Monday 6 June 2022

...postcards from Alnmouth

We booked four nights away in a cottage in Alnmouth earlier this year, before my Dad's heart attack happened, and were due to depart just two days after he came out of hospital. At one point I was thinking of cancelling our plans, but as luck would have it, my sister had the same week off work, and was keen to come for a visit - she lives 200 miles away, so can't just pop round the corner for a cuppa like I can. She suggested that she could stay at our house while we were away, meaning we could have a reasonably worry-free break, knowing she was there to help/support and generally keep an eye on things. It was the perfect solution!

So we headed North, past the Angel at Gateshead...  

...arriving at Alnmouth in the late afternoon, where we quickly unloaded the car and headed for the beach. Alnmouth perches on the side of the estuary where the River Aln meets the sea, and the river runs across the beach for some distance, almost dividing it in two when the tide is out. There are signs warning against paddling or bathing in the river as it is too fast-flowing - so if (like me) you enjoy the feeling of bare feet on sand and the invigorating sensation of chilly North Sea waves lapping at your toes, you have to walk along the beach for a while to get it!

The following morning we set off up the beach again, following a 4.7 mile circular route from the Andrew's Walks website. I was fascinated by the weathered wooden groynes halfway along the beach, which had been sculpted and coloured by sand and salt-water over time.
There were some wonderfully menacing dark clouds overhead, and the heavens opened just after we turned off the beach, so we sheltered under some trees until the rain blew over...
...the second half of the walk took us inland, with views of the River Aln meandering through the fields and glorious blue skies overhead. We did get very wet at the end of the walk, when (having discarded a few layers in the sunshine) we were caught in a torrential downpour of rain and hail only minutes from the door of the cottage, but that just made a lazy afternoon snuggled up indoors seem all the more rewarding.
The next day we crossed over the Aln and walked along the coastal footpath to the beach on the other side of the estuary, with lovely views of Alnmouth behind us.The track we took through the sand dunes was beautiful, literally carpeted with buttercups, daisies, pink stork's-bill and blue speedwell flowers. I've been listening to Anne of Green Gables on Audible when I can't get to sleep at night, and couldn't help wondering what fanciful name she would have given it - 'The Path of Tiny Blossoms', perhaps?!
The beach was completely deserted - like Robinson Crusoe, ours were the only footprints in the sand. We walked south, facing into a very brisk wind, until the sand scouring our faces got too gritty to bear, then took refuge in the dunes to eat our sandwiches and gaze out to sea for a while. Sheer heaven.
We retraced our steps along the Path of Tiny Blossoms and back over the river, taking a slightly different route 'home' along the side of the estuary and then up through the village for another well-earned afternoon snooze on the settee!
On our last full day we took the bus into Alnwick in the morning, had a mooch around the shops and market stalls, called in at the famous Barter Books shop, and shared an enormous slab of chocolate brownie with a couple of cappuccinos at a little cafe on Narrowgate. In the afternoon we walked off the brownie (or at least some of it) during a final stroll along the beach, pausing to take even more photos of the beautiful wooden groynes.
Before setting off for home on the last day it would have been crazy not to take a short (17 miles) detour up the coast to my very favourite St Aidan's beach at Seahouses - I love it so much that it made me cry with happiness to be there, as wildly over the top as that probably sounds! There is just something wonderful about the spaciousness of it, the blueness of the sky, the wide, pale, reflective beach. Often I become mesmerised by patterns in the sand or seeing what the tide has left behind, but on this morning the wind was erasing our footsteps as we walked, and the beach had been swept clean of all but a few scraps of seaweed and the occasional pebble or shell.
The wind was blowing dry sand across the beach in hypnotic rippling patterns like water - incredibly beautiful to watch. Here is a brief snippet of video:
I'm including this final photo because it functions as an optical illusion puzzle (for me, anyway). The circular shapes are lugworm holes - perfect concave circles sunk into the sand - but my brain keeps 'reading' them as convex (nipple-like!) shapes protruding from the sand. I really struggle to see them as holes, even though I know that's what they are - and even when I briefly succeed in seeing a hole they seem to switch to nipples before my very eyes! Most peculiar...or is it just me?!


  1. What a lovely post! Thanks for sharing your photos. We're off to the Oregon coast soon, which looks surprisingly similar to your beach trip!

    1. Thanks Laura! I've just had a look at the Oregon coast (via Google images) and it looks absolutely awesome. Rocks and dunes and forests and waves and sand and never-ending sky! I think if I ever found myself on one of those beaches I'd never be able to leave. Have a lovely time!