Tuesday, 14 August 2018

A Guide to Our Northumberland Coastal Route Road Trip

You hear about people taking road trips across America but have you ever considered planning a road trip of the Northumberland Coastal Route? The Northumberland Coast is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and boasts some of the most beautiful coastline in the country. The Northumberland Coastal Route is a gateway to picture perfect villages, spectacular views and some of the very best food that you'll find in the North East.

Easy to navigate (just follow the brown "Coastal Route" signs), the roads offer the explorer 64 miles of exceptional scenery in what must be the best coastal drive in the country.  Best explored on a beautiful sunny day, the route from Blyth to Berwick is just waiting to be discovered and if you can dedicate a full day (or even better a weekend) to it I promise you the road trip of your life!

Fill your tank up with fuel, pack yourself a picnic, pick out some great road trip tunes and discover all that the Northumberland coastline has to offer. This is your definitive guide to road tripping on the Northumberland Coastal Route.

Road Tripping the Northumberland Coastal Route


Druridge Bay Country Park

If you're travelling north up the Northumberland Coastal Route, Druridge Bay Country Park is one of the first places you'll get to and it's well worth stopping the car for the prettiest leg stretch you'll ever have.

Three miles of beautiful sandy beaches as well as Ladyburn Lake, a large freshwater lake surrounded by pine woods and meadows - it reminds me of a mini Kielder and offers spectacular views as well as the chance to spot red squirrels if you're very lucky.

The more adventurous can try out some water sports but we prefer a quieter pace of life and love to casually stroll round the lake, enjoying the wildlife and finding a beautiful spot for a picnic.

Northumberland Coastal Route - Druridge Bay Country Park


Amble

4 miles up the road from Druridge Country Park you'll discover Amble - a bustling port town that's well worth a visit.

If you're a bit of a foodie then Amble is a great destination to stop for a bite to eat with The Fish Shack on the harbour serving delicious fish and chips and Spurelli offering some of the best ice-cream you'll find in Northumberland.

Colourful beach huts greet you into the town and strolling along the water front watching the boats is one of our favourite ways to spend an afternoon. We always end our trip with a little mooch around Amble Harbour Village where you'll find 15 cute wooden retail pods selling local arts, crafts, gifts, food and drink.

Read more about our adventures in Amble here


Northumberland Coastal Route - Amble


Warkworth

Warkworth is one of the prettiest places you'll pass through while exploring the Northumberland Coastal route, and I'd challenge anyone to drive through the beautiful town without stopping the car for an explore.

Beautiful streets of sandstone coloured houses decked out in colourful flowers are home to a wonderful array of art galleries, shops and pubs - Warkworth is one of our favourite places in Northumberland and well worth a stop. If huge slabs of homemade cake is your thing we highly recommend popping by Bertrams where the food is exceptional.

The jewel in the crown has to be Warkworth Castle which is best seen in Spring time when the carpet of daffodils round the castle will truly take your breath away.  Owned by English Heritage it's well worth a visit, and is actually one of three castles that I'll mention in this guide (yes we are spoilt!)

Read more about our adventures in Warkworth here 


Northumberland Coastal Route - Warkworth
 Alnmouth

You will actually find the best views of Alnmouth from the Newcastle to Edinburgh train where the famous colourful houses along the water look particularly special. I actually discovered Alnmouth for the first time on the train and immediately googled where it was as I was desperate to see them closer. The Coastal Road does also offer a pretty lovely view if you're quick enough to capture a glimpse between the bushes.

Alnmouth is a lovely little stop for a potter, the picture perfect village is like something from a postcard and the miles of long sandy beach offers the fantastic beach experience that Northumberland is famed for.

Craster

What Craster lacks in size it truly makes up for in charm and, despite being one of the smallest stops on my Coastal Route Road Trip, I could easily spend a few hours here just sitting by the harbour watching the fishing boats bobbing up and down on the water. It is so peaceful and very beautiful!

The Jolly Fisherman attracts people for miles with their wonderful sea views and delicious fish dishes and if you want to stock up kippers, then you'll find the famous smokehouse in the centre of the village selling beautiful Craster Kippers.

Read more about our visit to the Jolly Fisherman here

Northumberland Coastal Route - Craster


Dunstanburgh

Dunstanburgh is a short walk from Craster and is one of the easiest most beautiful walks you can do along the Northumberland coast. The 2 mile walk is flat, takes no navigational skills and offers some of the most spectacular views of the North East coastline.

The reward at the end is Dunsanburgh Castle which I highly recommend exploring, although small the ruins show off the best views of Northumberland's most famous seabirds as well as some jaw dropping views of the coastline. On a clear day you can see as far as Bamburgh Castle, 12 miles down the coast.

Read more about our adventures at Craster and Dunstanburgh here


Northumberland Coastal Route - Dunstanburgh


Embleton Bay

Embleton Bay is, without a doubt, the most beautiful beach I have ever been on and the fact that it's here in Northumberland just a few miles from my home makes me feel incredibly lucky.

Miles of sandy beaches with plenty of space to park your bum and enjoy the sunshine, as with most of the coastline in Northumberland it's a well kept secret meaning that even on a hot, sunny day you can get a huge amount of beach to yourself. Imagine getting this much sand to yourself in Brighton?

Northumberland Coastal Route - Embleton Bay


Low Newton 

I can't talk about Low Newton without mentioning the best loved pub along the Northumberland Coastal Route - the Ship Inn is small and very popular making it almost impossible to get a seat but wow does it feel special when you do manage to grab one.

We love taking the coastal path from Low Newton to Beadnell - a fairly long but easy walk offering some beautiful views and the promise of an epic portion of fish and chips at the end!

Read more about our adventures in Low Newton here

Northumberland Coastal Route - Low Newton


Seahouses

Seahouses is the most touristy part of the Northumberland Coastal Route and the only place along the Northumberland coast that offers your typical British Seaside attractions. Colourful ice-creams in hand you can pop in to the arcades, enjoy a competitive game of mini golf, shop for some tacky souvenirs and, when it all gets a little too much, enjoy some people watching on the harbour front.

Our favourite thing about Seahouses though is that it's the gateway to a whole other adventure ... the Farne Islands!

Northumberland Coastal Route - Seahouses


Farne Islands

Seahouses is home to Serenity Boat Tours who offer a fantastic tour out to the Farne Islands with a highly recommended stop off on the Inner Farnes to meet the puffins. Puffins nest on the island between April and July and are an absolute delight to watch. Waddling about the island like cute little waiters, they are my absolute highlight of our Northumberland Coastal road trip.

Read more about our trip to the Farne Islands here

Northumberland Coastal Route - Farne Islands


Bamburgh

I'm finishing my guide to the Northumberland Coastal Route in Bamburgh, as that's the point where we always turn the car round to come home (I've never actually made it over to Lindisfarne or as far up as Berwick!)

The first time you see Bamburgh Castle is a very special moment. Your jaw will literally drop to the floor as soon as you see it, it truly is spectacular and, although I may be biased, I think you'd struggle to find another castle as beautiful as this one.

Home to one of the best picnic benches in the UK (I'm not even joking, it's won an award!) the bench on the hill overlooking the castle is the perfect place to enjoy your sandwiches and, as I like to say to say each time we're there, the most romantic spot in Northumberland for a proposal.

We love to enjoy the views and always end our visit with a cream tea or a slab of cake at the Copper Kettle - it's the perfect fuel for the drive back down the coast.

Read more about our adventures in Seahouses and Bamburgh here


Northumberland Coastal Route - Bamburgh
I hope you've enjoyed my little guide to road tripping the Northumberland Coastal Route. Let me know your favourite spots and if I've missed anywhere that we really must visit.
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Thursday, 9 August 2018

Breakfast at Cafe 19, Whitley Bay

Whitley Bay has become a real breakfast destination over the last few months and my ever growing list is taking quite a while to work through as more and more people tell me about breakfasts I need to try. One place that keeps getting recommended over and over again is Cafe 19, so I decided to bump it up the list and pop in for a solo breakfast one sunny Saturday.

Breakfast at Cafe 19, Whitley Bay


Despite it being 8:30 am on a Saturday morning Cafe 19 was already pretty busy when I turned up just after opening (you know somewhere is good when it's that popular so early) with almost all of the outside seating already taken. The front of the cafe is a bit of a sun trap and with plenty of tables outdoors it's become a popular spot to enjoy some breakfast alfresco during the heatwave.

For my first visit I decided to eat inside the cafe, choosing a nice table by the window ideal for people watching without having to fight the wasps for my breakfast!  Dining solo gave me the luxury of being able to take my time to fully appreciate the breakfast menu - it's fully loaded with so many choices so a quick decision isn't easy, even as I approached the counter to place my order I was still changing my mind.

My Saturday mornings always start with a latte and Cafe 19 make a decent cup of coffee, the perfect way to slowly wake yourself up whilst waiting for your breakfast.

Breakfast at Cafe 19, Whitley Bay - Coffee
The breakfast and brunch menu at Cafe 19 is served until 11:30am and is impressively large. Highlights include The English Skillet (£7.50) - English Breakfast served at your table on a frying pan (I will be ordering this next time for sure!), Creamed Mushrooms (£6.50) and Poached Posh Eggs (£7.00).

I think you probably now understand why I was struggling to reach a decision and why I'm already planning my return trip. I have an entire menu to work through!

Cafe 19, Whitley Bay
For my first trip I decided to go for Homemade Pancakes - 2 pancakes served with a choice of one topping (£4.00) or two toppings (£5.00). There were a lot of toppings to choose from so having two was a must!  I still don't know how I managed to choose between lemon & sugar, chocolate sauce, fresh banana, homemade mixed berry compote, whipped cream, homemade apple sultana &  cinnamon compote, mixed toasted nuts, peanut butter, lemon curd or chocolate chips!

So what did I go for?

This bad boy! Homemade mixed berry compote with whipped cream. I had a brief conversation with myself about whether cream turned my breakfast dish into more of a dessert but as it was the weekend and anything goes I went for it.

Cafe 19, Whitley Bay - Pancakes


How good does it look? When I posted a photograph on my Instagram someone did reply in horror to ask if it was squirty cream, but in all honesty I hadn't even noticed. Cream in a can definitely isn't my biggest pet peeve when eating out (if you're interested mine is food served on top of a soggy napkin!) and I tucked straight in without a second thought.

It was so good! Light and fluffy pancakes absolutely covered in the most amazing zingy berry compote with the slightly sharp edge of the fruit toned down with the addition of the cream.

Can you get a more indulgent breakfast?

Cafe 19, Whitley Bay - Breakfast


So, that's it, Cafe 19 have a new fan and I need to make many return visits to try out some more dishes, I think I could happily spend the Summer just trying out every possible variation of pancake toppings!

Let me know if you've discovered anywhere great for breakfast recently!

Find Cafe 19 at:

19 East Parade,
Whitley Bay
NE26 1AP

0191 252 1152

www.facebook.com/cafe19eastparade/
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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

A Guide to The Great Exhibition of the North 2018, Newcastle Gateshead - What's On and Where to Go

I don't know about you but I've been desperate to find a comprehensive guide to the Great Exhibition of the North ever since the opening ceremony. I've heard many people complaining that the official website is pretty hard to navigate which makes it tricky to make a plan. For weeks I've been wanting someone to just tell me simply - what's on and where to go!

So today I thought I'd share with you my favourite exhibits from The Great Exhibition of the North and where in Newcastle and Gateshead I recommend that you head to get the best out of the event this Summer.

A Guide to The Great Exhibition of the North, Newcastle Gateshead 2018  - What's On and Where to Go


Important question first!

What is The Great Exhibition of the North?

The Great Exhibition of the North is a Summer long celebration of the north. Newcastle Gateshead was chosen to host the exhibition ahead of other cities in the north and it's the country's biggest event of 2018 - so quite a big deal really!

Showcasing how wonderful the north truly is through exhibits, live performances artworks and experiences, its purpose is to celebrate the amazing part the North of England plays in art, design, technology and innovation.

The official site has named three main hubs in Newcastle and Gateshead - The Baltic, the Sage and the Great Northern Museum which are all linked by three trails exploring art, design and innovation.

Great Exhibition of the North, Newcastle Gateshead 2018  - What's On and Where to Go
Here is a little guide to my favourite parts of the Exhibition and what I recommend you do if you are stuck. This is just a very small selection of what's on offer and is perfect for people like me, the average Joe, who love the north but perhaps aren't too into the overly arty side of the arts!

Stick on your trainers and create your own trail!

Lego Northern Timeline at the Miners Institute 

Lego artist Steve Mayes tells the story of the North in lego using over 40 models and 50,000 bricks and I have to say it's pretty impressive! From the Great North Run to the Blackpool Illuminations we loved discovering more about the history of the north.

If you fancy inventing some models for yourself there's the opportunity to display your own northern inspired creations as part of the exhibition - there's already a very impressive looking lego Greggs and a Riley's Fish Shack created by locals! Who knew we were such a talented bunch!

For more information click here

Great Exhibition of the North, Newcastle Gateshead 2018  - Lego


The Quayside at Night

A few people have commented that the Great North Water Sculpture on the River Tyne isn't as impressive as they'd hoped and I have to say I do agree however, if you truly want to get the best out of the Quayside during the Great Exhibition of the North I'd encourage you to explore during the evening when the water feature is lit up in colours.

There's always plenty happening by the Tyne in the evening and seeing the Hollywood sign-esque "Go The Flow / Swim Against the Tide" LED sculpture lit up when it gets dark is pretty special.

For more information click here

Which Way North at The Great North Museum

Over 200 exhibits that showcase how the north has changed the world including the last piano John Lennon ever played and, the highlight of my trip, my childhood hero Pob (please tell me someone else remembers Pob from the 1980s!)

The pieces are scattered across the Museum so it's a good idea to give yourself a good hour or so to explore and if there's a particular thing you want to see you can get yourself a handy Great Exhibition of the North map at the door to the museum.

For more information click here

Great Exhibition of the North, Newcastle Gateshead 2018  - Which Way North


The Workers Maypole at Monument

The Workers Maypole has to be the most photographed part of the Great Exhibition of the North. The Monument in the centre of Newcastle has been transformed into a brightly coloured maypole for the duration of the Exhibition - bringing focus to the collective values of the north.

The fact that Monument is such an important part of our lives here in Newcastle (how many times a week do you say "meet you at Monument" to your friends?) makes this such an important iconic part of the exhibition and one that I think we'll all remember for many years to come.

For more information click here

Great Exhibition of the North, Newcastle Gateshead 2018  - Workers May Poll


The Rocket at The Discovery Museum 

The part of the Great Exhibition that I was most excited about, Robert Stephenson's The Rocket has returned to its birthplace in the North East and when I saw it I got goosebumps! On loan from the Science Museum in London, this is a rare opportunity to see The Rocket back in Newcastle and a must visit when creating your trail.

An easily missed part of the exhibition is an amazing chance to travel back to 1829 to experience a journey on the Rocket using virtual reality. It was my first ever experience of VR and after being a little nervous to start with I loved it so much I did it twice!

The Rocket is free to visit but you will need to pre-book yourself a time slot to see it - for more information click here

Great Exhibition of the North, Newcastle Gateshead 2018  - The Rocket




The Street Art of Ouseburn 

There are a few different art trails you can follow through Ouseburn during the Great Exhibition of the North but I decided to go and visit the one that really captured my attention. You'll find "Ancient Place", the most beautiful piece of street art, at Archway 4 at Stepeny Bank close to the Ship Inn and Ouseburn Farm. It's breathtaking and definitely worth a visit.

For more information click here

Great Exhibition of the North, Newcastle Gateshead 2018  - Ouseburn


Fifty Northern Icons at The Northern Design Centre

An exhibition I enjoyed so much I've visited it twice, Fifty Northern Icons at the Northern Design Centre is a colourful display of murals featuring some of the North's greatest icons stretching across a 150 m wall. Voted for by the public, you'll find some of our most iconic moments as part of the display including Mo Farrah at the Great North Run and the ultimate Geordie icon, Greggs.

For more information click here


Great Exhibition of the North, Newcastle Gateshead 2018  - Fifty Northern Icons


I would love to hear about your favourite parts of The Great Exhibition of the North, if you've made any other great discoveries or your experience of the official trails.

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Thursday, 2 August 2018

The Night Cafe at the Post Box, Ponteland

I don't know about you but if you were to ask me what pops into my head when you say the words "night cafe" I'd probably start thinking about late night dining in the beautiful streets of Paris, sipping on a glass of red and enjoying a romantic date with my husband. I probably wouldn't automatically think of a little village in Northumberland! The Post Box in Ponteland are about to change that with the launch of their Night Cafe every Friday and Saturday night.

The Night Cafe at the Post Box, Ponteland
You may remember that a few months ago we enjoyed a really delicious breakfast at The Post Box so when we heard that they would be opening late at weekends we couldn't wait to pop in and give it a try. Getting to sit in one of your favourite cafe after hours feels pretty special and the relaxed dining makes for a brilliant night.

With the beautiful long Summer nights we've been experiencing recently we love heading out for dinner in the sunshine and our visit to the The Post Box happened on a particularly beautiful Saturday. We were thrilled to bag ourselves a table by the window, the beautiful late evening sunshine streaming through the glass, a gentle breeze coming from the open door and, of course, prime people watching.

Night Cafe at the Post Box, Ponteland


The menu at the Post Box Night Cafe is varied serving a selection of platters, burgers and main meals inspired by visits to French cafes, New York "dirty food", American smokehouses and Caribbean fire pits - a great opportunity to travel the world without leaving Northumberland! For those wanting healthier options they offer a range of clean food options and if you just want to pop by for a drink or a cheeky dessert it's an ideal spot for a glass of fizz, a hot chocolate or late evening coffee.

Night Cafe at Post Box, Ponteland


Although tempted by the epic looking sharing plates (the Blagdon Board filled with local cheeses, frozen grapes, house chutney and charcoal crackers sounded particularly amazing!) we both decided to order from the "Buns" menu. A choice of three burgers each served with house relish, salad and skin-on-fries.

As I've heard fantastic reports of the Post Box vegetarian breakfast I decided to go veggie for the night and ordered The Smoked Spice 4 Bean Burger (£7.50). When my dish appeared I couldn't get over the size of the bun! Served on a huge soft bun and packed full with house relish, pineapple chilli mayo and iceberg. The thing that impressed me most about the Post Box was there homemade sauces, these guys seriously know how to make an incredible burger sauce, the combination of flavours in my burger was delicious.

Night Cafe Post Box, Ponteland - Burger


Simon opted for the Buttermilk Chicken Fillet (£8.50) with spiced aioli florida slaw, sweetcorn relish and iceberg. Thankfully I managed to convince him to pass it over so I could take a big bite because it was so delicious. We were arguing over who could claim the crown for the best order of the night but I honestly feel like our meal at the Post Box was one of those rare occasions where there was no loser, both of our burgers were fantastic.

Night Cafe Post Box, Ponteland - Burgers


We didn't really need to order sides as well but we just couldn't resist as plenty of our favourites made an appearance. I ordered the Lobster Mac n Cheese (£6.50) and Simon ordered the Boston Beans (£3.50). I was helping myself to large spoonfuls of one followed by the other and the Boston Beans truly blue me away, yet again the sauce was just outstanding.

Night Cafe Post Box, Ponteland - mac n cheese


We were absolutely full to bursting by this point and had been discussing perhaps not having dessert but when we were given the dessert menu and spotted the Banana Split (£5.50) on the menu we decided we couldn't resist and that we'd order one to share.

Thank God we did, just look at the size of it!

Night Cafe Post Box, Ponteland - banana split
I've never seen a Banana Split like this one, it was absolutely incredible! My mouth hit the floor when it turned up at the table - it was stunning - the most perfect mess of delicious caramelised banana, whipped cream, salted caramel sauce, banana bread, banana chips, chocolate sauce, chocolate chips and boozy cherries.

I know, I can't quite believe we managed to eat all that either but it was an absolute joy and there was no way I could bring myself to leave it. It was like the dessert from my dreams and I'm so thankful we were greedy enough to order one. I would happily pop into the Post Box just to order this bad boy again!

Night Cafe Post Box, Ponteland - banana split dessert


We really loved our first visit to The Post Box Night Cafe and I just can't get over how reasonably priced the menu is for the quality of food.  We recently paid over £16.00 for a really awful burger in a restaurant in the Lake District, and the burgers at The Post Box were far superior and half the price! The food was no fuss, proper hearty food in the loveliest surroundings with a really great atmosphere. On our drive home we both agreed that it's the kind of place where we would happily take friends when they visit which is always the greatest compliment! We can't wait to return!

Find The Post Box at:

11 Main Street
Ponteland
NE20 9NH

01661 598 054

https://www.facebook.com/PostBoxCafePonteland/

We were invited to The Post Box and enjoyed a complimentary meal in exchange for this honest review, all thought are our own, we had a fantastic night!
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