Craster to Low Newton coastal walk
For a bracing and beautiful coastal walk, Northumberland is without compare.
Enjoy magnificent views and miles of sandy bay
This walk sets foot from the fishing village of Craster, passing the mighty ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, and the long sweep of Embleton Sands before reaching Low Newton by the Sea. A wonderful walk all year round, with dune flowers blooming in spring, paddling (or swimming for the brave) in summer, migrating birds in the autumn, and beautiful light and empty paths in winter.
Craster, grid ref: NU258201
Start in Craster and walk towards Dunstanburgh Castle, passing Craster harbour. Craster used to be a busy fishing village, but now only a few boats moor in the harbour. No visit is complete without trying Craster's famous smoked kipper - L. Robson and Sons have been smoking fish here for nearly 100 years. The path takes you through farmland with the rocky shoreline to your right. It's worth looking in the sheltered rockpools for eider duck.
Spot eider ducks bobbing around in the sea, known locally as Cuddy's Duck after Saint Cuthbert. He's said to have cared for them on the nearby Farne Islands where he lived as a hermit in the 7th century. Waders like oystercatcher, dunlin, ringed plover, turnstone and redshank can be found on the shoreline in large numbers and you might spot linnet or yellowhammer in the scrub and grassland behind the dunes and castle. Geese, swans and ducks, like pochard, teal and goldeneye, visit Newton Pool you can get great views of them at the wildlife hides which overlook the water (see Step 7).
Pass the castle (or pop in - National Trust members can visit the castle for free). In summer, roosting swallows swirl overhead and amongst the ruined chambers and staircases.
Just a mile (1.6km) north of Craster, the 14th-century ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle stand on a rocky headland, boldly looking out over the North Sea. The castle fell into disrepair after the Wars of the Roses. It was painted by J.M.W. Turner at the end of the 18th century. The outcrop on which Dunstanburgh Castle sits is called the Great Whin Sill. It's a stripe of hard volcanic rock that passes from the Pennines north to the Northumberland coast. It emerges above the surface here, at the Farne Islands and at Bamburgh Castle.
After edging around the base of the castle, note the peculiar cliff formation to your right. The Greymare Rock was formed by volcanic pressure that folded the limestone. From April to August it's a breeding spot for kittiwake and fulmar.
Pass a golf course on your left and descend onto the beach. The concrete bunkers on the sand were built during the Second World War. Stroll to the far end of Embleton Bay and cross Embleton Burn as it trickles into the sea. If you haven't already - and if it's warm enough - you may want to take your shoes and socks off.
Look out for oystercatcher and other shore birds around the Emblestones as you approach the harbour at Newton Haven. Sometimes seals can be spotted basking at the far end of the rocks. Search for marine creatures such as sea anemones, limpets, crabs and starfish in the rockpools. There are also lots of seaweeds like pink-coloured coralline, and, bladder, saw and knotted wracks.
Climb up from the beach to Low Newton's picturesque three-sided square. Take a break at the Ship Inn or head to the National Trust information place. Like Craster, Low Newton has a strong fishing heritage. The little square of cottages was built in the 19th century for local fishermen. Look north from the village to see a former Coastguard Station on top of the hill: it's now a National Trust holiday cottage. Continue inland via a track that starts behind the village square, cottages and boat park.
After 450yd (400m) walking next to sand dunes and through a little woodland, you reach two wildlife hides that face out over the waters at Newton Pool nature reserve. The smell of meadowsweet in summer is delightfully strong.
Marram and lyme grass grow on the sand dunes providing a more stable environment for other plants to colonise. Look out for colourful wildflowers like orchids from late springtime, and burnet rose and bloody cranesbill in summer.
Continue on this path towards Dunstan Steads. Dunstanburgh's precipitous cliffs loom large again as you pass the golf course.
After the castle, climb up to your right on a higher level track back to Craster.
Craster, grid ref: NU258201
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