Friday, March 20, 2015

Chilly Northumberland Spring

Having spent so many recent weekends having fun in North Wales, it was high time to reacquaint myself with the big skies and spreading shores of Northumberland. This was also to be the first camping trip of the year. My hopes for mild temperatures were dashed when I saw the forecast gentle easterlies and their associated bitter chill.

We arrived at the Springhill Farm campsite just after dark on Friday evening. From the camping field we could see the lighthouses of Longstone and the Inner Farne, and to the north was Bamburgh Castle floodlit in all its grandeur. We hurriedly put up our tents before heading to the pub to keep warm.

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On the walk to The Old Ship Inn at Seahouses the streets were deserted. It was a pleasant surprise to find the pub packed with locals. There is always a wide selection of fine ales in this characteristic hostelry and the atmosphere on this particular Friday evening was lively.

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On Saturday Morning we assembled on Bamburgh Beach in readiness for a trip out to The Farne Islands. We set off from 'stag rocks' through small surf and headed for the tiny rocky islet called Megstone.

Megstone was crowded with Shags and inquisitive seals which followed us part of the way to our next destination of Staple Island and Brownsman. Reaching further out to sea we found deeper swell and rougher seas on the way out to Longstone and its historic lighthouse. This group of islands is where the story of Grace Darling is secured in maritime history.

After lunch on Longstone, we returned along the dark edges of Brownsman and Staple Island. Huge flocks of guillemots and razorbills were circling the cliffs and sea stacks known as 'The Pinnacles'. The swirling movement of the birds combined with the lively swell made for a mesmerising journey back to Bamburgh via Inner Farne.

Sunday dawned with lighter winds but greater movement in the sea. The increased swell would prove to be a challenge.  We set off from the sheltered beach next to the harbour at Beadnell. The Castle ruins at Dunstanborough stand high upon a tall headland of Whin Sill to the south. Beyond lies the tiny harbour of Craster. All along this coast there are rocky reefs. The imposing swell trips upon the reefs forming isolated breaking waves known as 'boomers'. Their presence may drain the mouth of saliva and increase the heart rate, but they are easily avoided. As we passed Football Hole and Low Newton we found that the noise of the waves crashing on the Dunstanborough Cliffs made for a nerve wracking and claustrophobic approach through the last couple of reefs to the tiny entrance of Craster harbour.