So by Tuesday last week our party of nine was down to six, the others having work commitments to attend to and I was facing the prospect of my wifes 50th birthday on the morrow without yet having bought a card for her, the present was sorted out, the present was being made at a jewellers back home, she knew about the present, surely she wouldn’t expect a birthday card from me as well ?
Well yes, said her friends, of course she will expect a birthday card, but I don’t do cards I argued, to no avail, I must simply buy her a birthday card, its her 50th birthday after all, and they had a point I suppose.
So we all got in the cars and took a trip to Alnwick.
Its the largest town around those parts, has shops and everything, shops that don’t exist in any other High Street in the country and very few shops that you can find on any other High Street in the country, it has shops which end with “….of Alnwick” which leaves you in no doubt that this is a family shop with no national warehousing chain making them sell things at exactly the same price as all their other branches all over the country, in short Alnwick town centre (barely a town to be honest) is the sort of town centre that all town centres should be, its the sort of unique town centre that all town centres used to be, before McDonalds.
So we mooched around Alnwick for an hour and I distracted the wife for long enough to buy her a bloody birthday card and to hide it in Mary’s bag as I looked a bit suspicious walking around trying to hide something under my jacket, we even had time to leave the women in a clothes shop and sprint out of the centre to Barter Books, a sort of bookworms heaven, the sort of place where men with beards go to spend all day long browsing for obscure books on playing marbles and brewing beer, its in the old Alnwick Railway Station and must surely contain every book ever printed, I’ve been before and spent far too long in there, this time we had twenty minutes before the parking ticket expired but I wanted a specific book on drawing and architecture and they didn’t have it – HA! there’s one on you Barter Books, not so smug now are you?
After Alnwick there was a challenge in hand – Andy is the kipper-monster, every time we go away on a bike ride and stay overnight somewhere he ALWAYS has to order kippers for breakfast and stink the dining room out. Craster village is a world famous kipper centre, what do you mean you’ve never heard of Craster kippers, well you have now – so on the way up to Budle Bay on Saturday Andy had tried to find Craster for his breakfast kippers but had failed, probably because we’d all been out the night before and removed all the road signs in order to prevent infestation of smoked fish at our breakfast table.
Andy was one of those who had to return home this day and so his quest for kipper Nirvana had failed, I don’t know how he missed the place on Saturday but we found it easy enough on the Tuesday and even paid a visit to Robsons Smokehouse and I drew the place…
Yes Andy, we found the place that you had searched so hard for, and we went in and we bought crawfish tails, kipper pate and a whole dressed crab for our tea, and they were bloody lovely too, better luck next time Andy, or leave the map reading to the professionals – Ha Ha !
And then after a pint on the cliff tops in the Jolly Fisherman it was back in the car to try and find the route to Dunstanburgh Castle which stands on the headland beyond Craster, yes there are an awful lot of castles in Northumberland, there was one in Alnwick earlier too but they seem to think that everyone has money in abundance with no idea on how to get rid of it, so we avoided that place like the money pit that it obviously is for its owners.
We soon discovered that there is no road to Dunstanburgh Castle, you walk it from Craster so we didn’t, instead we travelled another mile or so up the coast and called in on Low Newton by the Sea.
Now I’ve read about this place, I even tried to find it once but found High Newton by mistake but I knew someone who swore to me that it was the most idyllic place to stay, a small hamlet, a square of old fishermans cottages built right up to the horseshoe shaped beach with one end of the square open to the sea and a mythical pub in the square that brews its own beer, people around those parts speak of The Ship Inn in whispered and revered tones, and that afternoon we discovered the place…
Now in our little group we have Steve, Steve was forced into retirement this time last year by those bastards at Carlsbergwho thought that it would be a terrific idea to close Tetleys Brewery in Leeds thus ending 190 years of beer production at the site, most of us lads in Leeds were weaned on Tetleys and for Carlsberg to think that they could brew it anywhere else but in the city and expect anyone in the city to buy it any longer shows some pretty dumb management, Carlsberg doesn’t sell very well in Leeds any longer.
Steve has worked in brewing all of his working life and so it was with just a little delight that he discovered that The Ship Inn is a micro brewery and when the lady who owned the place started giving him samples of their beers we knew that we were in for a long afternoon, if Robsons Kipper Smokehouse was Andy’s Nirvana then we had also just found Steves High Altar for him to worship at, we took up a table and settled down for a couple of pints of very acceptable beers while Steve stood at the bar and talked about beer, at length.
You know what – I’m starting to count the number of times we stopped for beer on these days out, it was an awful lot wasn’t it ?
Anyway, bottom line is, if you ever get the chance to go anywhere close to the Northumberland coast then put NE66 3EL into your satnav and go there, just go is all I’ll say, you won’t regret it.