Written by Gemma Hall
Map: OS Explorer map 332; start: Whin Hill, Craster, grid reference: NU258198; 6 miles; difficulty: easy walk on flat paths that are mostly well marked; Howick Hall tea room, and the pub and café at Craster.
This is one of my favourite coast walks because of the variety of scenery (woodlands, flower meadows, historic gardens, sandy beaches, bird cliffs, castle views) and the lovely tea room and pub in the middle and at the end of the walk respectively.
Due to the one-way gates on the Howick Hall estate, in spring, summer and early autumn you must walk in an anti-clockwise direction (ie: north on the coast path on the return leg), the route described here.
Set foot from Whin Hill (opposite the pub) and take the (signed) path for Howick Scar that goes round the back of houses. Where the lane curves to the right by a shed, strike off left along a grassy path with a row of garden gates on your left. Cross the field ahead and, after a kissing gate, turn right walking between thick gorse bushes. Continue across another meadow (filled with buttercups in summer) looking out for a downhill track between gorse bushes. At the bottom of this track, go through two farm gates and a farmyard (Howick Scar Farm) to meet a road.
Cross the road and take the signed footpath to Howick Hall through a field. At the top, go through a gate on your left and round the back of Hips Heugh (a rocky gorse-covered outcrop). Between two old sycamore trees, you’ll see a gate in the dry stone wall. On the other side of this wall, cross a field and at the end, go through a kissing gate and skirt the side of the woodland. At the end of a field, turn right up a tree-lined track which emerges by Howick Hall.
Pay your entrance money (it’s not cheap at over £8 for adults) and wander through the gardens, picking up the wooded Long Walk, which is reached by crossing a bridge over the road. After a mile or so you’ll come to a one-way turnstile, after which the muddy path soon becomes sandy as you near the sea.
For Sugar Sands, turn right and go over the metal footbridge and up a bank. At the top, the glorious white sands of this quiet bay come into view. To return to Craster, backtrack to the footbridge and head north on the coastal path (signed).
Before you begin the return leg, those with an interest in ancient history might like to climb an Iron Age earthwork, accessed via a gate on the left just north of the footbridge. There are good views of
the coast all the way to Seahouses from the top of the earthwork, which is not particularly impressive in itself.
Halfway to Craster, the coast path skirts the Bath House at Rumbling Kern and the Cullernose Point bird cliffs where fulmars and kittiwakes nest in summer. An outstanding view of Dunstanburgh Castle enriches the return route for much of the way. In summer, the flower meadows on the outskirts of the village are stuffed with buttercups, clovers and orchids, and the song of skylarks is sublime. Follow the coast path directly into the beer garden of the Jolly Fisherman.
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