Planning your Northumberland Coast Path walk

Published 27 February 2022

The Northumberland Coast Path logo on a wooden signpost

The Northumberland Coastline is highly regarded, and with good reason. It offers beautiful scenery, and scores of wildlife, as well as numerous attractive fishing villages and pubs. No surprise then that there should be a walking trail that follows the coast of one of England’s least populated counties. There can be no doubt that the 62 mile/100km long Northumberland Coast Path offers some of the best coastal walking in the UK.

It’s a cracker of a walk, that’s easy to follow and offers many rewards. So what are you waiting for? Pull on those walking boots, get yourself to the North East, and start walking!

In this guide

  1. What is the walk like?
  2. The route
  3. Planning an itinerary
  4. Finding and booking accommodation
  5. Getting to/from the Northumberland Coast Path
  6. Guide books and maps
  7. And finally, and any questions

What is the walk like?

A boat at the fishing village of Craster, Northumberland.

Running from Creswell to the south of the county, all the way up to Berwick-upon-Tweed near the Scottish border, the path offers beautiful sandy beaches, a vast array of wildlife, rare birds, and a glimpse of holy islands as well. Scattered along the route, ruins of World War II can be found. And lovers of castles need not worry as you’re never too far from one of them either. If you’re after a walking trail with history and wildlife, this one’s perfect.

The Northumberland coast is relatively low level. There’s no undulating cliffs and for the most part, the Northumberland Coast Path follows travelling over sandy dunes that – at the right time of the year – are filled with wild flowers. For good measure, much of the trail has alternative routes that follow the county’s wonderful sandy beaches. There are a few sections where it heads inland, most noticeably between Bamburgh and Fenwick, which runs many miles away from the sea. But even here the terrain is simple and easy to walk.

The main route is well signposted and easy to navigate. The alternative routes along the beaches aren’t signposted, although you’ll be hard pressed to go wrong as long as you pay attention. Much of the trail is shared with the St Oswald Way and in those sections, waymarks are dual-branded.

You can walk the trail in either direction, but walking south to north will mean the sun will be behind you most of the way, and the wind will be in your favour.

All in all, the Northumberland Coast Path is a stunner and well worthy of your time. Not convinced? Have a look at my own tales of the walk and see if that persuades you!

The route

The Northumberland Coast Path runs from Creswell in the south of the county, and heads to Berwick-upon-Tweed at the north. You can see the route using the map above. Using the controls you can scroll around, zoom in and explore the route. The map shows both the main route as well as beach alternatives.

Planning an itinerary

With a trail that goes through several seaside villages and towns, it’s advised to plan ahead with your Northumberland Coast Path walk. There are plenty of places to stay, but in the height of summer especially, you may find getting accommodation tricky.

There’s a couple of different ways to dice up the walk, depending on how long you’ve got. There are suggested itineraries below for five or a six walk.

Locations with a railway station nearby are marked with a 🚂. Everywhere listed below has accommodation, as well as a pub and a shop, unless otherwise noted.

5 Day Itinerary
Stage From To Distance Notes
MilesKm
1 Creswell Amble or Warkworth 8½ or 10 14 or 17
2 Amble or Warkworth Embleton 18 or 16 28½ or 25½
3 Embleton Bamburgh 11 17½
4 Bamburgh Fenwick 13 21 [1]
5 Fenwick Berwick-upon-Tweed 🚂 12 19
6 Day Itinerary
Stage From To Distance Notes
MilesKm
1 Creswell Amble or Warkworth 8½ or 10½ 14 or 17
2 Amble or Warkworth Craster 15 or 13 24 or 21
3 Craster Seahouses 10 16
4 Seahouses Belford 10½ 17
5 Belford Fenwick 6 10
6 Fenwick Berwick-upon-Tweed 🚂 12 19
  1. There is limited accommodation in Fenwick itself and no pub. Alternative accommodation can be found at Fenham Farm (2 miles/3km beyond Fenwick) or at the Lindesfarne Inn at Beal (4 miles/6km beyond Fenwick). There is no shop at Beal, and no pub nor shop at Fenham Farm, although Fenham Farm does evening meals and packed lunches for walkers.

The castle visiting itinerary

If you like visiting castles, you’re in luck as there are three on the route that are open to the public. If you’d like to visit them all, this seven day itinerary should allow ample time

7 Day Castle Visiting Itinerary
Stage From To Distance Notes
MilesKm
1 Creswell Amble or Warkworth 8½ or 10 14 or 17
2 Amble or Warkworth Alnmouth 7 or 5 11 or 8
3 Alnmouth Embleton 10 16
4 Embleton Bamburgh 11 17½
5 Bamburgh Belford 7 11
6 Belford Fenwick 6 10
7 Fenwick Berwick-upon-Tweed 🚂 12 19

Using this itinerary would should be able to visit Warkworth Castle (and its hermitage) on the morning of the second day. Dunstanburgh Castle (near Embleton) can be visited at the end of the third day. And there should be plenty of time to visit Bamburgh Castle at the start of the fifth day. Please check opening times before booking your itinerary though!

When to walk?

With good walking conditions and an easy to follow route, you should be able to follow the Northumberland Coast Path all year round. However be aware that coastal winds may make the route the little chilly in winter!

Breaking up the walk for several trips

With a short length and a no railway stations on the trail, the Northumberland Coast Path doesn’t make splitting the walk up particularly easy. However there are two bus routes that serve many of the towns and villages on the trail.

Travelsure’s 418 service runs between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Alnwick. It servers Alnmouth, Craster, Emblelton, Seahouses, Bamburgh and Belford. Some services – but not all – serve Alnmouth railway station. Alnmouth station is not in Alnmouth, but is 1½ miles/2km away in the village of Hipsburn.

Arriva X18 service runs between Newcastle and Alnwick, serving Amble, Warkworth, and Alnmouth. A handful of journeys continue to Berwick-upon-Tweed, serving Craster, Embleton, Seahouses, Bamburgh and Belford.

Using these bus links, you will be able to split the walk in various ways to suit your own needs.

Extending your walk

For some reason the Northumberland Coast Path doesn’t traverse the full length of the Northumberland coastline. However the southern end does connect with the England Coast Path. One day this will go round the whole of the country, but right now is more limited. However it’s north eastern section is open from South Bents in Tyne and Wear. You can join it anywhere you like. From South Bents to Cresswell, it’s a 35 miles/56km walk. You then join the Northumberland Coast Path at Cresswell.

At the northern end of the trail, the Northumberland Coast Path connects with the Berwickshire Coastal Path. This is a 30 mile walk that continues going on up the coastline into the Scottish Borders. You can do it in two days, but it’s more hard going, and three is advised.

Rest days

There are numerous spots where you can take a half or full day off:

  • If you like visiting castles, then one option is to follow the special Castle Itinerary above. This will allow you to visit the three castles on the route.
  • If you’re interested in wildlife, consider a break at Seahouses. You can find boat trips to go seal or bird watching, or visit the Farne Islands.
  • The trail passes by the Lindesfarne Causeway on the final stage between Fenwick and Berwick-upon-Tweed. This means you can spend a day on Holy Island exploring its sights and scenery. You can either walk the causeway, book a taxi, or catch the 477 bus from the mainland end of the causeway. The 477 bus does not operate every day. Note for your own safety, you should check the tide times before walking the Holy Island causeway as there are points in the day when the causeway is not usable.

Alternatively if you simply fancy a day by the sea, there’s many places to stop!

Finding and booking accommodation

The rainy view from the window of Fenham Farm B&B – our favourite of the whole trip.

Being by the seaside, and being a lovely part of the world, the Northumberland Coastline can get rather busy. This means you’re best booking your accommodation in advance.

There’s no dedicated accommodation guide, but you can easily find accommodation using your favourite search engine. For my own trip, I found that almost every B&B and pub had online booking.

If you’d prefer not to change accommodation every evening, one option is to base yourself at one or two locations, and use the 418 and X18 bus services in the morning and evening to get to and from your accommodation.

Accommodation Booking Services and Baggage Transfer

If you don’t want to do all the booking yourself, there are multiple operators who will book your holiday for you and most will arrange baggage transfer as well. There are far too many for us to mention, so we suggest a good web search using your favourite search engine.

If you’d like to book your own accommodation but would prefer someone to carry your bags for you, two companies offer baggage transfer services:

Hostels and bunkhouses

Hostels and bunkhouses are a great way to make walking holidays a little cheaper. There are three, all on or very close to the Northumberland Coast Path:

Camping

Unfortunately there are next to no campsites on or near the Northumberland Coast Path. There are spots on the route that may be suitable for wild camping, however do remember there’s no legal right to wild camp in England, and landowners may ask you to leave.

Getting to/from the Northumberland Coast Path

If you like trains, the Northumberland Coast Path gives you plenty to see.

The southern terminus of the Northumberland Coast Path is Cresswell in, er, Northumberland. Cresswell is served by local bus services, but it’s not particularly well connected if you are travelling from afar. If you are, then the easiest way to get to the start is to get the X20 Arriva bus that runs between Newcastle and Alnwick, both of which have railway stations. There’s far more services to Newcastle and this is likely to be your better bet. The X20 runs hourly, Monday to Saturday only. You can alight at the village of Ellington, and walk two miles down a road to Cresswell. Alternatively you can alight at Lynemouth and follow the England Coast Path two miles up the coast to Cresswell.

The northern end of the path is at Berwick-upon-Tweed. The railway station is on the East Coast Mainline, and Berwick is well connected by intercity rail services to many major cities, including London, Edinburgh and Newcastle, amongst others.

Local buses run to most of the towns and villages on the Northumberland Coast Path. Arriva’s X18 service runs between Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed, and serves the vast majority of towns and villages the Northumberland Coast Path goes through.

Guide Books and Maps

Don’t get baffled like this sheep. Get a map!

For guide books, you’re spoilt for choice. These are the main contenders:

Northumberland Coast Path: Official Guidebookby Iain Robson

Published by the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership, this is the official guidebook for the trail. It’s not the thickest tome, and does feel a bit more like a glorified pamphlet at times. The walk is broken down into six stages, with additional information on the key features and sights on each section.

Maps are given for the each stretch of the route, complete with beach variations. The publishers have chosen OS Landranger mapping at the 1:50,000 scale. Whilst the Explorer scale would be preferable, the maps are good enough given the excellent signage on the route.

Northumberland Coast Path: Recreational Path Guideby Roland Tarr

Aurum are consistently my favourite walking guidebook authors. Their guidebooks are generally of a high quality, packed with detailed information about what you will find on the trail, as well as directions for each section of the walk. For the Northumberland Coast Path, they’ve broken down the walk into eleven sections. Their route descriptions go beyond the trail’s northern terminus at Berwick-upon-Tweed, and continue on along part of the Berwickshire Coastal Path. The two paths do connect, and if you have the time, it’s well worth extending your walk northwards. However the decision to only include half the Berwickshire Coastal Path is a curious one.

Full mapping is included, at Ordnance Survey’s Explorer (1:25,000) scale which will cover the walk very well.

Northumberland Coast Path: & Berwickshire Coastal Path XT40 mapby Harvey's

If you’re only after a single map for the route, then there is one option. This is the Harvey’s map. It covers both the Northumberland Coast Path and the adjoining Berwickshire Coastal Path.

The map uses Harvey’s own 1:40,000 scale mapping and will be perfectly appropriate for walkers. It does not offer suggestions of beach based variations, showing only the main route.

Finally, if you’d prefer to take a stack of Ordnance Survey maps with you, you will need the following:

  • Landranger (1:50,000): 75, 81
  • Explorer (1:25,000): 325, 332, 340, 346

And finally, and any questions

Boats a plenty on the Northumberland Coast Path.

The Northumberland Coastline is without doubt one of the greatest on this fair isle. It’s a beautiful place, full of history and natural beauty. Northumberland also happens to be one of the least populated counties in the country. The Coast Path is well worth taking a look at, and it’s a walk that will be highly enjoyable. I can’t recommend it enough.

So what are you waiting for? Get planning and look forward to what you’ll find!

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