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More than just some houses at the sea
Member Name: Smokindave
Date: 25/08/09, updated on 25/08/09 (565 review reads)
Advantages: Everything you need from a holiday for the family
Disadvantages: It rains a lot
~~ The Harbour ~~
The harbour area, also know as North Sunderland harour is a busy little affair, busling with fishing boats and pleasure boats alike. There is access for cars right along the harbour's edge for pay and display. Along the top are guest houses and self catering flats which offer some of the most breathtaking panoramic views from Bamburgh castle through to the Farne Islands. Just next to the harbour is the RNLI life boat station which is open to the public and has a small shop and memorabilia collection.
~~ The Farne Islands ~~
Off the coast lies the very popular Farne Islands, home to a vast variety of sea birds and Seals, and there are many tourist boat trips available from the harbour which will take you around or onto the Islands. I can recommend the Billy Shiels Glad Tidings trips which are both informative and very enjoyable for all the family. Not only do you find out about the wildlife through the narrative, but also the history of the area, with special reference to the heroic events surrounding Grace Darling and her father; when in the early hours of a September morning in 1838, they rescued the remaining survivors of a ship wrecked vessel off one of the Islands near the lighthouse which they kept. The story has been encapsulated into the local area through books, paintings and museum exhibitions, and has inspired the careers of many a young coast guard across the country.
~~ Parking ~~
Pulling back into the town itself, and you find a bustling little tourist hot spot which is arguably the most popular seaside town on the Northumberland coast. There is a surprisingly large car park in the centre, which in the summer months gets filled to capacity. If you are planning to spend a few days around the area it is well worth considering the purchase of a weekly parking permit. They can be picked up from tourist information sites all over Northumberland. There is no parking on the main street although it is surprising how many cars are parked on double yellows at any given time.
~~ Shopping ~~
The main street is not very long but does provide a good mix of shops for all tastes, including the wonderful Farne Stores which sells just about anything you could possibly want on holiday and beyond. It is a delightful labyrinth, with a great mix of beach accessories and hardwire, filled to the brim and beyond; an ideal way to spend an hour or so on a wet day. I always find a bargain or two here. There is a National Trust store, which in stark contrast caters for the more upmarket customer, and provides everything from guide books to rambling gear, cuddly toys to fireside ornaments. Other highlights of the retail variety include the essential and well stocked local Co-op. This deceptively large store is probably the largest supermarket outside Alnwick, and so again expect it to be busy with the through tourist trade.
For the more adventurous out there, who require a little more stimulation of the mind and body, a small but well stocked traditional toy shop can be found. All those wooden hand crafted toys popular from yesteryear, coupled with brain teasers and more modern offerings, can be found in a delightful display of colour, complimented perfectly with a vast selection of kites, catering for all ages and budgets; well worth a visit for all the family. For those of you who appreciate art there is a gallery which specializes in paintings and prints from local artists and scenes from the beautiful coast line around the area. Again the selection is varied enough to suit all budgets.
~~ Eating Out ~~
After all this shopping you will be ready for lunch, and again Seahouses is well catered for eating, with a multitude of cafes, fish and chip shops, ice-cream kiosks, restaurants, bars and hotels. For an evening meal I can recommend the Links Hotel which offers bar food as well as an extensive restaurant menu in the separate dining area. Dogs are permitted in the bar area which will serve either menu, although for Vegetarians there is a somewhat limited choice. Another restaurant, which offers great views across the harbour, is the Bamburgh Castle Hotel. Again there is an extensive menu catering more extensively for vegetarians. On our recent visit we noticed a new Italian restaurant opened at the top of the town called Little Italy. We had a look at the menu on the afternoon and asked for the opening hours. After being told they opened at 6pm we planned to return that evening for a meal. Unfortunately they neglected to tell us that as it was Monday the restaurant was not actually open, so being just a little annoyed at not being given this information earlier in the day, needless to say we have not been back since.
~~ Entertainment ~~
There is a large amusement arcade which hosts the usual assortment of slot and money grabbing machines. For those of you with younger children; outside there is a small posse of ride on musical contraptions, which will equally suck all the spare change out of any unsuspecting parent's pockets in a matter of minutes. All good fun though.
There is a quaint little pitch and putt golf course just on the edge of town towards Bamburgh, which keeps the kids entertained when the sun isn't blazing. When the rain comes (and it will) you can duck into the indoor play area attached, although it is quite small and really only suitable for the under sevens in my opinion. There is also a café inside and a refreshment kiosk outside.
On the south side and slightly out of town lies a fun fair which I would believe is only open in the summer. We have never visited it and so I cannot comment on its fun rating.
~~ Beaches ~~
Of course the ultimate entertainment is the beach, which stretches out from the North edge of the town all the way to Bamburgh castle. For the most part the beach is sandy with a scattering of rock pools. The amazing thing about the beach is just how deserted it is. Even in August there is often only a handful of people around; the only possible reason for this I can surmise is that there is no easy or direct access to the beach. Parking is on the roadside which is separated by a strip of sand dunes from the beach, which makes lugging all that beach equipment just a little cumbersome. For a more accessible beach, try the sheltered south facing bay at Beadnell which has a car park within seconds of the beach. This one does get busier than Seahouses but is still never crowed as such.
~~ Surrounding area ~~
As just mentioned Beadnell is a village just a couple of minutes drive south of Seahouses, and is well worth a visit. The small harbour also boasts the remains of some early Lime Kilns. The centre has a small café/restaurant called the Pantry and a historic pub called the Craster Arms which is a very popular place to eat for all the family.
A couple of miles north of Seahouses is the tiny village of Bamburgh which is dominated by the famous castle. The village has a small selection of gift shops, tea rooms and a hotel. There is also a museum dedicated to Grace Darling, which although small, is worth a visit. But the castle is without doubt the main attraction in the area; standing tall on the top of a steep hill it is a formidable sight. Once inside (which is free for HHA card holders) the castle walls, there is a vast range of historic artiefacts housed within the many rooms. There is a one way system through the rooms with audio assistance if required. Much of the history, like so many castles in the area, being so close to the border of Scotland, is laced with tales of battles, and the vast array of armoury is quite astonishing. My particular favourite part of the castle though is a simple stone structure which lies deep within, and could easily be missed. In the corner of one room lies a well which is 150 ft deep, so that water could be obtained during times of siege. An interesting twist though is that about a quarter of the way down there is a passage which could be used to secretly exit the castle. It is a sobering thought of just how this engineering feet was achieved. Unfortunately the exit is now blocked but apparently the water at the bottom is still drinkable!
There are countless other attractions around the area including to the north, The Holy Island of Lindisfarne; a tidal Island, cut off by the sea for much of the day. Further on is the historic and picturesque town of Berwick upon Tweed, fought over and changed hands a total of 13 times between Scottish and English rule over the centuries. Moving to the south and inland lies the highly desirable city of Alnwick, home of the Castle (again free to HHA card holders) made even more famous through the tales of Harry Potter, and the beautiful Alnwick gardens, with their extraordinary fountains and dazzling water features guaranteed to delight the children (and soak them too!). The enormous tree house with connecting rope bridges and in-tree restaurant is quite a sight in itself. Further a field and connecting many castles and historic buildings which dominate this rugged landscape is the magnificent structure known as Hadrian's Wall. But I will stop here as I am straying far from my path.
~~ Summary ~~
The town of Seahouses is fantastic little holiday resort, which provides a vast array of entertainment for all the family. While the weather cannot be guaranteed to satisfy, the range of sights and activities are more than enough to entertain both the holiday maker and day tripper alike. I have just given a taste of what was one of the North East's best kept secrets; there is so much more on offer. So why do we spend so much of our summer holiday in the area in and around Seahouses? Well if you are still wondering about the answer to that question then maybe you should read the bit before this to find out.
Summary: Good all round family holiday resort
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