“ Address: Dunstan / Alnwick / Northumberland / NE66 3TQ „
When we were looking for a campsite to stay in to explore Northumberland we were looking for somewhere that is fairly central and also dog and child friendly that could accommodate both a large tent and caravan. Dunstan Hill campsite fitted that description and also had the bonus of being a short walk away from the beach so we booked a week there in July 2010.
I will warn you that the postcode directions given by the site are wrong, the sat nav takes you to a farm around a mile away from the site. The farmer has obviously got fed up with caravans trying to drive down his road so has placed a big sign at the entrance saying that the campsite is a mile further along the road! Getting there was a bit of a chore as you need to drive down a lot of single lane country roads to get there and the sat nav kept trying to take us down little tiny roads with no entry signs at the entrance. There is a bus stop right outside the site entrance so the site will be accessible for those using public transport.
First impressions of the site were positive. We were met by the Scottish couple who were the nice wardens and by coincidence found out that they were from the same tiny village that I live in, as they say it is a small world and conversation soon turned to "do you know so and so?" The site is well maintained and laid out with an outer circle of tents around the perimeter and inner circles containing tents and caravans. The warden cycles with you down to your pitch and shows you where to set up, the site was full the whole time we were there so there was no choice of pitches.
There are a total of 150 pitches, most of them on grass but several are hardstanding for caravans and motorhomes. Some sites have electric hook up but there are no TV aerial points and TV reception was very poor. The site seems smaller than 150 pitches due to the fact that the space is split into two half by greenery and trees. The half furthest away from the office looks overcrowded though as if they have just expanded into the nearby field without adding more facilities. The site is nice and flat but is very exposed in the middle and during high winds a lot of people had problems with awnings and tents being blown about. Due to the location mobile phone reception was poor, we had three phones on different networks and Vodafone was the worst with O2 and Tesco mobile having slightly better signals.
The toilet blocks were not brilliant. One the first day they were slightly pongy even though they are cleaned every day and I'm happy to say they seemed clean enough after that. The block nearest to our caravan had 8 toilets in the ladies, handwashing sinks and a further two sinks in cubicles to have a wash in private. I really disliked the showers, there were three ladies cubicles in each block which did not seem to be enough for the number of people on the site. I really disliked the fact that to go from the shower room to toilets you needed to go outside, there was a connecting door but it was locked. I didn't feel comfortable using the showers in bare feet due to the floor seeming a bit yucky. There is a water drain running under the shower floor and you could see the water flowing, it had a smell like water that had just come from the washing machine which is not pleasant. The water flow was really poor and the horrible plastic shower curtain kept sticking to me when I showered. There was a stool provided to sit down on to get changed but since this was the only place to put your dry clothes then I used it for that instead, just installing some shelf or hanging space for clothes would have made a big difference.
The washing up room was spotless and always busy with three sinks and draining space which meant that it was a nice place to chat to new people. The usual water taps, waste water disposal and bin areas were all well maintained and adequate in number. There are disabled and parent and child facilities as well as a laundry but since I didn't use them I can't comment on how good they are.
There is a small playpark at the far end of the site with well maintained wooden play structures. I liked the fact that the wardens tried to place all families with young kids down at that end of the site as it meant both the kids had company and the rest of us did not have to put up with them! There is no games room or indoor entertainment facilities.
Dogs are welcome on the site as long as they are kept on a lead at all times. There is a dog walk which is accessed through a fence and dogs can go off lead. I didn't like this much as it was in the woods with tree roots underfoot it was slippy and a bit dark and dingy. If you followed the dog walk for a few minutes however you came out onto a path leading down to the beach and Dunstanburgh castle. The fact that the beach was only a short walk away was a real plus point of Dunstan Hill, the beach is beautiful and unspoiled with miles of golden sand and very few visitors.
The office and shop are at the entrance to the site. The shop sells a small range of food including fresh milk and bread at corner shop prices and the shop also has maps of the local area, buckets and spades and toys. I liked the fact that second hand toys and books were sold on a table outside for a small donation to their flower fund. I found the Scottish couple were amazingly helpful, I broke my glasses and they helped me to do an emergency repair so I could see until I could get to the optician. The man was lovely, very protective of a group of females and helped us sort our awning in high winds and kept checking we were ok. I only met the English warden once and when I went into the shop she snapped at me about supposing I would want to check in before sulkily selling me some lemonade, maybe she was just having a bad day and isn't always rude but she made a very bad impression on me.
A car visits every day selling newspapers and if you fancy a night off cooking then a chip van visits for two hours on a Friday and Wednesday night and sells really nice food. There are various small shops in a nearby village and the nearest supermarket is a small Morrisons in Alnwick around 10 miles away.
There are lots of attractions within easy driving distance of the site, Craster is only two miles away and Alnwick is around a 20 minutes drive. You can drive to Berwick in the north or Newcastle in the south within an hour. We visited Holy Island which is around half an hours drive away and there are many beautiful little seaside towns in the area. It is a really good place for visiting historic attractions with Hadrian's Wall nearby and dozens of castles to explore.
I did enjoy my time at Dunstan Hill campsite, it is a nice clean and quiet site in a really good location for exploring Northumberland. Having said that I don't know if I would visit again, I do want to explore the area further at some point but the showers alone were enough to make me look for another site to stay at and since there are dozens of sites in the area to choose from I will have plenty of choice for future holiday.