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.
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.
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..
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.
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!
Photos from various walks.
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.
More outdoor inspiration
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