The Pig Yard

Northumbria 2005...

Holiday Locations

We usually take a holiday in February and for the past ten years we've nearly always travelled up to the Lake District to stay in Dave & Lucie's timeshare property in Langdale. This year Dave & Lucie are in Australia so we decided to break with tradition and go to Northumberland. Sue did all the arrangements and managed to find a superb, spacious bungalow within 50 metres of the sea.

Northumberland is famous for crumbling castles and relics so we all felt very much at home.

We broke the 5 hour journey by travelling up on the Friday evening and staying with John & Susie in Yorkshire. It was great to see them again and we didn't leave them until nearly midday which left us a reasonably straight drive up through North Yorkshire, Durham and into Northumberland. The old A1 road gave us plenty to reminisce about because we were at college together just outside Darlington and frequently travelled this route either hitch-hiking or driving once Steve had bought his own Morris Minor.

Alnwick is famous for its castle and the gardens.

Although the castle was closed in the winter we were really there for the gardens which are still in the process of being landscaped but have a fountain, a water feature that has to be one of the largest in Europe.

The castle walls have strange figures around the top and was used for some of the scenes in Harry Potter. We met a young waitress in a local pub who told us that her class were used as extras in the Great Hall scenes.

The tree house in Alnwick Gardens cost 3.5 million pounds - this is no ordinary tree house as you can see. It has a restaurant, shops, walkways and suspension bridges. We couldn't have a coffee in the restaurant at lunchtime because it was half-term "down south" and therefore busy - we were confused by this because we were from "down south" and it wasn't half-term. After further quizzing we discovered that to this young person "down south" started around Durham - very parochial and as for busy the place was half empty...

We had great fun on the suspension bridges, swinging them from side to side and setting up sinusoidal waves down their length - it was testing them to their limits. Nothing broke, which is just as well because it was probably a ten metre drop to the ground.

OK so it wasn't always sunshine and we had to wear plenty of layers with rainwear just to keep the cold winds out. Steve's Helly Hansen coat was a bargain from the Bicester Shopping Village (the only thing that was a bargain), it was such a good deal we sent one to Jane's sister, Ruth, in Tasmania.

Here we are half way between the bungalow and Alnmouth on our way back, always under threat of getting our feet wet from the incoming tide. The joy of a good walk on such a cold, windswept afternoon is getting home to a log fire and a hot cup of Earl Grey tea - heaven.

Jane's always wanted a beach hut and this one, although a little dilapidated, was ideal for her, it was even a colour she liked.

Do not adjust your screens the angles in this virtual image are just as they were in the real world.

One of the pleasures of holiday in a large group is the meet up sessions at lunchtime. This is a photo of Mervyn's on the market square in Alnwick. Good service, excellent value and delightful food. The owner used to work in Northampton so knew our neck of the woods, her strongest memory was the number of large roundabouts which I think we take for granted. The whole time we were in Northumberland I cannot recall seeing a single roundabout.

The market square in Alnwick is untouched by modernisation and although in winter it does look very cold, hard and grey it still had a lot of old world charm - like going back to the 1950s.

Our walk to Dunstanburgh Castle was excellent. We had a small lunch in Caster and then walked the coastal path up to the castle. To add to the experience Steve found an old leather football washed up on the shore and so we took it in turns to kick it all the way up to the edge of the castle grounds before finally returning it to the sea, whence it came.

The castle was extremely wind swept and if we're honest, cold. The sun shining through the ruined castle windows gave some great effects.

A holiday in Northumberland could not be taken without a visit to Hadrian's wall. We travelled some distance to find a bit that was impressive and this view was taken from Housesteads, a Roman fortress that housed close to 1,000 men. There were all the usual features such as hypocausts and baths - so what did the Romans ever do for us?

This must've been a very bleak posting for any soldier in the Roman empire and given the choice between here and Italy we know where we'd rather be - but hang on a minute, we chose to take a holiday here...

The great thing about the holiday is the good company. Take eight people all over 50 and they soon revert to children especially when near to the sea and there are good beaches and coastline to be walked.

We had some really great moments on our holiday and more than anything else it was a reminder of what's important in life - good friends, camaraderie, good food and that certain mix that is inexplicable.

Thanks to Graham & Sue, Nick & Val and Martin & Kate for helping us to have such a super week.

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