May 29 2011, 20:58
Sunday 13th September 2009. Travel up plus walk from Rothbury to Thropton and back.
12.50am and Ian was boarding the coach from Bournemouth. No sleep and 9hrs ahead of the scheduled flight time, it was going to be a long uncomfortable night.
A taxi driver arrived for Moose at Bow in good time. However, the obvious route through Blackwall Tunnel was closed so he detoured via Rotherhithe and picked up Andy a little later than planned. He did his best to make up for lost time by breaking the sound barrier along stretches of motorway while gyrating to Caribbean music (a little worrying). To our surprise we arrived at Gatwick nearly 15 mins ahead of schedule.
Ian snatched sleep where he could, half hour here and there on the coach and the odd forty winks curled up on a bench at the airport under stark florescent lighting. Time passed slowly.
When we finally all met up, it was suggested we start our 'Beer Walk' with a Breakfast Beer of Guinness - 8am, why not, the bar was open! It was in the Airport Bar that we got chatting to a group of girls who were off to Cancoon for a holiday and they were less than impressed when we told them that we were flying to Newcastle! Can’t really understand why!
As ex-Scouts we made ‘good use of our time’ in Newcastle City Centre and walked up to St. James' Park, home of the Toon. Here we walked into Reception and asked about a Stadium Tour but alas there wasn't enough time. Instead we went to Shearer's Bar for some nosh and had a lunch of Shearer Burgers and Newcastle Browns all round.
The 1.5hr bus journey to Rothbury was probably more interesting than Ian and Andy made out but was a good opportunity to catch up on a little more much needed sleep.
Finally at Rothbury we let ourselves into the Springfield Guest House (as instructed by the trusting Landlady) then headed off to Thropton, a mere 2 miles away, for our first drop of Beer (Mordue) at the Cross Keys. Then it was off to the Three Wheat Heads for some more Newcastle Brown and a game of Darts.
It had been a long day so when we got back to Rothbury we had a Roastie in the Newcastle Hotel and rounded off the day with a visit to each of the other four Pubs in the village as recommended by Mark.
Monday 14th September 2009. Rothbury to Warkworth.
Sunshine and showers forecast for this morning but more of a light drizzle. The route took us through six different areas ending in the name 'Haugh' before bringing us to the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge and an excuse for a quick pint. Some navigation testers on the way to Elyhaugh then on to the Northumberland Arms at West Thurston. Here we had a chat with a couple of local chaps, one of whom served in the RAF and knew the footpaths very well.
The Stags Head at Felton was closed so we pressed on to Warkworth. On the way up to Guyzance we passed a prominent roadside memorial to ten fallen soldiers and paused here to take a couple of photographs. Next, we had to follow an 'Alternative Route' around a harvested wheat field at East House Farm. This provided a source of light relief as we each tried to see how far we could push one of the six-foot high circular bales. The most we could manage was about ten-foot - hay bale tipping is not easy!!
The footbridge across the River Coquet by the caravan site near Heather Leazes was still completely decimated from a massive flood about a year ago despite being twenty foot above the current water level. The prospect of a long detour by road didn't go down too well with Andy so he released his frustrations by punching Moose a few times! A couple of 'Roamanies' at the caravan site said we could take our chances by wading across the Ford so with trousers rolled up and boots in hand we did. Realistically, it was only eight inches deep; the water was very cold but good for the circulation we guessed. This little episode went on to receive the 'Most Challenging / Memorable Moment of the Walk' award.
Safely across to the other side and on the outskirts of Warkworth, we'd become temporarily uncertain of our exact geographical location. Lost, you might say but this was quickly put right by knocking on the door of a local house. A lady took the trouble to stop making the dinner, came out of her kitchen and walked up the street a little way with us to point us in the right direction to Warkworth Castle. (This lady subsequently went on to receive our award for being the 'Most Friendly and Helpful Local Person')!
Norman and his wife, the next guest house owners, were off Ballooning for the day so we let ourselves in as instructed and had a quick wash-and-brush-up. A great meal at the Hermitage Inn followed by a visit to each of the other four recommended Ale Houses, rounded off our day nicely.
Tuesday 15th September 2009. Warkworth to Embleton.
Embleton was our destination today and walking along the coast in the sunshine towards Alnmouth Bay was very enjoyable. We arrived at Alnmouth in good time and so were able to treat ourselves to a 5-pub lunch as detailed in the book. The first inn that we chose to visit was the Red Lion. Here the Barmaid was very friendly and the Beer Garden very cool and green. (This pub subsequently went on to receive our 'Best Pub' award having received top marks for Welcome, Choice of Beer, Atmosphere and Decor). We managed to pop our heads round the door of each of the other four pubs in the town before staggering off in the direction of Boulmer and soaking up the ale with cold meat pies.
The Fishing Boat Inn at Boulmer was closed so, not wanting to miss out, we had to resort to standing in the car park and having a slug from Ian's hip flask (how sad is that)! On the way up to Craster we passed a large Beacon site which was quite imposing - is this where they burnt The Wicker Man? The famous Craster Smokehouse was closed but the Jolly Fisherman was open so we popped in to enjoy the view across the North Sea (plus the beer of course).
We then made our way up to and around Dunstanburgh Castle; the cattle freely grazing outside the castle walls in the late afternoon sunshine, what a sight. We were kept entertained on the way round to Embleton by some poor golfing out on the course but we followed etiquette and kept quiet.
We stayed at the Bluebell Inn, ate at Greys Inn and were impressed by the Chef who took time to recommend the Haddock as the portions were bigger than the Cod! We washed our meal down with ales from the recommended drinking list and concluded the evening with a visit to the Sportsman Hotel. This received our 'Best Hotel' award as we particularly liked the display of local photographs.
Wednesday 16th September 2009. Embleton to Bamburgh.
Our first Port-of-Call today on the way up to Bamburgh was the Ship Inn at Low Newton-by-the-Sea. We arrived there at approx. 10.30 and could see the Brewer hard at work. He was happy to sign our Log Book and very interested in what we were undertaking. As the pub wasn't going to be open for another half-an-hour, Ian and Moose went for a dip in the harbour area. The sea was so cold that it took your breath away and having waded out and fully immersed ourselves, we wasted no time in getting back to shore! Before going into the pub we were pleased to get a good view of some Oystercatchers through our Carl Ziess Field Glasses!
The weather got better and better and throughout the day nominations were made for the 'Best View' award. These comprised Dunstanburgh Castle viewed from Embleton Bay, Limekilns at Beadnell Harbour from Beadnell Bay and the combined view of Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands.
On arrival at Beadnell Harbour, we took the opportunity to order some local kippers on-line and have them posted to our old Scout Leader Wally Turtle, in honour of our trip. We always remember him on these trips at it was his Scouting skills that instilled these sorts of Expeditions in us. (At the time of writing there is a postal strike and we hope that Wally's Kippers are not holed-up in some remote Sorting Office along with all the local cat life)!!
On to Beadnell Village and a beer in the Craster Arms followed by another in the New Beadnell Towers Hotel where we had a nice pint of 'Reg Guthrie'! From here it was off to Seahouses for a quick 'bullet' in The Farne (formerly the Harbour Inn) and then up to Bamburgh. Here we rested for a while and had a half in each of the four suggested watering holes.
Just before 8pm we jumped on a bus back to the Kingsway Guesthouse, Seahouses as this was where our accommodation was for the night. Before enjoying a curry, we went to the selected hostelries and of these, the Olde Ship Hotel was our favourite. Here, the Landlord not only signed but also enthusiastically rubber-stamped our Log Book plus we got chatting to several of the customers who were keen to learn what we were up to and wished us well with the rest of our journey.
Thursday 17th September 2009. Bamburgh to Wooler.
We do like to see clear winners and the Kingsway Guesthouse, Seahouses ran away with our awards for 'Best all-round Landlord / Landlady' and 'Best Brekkers' (based on size of bangers, sauce offered and quality of fried eggs).
We needed that good breakfast as we had a lot of walking and drinking to do during the day ahead. Having jumped on the bus back to Bamburgh, we started walking in earnest at about 10.15. There was glorious sunshine accompanied by some not so glorious singing on our part. This quickly degenerated into an attempt at singing the words of 'The Wombles of Wimbledon’ to the tune of 'Away in a Manger’ along with other complete mis-matches!
We arrived at the Apple Inn, Lucker to find it was closed so we pressed on to the White Swan Inn at Warenford. The route took us via a field with a very inquisitive horse that came straight across to greet us. We weren't able to offer him any apples however, he did have a bite of Andy's banana - this didn't go down too well and he bared his teeth at us quite a bit then tried to back Ian into a corner!
At the Swan Inn, one of the Customers realised we were on the 'Beer Walk' and within a short space of time everyone in the pub had come round to have a chat with us. They were a very friendly and hospitable bunch and have invited us to their 'Sloe Gin Festival' next year! We toyed with the idea of staying for one of two more but realised that we still had to get past the angry Landlord at Twizell House then across Chatton Moor and Weetwood Moor so we said our Goodbyes.
We considered the walk over Weetwood Moor to be one of the best stages of the whole tour and from here we dropped down into Wooler. We had a good meal in the Red Lion and visited the remaining pubs.
Friday 18th September 2009. Travel home.
The details obtained from the website 'transportdirect.info' did us proud and we made all of our connections. On the Buses from Wooler to Newcastle we voted for and held our own 'Best Of' awards ceremony (results as noted above) and we also jotted down some closing comments and suggestions.
The first of these we called the 'Could have done better awards'. The first award went to 'Lucker Borough Council Footpath Committee' as their paths running alongside Howe Water between Lucker and Warenford were completely overgrown in places. The second went to the Barman at the Percy Arms. This is a good pub but has the potential to be a great one if the garden furniture was looked after a little more and especially if the Barman offered a spot of conversation while pouring the pints of Crag Rat beer.
Our general closing comments and suggestions are that we felt there should have been fewer pubs in each village so we can spend more time in the good ones. Knowing when there were weekly Quiz Nights and 'Karaoke' Nights being held would have helped us with our planning so that we could enjoy some ready-made entertainment. Again, if we knew of and had planned better then we may well have been able to marry up with some local events, festivals and matches.
Overall, we had a lovely time. Ten-out-of-ten for The Inn Way to Northumbria!
That's all Folks. Away the Lads!
Andy, Moose, Ian (AMI Tours).