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Planning a Drive Up the Northumberland Coastal Route

Northumberland is England’s northernmost county and a super place to explore on a road trip. With many beautiful towns and villages, lovely beaches, numerous castles and Roman ruins you will find plenty of things to do in Northumberland to fill your itinerary.

Northumberland also has the largest protected area of night skies in Europe and offers visitors some of the best stargazing experiences and clearest night skies in England.

If you are planning a drive up the Northumberland coastal route, there are some beautiful coastal towns to visit along the route including Bamburgh, Seahouses, Craster, and Alnwick.

Due to the rather turbulent history with our neighbour to the north, there are over 700 castle sites (more than any other county in England) You will encounter some of these castles on your drive up the Northumberland coastal route.

Good to know! – We drove the route in a day but I would highly recommend booking a few night’s accommodation in some of the villages and towns along the way if you have time.

Taking the scenic drive along the Northumberland Coastal Route

The 39 miles Northumberland coastal route was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1958.

The starting point of the journey for us was the village of Seaton Delaval from which we drove north. Our schedule for the day was to visit Alnwick and then follow the 35-mile coastal drive route from Alnmouth to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

The drive is beautiful and if the weather is good I can guarantee you will have a lovely day out.

We joined the coastal route which is well signposted at Alnmouth (5 miles east of Alnwick).

You then pass through Boulmer, Craster, Embleton and Beadnell – all lovely little villages –  before arriving in Seahouses.

Embleton Bay in Northumberland

Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle

Just to the north of the village of Craster lies the first of the castles you will see on your trip. Dunstanburgh Castle, home to John of Gaunt it is now administered by English Heritage.

You can read more about visiting Dunstanburgh Castle in my post about the top 6 castles to visit in Northumberland.

Craster is also famous for kippers which are prepared in the village in oak-smoked barrels. If you enjoy art why not pop into the Mick Oxley Gallery which sells seaside-inspired arts and crafts.

Dunstanburgh Castle in silhouette at sunset


After driving through Embleton you will next arrive at the small village of Beadnell.

From Beadnell to Bamburgh lies one of the most beautiful stretches of beaches in England. Pick a sheltered spot in Beadnell Bay and enjoy a few hours on the golden sand.

The area is also famous for water sports including surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing, diving and snorkeling.

The Northumberland Coastal Path runs from Beadnell through Seahouses and on to Bamburgh Castle.

Read Best places to stay along the Northumberland Coast

Beadnell Beach

Seahouses is next along the Northumberland Coastal Route

Seahouses is a town where I spent many happy summer days as a child with my Dad and brother.

You will find numerous arcades and amusements and gift shops and fish and chip shops and a great little harbour to look around. It can be very busy in summer so be prepared – parking can be an issue.

There are lovely beaches to explore to the north and south of the town. If you enjoy horse riding and are an experienced rider there are beach rides available. 

The view from the town towards Bamburgh Castle in the distance is pretty special too and the Farne Islands can be spotted offshore.

The harbour at Seahouses

How to visit the Farne Islands from Seahouses

You can catch a boat to the Farne Islands from Seahouses. Although we had hoped to do this the weather was a bit too treacherous on the day we visited so we were unable to go.

The Farne Islands called the “Galapagos of  Europe” are home to seal and puffin colonies and definitely worth adding to your itinerary if the weather allows. 

There are 28 islands making up the Farnes of which only 3 are accessible – Inner Farne, Staple (May-July only), and Longstone.

To get over to the Farne Islands you will need to book on one of the boat trips that leave from Seahouses harbour.

The islands belong to the National Trust so if you are not a member expect to pay a landing fee as well as the costs for the boat trip.

Puffins on the Farne Islands

Bamburgh Castle

After spending a few hours in Seahouses continue your drive along the coast towards Bamburgh.

You will see the famous Bamburgh Castle long before you arrive in Bamburgh itself. It is a magnificent structure and is still inhabited.

Home to the Royal Seat of the Kings of Northumbria Bamburgh Castle is a castle on which myths and legends are based. It is also rumoured to have a ghost or two inhabiting its corridors.

We struggled to find parking in Bamburgh itself but if you are luckier than us and do manage to get parked in the village there is the Grace Darling Museum to visit as well as lots of lovely tea rooms and restaurants.

Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Your next stop will be the beautiful Holy Island of Lindisfarne where you will find a castle and an abbey to visit.

The castle was built in the 1500s during the reign of Henry VIII but for me, the highlight of a visit to Holy Island is the ruined abbey. It was at this abbey that monks wrote the beautiful Lindisfarne gospels.

A copy of the gospels can be found in the nearby church. Head to the British Library in London to see the real things.

Lindisfarne  Castle at sunset

It is vital to plan your visit to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne very carefully as tides cover the 3-mile causeway and cut off the island from the mainland.

We had checked the tides before planning our trip. This is imperative as the island is only accessible during low tides.

We arrived about 10 minutes before the designated safe time but the sea had receded enough for people to reach the island over the 3-mile causeway.

I would recommend that you take extreme care when crossing over to Holy Island.  Make notes of the safe times as apparently the lifeboats get called out regularly for stranded motorists.  The tide comes in extremely quickly.

The causeway at Lindisfarne in Northumberland

Once across the causeway, you have to park (and pay) and then walk into the village itself to reach the castle and priory.

As I mentioned the ruined priory was the original home of the famous Lindisfarne Gospels and the initial burial place of St Cuthbert (now reburied in Durham Cathedral) The Abbey was founded in 635 AD by St Cuthbert but eventually abandoned in 875AD due to increasingly frequent raids by Vikings.

We had a lovely walk around the village and I purchased a bottle of Lindisfarne Wild Peach Liqueur from the gift shop. 

Lindisfarne Mead is a unique alcoholic fortified wine which along with the liqueurs is manufactured on the Island. There are lots of flavours available including strawberry, cherry and damson.

Learn more – Guide to visiting the Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne Abbey

Facts and figure to help you plan your trip along the Northumberland Coastal Drive

  • The scenic coastal route runs between Alnmouth and Lindisfarne (Holy Island)
  • It is a 35 mile trip.
  • You will pass through a number of villages and towns – Boulmer, Craster, Embleton, Seahouses, Bamburgh and then on to Lindisfarne.
  • Consider a detour to Alnwick to Barter Books – if you like books you may need a few weeks  hours there at least!!
  • Keep an eye out for coastal castles along the way. 
  • Make sure to wear a hat if you are going to the Farne Islands (seagulls dive bomb!)
  • If walking is more your thing there is also the Northumberland coastal route to consider. This is a 64 mile stretch of the International North Sea Trail if you would rather walk along the coastline.

Book your accommodation along the Northumberland Coastal Route

There are lots of great accommodation options to suit all budgets and tastes along the coastal route including hotels and B&B’s.

To be honest, any of the towns and villages are fantastic options to use as a base to explore more of the beautiful places Northumberland has to offer visitors.

You can find accommodation options for a range of budgets and travel styles in these articles:

Enjoy your travels in Northumberland

I hope this guide to driving the Northumberland coastal route is helpful when planning your trip.

The Northumberland coast is a beautiful part of the UK and is a perfect area to explore by car.  It is still relatively off the beaten path for overseas visitors but really deserves to be part of your UK trip itinerary if you have time.

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