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Playing golf outside Dunstanburgh Castle

A magical break in the land of Hogwarts…

A question I often get asked is

“I bet you take tons of photos, how do you manage to stay on top of them all?”

To which my frank and honest reply is “I don’t!”

This post is a classic case in point: a trip to Northumberland for our first wedding anniversary, in the winter of 2013. And I’ve only just finished editing the pics! On this trip we were staying in a town famed for the castle that many of us know as Hogwarts; and our weekend in Alnwick was indeed a magical one for many reasons.

The principle aim of the event was to celebrate the completion of twelve months since the biggest and best gathering of our lives. It was also our first adventure with our newly adopted lurcher Alfie. The real bit of magic though was discovering that ‘we three’ would become ‘us four’ approximately 8 months later. Oh, and the Christmas lights ‘n’ stuff around town were pretty magical too!

If you catch me in a pub after a pint or two and happen to utter the word “Northumberland”, what will ensue is an impassioned and prolonged outburst of how it is the friendliest place I’ve ever been and is the only place in the world that could tempt us away from Yorkshire. Well, our stay in Alnwick did nothing but strengthen my enthusiasm for this magnificent area.

I couldn’t believe that our dog-friendly B&B was situated opposite Hogwar… I mean Alnwick Castle. Our hosts were so friendly and welcoming, they even looked after Alfie while we went out for our anniversary meal at the charmingly appropriate Tree House restaurant.

The following day our wonderful hosts recommended a good dog walking route along the coast near Alnmouth. It was the the first of two walks, our second being along the Dunstanburgh Castle coastline.

What struck me about both walks was how intrinsically linked both landscapes were to the local golf courses. Yorkshire is no stranger to golf courses and there aren’t many miles you can travel in ‘God’s own County’ without passing a signpost for some golf course or another. But somehow, many of the golf courses in Yorkshire seem to get swallowed up by the wider landscape, becoming relatively unnoticeable if not invisible to tourists and locals alike.

Our first walk began on a footpath that bordered Alnmouth Golf Club and took us above the attractive expanse of shimmering sand. Halfway through the walk we descended onto the sands and it was around this time that a Sea King helicopter flew overhead.

I am a person with many quirks and oddities, however aircraft spotting is not one them. That said, other than a well kept Land Rover Discovery, the Sea King is the one piece of mechanical engineering that can stop me in my tracks. To those who have been rescued by this long serving flying machine it must be an unimaginably welcome sight. It is so sad to think that they will soon be lost from our skies.

As we headed back down the coastline, we decided to let Alfie loose on the beach for the first time. Until this moment, I had never identified so closely with the phrase “heart in mouth”. One hundred, two hundred, three hundred metres and still he kept running until he was all but a small, white dot in the distance. Thankfully the white dot grew larger and larger as Alfie charged back towards us, exhilarated and seemingly grateful for such a large playground.

Once the fear of losing Alfie subsided I began to notice an incredible array of wildlife just metres away from us, where the sand gave the illusion that a thick, glossy lacquer had recently been applied. Redshanks, Curlews, Turnstones and Sandlings where among the hundreds of birds that had gathered, busy searching the wet sand for morsels to feast on!

After some time torn between Alfie’s breathtaking running and watching the spectacular gathering of waders we got in the car and headed to Dunstanburgh Castle. En route I noticed a wood pigeon lying in the middle of the road with one wing frantically flapping. With no cars before or ahead of us I slowed right down. As I did a sparrow hawk emerged from underneath the plump game bird, then both birds flew off in separate directions. It was a remarkable thing to witness, and we were left feeling pleased for the pigeon while guilty about denying the sparrow hawk it’s ambitious lunch!

The Dunstanburgh Castle walk also began at a golf course and a popular one at that. We successfully negotiated the course, the golfers and flying golf balls to join the main footpath leading to the castle. Exploring the stunning coastline here and this intriguing relic could have easily taken up the rest of our afternoon. However, all three (or four even) of us were starting to get the “cake pangs”!

We followed our tummies to Craster, where we found a lovely place called the Shoreline Cafe. It hit the spot, not just for us but for Alfie too as he lounged in the conservatory area lapping up the attention of other customers. And so it was, that with one last glug of coffee and forkful of Victoria Sponge, our magical Northumberland break came to a fitting end.