You start off this walk in Bamburgh. The best place to park your car is The Wynding, because the parking is free as opposed to the pay and display car parks near the Castle.This is the road down to Bamburgh Castle Golf club, which is the start point and terminus of the walk. You should allow approximately an hour for this walk if you are planning to go at a leisurely pace.
Go straight down onto the beach from the car park and enjoy the view of the Castle. I believe this is one of the best views in Britain!
Bamburgh Beach is a beautiful beach, the sands are litter-free and the water is clean enough to swim in. It was awarded the Blue Flag rural beach award in 2005. The Sand Dunes, which provide a backdrop to the beach are a site of special scientific interest. It is also in Ben Fogles top 10 beaches!
We used to live in Bamburgh, in a little flat overlooking the castle and I cannot stress enough what a great place it is. There's a great Butchers and The Pantry, which happens to be one of my favourite shops (though not visited for a while), there's a museum, a castle, a village green, historic pubs and a beach. What more could you possibly want? This beach used to be my local beach and honestly, I think it's even better in the low season, when it's not busy and is slightly windswept and your only company is the dog walkers.
Most people when they get onto the beach turn right and walk towards the castle and Seahouses. There's a great little walk there and it's very popular but for today, we are going to turn left, so your back is to the castle. You will see Bamburgh's Lighthouse, or the Smiley-Face Lighthouse as I call it!
Bamburgh Lighthouse is on the edge of a scar called Harkess Rocks. It is the most Northerly Land Based Lighthouse in England. This unmanned lighthouse was built in 1910 and then modernised in 1975. At night the light occurs every 15 seconds and shows a white light with red and green sectors.
Harkess Rocks is also known locally as Stag Rocks because of the mysterious stag painted on them. There doesn't seem to be a definitive answer as to why the stag was originally painted there. There are three main theories. Theory one is that an artist randomly painted the stag in 1914 and the stag has just been repainted every time the lighthouse is repainted to keep up with tradition. Theory two is that Italian prisoners of war painted it there during WW2 - which has since been discredited by Granda-in-Law who insists that it was there pre-war. Theory three is that it was painted in memory of a deer that jumped into the sea off the rocks and drowned, having been chased from Spindlestone by hunters. Theory four is that it was painted by the Agyll and Southern Highlanders who were stationed on the golf course in WW1 and the stag was part of their insignia. If anyone has any documentation or further theories as to why the stag is there, please leave a comment because we would love to know!
There are two ways to walk from here. You can climb up to the sea side of the lighthouse and walk round by the wall, caution is advised because the terrain is slightly rocky. Alternatively you can go to the left of the lighthouse where there is a path to follow. Either way you go you will be able to examine the interesting wall that encircles the lighthouse.
Stone Masons used to take real pride in their art and often they would leave little "quirks" to make their jobs their own. The Stone Masons who built the lighthouse wall incorporated little "pictures" into it - shields, crosses, fish etc. It is great fun spending 10 minutes walking round the wall trying to see how many "pictures" you can see!
It is worth making a quick detour up the hill from the lighthouse to the information boards at the top, which will tell you all the local names for the rock pools and what wildlife can be found amongst the rocks. In the Summer, you can swim and paddle in these pools and they are surprisingly warm even though the North Sea is very cold! This is because when the tide comes in, water fills the pools and then at low tide, the water cut off from the sea warms up in the sun. These pools are also a great place to take your nets and catch crabs and little fish.
Carry on Northwards, with the sea to your right and land to your left. One of the bigger pools is Table Bay, named after the flat table-like rock poking up out of the water.
Some of the wildlife were spotted on our walk were barnacles and a lone starfish.
This is the Common Starfish. You can find it on the lower shore and further out. It is a predator and lives on barnacles and mussels.
You continue along the rocky beach and soon you will come back onto sand again. To your left you should see some sand cliffs. The sand cliffs are made when a large tide pushes against the sand and compresses it together in a heap. The sand dunes at Bamburgh and Seahouses are pretty spectacular, and the landscape is changing all the time because dunes are forever shifting with the pressure from the tides and the wind. However, If the sand builds up enough and for long enough a time, dune grass will eventually grow there, which holds a dune together and gives it more longevity.
The Husband told me that as a child, him and his friends used to come along here and run along the edges of the sand cliffs. It was another one of his friends "Rites of Passage" - a sign of bravery, because the sand cliffs are not stable ground, consisting only of sand. When you stand on the edge of one, the ground will often crumble and fall beneath you, causing you to fall onto the beach below. These Sand cliffs were not very high, about 5ft tall but The Husband told me that as child these could reach 6-7ft tall, which was quite scary to a young pre-teen lad!
Still - give it a go! Try and see how far you can run along the sand cliffs, but be careful!
Carry on walking for about 5 minutes, following the headland round and you will come to the estuary and Budle Pier, which is a concrete construction, in benign decay. The Pier used to be part of the quarry (which can be seen from Bamburgh Golf Course). There used to be a railway line down to the pier from the quarry, so they could transport stone onto trade ships. The pier has not been in use for a long time and it's main purpose now seems to be as a secluded place for keen local anglers!
Warning if you are doing this walk with active children - the pier is decaying and as such, it has half caved in, meaning there is a drop into the base of the pier and it is only safe to walk on the edges of the pier.
The Estuary is fantastic - seeing the river meander and widen into the sea. We saw a few canoeists set up and start rowing into the sea, it looked like a lot of fun.
This is the halfway point, so is a good place to stop and have a peaceful 5 minutes, looking at the view:
After you have finished at the pier, walk directly up into the dunes and turn back on yourself, so you are now walking back towards Bamburgh Castle. After walking for 5 minutes on a single file path, you will come across a WW2 gun emplacement.
The Northumbrian coastline had a lot of WW2 defences, as at one point Druridge Bay was considered a possible invasion location. In Northumberland there were batteries at Berwick-upon-Tweed, Amble, Druridge Bay and Blyth. Then there were the beach defences, which is what we can see on Bamburgh Beach and Budle Bay. These were designed to delay and contain any possible enemy landing. Most of the beaches in the North-East had large concrete blocks put there to stop tanks etc moving up the beach and onto land. The gun emplacements were strategically placed overlooking large stretches of open sands where invasion could technically happen. They wouldn't stop a landing but they could cause casualties and slow things down.
There are also various WW2 bunkers and shelters along the coast, overlooking the beach. These would have been Home Guard Stations. The Home Guard manned most of the defences in the North-East and were there to be an invasion, they were expected not to leave their posts and defend till the very end.
Quite a few of these shelters are still easily accessible from the dunes, if you know where to look. You will see a couple of the shelters, slightly off the footpath to your left as you walk back towards Bamburgh Golf Club. They are safe to explore and have a look at.
A machine gun would have been placed on a mount and would be manned by a member of the home guard, looking out over the bay.
The view out of the WW2 shelter.
As you can see, some of the shelters can be quite hard to find amongst the dunes:
The path you are following back towards Bamburgh golf course vaguely follows the route of the old railway line down to the pier from the quarry.
Enjoy your elevated view of the coastline on the way back.
Eventually, you will come onto Bamburgh Golf course. There is a public right of way here, but follow the arrow signposts and keep an eye out for stray golf balls!
Return back through the golf course, eventually you will pass the lighthouse to your left and then get another chance to stroll over to the information board to find out about the birdwatching opportunities and the rock pools beneath you. Carry on walking and you will end up onto a road and walking back down towards the village and possibly your car.
Overall, it is an enjoyable walk. We did not take The Toddler with us and quite frankly, I don't think she would have managed it. However, if you have older children there is a lot on this walk for them - pictures to spot in stonework, wildlife and strange buildings to explore.