I visited all three of Northumberland’s best beaches in the UK in one day – here’s how


You can live in Northumberland for decades without experiencing all the wonderful beaches it has to offer.

As well as popular sands such as those at Bamburgh and Druridge Bay, you can find secluded coves that you will have all to yourself even in the height of summer. And in the latest Sunday Times 50 Best Beaches guide, some of the county’s lesser-known beaches have been given the recognition they deserve, though locals would probably prefer they stayed out of the spotlight. .

St. Aidan’s Dunes, Football Hole and Howdiemont Sands were all on the Times list. So I decided to plan a day trip to all three beaches to see how easily it can be done. As with many day trips on the Northumberland coast, this trip is best done by car.

Read more: North East Beach tops The Sunday Times’ 50 Best Beaches guide

This trip isn’t just about putting the details into Google Maps, if you type in any of the names used in the Times article, you won’t see a pin drop. However, that shouldn’t put visitors off, as one of the three beaches in particular is spectacular.

Just under 16 miles separate the three and because all three are north of Alnwick you can choose between taking the Northumberland Coastal Road from Newcastle or heading north on the A1 to the Denwick Junction . For my trip, I started furthest north at St. Aidan’s Dunes at Seahouses – stopping for lobster and chips at one of the best chips in the UK, again according to The Times.

St. Aidan’s Dunes / North Sunderland Beach, Seahouses

Saint Aidan Dunes with Bamburgh Castle in the background

Just south of one of Northumberland’s best-known beaches, Bamburgh, you’ll find the St. Aidan Dunes, also known as North Sunderland Beach. Park at Seahouses Harbor (£6 all day) or Station Yard Car Park (£8 all day), head northwest on the path along Seafield Road towards the imposing castle of Bamburgh on your left, while eagle-eyed can pick out the more distant and hazy Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island to the north.

Look east to see the Farnes. Although there are over 20 Farne Islands, they stretch out like a long strip into the North Sea, punctuated by the white lighthouse of Inner Farne closest to land and the red and white ringed tower of the Longstone Lighthouse, scene of Grace Darling’s famous rescue. , the furthest away (next stop Norway).

St Aidan Dunes at Seahouses
St Aidan Dunes at Seahouses

It’s worth coming here for those views alone, but the beach is a star in its own right. At the rockier end near Seahouses, terns and gulls cast shadows suspended in the air by the strong breeze (very close to becoming wind).

The sand itself is a huge, almost white expanse, with dogs bounding across the huge powdery carpet with an energy as limitless as the beach itself. The waves crash against the shore with a shade of turquoise that wouldn’t be out of place in Thailand, though there’s a hue of steel and washed-out gray below that could only be the North Sea.

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Sandcastles on North Sunderland Beach at Seahouses
Sandcastles on North Sunderland Beach at Seahouses

For anyone visiting Northumberland, be aware that the beaches are unlike those on the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or even the south coast of the UK. During my visit, the wind whipped the sand to shake the back of my legs before being swept further up the coast.

From North Sunderland, return to Seahouses to collect your car for the next stop – or if you have more time to spend, consider walking to the next beach on the list: Football Hole.

Football Hole, Newton-by-the-Sea

To get from North Sunderland Beach to Football Hole is either a 15 minute drive south or over 2 hours of walking where you will cover around 11 kilometres. Head south on the Northumberland Coastal Road, turn left for Newton-by-the-Sea and follow the road to the car park for Embleton and Newton Links (£7 all day, this will show up on your GPS, unlike the beach).

Coming from the parking lot on the hill, you’ll have Embleton Bay in front of you, and you’ll probably be wondering how this one didn’t make the Times list. At this point it’s up to you whether to walk around ten minutes up the headland towards Beadnell, or head to the Ship Inn in the beautifully preserved fishing village of Newton-by-the-Sea for a drink .

The view of Embleton Bay at Low Newton by the Sea
The view of Embleton Bay at Low Newton by the Sea

I went straight to the beach and had it all to myself except for a couple walking along the waters edge. Football Hole is the stuff of an intrepid traveler’s dream – a wide but empty strip of golden sand backed by dunes with the only sound coming from the wind gently blowing the waves back and forth along the shore.

It is not known why the beach bears its name, although there is a suggestion that it is because football was played on the pitches nearby. I preferred the suggestion of pub owner Christine Forsyth, who said it might have been because it looked like someone had kicked a huge football into the cliff.

Football Hole at Newton by the Sea
Football Hole at Newton by the Sea

If you have it all to yourself, bringing a soccer ball wouldn’t be a bad idea. Even an ambitious but misplaced long-range pass that lands in the sea will leave your ball gently floating on the waves, an easy recovery from the cold North Sea waters awaiting you.

Christine Forsyth of the Ship Inn, where many walkers on the Northumberland Coastal Path stop for a rest, feels very lucky to have Football Hole and a host of other stunning beaches right on the ship’s doorstep. She said: “We’re incredibly lucky it’s such a beautiful place where people love to come – it can be a beautiful day in January and we’ll be full.”

Low Newton's place by the sea
Low Newton’s place by the sea

However, like everywhere else, The Ship is facing challenges due to the cost of living crisis. Christine continued: “Everything goes up in price and if you live in a rural area like this, where you’re 10 miles from the nearest town and most of your biggest deliveries come from Newcastle, that’s inevitably going to raise the price – it’s really hopeless.”

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As in other parts of the Northumberland coast, it is also difficult to recruit staff locally, with Christine saying the pub is ‘in trouble’ if someone calls in sick. She added: “We don’t have any spare capacity – we used to have lovely staff from Eastern Europe who came back summer after summer and they were absolutely lovely, it’s a great sadness that the labor pool is no longer there to appeal.”

From The Ship it’s a steep walk to the parking lot for the last beach of the three, but again you can walk there. Howdiemont Sands is another 10 miles south, or 24 minutes by car.

Howdiemont Sands, Longhoughton

Howdiemont Sands
Howdiemont Sands

Football Hole isn’t easy to find and there’s no shame if you have to ask for directions when looking for it. Howdiemont Sands is even more difficult, especially since it is very close to a better known but also relatively hidden gem, Sugar Sands.

Howdiemont overlooks Longhoughton Steel and you can walk there from the Longhoughton Beach car park. If you plan to spend some time here it is best to come in the morning as to get to the car park you have to walk through Low Steads Farm where the gate closes at 6pm each evening. Access costs £1 via an honesty box near the door.

I spent the least amount of time of the three at this one, mostly because I didn’t want to be stuck in it overnight. Dunstanburgh Castle, which stood to the south at Low Newton, is now as far north as you can see, with the famous Howick Bathhouse also a recognizable silhouette.

Is it worth it?

The above trip took me around six hours including the drive to and from Newcastle. If you desperately want to tick off these three beaches from an itinerary, there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing it in a car in half a day – although it might leave you a bit rushed and ultimately dissatisfied.

I was painfully aware that during the trip I had to skip Beadnell, Embleton Bay and Craster, all of which offer different seaside experiences – not just beaches, but also wonderful places to eat and drink. It doesn’t matter if you live in the area, but if you’ve traveled to Northumberland for a holiday, it might be worth picking a beach and sticking to it if the car is your primary mode of transport; or using the Northumberland Coastal Path to walk or cycle between beaches, planning your trip to your

In your opinion, what is the best beach in the Northeast? Let us know!

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