Ruff Guide to… the Northumberland Coast

With 30 miles of beautiful beaches, countless dog-friendly pubs and more castles than any other county in England, Northumberland has a lot to offer. Its dramatic coastline is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It was even voted 2017’s Holiday Destination of the Year by BBC’s Countryfile magazine. Discover this spectacular part of Britain for yourself before everyone else does…

Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island
Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island

Dog-friendly Northumberland Coast: the must-sees

Don’t miss a trip to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, a few miles off the Northumberland coast. The island, which was once home to St Oswald, has a religious history dating back to the 6th Century. Because of this, it has long been a place of pilgrimage – but most people making the trip these days are tourists.

Holy Island is accessed by a causeway that is completely cut off by the tide twice a day. Because of this, it’s vital to check the tide timetable before you visit. Once you’ve made it across, you won’t be able to miss the large car park, which costs £2.40 for three hours or £4.40 all day.

Ernie explores Lindisfarne Priory
Ernie explores Lindisfarne Priory

There is plenty to see and do on the island. At its heart lies a small village, with dog-friendly pubs, cafes and craft stores. Check out the hipster Pilgrims Coffee, which roasts its own beans from a yurt in the garden, and The Ship Inn, where you can sample the world-famous Lindisfarne Mead.

During the summer months, you can also visit the remains of Lindisfarne Priory, which is now owned by English Heritage. Tickets cost £6.80 for adults. Dogs are not allowed on the site but you can still get close enough to have a good look. You can also visit Lindisfarne Castle, which is owned by the National Trust. Tickets cost £7.30 for adults but bear in mind that dogs are not allowed inside the castle, only in the grounds.

Ernie at Barter Books in Alnwick
On the hunt for the pet section in Barter Books, Alnwick

Make time to visit the historic market town of Alnwick. Its most famous attraction is, of course, Alnwick Castle which had a starring role in several Harry Potter films. The Alnwick Garden next door is also beautiful but sadly, pets are not allowed to visit either attraction.  Adult tickets to the castle cost £16 on the gate or £14.40 if bought in advance. The cost of visiting the garden starts from £4.29. Combination tickets are available.

Alnwick’s independent shops are a bit more dog-friendly, however. Don’t miss Barter Books – one of Britain’s biggest second-hand book stores housed in an old railway station. Taste of Northumbria in Market Place is also great place to stock up on local food and drink, while The Beehive in Narrowgate is packed with vintage and antique treasures.

Berwick-upon-Tweed, the northernmost town in England, is also a delight. In Elizabethan times, the locals built a huge wall to keep invading Scots out and much of it remains today. A walk along the walls is a must, taking in the grand, historic homes and views of Berwick’s three bridges over the River Tweed. One of them – the iconic Royal Border Bridge, was built by Robert Stephenson.

Bamburgh Castle
Beautiful Bamburgh Castle

The coastal town of Bamburgh is well worth a visit too, if only for Bamburgh Castle. The self-proclaimed “King of Castles” dominates the skyline like something out of Game of Thrones and is quite a sigh. Dogs are not allowed inside the castle, which costs £10.95 per adult, but they can follow a walking trail around the base.

Bamburgh is also where you can pay your respects to Grace Darling. The lighthouse keeper’s daughter became a national heroine in 1838 when she saved nine men from a shipwreck. Countless books and poems were written about her, portraits were painted and she had many offers of marriage so it was a real tragedy when, just four years later, Grace died of tuberculosis aged 26.

Grand memorial for Grace Darling in a Bamburgh churchyard
Grace Darling’s memorial in Bamburgh

She is buried with her parents in a modest grave in St Aidan’s Churchyard but the public raised enough money to build a memorial for her – and you can visit it today. Opposite the churchyard, you’ll find the RNLI Grace Darling Museum. Entry is free, but it is not dog-friendly.

If the weather is on your side, consider taking a boat out to the Farne Islands, between Bamburgh and Seahouses. Whether you’re keen to spot some seals and puffins or want to learn about local history, try Golden Gate Boat Trips. Dogs with sturdy sea legs are always welcome onboard and, as skipper George Shiel is also a lighthouse keeper, he’s the only person who can take you on a guided tour of Longstone, Grace Darling’s lighthouse. Tours take around two hours and start from £15 for adults. Dogs sail for free.

Dunstanburgh Castle by the sea
Dunstanburgh Castle

Dog-friendly Northumberland Coast: the best walks

All of the beautiful sandy beaches get a big thumbs up from us – and depending on the time of year you visit, you may find you have them all to yourself! Alnmouth Bay is one of my favourites and there are no restrictions on dogs. It is right next to Alnmouth Village Golf Club, which – history buffs will be interested to know – is one of the oldest courses in England. Dog-friendly pubs and tearooms abound in Alnmouth, too.

Cresswell Beach is also a delight and Bamburgh Beach offers amazing views of both the majestic castle and the Farne Islands, several miles from the mainland. From here, you can walk to nearby Seahouses, which is three miles away. Both towns have plenty of dog-friendly pubs and cafes where you can refuel. Try The Victoria Hotel and The Bamburgh Castle Inn.

You can walk along the historic walls around Berwick-upon-Tweed
Walk along the historic walls of Berwick-upon-Tweed

If you’re in Berwick-upon-Tweed, a stroll around the Elizabethan Town Walls is a must, if only for the fantastic views of the town bridges. A full loop should take no longer than an hour. Alternatively, follow in the footsteps of artist LS Lowry, who spent many years holidaying in Berwick. The Lowry Trail will lead you to some of his favourite spots. Just look out for the easels dotted around town.

Another good walk is from Craster to Low Newton, via Dunstanburgh Castle. This six-mile yomp takes you past rock pools and sand dunes before ending at another fantastic pub called The Ship Inn. Keep reading to find out more about this iconic Northumberland watering hole, which is popular with both locals and tourists.

The Ship Inn, Lower Newton
The Ship Inn, Lower Newton

Dog-friendly Northumberland Coast: the best pubs and cafes

The Ship Inn in Low Newton is worth making the effort to get to. It is right on the beach and has its own microbrewery so it does get very busy. Local delicacies such as crab and stotties are the order of the day but don’t park outside – it’s for residents only. Your best bet is to park in the car park 500m up the road and walk down. It costs 50p for an hour’s parking or £1 for two.

Pubs don’t get much more dog-friendly than The Brown Bear in Berwick-upon-Tweed, either. Saved by the community in 2016, this Berwick stalwart has a hint of old school glamour about it. Pub dog Sam (a Caucasian Shepherd) is incredibly welcoming and at £7.95, the pie and mash meals are a bargain. In Berwick, the Barrels Ale House and The Curfew micropub are also worth a visit. But bear in mind the Barrels doesn’t serve food and dogs are only allowed in the Curfew garden.

The dog-friendly dining area at the Lindisfarne Inn
The dog-friendly dining area at the Lindisfarne Inn

The Lindisfarne Inn, just outside Berwick-upon-Tweed, is also great for people travelling with their pets. The warm and welcoming pub with rooms is located on the A1, by the Holy Island turnoff, and staff really make a fuss of visiting doggos. The pub even has its own dog-friendly dining area, complete with water bowls, and the food is first-class. Try the Scottish Borders favourite, Rumble De Thumps – a hearty potato and vegetable dish.

If you’re looking for traditional pub grub, head to The Black Swan in Belford. With two resident spaniels, a big box of treats behind the bar, a roaring log fire and bottles of dog beer, it’s a pet-friendly paradise. Food is served Thursday to Sunday and there’s a charity quiz night every Thursday. And The Drift Cafe in Cresswell is a great spot to refuel after a run on the nearby beach. Dogs are welcome in the heated marquee and patio area.

Dog-friendly Northumberland Coast: where to stay

Old Templars Cottage in Spittal, just outside Berwick-upon-Tweed, is ideally located for exploring the Northumberland Coast. The one-bedroom apartment sleeps three and is just moments from sandy Spittal Beach. Funky Keyhole Cottage in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea is also a stone’s throw from the beach and is packed full of stylish touches and local artwork.

If you’d rather be weighted on hand and foot in a hotel, try The Bamburgh Castle Inn in Seahouses, which has fantastic sea views. Alternatively, give The Hog’s Head Inn in Alnwick a go. This contemporary pub is close to the famous castle and garden. Both venues welcome dogs.

Ernie on the train bound for Northumberland, leaving London's Kings Cross station
Leaving Kings Cross station in London

How do I get to the Northumberland Coast?

LNER (formerly Virgin Trains East Coast) offer regular services to Berwick-upon-Tweed from London Kings Cross. The trip takes around three-and-a-half hours. Single Standard class fares start from £23 one-way.

It takes around six hours to drive to Northumberland from London, but consider car hire from the Berwick-based East Coast Rental. Rentals start from £43 a day. Once in Northumberland, the A1 is the main road you will need to follow to get around.

Where can I find out more?

Visit the official tourism website for more ideas and inspiration when it comes to dog-friendly Northumberland.

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