A Spinone on the Northumberland Coast (#2)

Sadly, the holiday is behind us now – holiday weeks are always the shortest of the year, aren’t they?

Warning! This post seems a bit like a travelogue. But it might help fellow travellers feel confident to visit the area with their dogs.

We had a great time. Great company, beautiful scenery, plenty to do, and good dog-friendly options. The weather was very kind, but the cold wind needed treating with respect. We were impressed with our holiday home, which had nice little ‘extras’ which we kept finding as the week went by. Although we were a little less excited about the immediate locality, we did love the old part of Beadnell, the harbour and the wonderful beach. It formed the perfect base to explore the area, which we would heartily recommend as a holiday destination. We stayed with a company called Stay Northumbria (www.staynorthumbria.co.uk) and are happy to recommend them!

After our beach odyssey at Bamburgh, we had plenty more highlights. We had an excellent day at Cragside, which is a bit of an undiscovered treasure of the National Trust. Set in a beautiful position it managed to swallow up a large number of people without seeming overcrowded. The house itself is No Dogs and the extensive grounds are On a Lead, but that didn’t detract from our enjoyment at all. Ozzie loved the wild woods and there were plenty of paths away from it all, which suddenly revealed views out over the surrounding lands, or rocky outcrops, or ancient stones left by glaciation. When you consider that the whole lot was artfully created in Victorian times (including the planting of six million trees!) it is all the more remarkable. The house was very out of the ordinary, too, including some astonishing hydro-electric creations, and a massive marble fireplace that had to be built on to solid rock.

East Coast mainline crossing the Tweed

The East Coast mainline crossing the Tweed

We also enjoyed a visit to Berwick-on-Tweed, walking the ramparts and enjoying the views across the estuary – and also the layers of bridges crossing the Tweed. As our holiday companions include some keen train fans, we waited to watch the main East Coast trains crossing the magnificent viaduct. Patience was rewarded, and from our vantage point it looked like a giant train set as the express snaked up the coast and swept over the river. We were also very lucky to stumble on 1 Sallyport, which is a cafe restaurant and also boutique hotel. It was the ‘dog friendly’ sign that caught our eye, and they were true to their word. Ozzie settled down for a snooze whilst we ate an excellent meal in classy comfort. The resident dog (A Portuguese Water Dog) seemed untroubled by Ozzie’s presence and we marked the place down as a ‘find’. We have since discovered that 1 Sallyport has received very favourable coverage in the national press, and we aren’t surprised.
We also visited Holy Island, which was the only place that was just too overrun with visitors (like us…) to really enjoy, although the families explored the castle (No Dogs) whilst Ozzie and I enjoyed the grounds and made the inevitable new friends.
Our final day was spent at Alnwick. Castle Overload had not got the better of all of us, with the Harry Potter connection attracting the youngest. They explored and dressed up to fight medieval tournaments – we have photographs, but our oldest has threatened patricide if we publish them. She’s much to cool to be seen dressing up these days, you see.

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, home to two Italian Spinones

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland - not a bad pad for two Spinones?

As the castle itself is No Dogs, I explored the town with Ozzie. Whilst outside one of the main entrances, we were approached by some castle staff, who asked if Ozzie was a Spinone. It turns out that the family that own Alnwick castle (and still live there, out of season) have two ten-month old Spinones of their own. Apparently, the pair have been up to all sorts of mischief, which we can well imagine. It was a pity that Ozzie couldn’t meet them. Another blow struck for Italian Spinones! We’d love to know how they are getting on.
After a good stroll around town, I joined my friend (who had also opted out of the Castle tour) in Barter Books (www.barterbooks.co.uk). If you don’t know the place, we can heartily recommend it. Converted from the old and very grand Victorian railway station, it is one of the largest second-hand bookshops in Europe. Packed with treasures, from the mundane (plenty of copies of Harry Potter and Twilight in various states of repair) through to some rare and exquisite first editions. There was plenty to satisfy any book lover – and perhaps best of all for us, dogs are welcome. I have never browsed a bookshop with a dog before, and it was certainly unusual to meet another dog around a set of bookshelves, and sitting and reading on the handily placed chaise-lounge, drinking a cup of coffee, with Ozzie curled up in front of a real fire. Eventually, the rest of the families joined us and we came away with children’s history books, some fiction and something a bit more serious for the grown-ups. Remarkable!

After one last long walk on the beach, we had to say our goodbyes to our friends and make our way home. A brilliant break.

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