Lynne Coates escapes to Northumberland’s stunning coast and enjoys a weekend away at Walwick Hall
I always look forward to weekends away and Chesters Stables, a Grade 11 listed building, part of the Walwick Hall Country Estate, looked perfect, though I didn’t think I would actually be sleeping in a loose-box!
Set in one hundred acres of stunning countryside close to Hadrian’s Wall, the location of Walwick Hall is perfect for exploring Northumberland’s picturesque towns and spectacular coastline. Guests can choose to stay either in the luxurious hotel, which has ten individually designed rooms and suites, or the self-catering converted stables. Both have access to the estate’s fabulous spa, and the hotel restaurant. We had our dogs with us and opted for one of the stables suites. We were not disappointed. Our suite was huge and so cleverly converted, leaving all the original fixtures. I loved all the horsey touches right down to the table mats and tea towels! A well-equipped kitchen with every contemporary appliance, (Nespresso machine etc.) took one stall; a dining booth in another, and there was a good-sized seating area with TV. Our bedroom had been a loose-box and there was even a photo on the wall of the final equine occupant – he was a handsome boy! I was transported right back to my horsey days – very nostalgic. The dogs were well catered for too, with super-comfy dog beds and bowls all provided – I do love it when hotels are so dog-friendly.
We had booked into the hotel restaurant for dinner and our table overlooked the beautifully laid-out estate gardens. Head Chef, Steven Murray, uses locally-sourced ingredients, and vegetables from the estate’s kitchen garden, to produce traditional dishes with a modern culinary twist. The food was exceptional, and it’s no surprise that the restaurant is popular with non-residents as well as guests. The hotel has a lovely relaxed ambiance, with a young enthusiastic team making guests feel very welcome.
We had not ventured to Northumberland before, and I was looking forward to visiting its magnificent coastline that I had seen in so many photographs. After a good night’s sleep, and a healthy breakfast in the hotel, we set off for a day of exploring. Our first stop was Tynemouth, where the coast exceeded my expectations. It was truly stunning, with miles of beach stretching as far as the eye could see. The dogs were ecstatic, leaping in and out of the waves as we enjoyed a bracing walk by the sea (if you have dogs look for the designated dog-walking beach). After our fill of gusty sea air we headed north along the coastal roads to the little town of Amble. Well known for its charming harbour and unique development of small retail ‘pods’ selling a variety of arts, crafts, food and drink, it is a popular tourist attraction. Near to the harbour are rows of pretty multi-coloured beach huts that you can rent for £20 a day. We began to crave fish and chips, as you do at the coast. Hubby inevitably started Googling and up came The Fish Shack. We later discovered that this little shack by the sea, literally a wooden hut with tables and chairs, is an award-winning fish restaurant, and we had ‘the best’ fish and chips ever! On our way back to Walwick Hall we stopped off at the picturesque town of Hexham, for a wander around the cobbled streets, full of individual shops and cosy cafés, and to admire its magnificent Abbey.
If you are looking for a walking challenge, the Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail is an 84 mile route following the line of the wall. There are numerous circular walks and shorter trails catering for all abilities, taking in many of the great sites and stunning landscapes along the way. Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a great place to visit, especially for children who can explore the old Roman Fort and visit the museum and interactive exhibition centre. Various events are held there throughout the year.
A weekend really wasn’t long enough to enjoy all the delights that the Northumberland coast has to offer and we will definitely be back for another visit soon – those fish and chips are calling!
For Walwick Hall information and reservations: www.walwickhall.com
Information for Hadrian’s Wall: www.english-heritage.org.uk