map, also just outside Amble is Coquet Enterprise Park. Spelling aside, this evocative place sounds like it could be worth a look, just to see how enterprising they really are.

AUNTIE PEN
Still, an excellent blog and really enjoying all the descriptions and, mostly, humour!
Just a little history for you – Huff/Richard’s Grandfather on Ted’s side was given the keys to the City of Berwick upon Tweed for his bravery in the First World War. Unfortunately he died at the age of 48 due to being mustard-gassed. We have the plaque hanging up in our home office which Ted gave to Richard.

LVMX
Love the holiday home on Holy island. More later ,we’ve got visitors for the w/e.

HUGH (SCOTTISH)
The boring answer to your query about whether the English are welcoming might simply be that you came in (back in) on a less major road? I note you headed off to Coldstream, so may have headed south from there. I suppose there must be 30 or 40 roads of various sizes that do actually cross the border. Surely one or two of them have a cheery welcome.
I well remember one sign (can’t recall where) on the Scottish side which informs you that you are leaving Scotland, then adds “Haste ye back”.
… there is a lot to see.

BASIL
My bosses brother did his PhD in Newcastle and said not to tell anybody Northumberland is beautiful or evrybody will turn up and spoil it. I think the Harry Potter films might have ruined the possibility of that though.

Of course top dog breeds come from there, terriers at least.

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