It's been exactly one week since we've been home from our Summer holidays, and already it feels pretty distant. A sweet, fading layer of images, feelings and happy memories that linger constantly in the background of my mind as I go about my days back at home. I love being beside the sea with such a passion that the return to my land locked life always leaves me weighted down with a teensy bit of melancholy. But oh, we did have such a fabulous holiday! We chose to return to a little place where we have holidayed before, a much loved and familiar little patch of the North Eastern coastline. This is Craster in Northumberland where we've been visiting since the Little People were babies and toddlers. We rented the exact same house where we've stayed many times before as it's cosy familiarity and amazing location make it hard to beat. The modest white washed house sits at the very edge of the village with stunning views straight out to sea, and the coastal footpath running right from the front door. When we arrived last Saturday afternoon it was absolutely chucking it down. It was dark and grey with torrential rain bouncing off the roof of the car. The sea was noisy and wild with big waves pounding onto the rocky shore - very atmospheric and all, but not particularly the right kind of summer holiday weather I'd been dreaming of.
So imagine our surprise when we woke up early the next morning to find that the storm had completely blown itself out, leaving behind it a crystal clear, glorious sushiney day. Oh deep joy! The fine weather had us up and out of the house at 7.30 am, oh yes!! Well, when I say "we", that will be the four of us - we chose to leave The Teen in his bed and head out for an early walk without him. The coastal path here is a delight, it's flat and easy going with stunning views of the coast and the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle just over a mile away.
We hadn't planned to walk any further than the castle, but on the spur of the moment we decided to keep walking....
....around the side of the castle to the beautiful sweep of Embleton Bay beyond.
I love coastal walking very, very much, especially when it's so easy going like it is along here. The grassy path ambles gently along....
....taking you right down onto the long sandy beach.
At this early hour there were only a few other people with their dogs out and about, so it was incredibly tranquil.
We pootled around on the wet sand, breathing in the fresh salty air and looking for shells, then settled down to rest a while before making the return walk back to the house for a late breakfast. What a beautiful way to start our week, it was utterly blissful I have to say.
We hadn't made any plans for our week away, preferring to wake each morning, assess the weather and decide how we wanted to spend the hours each day. The weather is generally very unpredictable here in August, so the trick is to take each day as it comes and be prepared for absolutely everything. Wellies and flip flops, sunscreen and waterproofs, woolly jumpers and t-shirts. It's all about multiple layers and a positive outlook. And possibly chocolate.
This is the day we chose to pack a picnic and head out into the grey of a drizzly wet morning. It was warm and damp, and the Little People were more than a little bit whiny about the lack of sunshine and the amount of effort required to complete a five mile walk.
They soon got into it though (chocolate bribery is definitely the way to go), and we tramped happily along footpaths and around golden corn fields....
....which despite the drizzle were looking beautifully summery and lovely. We've done this walk once before, so with former knowledge we were able to keep the Little people going with the promise of an imminent picnic spot just a mile or so ahead of the corn field. The rain finally stopped as we walked down a quiet country lane towards the secluded little beach at Howick....
.....ahh, there it is! A gentle scramble down onto the sand....
....just in time to settle on the rocks and enjoy a lovely picnic lunch. We took a picnic out and about with us every day last week (except for one very wet day which necessitated a splurge in a restaurant), oh I do really love a scenic family picnic, don't you?
We pootled about a bit on the beach after lunch, the Little People scrambling about on the rocks whilst I played around with some limpet shells (like you do). The last time we came to this beach I found a wonderful amount of beautiful sea glass, but sadly there wasn't so much treasure to be found this time.
Eventually it was time to move on, which entailed a rough scramble up over these amazing rocks to re join the footpath back along the coast to Craster.
Bye bye Little Beach, see you again next time!
The amble back towards Craster is only a few miles, and it's beautiful walking for sure.
I loved seeing so many wild flowers on our walk (butterflies too), this sea thrift always reminds me of my childhood summers in Dorset.
Up above, the rain clouds were finally retreating as we walked slowly along the coastal footpath and finally the sun made a welcome appearance. It was such a lovely walk, very laid back and easy going and full of chatter and banter the whole way.
Arriving back into Craster after an outing is a true pleasure, and the small harbour always looks very jolly in the sunshine. We stopped off at the local pub to enjoy a refreshing pint of beer in the garden, a lovely end to our simple walkabout.
No holiday in Northumberland is complete without a visit to Cragside, I've lost count of the number of times we've been here now. To be perfectly honest, I don't really much enjoy visiting Historical Houses. I find them stuffy and slightly claustrophobic and spend much of my time inside gazing out of the windows and wishing I was still outside. I feel guilty about this fact (shhhh, don't tell) and generally spend the whole time trying to hide my boredom from the Little People whilst counting down the minutes until we can get back outside and breathe in the un-historical fresh air. Phew.
The gardens at Cragside are beautiful, a mixture of incredibly huge, seriously impressive woodland (the tallest trees you ever did see)...
....and wickedly neat formal planty bits. This terrace changes it's pattern every year, there are some crazy facts about the plants I think (googling to dig up the facts for you......ok...so 20,000 plants, these beds take six weeks to plant up! Seriously!!)
There are also some rather lovely flowers to be enjoyed on the terraces, my most favourite being the dahlia beds. Swoon-worthy, and a gazillion times nicer than old furniture and dusty corridors in my opinion.
We had a scenic, lake side picnic lunch at Cragside, followed by our traditional treat in the National Trust café before heading over to the children's playground to allow Little B to throw himself around the place for a bit. All that moderated behaviour in the historical corridors needed a release, let me tell you, we all felt loads better afterwards.
Another beautiful sunny day and another jaunt with a picnic tucked up in our rucksack, this time a drive across the still-wet causeway over to Holy Island. There is such a thrill about driving along a road that has previously been under the sea (less than an hour ago it was still submerged, imagine that!), the very thought blows my mind. I am always waaaaaay more excited to make this drive than the Little People are I'm sure. I love visiting Holy Island, but I am always a little bit disheartened by the crowds. Soooooo many people swarming all over the place....sigh. It is deservedly popular, a very special place to visit, but even so, I still wish it could somehow be miraculously deserted instead of overrun by hoards of tourists.
We love the little beach though, and after an exceptionally good coffee stop (I can highly recommend Pilgrims Coffee House, totally superb in every way, and a delightful walled garden in which to sit and caffeinate), we headed to the shore to potter and picnic. There is always a tonne of sea washed glass and china washed up on the beach here, due to a Victorian rubbish dump located a little further along the coast (a local lady told us this some years ago).
From the beach, there is a small pathway which allows you to scrabble steeply up over the headland with stunning views of the surrounding coastline and out across to Lindisfarne Castle.
Ahhhh, the castle - so picturesque and quaint, and such a honey-pot for tourists!
We dutifully queued and shuffled our way around the over crowded interior - it's actually a really lovely place to visit (small and atmospheric) but with so many bodies inside it gets very claustrophobic. Great views from up there though.
Our time spent amongst the crowds on Holy Island was quite short really, and it was something of a relief to get back to the tranquillity of Craster.
I seriously love staying in Craster, it ticks so many of my personal happy boxes. The house where we stay is perfectly located with uninterrupted views straight out to sea. The above photo is the view from the bedroom window - I can't tell you how magical it is to drift off to sleep with the sound of the waves in your ears. I love it so so so much.
We are an early-to-bed-early-to-rise type of family, and early mornings waking up in Craster are nothing short of magical. The front of the house faces east, so the bedroom view boasts a magnificent sunrise which can be enjoyed sat up in bed with a steaming hot mug of tea in hand.
I also really came to love the quiet afternoons spent in Craster, the delicious relaxation of coming home after an outing and knowing that the hours ahead would be devoted to sea-appreciation and loafing. Often we would leave the two older Little Peeps at the house (you can see the side of the white house in the above photo, we were never far away), wandering down to the beach with Little B to search for sea creatures in the rock pools. Sometimes I joined in the search for things, other times I let J do the bucket and net thing with Little B whilst I sat myself on a sun warmed rock and gazed at the horizon.
The house where we stay has a delightful walled garden at the back, and many afternoons last week were spent out here idling. Typically we would return to the house in the later part of the afternoon, giving us a few hours to sit and read/crochet with a chilled glass of wine or two before cooking a simple dinner. Sometimes the Little Peeps joined us, sometimes they lolled about inside on the sofas and took advantage of Sky TV.
One of the things I adore about Craster is the smell of the place, honestly, it is absolutely unique and wonderful. This small fishing village is world famous for it's smoked kippers, and the small smoke house is almost constantly doing it's fragrant, smoky thing. I wish you could look at the above photo and smell it!!
One of my favourite times of the day were the early evenings when we would often take a short stroll around the village after dinner.
The tide was in at this time so the harbour was full and peaceful, and the golden evening light was magical. Sometimes we would go and simply sit on the wooden benches at the side of the harbour to chat and take in the views....
....other times we would walk a little further around the coast and head down to the rocks to soak up the last of the day's sunshine. There would be a flask of coffee (or sometimes a weeny drop of chilled wine), a little bit of chocolate perhaps, and some lovely time spent watching the Little People play. I loved these evenings so much, the simplicity of a short stroll and a scenic place to sit, chat, ponder and play at the end of the day.
We only had one day last week (apart from the stormy day we arrived) when the weather did not play nice. We woke up to thick fog and a wet grey drizzle which hung low for the whole entire day. We spent a lazy morning indoors, then decided to head inland to Alnwick to treat ourselves to lunch. It's not often that we eat out as we do really love to picnic, but it was a nice change. We opted for a small, independent Italian restaurant and although the service was extremely slow (the Little People struggled waiting an hour for lunch to arrive), the atmosphere was relaxed and cosy and the food was delicious.
The day after the wet drizzle-fog turned out to be utterly glorious, just the perfect late summers day. White fluffy clouds, blue sky, a light breeze and blazing sunshine - so off to the beach we went. There are so many beautiful beaches to choose from in Northumberland, but we decided to leave the car in the driveway and walk from the house back around to our favourite Embleton Bay.
The light and the colours were sublime (totally made me think of my Coast Blanket!), and my sea-loving soul swelled with happiness and joy.
We walked a good way along the beach (shoes off, walking in the shallow surf, so divine!)....
....before stopping beside the sand dunes to rest and have (yet another) picnic lunch. The Little People spent a minimal amount of time wolfing down their food, desperate to get into the sea. Can you see them in the above photo?
I joined them after a while - not exactly in the sea as I am absurdly afraid of being in the water and don't swim very well, but I am an accomplished paddler. The sea is very, very shallow here at low tide and the rippled sand feels wonderful under bare feet and toes.
We spent ages paddling and playing in the shallows (I have a delightful set of photos of Little B in just his underpants having a huge amount of fun with a very large stick). Eventually the Big Boys had had enough of lounging about on the picnic blanket and called us out of the sea to go in search of refreshment. We remembered from past years that you can cut through the sand dunes from the beach and follow the foot path to Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Clubhouse. It's a very handy thing to know if you have a Little Person desperate for a wee, a Teen desperate for free WiFi and two Parents desperate for an ice cold pint of lager. I can report that they also make incredibly good bowls of chips (a spontaneous purchase and a very Good Idea) and that the beer garden is a very nice place to sit, sip and munch.
Our week away was such a tonic for all of us, it's so good to take a break from the routine of home and spend time enjoying the simple pleasure's of an English summer. I loved seeing my three Little People all together too - the Teen is now extremely independent when on his home turf and it was especially good to have his company last week and to watch him chat and play with the younger two.
For me, I totally enjoyed getting a wonderful daily sea fix which eased the near constant craving I have for it. I love being by the sea so very much, it fills my heart and soul to the brim with happiness. I miss it now of course, but the memories are fresh and intact, bottled and preserved, layered ready and waiting for the next time. Thank you so much for sharing them with me.......