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A week in Northumberland


Four of us from the U3A Photography Club (known as the Monday Club) travelled up to Northumberland in June 2018 to enjoy the scenery and more importantly to photograph puffins and arctic terns on the Farne Isles. We rented a house in Seahouses to house us all for the week.

Day 1

Was travelling the 200 mile slow journey up to Seahouses Northumberland but as this was a first time for a few of us excitement and some good laughs made the journey fairly quick.

On arrival at the house and having found the tea pot and kettle it was then time to discover the town and I guess the first visit to the local pub for dinner. After that we had a quick trip to discover Bamber Castle in the setting sun.

Day 2

Was an early start as we needed to be in North Berwick (first taste of Scotland) for 1000am as we had a boat trip planned for 1030 to have a trip around Bass Rock where up to 150,000 gannets have based their home in the breeding season. This was an unbelievable trip as indeed the whole island was covered in gannets. They were an amazing sight and watching them dive up to 60mph into the sea to capture fish was remarkable.

We left North Berwick for a short trip to Preston Mill which is a most unusual mill and a great opportunity for some photography work. The 18th century mill with its Flemish tile roof and block masonry is one of the few water mills still functioning in Scotland. It is allegedly Dutch designed. Humid Oats were dried on plates in the conical oven then sent to the mill via a slope to be sifted, crushed and milled. The large water wheel was made in 1760.

We then moved down the coast to St Abbs harbour which is a tiny harbour but famous for diving and the chips at the small cafe in the harbour which unfortunately for us was closed. One of the features for us was that Alsager Diving club in the past had in fact donated some money to the diving buildings there.

We then moved back down the coast to Bamber sands to take in the lovely view of the Farne islands and indeed the magnificent Bamber Castle.

Then back to Seahouses where a few of us took what they called the Sunset Cruise which was a 2 to 3 hour boat trip around the Farne Islands giving us our first view of puffins and the other amazing bird and seal life of these islands.

Day 3

Today being Sunday we have planned a trip to Holy Island/ Lindisfarne but this can only be reached from the mainland across a sea causeway which today was only open for cars from 1400 so we decided to go to Chillingham Castle and Farm first of all.

Chillingham Castle is a 13th century, grade one star listed stronghold in Northumberland famed for action and battles with its fine rooms, gardens, lakes, fountains and tea rooms. The castle has an extraordinary ownership bloodline which runs back to the 1200's.

Chillingham Farm was just down the road from the castle and they have the only wild cattle in the world which are sole survivors of herds that once roamed the forests of Britain. Once they were held sacred and pre-Christian Pagan sacrifices to the gods. Later in their history this herd both defended and fed Castle. These animals are still potentially dangerous and can only be visited with the warden.

It's almost 2pm so time to move to Holy Island and across the causeway – if you watch Vera on the television you will see this causeway every time an advert comes on!! A bit of a shame as they were still doing up Lindisfarne castle.

It is dinner time so we went to find a fish and chip restaurant in Seahouses after which a few of us decided to catch the sun setting over Bamber Castle while the rest of us went on another sunset cruise to photograph the wildlife around the Farne Islands and capture the sunset from the boat.

Day 4

Time to make use of our National Trust cards and to start with we are off to the Cragside NT house and gardens stopping first at their excellent tea rooms.

Cragside was originally a small Villa built in 1863 to 1866 by an unidentified architect. In 1869 it was developed and considerably enlarged by Richard Norman Shaw for Sir William later Lord Armstrong, the Newcastle inventor and armaments manufacturer. At Cragside Armstrong put into use the engineering skills which had made his fortune. Hydraulic machinery supplied water to the house, powered the lifts and rotated the spit in the kitchen. An internal telephone system provided room to room communications. Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectric power, using manmade lakes and underground piping. The exterior of Cragside is a dramatic blend of different architectural styles and elements including gables, crenulations, Tudor chimney stacks, gothic arches and mullioned windows. It boasts some of the finest surviving Victorian internal interiors in the country featuring the designs of William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Philip Webb and Burne Jones.

It's time now to travel to Craster for a visit to the smokery to pick up some famous Craster Kippers for dinner.

Day 5

This for us is one of the highlights of the trip, an all-day visit to two of the islands of the Farne Isles. The Farne Isles during June/July are home to thousands of Puffins, Gannets, artic terns.

We are spending 3 hours each on Inner Farne and Staple Island which are 2 of the largest islands out of the 20 islands that make up the Farne Isles.

To give an idea of the number of birds on the islands the National Trust do a count each year and this is just a few of the breeds that we saw:

  • Puffins 72,000
  • Guillemots 49,000
  • Arctic Terns 2000
  • Razorbill 700
  • Kittiwakes 8000

As you can see during June and July the islands are full of wildlife especially Puffins.

Artic Terns are the ones to look out for when walking up the path to the church on the island of Inner Farne as they are protecting their young and will indeed attack you – headgear must be worn.

Day 6

Early morning start as we need to be at Berwick Train station to get our pre-booked train tickets to Edinburgh. This must be one of the hottest days of the year so far.

We were booked to go on the Hop on hop off bus in Edinburgh so had an excellent trip around the main highlights of Edinburgh. The bus we chose had a stop off at Leith where we had a pre-booked visit of the Royal Yacht Britannia. This was an excellent visit and well recommended to anyone travelling to Edinburgh in the future.

It was time now to get back on the bus and travel to Edinburgh Castle for a tour of this massive castle.

Dinner in a local bar/cafe and then back on the train to Berwick.

Day 7

Today we decided we needed a good walk so we drove down to the Dunstanburgh Golf course where there is a really good walk along the coast line past Dunstanburgh Castle and onto Craster where we could get a good lunch at the Fishermans Arms, a distance of about 8 miles return.

We then went to Amble to have a look at the harbour and a coffee/tea. Then a trip back up the coast to Low Newton By the Sea to a famous pub called The Ship which has its own brewery and great food.

Day 8

Its time for the long trip home stopping off at the Angel of the North.

All in all it's been a fantastic week, all sunshine and not a drop of rain nor a cloud in the sky.

A week in Northumberland Gallery


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