The Northumberland Coast is well known for its dramatic castles, picturesque villages, stretching beaches, rolling dunes and rocky cliffs.
The special qualities of this coastal landscape were recognised in 1958 when it was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Additionally, two National Nature Reserves testify to the variety of precious wildlife and habitats also found on the coast.
The Northumberland Coast Path offers some of the finest coastal walking in the country and is part of the International North Sea Trail – a route that offers spectacular coastal walking as it passes through the countries that border the North Sea.
Stretching 103 kilometres from Cresswell in the south to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north, the path hugs the coast before heading inland to Belford and the beautiful Kyloe Hills. Soon after it joins St Cuthbert’s Way and returns to the coast at Holy Island before continuing to Berwick.
The Northumberland Coast Path winds through traditional seaside towns and hamlets and is generally level with very few steep climbs.
This makes it an easy to moderate walk that can be covered over a leisurely period of between four to six days.
- Enjoy the wide open bays of Northumbrian beaches coupled with the serene beauty of inland areas
- Easy, mainly flat walk on generally good paths and a constantly changing landscape
- Mixture of sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, ancient castles, fishing villages and an amazing variety of wildlife
- The Northumbrian people are famed for being friendly and hospitable
Although the official start is at Cresswell, there is no accommodation available there so you will need to get to the nearby village of Ellington.
Newcastle airport is the closest airport to Ellington and offers a metro train service into the city centre where you can change onto a train bound for Widdrington.
If you are coming from London or elsewhere in the country, you will still need to take a train to Widdrington and then catch a bus directly to Ellington (journey time is around five minutes).
After a night in Ellington, a short walk or bus journey the next morning will take you to the start of the Northumberland Coastal Path in the village of Cresswell.
For anyone planning to travel by car it is possible to leave it at your accommodation at the start or end of your walk, for the duration of your trip.
From the end at Berwick-upon-Tweed you can travel onwards or home by public transport with ease, as it is also well-linked.
Berwick-upon-Tweed has a train station that is on the East Coast mainline and regular train services operate on this route to London Kings Cross, Newcastle, Manchester and Edinburgh. If you’re driving, you can take the A1 north or south or to travel west take the A698.
The Coast Path is split into six manageable walks, all of which can be completed in a day.
The full 103 kilometres can be walked in five days if you’re speedy but breaking it out evenly also works well in terms of places to stay.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
On the whole, the Northumberland Coast Path would be classed as easy to moderate as it is a mainly flat walk along the edge of the coastal plateau.
A small excursion takes walkers into the low lying Kyloe hills but this is manageable by any walker of average fitness.
The only real challenges are a couple of sea cliffs and the fact that walking on sand (or mud after rain) can be slightly tiring.
There is very little up and down, with occasional inclines but there are plenty of places to stop for a rest and a bite to eat along each stage if you want to take some time out.
The County Council have recently invested time and money to replace most of the step over stiles with gates in order to improve accessibility.
As mentioned, the route is generally level with very few steep climbs and is clearly signposted from roads and way-marked throughout.
As a result it can be completed by people with limited walking experience and there is no need to have back-country experience.
There are even opportunities to walk on the beach rather than on the way-marked trail if preferred.
There are no permits needed or fees to pay to walk the Northumberland Coast Path or any subsection of it.
Guided or Self-Guided
Navigation along the route is relatively straightforward with way-marking along its entire length.
From Cresswell to Warkworth and north of the Holy Island causeway you will find one type of way-mark discs and then between Warkworth and Holy Island you will find a slightly different type of way-mark discs, shared with St. Oswald’s Way – but in both sections it is clear that you are still on the right route.
Even though the trail is well signed and way-marked, it is worth taking the relevant Ordnance Survey Map to fall back on.
Most people choose to hike from south to north, starting at Cresswell and ending at Berwick-upon-Tweed as the Northumberland Coast is often a windy place and this wind prevails from the south-west. If you walk north the wind will normally be in your favour. Whichever way you choose to walk, the trail is equally well way-marked and signed in both directions.
The below itinerary covers the whole of the Northumberland coast path, taking six days to walk the official 103km:
Cresswell to Warkworth – 16.8 km
Warkworth to Craster – 20.4 km
Craster to Seahouses – 16 km
Seahouses to Belford – 10.7 km
Belford to Fenwick – 10.3 km
Fenwick to Berwick upon Tweed – 19.5 km
Note that you will need to take an extra day if you want to cross the tidal causeway to Holy Island with Lindisfarne Castle and Priory.
Even if you shorten it to five days, each stage offers up its own interesting aspect of the Northumberland Coast. Stages two, three and four have the widest variety of natural beauty and Northumberland’s impressive Castles.
There are also a large number of other circular coastal walking routes that start at various points along the coastline including Alnmouth, Craster, Low Newton, Bamburgh and Holy Island.
There is no shortage of places to stay along the Northumberland Coast Path.
Unfortunately some of the more popular places only take multi-night stays and during the summer months, the coast is very popular with tourists so it is crucial to book accommodation well in advance.
Wild camping is not allowed in England unless you have sought the permission of the landowner before setting up. Equally, there are no official campsites on or near the trail south of Craster (there is a campsite at Warkworth but it is more than five kilometres off-route).
However, there are cheap options along the way with a range of B&Bs, hotels and some hostels.
If you’re stuck for choice then Berwick Tourist Information Centre offer a book-a-bed-ahead scheme for the path and this can be organised by calling them.
Alternatively, rather than staying at a different place each night, some people choose one or two locations along the route and use the local bus services to travel to and from your start and end points each day.
This works well if your hotel or bed and breakfast requires you to book more than one night.
The best points to base yourself at are either Alnwick or Alnmouth, as they are both well-served by buses heading north and south along the coast.
If you want to visit Holy Island, add in a rest day at Fenwick.
The island is only accessible at low tide and has many historic attractions including Lindisfarne Castle and the ruined priory.
Most of the towns along the path each have their own history along with various shops and restaurants.
Warkworth is a delightful little village with interesting shops and a wonderful castle, and Berwick-upon-Tweed offers a walk around the ramparts with a succession of fine views out to sea.
Visit the tiny fishing harbour at Craster and sample its famous kippers or check out the most famous bird sanctuary in the British Isles in the Farne Islands – home to an abundance of wildlife including puffins, guillemot, and grey seals.
Boat trips depart daily from the harbour in Seahouses.
Otherwise, simply unwind and go for a swim on one of Northumberland’s wonderful sandy beaches.
|Difficulty||1/5 - 2/5|
|Starts at||Cresswell, Morpeth NE61, UK|
|Finishes at||Berwick-upon-Tweed TD15, UK|
|Length of route||103 Km|
|Average time to complete||5 - 7 Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||Yes|
|Highest point||203 metres|
|Countries visited||England, UK|