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A Northumberland Adventure!

I’m not even going to try to work out how long it is since I last wrote a blog post, and I’m really sorry and all that, but here I am at last. I’ll be writing another blog post very soon, which will be one of my catch-up posts, and will put you in the picture about what’s been happening since – well, whenever it was! In the meantime, I thought I’d tell you about our Northumberland holiday.

We’d booked this holiday last year. It was supposed to be a family holiday with our daughter and her two children accompanying us. We’d booked to go to Haggerston Castle, a Haven Park not far from Berwick-Upon-Tweed, somewhere we’d never visited before, and we were all really looking forward to going. Well, you know what happened. A certain nasty virus reared its head, we all went into lockdown, and life changed big time. More of that in my next post.

Haggerston Castle, Northumberland
No idea if Haggerston Castle was ever a real castle, but this is what’s left if it was!

Anyway, the upshot of it was, my daughter decided it was best if she left it until next year when, hopefully, things will be more “normal”. We weren’t sure what would happen anyway, since the company had emailed us to say they would let us know nearer the time if the holiday could go ahead. In the event, they said it could, albeit with certain alterations, such as pre-booking for all activities and meals. I have to say, they impressed me. They’d put a lot of thought into ways to make this holiday as safe as they could, and they still offered a no-quibble refund if we decided we didn’t feel safe enough to go.

We talked about it and decided, after much debate, that we would go. I hadn’t been out of the house since lockdown in mid-March apart from on four occasions. I’m not kidding! And all those times I was in the car and stayed there. So yes, I was very much going stir-crazy and desperate for a change of scene, so we went for it.

It was a long drive and we had to be there between 1 and 2pm, so we set off early and we were already tired by the time we got to the caravan. It was, as it always is, immaculate, and well-equipped, and we were very happy. The husband went to the chippy for tea and we had lovely fish and chips and unwound ready for the week ahead.

Except – I’d realised when we were on our way that I’d forgotten my phone charger. I’d also forgotten my face mask. So, the next morning we decided that our first port of call would be the local Asda at Berwick. Glamorous or what? Who needs Monte Carlo or Paris when you have Asda at Berwick?

The husband had remembered his mask (and his phone charger – show off!) so he kindly went inside and bought me a pack of disposable masks and a charger cable for my phone. We drove around Berwick and I spotted a sign which said “Edinburgh 64 miles” (or thereabouts). Now, me being me, I thought that sounded like a very good idea. So, I said to the husband, “Shall we just drive that way for a little while and see what it’s like? Not all the way obviously. Just a few miles in that direction.”

The husband, being him, thought that was a good idea, and off we went and, as I’d known he would, he kept on driving until we reached Edinburgh. I have to tell you, the road from Berwick to Edinburgh is lovely, with the most fantastic sea views and countryside. I got very excited when I saw the sign for Scotland.

Actual sign for actual Scotland!

“Look,” I said, “we’re in Scotland!” which the husband agreed was thrilling indeed. (I’m being a bit sarky there, in case you hadn’t guessed.)

Anyway, we drove into Edinburgh, and I spotted the street sign for Royal Mile, which even I’d heard of, and I kept squealing, “It’s Royal Mile! I’ve heard of that!” Husband duly drove up it (or down it, whichever!) and we were both delighted to hear the sound of bagpipes – and no, I’m not being sarky there. We both love bagpipes. There was a lone piper standing on the street playing the bagpipes and it sounded amazing. We rounded the corner and saw Edinburgh Castle, and I shrieked, “Look, it’s Edinburgh Castle!” as if I hadn’t seen the dozens of signs or was even aware that we were in the vicinity, and the whole thing had taken me by surprise.

Edinburgh Castle in actual real life and not on a postcard!

We pulled over and stared at the castle.

“It’s a shame we can’t get out and have a proper look,” said the husband.

“I know,” said I. “But look, there are people.”

And there were. Hundreds of them. (Or thereabouts…) We decided we were safer in the car, so we drove round and round Edinburgh and agreed we would come back next year when things were more “normal” and we could explore it properly. Then we drove back to Haggerston Castle.

Trust me, you will sense a theme developing here…

Over the course of that week, we visited Alnwick (home of an amazing castle), Bamburgh (home of an amazing castle), Warkworth (home of an amazing castle), Lindisfarne (home of an amazing castle), and Etal (home of an amazing castle). And I’m here to tell you that not once did we go inside a single one of them. Every time we got near we’d look at each other and say, “But look, there are people.” And that was that. Yes, I have issues. I’ll tell you more about that in my catch-up post, and I’ll bet you can hardly contain yourself.

A Northumberland adventure in Bamburgh
Another castle. Castles, castles everywhere, and not a one to visit. This was Bamburgh, and it’s stunning – at least from the outside.

Lindisfarne was the biggest wrench, because I’d really wanted to visit there, and we actually got all the way across the causeway onto the island. Unfortunately, it was heaving. We saw cars turning around and heading back, and we looked at each other and said, “Fancy coming all the way out here and then turning back!”

In the event, we turned back. We got as far as the car park, but it was packed. We drove round and round looking for somewhere to pull up, but couldn’t see any spaces, and there were people milling around everywhere. And who would have expected that at a popular tourist destination? So we drove back along the causeway, agreeing we would come back next year and have a proper explore of the place when things were “normal” again.

We actually ended up doing the Northumberland Coastal Drive through Bamburgh and Seahouses, and they were both absolutely fantastic places. Now, I don’t want you to get the idea that we never got out of the car, because we did. We got into our own little routine. We’d drive to these fabulous destinations that we’d planned to visit all year, make our way around them, taking in as much as we could from the safety of the car, then head a little out of the town or village and pull over in some gorgeous layby or viewing point, where we could get some fresh air and take in the amazing views. We especially loved North Berwick beach, which was almost empty, and really picturesque, and somewhere else we discovered called Waren Mill and Budle Bay, where the tide seemed to go out for miles and miles when we first stopped to admire it, but came in at a surprisingly fast rate when we called in again on our way home.

Waren Mill. Or it might be Budle Bay. But it’s lovely, wherever it is.

There were so many gorgeous places that we’ve added to our list to see again when life is more “normal” and we can’t wait for that to happen, because honestly, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders really surprised us by how beautiful they are. You can find out more about Northumberland here.

It wasn’t the holiday we had planned, but we had a brilliant time, and we had a real laugh together. I think you’ve probably guessed by now that I’m not comfortable with being around people at the moment, so it was worrying, but necessary, for me to make my first ever trip to the supermarket while we were away. At home, we’ve been very lucky, and have managed to get home deliveries with no problems the whole time, so it was scary for me to face up to the shops. Needs must, however. We’d popped into a local Morrison’s for a few things one day, but it was so big that I said I’d much prefer to go somewhere smaller next time – like a local Co-op, for example (other supermarkets are available).

We did a bit of shopping in a Co-op just over the border in Eyemouth in Scotland, and we’d felt comfortable there, and it had a good range of products. We needed something for tea a couple of nights before we left, so I said, “Let’s go to the Co-op again.”

Beautiful views on our Northumberland adventure
This is the view from the A1, so why wouldn’t you drive to Scotland to visit a Co-op?

Husband looked a bit taken aback. “What? Go all the way to Scotland to visit a Co-op?”

I shrugged. “It’s a nice evening. The sun’s shining. Why not?”

Since he liked to sit on the bench at Eyemouth seafront, which is conveniently right next to the Co-op, and spend some time just contemplating life, death, eternity, and the price of ready meals, he capitulated fairly quickly and off we went. Along the A1, up past the sign that says “Welcome to Scotland”, on and on till we reached Eyemouth. We duly did our shopping and then came home. As we arrived at the park, husband remarked that it was a shame we hadn’t been able to get some ice cream, but it would have melted by the time we got back. It was only then that we remembered there was a little shop on the park. We decided to brave it and put our masks back on, then ventured inside. As the husband browsed, oblivious to everything else, I began to notice something peculiar. I nudged him and pointed to the products in the fridge. Co-op brand! We’d gone all the way to Scotland for stuff we could have bought on the park. Oh well…

On our last day, we decided to go inland for a change, and I suggested the Northumberland National Park.

“Yes,” said the husband patiently, “but whereabouts in the National Park?”

I’m not one for details. I shrugged and said, “Oh anywhere. Pick a place.”

He wasn’t falling for that again. “No,” he said. “You pick a place.”

So I scanned Google Maps and said at last, “Kielder Water. I’ve heard of that.”

A course was duly plotted and off we jolly well went. I won’t bore you with the finer points but the gist of it is:

We got quite close to the area, only to reach a sign which said, “Road ahead closed. Take diversion.”

We didn't plan on this part of the Northumberland adventure!
A bored cow who was clearly used to baffled drivers

We pulled over into a lane, where a cow surveyed us with a knowing look. My guess was she’d seen this scenario far too many times before. Husband said, “Well, what shall we do?”

Exasperated, I said, “Follow the diversion. What else?”

“On your own head be it,” husband said, ever the wise old owl.

Off we went, and good progress was made until…

“Road closed. Follow the Diversion.”

I kid you not, this happened to us four times! We couldn’t believe it. And the annoying thing was, the signs were placed just before the closed road, so you hardly got any warning at all.  Eventually, we reached a sign that broke the camel’s back. “Road ahead closed. Follow local diversion.” We pulled up, and husband switched off the engine.

“Well,” he said. “I think I’ve had enough of this. Now what?”

“Oh,” I said, “forget it. Let’s go home.”

We then noticed a delivery van parked just to the front and side of the diversion notice.  I won’t tell you which delivery company it was, but it would have been quite at home in Switzerland. Anyway, this youngish, blond man got out and husband called to him, “Excuse me, mate. Do you know where the local diversion is?”

Youngish, blond man strolled over, confessing he had no idea. He was too early for his delivery and was having an hour’s break. Hmm. He was rather cute, and had a Scottish accent. My husband apologised to him for being English, then asked if he had any suggestions as to what we could do, as we were strangers to the area and had been heading for Kielder Water.

Youngish, blond man gave us a long, garbled list of directions, while we nodded and smiled.

“Have you been to Kielder Water  before?” he enquired at last.

We admitted we hadn’t, and he proceeded to tell us quite enthusiastically that Kielder Water was stunning and well worth the effort.

“Good job,” he joked. “Imagine if you’d gone to all this trouble, and then I told you it was crap!”

Oh, how we laughed.

We said goodbye to youngish, blond man, and headed off in the direction he’d suggested. We’d gone about a couple of miles (or it might have been a dozen miles – by then I was barely conscious) and then we came to…

“Road ahead closed. Follow diversion.”

Husband thumped the steering wheel. The diversion was taking us back to where we’d come from and we’d both had enough. Not only that, but I was dying of dehydration, since I daren’t drink anything due to the lack of toilet facilities. I opened a bag of salt and vinegar crisps instead, which in hindsight, probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but I was starving. I glared at husband as he gulped down half a litre of water without a care in the world.

Husband looked at his phone, then at the surrounding landmarks, scanning for clues to where we were. I ate my crisps and scanned the landscape, looking for a youngish, blond man in a white van. Well, there had to be something good about the day.

“Right,” Husband said, his newly hydrated state obviously clearing his mind, “we’re going home. Sod this for a game of soldiers.”

I couldn’t agree more. We set the SatNav for the caravan park, and off we went. I’d love to tell you we had a straight run through, but in fact, we faced two more diversions on the way home, and I was beginning to panic. I couldn’t help but feel we were in a Doctor Who episode, and that some seriously sadistic alien had trapped us in a giant maze, and was testing us to see how much we could endure before we snapped. I’m pretty sure we passed the bemused cow on the way back, too. Somehow we ended up in Scotland, in Kelso, for the second time that day – don’t ask me how! But we got home at last, and apart from a fight for the toilet, all was well.

Passing through Kelso for the second time that day. How we ended up in this Scottish town when we were visiting the Northumberland National Park I have no idea.

So the following day, we headed home, back to safe Yorkshire. We heaved a sigh of relief and sank onto a bench at Whitby Marina, ate sandwiches, drank water, and chilled out before we headed home. No worries at all.

“Let’s call at Goathland on the way back,” husband suggested.

Why not? After all, we’ve been loads of times before. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, let’s just say, for some strange and inexplicable reason, the husband took the wrong turn, taking us down a 33% hill to the villages of Egton and Grosmont instead of Goathland. We didn’t want to go back up the hill, so we set the SatNav to take us home from that point. She duly led us out of Grosmont, under a bridge, round and round, along winding lanes, up and down hills, and then… There we were, back in the exact same spot in Grosmont. And to add insult to injury, we were sitting right outside a flipping Co-op!

Ah well, it’s all part and parcel of a family holiday. Our sort of family holiday anyway. And maybe next year, things will be “normal”. Though I doubt very much that the husband and I will ever be!

Have a great week!



This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Jessica Redland Writer

    Ha ha ha! Oh my goodness, this could only happen to you!!!! Could hear your voice telling that exact story and it did make me laugh. Sorry you didn’t get to do everything you wanted to but I’m delighted for you that you were able to get out and about for the first time and that you loved what you saw of Northumberland. It’s one of our favourite places. And you’re spot on about that East Coast route up to Scotland. I used to do the train journey quite regularly and it’s so beautiful xx

    1. sharon

      Stuff like this always happens to us. I don’t know why. We have such good intentions when we set off… We had a great time though, and it’s done me the power of good. I feel so much better now, and we’ll definitely be going back. xx

  2. Isabella

    Life, stranger than fiction LOL This blog post confirms, if ever needed, that you are a brilliant storyteller. I enjoyed it thoroughly and yes, it did put a smile on my face! Brilliant photos, too. xx

    1. sharon

      Aw, thank you so much, Isabella. Glad it made you smile. We smiled, too. Well, we laughed actually. I think it was hysteria… 😉 xx

  3. Linda Acaster

    Diversions, yes. Those orange propped up signs saying Road Ahead Closed. Not which road, not where. We found the barriers seven miles further on at the top of Sutton Bank. But that’s why maps were invented, particularly the 2.5 miles to the inch. Loved your rendition of your holiday.

    1. sharon

      Thank you, Linda. Maps might sort it but SatNavs definitely don’t. Our poor SatNav lady was as bewildered and lost as we were. She kept crying, “Make a U-turn” in increasingly panicked tones. Still, we got home in the end, and it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry. xx

  4. June Kearns

    Fabulous post, Sharon!! (And no harsh words or short tempers?! A match made in Heaven!!)

    1. sharon

      Haha! I don’t think anyone who knows us has ever said that about us before! We’ve married each other three times now, so we’re nothing if not determined. It’s that stoicism that got us through the Northumberland National Park. They breed us tough in Yorkshire. Thanks for dropping by and commenting, June. xx

  5. Nettie

    There’s a book in there somewhere Sharon. In time to come it will be a talking point.

    1. sharon

      I’m sure it will be, Nettie. And I’m planning that book right now!

  6. Voinks

    I shouldn’t laugh, Sharon, but….:D I can so relate to these stories and the best thing is, years later they make wonderful memories. x

    1. sharon

      Trust me, I know! We’ve been together for forty-one years, and yes we have lots of these sort of memories which still make us laugh. xx

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