Sunday, 13 March 2016

Sunday 13th March 2016 - Dunstanburgh Castle & Craster

I suppose that you only appreciate just how comfortable a bed is when you wake up and realise that you had a totally undisturbed nights sleep. The bed here in the cottage gets a full 10 out of 10 as far as I'm concerned at the moment. We both slept really well, and awoke feeling refreshed and ready for almost anything.

Over breakfast we discussed options, and although we both fancied a half decent walk, we agreed that walking from the cottage to Dunstanburgh Castle, Craster and back was probably pushing things a little bit far for us. We have both been building up our walking up a bit recently, but that walk would be at least 6 miles, and we weren't too sure about the terrain, so we decided to drive to Craster and walk to the castle from there.

I drove us there, which was probably more hair raising for me than it was for Sally - I'm still very much getting used to the car, and for me it doesn't seem as nice to drive as the one we had a test drive in. That one was obviously "settled in", and more importantly, didn't actually belong to me, so i guess this one will seem a bit different for a while!!

We had been to Craster before, so knew what to expect - parking on the outskirts of the village, a walk down a hill into the village itself with its small harbour, a few houses and cottages and a pub/restaurant, gift shop, tea rooms and most importantly for the village itself, a kipper smoking plant. Kippers are what Craster is most famous for, and i am hoping to sample them before we go home. Believe it or not, i have never tried kippers, so this is something i will be able to tick off my bucket list hopefully.

To get to Dunstanburgh Castle, you have to walk through the village and then across about a mile and a half of farm land up a gentle hill to the ruins of what was once an imposing castle on a hill overlooking the surrounding land and the sea. It is a National Trust/English Heritage owned site, and as NT members we had considered visiting it on both of our previous visits to the area. Sadly, out of season, it is only open at the weekends, and we had missed out both times before. Today was going to be our only chance to visit it on this trip because of the reduced opening hours, so it was today or never as far as this trip was concerned.

Walking across the fields we had to pass many grazing sheep, all of which totally ignored us as they were engrossed in eating the grass. The path isn't that well defined, but as you can see the silhouette of the castle on the horizon for virtually the entire time, you can't go far wrong. Plus, we were not alone in making this journey - it seems that it is very popular with locals, and many families were making the trek, and plenty of dog walkers were using the opportunity too.

Once at the castle, you discover that despite it being paid entry (NT and EH members free), the system for going in is very haphazard, and one could get in for free if you were that way inclined anyway. Whilst there is not a lot left of the castle, it was still worth the effort of getting to it because of the stunning views the hill offers of the local area. Being quite high also meant it was pretty windy up there, and despite the weather being fairly good (cloudy with some sunshine peeping through, and not really cold) it did feel chilly there.

There were a few information signs, which gave interesting background and history of the castle, its inception, building and usage and finally its decay. It would have been nice to have had some form of refreshment place there (and a toilet!), but all there is available are some bottles of pop and sweets in the entrance hut. Of course, the fact that there is no road to the castle, and everything has to come by the route we took to it on foot must make for it being impossible to offer better facilities. Despite this, I would recommend it if you are in the area and the weather is dry for the walk.

We took the same route back to Craster, and this direction seemed to take far longer, possibly because of the wind being against us this time, and as you have no feature to head for on the journey back, the route isn't quite so obvious at times.

Back in Craster village we made our way to the tearooms that we remembered from our previous visit, and managed to find a table inside. It was virtually full, and the staff seemed a little overwhelmed with the volume of customers on this Sunday afternoon. We opted for the cream tea (always a good choice), but they had sold out of fruit scones, so we had the cheese ones instead. They offered me jam and cream with these when i ordered, and not knowing any better, i said yes. This was apparently a rather odd choice, but it did seem to work fairly well when we tried it!

The part of the cafe we were in was right by the front door, and i was grateful of being able to reach it without getting out of my seat so that i could keep opening it for a bit of a draft - it was boiling hot in this part of the room as there was a radiator that was on full blast quite needlessly. The couple who were sitting next to it commented that it was too hot, and the lady's handbag that had been resting against it was on the point of melting.

We got chatting to this couple and the other couple they were with. It turned out that they were from Liverpool, and that the older couple were the parents of the male of the younger couple. They had arrived on holiday yesterday too, and they are staying in Alnmouth in what sounds like a lovely house.

Once fed and watered, we made our way back up the hill to the carpark, and i drove us back to the cottage. I read for a time, while Sally did some crocheting. Eventually i became dozy and went for a snooze on the bed with the football gently on the radio in the background.

Dinner was jacket potatoes with sausages and some baked beans. Very pleasant it was too. Afterwards we settled down in the living room with Sally doing some more crochet, me doing this blog, and waiting for 9pm for The Night Manager on BBC1. What a rock & roll lifestyle we lead!!

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