Northumberland Castles Challenge #2
After last week’s awesome trip to Mitford Castle, our trip to Widdrington Castle, number 2 of our Nothumberland Castles Challenge, can be summed up in a single word. Disaster! I have learnt a few lessons along the way though, which I will highlight throughout the story, but this is essentially a visit to Druridge Bay instead!
This is as close as we got to Widdrington Castle
Getting to Widdrington Castle
Widdrington is about a mile from Druridge Bay on the North East coast, 23 miles north of Newcastle and the drive is brilliant. The A189 is a highly underrated road if you ask me (former civil/transport enginner in me coming out!), wide and clear, and you can get to Widdrington from South Gosforth (where we had been that morning) in absolutely no time at all. I took the scenic route, as ever, and accidentally went through Lynemouth.
I was glad I did as this whole area is quite fascinating and I was transported back to the bit I enjoyed when I carried the batton for Sport Relief and Team Honk, and I cycled the 60 miles from Newcastle to Alnwick. Mike came with me for the second stretch and he told me some of the history, how Lynemouth and nearby Ellington Colliery were active within the miners strikes of the 80s. This area is also where parts of Billy Elliot was filmed, a story set around the time of North East picketing.
30 years on and although both Ellington Colliery and Lynemouth Smelter were open until the 2000s (actually Lynemouth Smelter was shutdown in 2012), they are both now closed and this area has a definite air of deprivation. Council estates line this dramatic coastline.
I arranged to meet my friend, Emily, with her little boy, “Boat” (as Reuben likes to call him, he’s actually called Beau), at the Widdrington Farm shop and Café around 11:30am. I knew that Widdrington Castle was no more than a couple of mounds but I figured the boys would enjoy that as they are both massive fans of a hill to run up and down. It was a beautiful, crisp, freezing but sunny day, so ideal for a few action shots of the boys running around.
We arrived early so Reuben and I went for a mooch around the Farm shop and asked the lady there if she knew how we could get to the castle. It turns out that you can’t get to Widdrington Castle because the land where it used to be is now private farmland and she informed me there was nothing to see anyway (as I knew).
I told her about my challenge and how it would be amazing even just to stand where it used to be… Call it my intuition taking over, but she gave me the distinct feeling that it was her land and she really didn’t want us on it. She did, however, point me to picture of Widdrington Castle on the back of the butchers’ counter (see image above).
Lesson 1: Call ahead to make sure you can visit the castle
Reuben pretending he likes meat
Emily and Beau arrived so we went for lunch in the Café. I don’t know if it was because my plans had been dashed, but we got the strangest vibe from the place – no one smiled and it was like they had never seen children before – so after a really expensive lunch (2 soups, a cheese sandwich for the boys to share and a drink each came to just under £20!!) we decided to cut our losses and head back to the Farm shop, we thought we might get some meat for tea and maybe some eggs.
I don’t know what we were thinking! The boys were just being inquisitive but Emily and I were both feeling so awkward by now that we were on tenterhooks. In the end we left with no meat or eggs and literally in tears from laughing as Beau was running around the shop with a single carrot, scaring the locals to death I imagine. Emily bought said carrot and no one was harmed.
Off to Druridge Bay
From the car park (now jam-packed and a ‘gentleman’ had parked a millimetre from my car and got cross with me for trying to put Reuben in his car seat, which was nice) we could see the coast so we decided to abandon ship (or castle in this case) and head down to Druridge Bay, a 7 mile stretch of golden sand and one of the absolute highlights of the Northumberland Coast.
However, I made the mistake of following Emily (love you really!) and she went in completely the wrong direction, taking us back toward Lynmouth – that place has a serious draw!
So, after a kind lady let us follow her, we ended up at Cresswell, the southern tip of Druridge Bay, renowned for it’s ice cream shop. Of course the shop wasn’t open but we headed on down to the beach from there, which was lovely, if freezing.
Lesson 2: Bring loads of warm clothes
We’d walked along the beach, trying but failing to take a group shot, then headed back along the Dunes.
Reuben loving the Dunes again!
We were left with a bit of time to kill and it was then I realised my next lesson:
Lesson 3: Always bring a picnic and a flask of coffee
In some ways it’s a good thing we didn’t have our provisions because it then meant we made the best discovery of the whole day – we found the Drift Café! For a place that is seemingly isolated, it was packed and rightly so. The views were amazing, the service was lovely – they made Reuben and Beau a babychino even though it wasn’t on the menu and only charged 50p, you can’t buy anything these days for 50p – and, the weather being what it was, the sunshine was pouring in and for the last 30 minutes before Reuben and I had to dash off to get Gabby from school in Alnwick, we thawed out and reflected on a manic, disastrous but really fun day.
Widdrington Castle is not a goer! However, if you would like local meat and you are childless, I’d recommend a little look around the Farm shop.
And then right next door be sure to visit The Drift Café, just along from Cresswell before (or after!) you head on down to the beach.
Finally, a recap of my lessons…
- Call ahead to make sure you can visit … wherever it is you are going (in this case Widdrington Castle, but you might want to check that The Drift Café is open, for example)
- Bring loads of warm clothes – and don’t forget yourself!! Reuben had loads of warm things and more spare in case he got wet, it was me that was freezing!
- Always bring a picnic and a flask of your favourite beverage
I’m going to make a Castle Checklist, so that each week I can be sure that I’m prepared!
Have you ever managed to visit Widdrington Castle? Or Druidge Bay? Or even the Drift Café?!
Do share your experience in the comments below! The competitive person in me is thinking about if I should try and get in touch with the owners of the farm and see if we can get permission to visit…!
This Friday, 23rd January, we will be visiting Edlingham Castle, near Alnwick. Do email me or comment below if you would like to join Emily and me. The more the merrier!