Anyone who’s been following my blog for any length of time will know how much I love Northumberland. It’s got it all: sweeping stretches of sandy beach, verdant forests and windswept hills. Not to mention a rich helping of history and vibrant coastal communities where you can find the freshest, tastiest seafood. Therefore I was absolutely thrilled when Doxford Farm invited us to spend a few nights in one of their luxury glamping pods near Alnwick.
We weren’t checking in until 3pm on the Sunday, so we had plenty of time to explore the surrounding area before arriving. After the drive over, we made a beeline for Alnmouth to let the dogs have good run on the beach – it’s one surefire way to guarantee a nice quiet evening! There is parking right next to the beach (flat charge of £3.50) and we spent a good hour wandering around on the sand.
Even though it was a beautiful sunny Sunday, the beach was pretty quiet, with mostly other dog walkers out enjoying the sunshine. Once our faces were happily numb from the wind (it’s still only March after all) we popped back to the car to thaw out – not helped by the ice creams we got from the ice cream van, but when the sun’s out and you’re at the beach, how can you resist an ice cream cone!
Dog friendly rating – 5/5. The beach at Alnmouth is dog friendly all year round and ours had the time of their lives! While popular with other dog walkers, the beach wasn’t too busy, although in peak season in summer I expect there are a few more people around. The beach is a popular choice for local horse riders so be prepared to come across them on the beach and recall your dog if necessary.
The Leaning Tower of Northumberland
After a quick stop off at Sainsbury’s in Alnwick to stock up on glamping snacks, we still had about two hours to spare before arriving at Doxford. We were both feeling pretty tired after all that sea breeze (it definitely is more bracing than other kinds of fresh air), so we had a quick Google to see where was nearby, dog friendly, and low effort to visit! A few places looked promising but ended up being a bit further than we wanted to travel – but then we saw the webpage for Edlingham Castle and set off five minutes later.
Edlingham Castle has been voted as one of the top three castles in Northumberland, and with it’s impressive partially collapsed tower, it’s not hard to see why it’s popular with visitors. Built around the 13th century, the castle is today a ruin, and instantly recognisable thanks to the leaning solar tower held in place by metal rods. Parking for the site is outside the nearby 11th century church, which is also more than worth a visit (head inside to see the magnificent stained glass window), with the castle a short stroll away via a smooth grassy lane. The site today is managed by English Heritage and entry is free, though you may choose to make a donation if you enjoy your visit.
Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Dogs on leads are very welcome at Edlingham Castle, and we had the place entirely to ourselves which was fantastic. If you want to walk a little further, there is a public footpath near the church, which you can follow across fields to get a lovely view of the castle and nearby viaduct. There’s also a litter bin outside the church which is handy for disposing of any poos rather than having to bag them up in the car!
Once we’d finished exploring at Edlingham, we finally jumped in the car and set off for Doxford Farm. After seeing photos of the pod on the website we had high expectations – and when we opened the door of the pod we were completely blown away. ‘Pod’ doesn’t seem like quite the right word for what we experienced – we’ve stayed in cottages which were less spacious! We stayed in Ribbons & Raisins – all the pods are named after fields on the farm which I thought was a lovely touch.
The inside of the pod was beyond anything you’d ever expect from a clamping pod – the decor was downright beautiful with so many thoughtful touches like a camping cook book and useful things like olive oil, tea, coffee and sugar. Not to mention the underfloor heating and ridiculously comfortable bed! We were really impressed with the layout of the pod, which maximised space without compromising on quality, providing everything we needed for a fantastic stay. I particularly loved that the bedroom had a door – it sounds silly but it definitely helps ensure a good night’s sleep when you have a dog who patrols the room every two hours in the night! We could tell how much effort Katryna has put into making the pods a luxury place to stay: clearly no expense has been spared and it all makes for a wonderful experience.
After I’d spent 15 minutes walking around the pod photographing every inch for future interior decor inspiration, we settled down for an evening of Netflix and stir fry (our go-to meal for any trip). The kitchen had everything we needed (including non-stick pans, a true sign of luxury!) and the cosy living area soon had us drifting off and ready for bed.
Dog friendly rating – 5/5. As well as all the thoughtful touches for humans, there are plenty of little touches dog owners will appreciate too. As well as some complementary poo bags and dog treats, Merry & Coal were treated to some tasty doggy cupcakes which they definitely enjoyed! Dog owners are also welcome to take a stroll around the fields with their dogs – there’s a route mapped out in the information pack waiting for you when you arrive.
Craster & Howick
Doxford Farm is perfectly located for exploring Northumberland, but it’s especially handy for getting to the coast. Craster is one of my favourite places and is just a fifteen minute drive from the pods – therefore we headed straight there after a leisurely start with giant cups of tea made using the charming camping kettle provided for use on the hob.
There is plenty of parking in the quarry car park just outside of Craster (pay & display). Craster is a popular spot but there were plenty of spaces when we arrived at 9am on Monday morning. Usually we walk from Craster to Embleton Bay via Dunstanburgh Castle (another one of Northumberland’s top three castles), but this time we chose to venture south towards Howick, following a route from our Cicerone guide to Northumberland. There’s a similar route available on Walk4Life but this misses out Sugar Sands Beach – an absolute gem which we had completely to ourselves.
The walk is a circular route just under six miles and was a really lovely way to spend the morning – it crosses farm land before joining up with the Northumberland Coast path for the return to Craster. It’s not remotely strenuous with very little ascent and descent – perfect if you want a nice chilled out stroll. The views along the coast are lovely, and once you reach Cullernose Point, Dunstanburgh Castle appears on the horizon to guide you back to Craster. From Craster we headed back to Doxford for a relaxing afternoon at the pod, including a stroll around the farm too see the lambs.
Dog friendly rating – 4/5. The fields we crossed through were all totally empty, which meant that Coal had plenty of offlead time (bear in mind that there may be livestock around on other days). There was a short section along the road, half of which had pavement, before joining the coast path. The opportunity for the dogs to have a good run around on the beach was a huge bonus and we spent about 20 minutes just letting them have fun and blasting off some energy. And best of all, there aren’t any stiles! Once you’re back in Craster, The Jolly Fisherman is dog friendly – the footpath actually goes through their beer garden so it’s hard to resist!
All too quickly, we were waking up on our last morning at Doxford Farm. I spent a good fifteen minutes watching the sun come up through the bedroom window wishing we could live there forever!
For our last walk, we decided to go to the Simonside Hills, which have been on my ‘to do’ list for what feels like forever. We’d put off visiting them previously as we know they’re popular with both visitors and locals, but we decided that a Tuesday in March would be a fairly safe bet for a quieter day. We chose an eleven kilometre route from our Pocket Mountains guide which takes you to the less visited Selby’s Cove, an impressive rock formation mostly frequented by climbers, and so named because it’s said to have been the hideout of the notorious Selby reiver family. A similar route is online on Outdoor Active.
This was probably the most demanding walk we tackled on the trip – the start along St Oswald’s Way is on a good track over heather moorland, which later becomes grassy and boggier before you reach Coquet’s Cairn, the high point of St Oswald’s Way. From Coquet’s Cairn, you follow the fence to reach the path to Selby’s Cove – do not go through the more obvious gate, instead go through the sliding gate with the Access Land sign on it. The obvious gate looks like the way to go but trust me, the going underfoot is completely pathless and very hard work tramping through deep heather and fallen branches! Very frustrating when you can see a clear path on the other side of the fence!!
Once you’ve finished exploring Selby’s Cove, it’s a rough walk over to climb up to the Simonside Ridge – I’ve never been happier to see a flagged path than I was when we reached the Simonside Cairn! The views from up here are incredible, both of the surrounding countryside and the fantastic rock formations adorning the ridge. It reminded me a bit of some places in the Peak District, just on a slightly wilder scale! We did start to see people up here after not seeing them for the entirety of the first half of the walk, but you can see why it’s a popular spot. I’d love to come back one day when the heather is out as I bet it’s fantastic.
Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. How dog friendly this walk is partially depends on your dog – dogs with a high prey drive like Merry will need to be kept on a lead all the way around due to sheep and many, many grouse, while dogs like Coal who aren’t remotely interested in birds and who stay close by will have lots of opportunities to get off the lead. While there’s no road walking and no stiles, there’s very little water, so you’ll need to carry extra for your dog. Overall though it’s an excellent walk which we all enjoyed very much.
Thanks again to Katryna and the team at Doxford Farm for inviting us to spend two nights exploring Northumberland – we had a fantastic time.
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