One of my favourite ways to get outside in Northumberland is this family walk on an easy coastal stretch from Craster to Embleton via the enchanting and haunted Dunstanburgh Castle. A 2.5-mile route of prime AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) coastline or a 3-mile round trip to the castle and back, it was recently voted 9th in the UK’s Top 100 walks.

Image of ruined castle on rocky cliffs behind beach, dune and sea inlets with atmospheric cloudy sky
Romantic view of Dunstanburgh looking south over Embleton Sands
Image of ruined grey stone Dunstanburgh castle on hill with fern and brambles in foreground and blue sky
The ruins resemble a child-like drawing

A coastline with something for everyone, we’ve tramped it several times in either direction and all weathers, once in the dark on a Cub pack night hike and even when Caroline was hungry for adventure during her cancer treatment in 2017.

Bouldering and rockpooling, wildflowers and haunted ruins, harbours, sand dunes, WWII pill boxes, grazed fields, sandy beach, seabirds and rocky shores. Unbeatable.

Planning, Parking and Maps

Using OS Explorer Map (332) Alnwick and Amble park at the National Trust car park in Craster for the round trip (grid ref NU 257198, lat/long 55° 28’ 24″N, 001° 35’ 42”W).

For a longer walk, park both ends and finish at Dunstanburgh golf club car park (grid ref NU 241231, lat/long 55° 30’ 06″N, 001° 37’ 18”W)

English Heritage run the castle, with free entry for NT members so don’t forget your cards.

Kippers in Craster

Starting at the historic harbour in Craster, kids can spot colourful lobster pots and fishing boats when the tide is high and buy or eat-in at the world(?!) famous home of Craster smoked kippers, L. Robson and Sons, where kippers are still traditionally cured in the original smokehouses. Head for the gate to the coast path just north of the harbour.

Our most momentous excursion was a couple of years ago on a briskly freezing December day. Caroline attempted to catch snowflakes on her tongue until the snow abated to glorious cloud-free sunshine. We kept a good pace to fend off the cold.

Image of woman in magenta coat and child in orange and pink coat catching snowflakes on their tongues with grey sky, coastal field and sea behind
Catching snowflakes near the start gate of the Dunstanburgh walk

Rolling grassland is edged with wonderful bouldering outcrops at the sea’s edge where adventurous souls can scramble to their hearts content. The rock then flattens to an area of shallow pools where the trouble started; all Wild Mummy’s fault..

Image of man and child in outdoor gear walking on grassy coastline with rocky beach and sea in background

Image of girl in pink and orange coat scrambling on rocks at sea's edge

Image of girl in magenta jacket and blue leggings with no hair scrambling on coastal rocks with sea behind

Caroline is a mountain goat at the coast and revelled in rockpooling and bouldering as we went. I wanted to record her reflection in a rockpool with the castle in the distance. It was an almost classic case of ‘..just a bit further back’ before she fell headlong into the pool I was photographing. Bearing in mind it had previously snowed, she was freezing!

We sped back to Craster, wailing angry wildling in arms and miraculously found a table at The Jolly Fisherman pub beside a roaring log fire. Wet clothing was surruptiously removed and hung to steam on the fireguard which left nothing for it but to order an unexpected & delicious lunch.

Image of open fire in brick surround with leggings and socks hanging on fireguard in front

Image of plate of brown bread sandwiches with bowl of crisps on table inf ront of coffee cups

In the indomitable style she later displayed during chemotherapy, Caroline was happy to re-attempt the walk, astutely steering clear of any further motherly attempts at arty-fartiness!

Image of girl in foreground and other people mid ground on grassy coastal path with castle and sea in background
Second attempt at the walk after drying out at the pub!

Photos from various walks.

Image of ruined grey stone castle on grassy mound with two round towers either side of portcullis gate

Image of girl in pink and orange coat and blue hat looking out over castle battlements with panorama along coast and sea behind

Image of stony natural harbour from cliff walls of Dunstanburgh Castle
Spot Caroline on the beach

There is a breathtaking other-worldliness at Dunstanburgh’s cliff-top location and the fortification has collapsed to ruins as though in a child-like drawing. An ancient knight is said to haunt the cliffs outside the castle, seeking a sleeping maiden whilst other ghosts have been seen inside the ruins though we’ve only ever spotted wildlife!

You can now return the way you came, take an alternate route back from the west of the castle or continue to left of the castle and follow a track along the edge of Dunstanburgh golf course into the dunes where the WWII pillboxes can be explored before walking the golden sands of the beach to the golf club car park, if you’ve parked a car at both ends.

Embleton side

More outdoor inspiration

For more fun things to do in the north east check out my Northumberlandpages and for more fab family walks check out Kids of the Wild’s walking and hiking pages

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For archaeological research about Dunstanburgh Castle read this English Heritage report.

For a map of the route to the castle and back (4.2km taking approximately an hour) read The Outdoor Guide‘s summary here

Image 2 of Dunstanburgh castle from the south with choppy waves in front and seagull in air
Atmospheric & moody in stormy seas, viewed from the south
Thanks again to Richard Smith for his fabulous photo of Dunstanburgh Castle.