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Sep 2017

Northumberland Coat of Arms

A popular spot on the Northumbrian coast is Warkworth, particularly with Sunday-afternooning Geordies. The old market square is now the main parking provider but best of luck with that on the sabbath.

Carry on to loop round to the river where you can worry if you're allowed to park outside the back of someone's house.

Head up the hill you came in on, probably, for there's something historic to be had up there, like you didn't know already.

Warkworth is best known for the castle, which dominates the skyline on your approach from any of the directions, and it's managed by  English Heritage™.

That means you'll have to part with some pounds but if you've recently signed up because Belsay is so beguiling, let's try and recoup a little of that capital outlay.

Here's the thing, it's not really known who kicked off construction of the castle back around the year 1200 but what is known is that it would have been wooden and wasn't terribly effective at stopping the neighbours from the north popping in uninvited.

Some of what is left is late 15th century and isn't terribly effective at stopping the rain getting in.

It had landed in the lap of the landed  Percy family by then, you see, who set the foundations of what can largely be seen today.

That includes the remains of the Lion Tower, which is a nod to their coat of arms, and was once the entrance to the Great Hall although that's long gone and there's a bit of imagination required of the then and now.

Not unreasonably, there are reasonable views from the bit they'll let you up and atop.

From here the Percys could keep an eye-out on town or admire the tidal River Coquet alongside which it's a walkable mile-and-a-half to Amble.

The Percys had already made home up the road at the much grander Alnwick Castle but must have preferred the views from Warkworth since they spent most of their time here.

As the production line for successive dukes of, the Percys still have a presence in Northumberland and the current incumbent still holes up at Alnwick.

It's therefore unlikely you'll meet him here but if you do, 'That's one canny castle you built there kidda!' is thought to be an acceptable nod to his ancestry.

  The Greenhouse (22 Dial Place)

The shopping's not too shabby in Alnwick but with two castles to furnish, all the Percys' homeware and knick-knack needs were catered for here.

This used to be a café that did serve food after 3 PM on a Sunday but since the Hermitage Inn and the Masons Arms modernised their menu restrictions, here's now somewhere to buy a wicker chair.

Whether you decide to fork out for the insides or not, there's access to a path behind the castle that leads down to the river.

If you're not feeling energetic enough to ramble all the way to Amble, this stretch will have to do and it's good enough for this here heron.

Follow the signs upstream to the 'Hermitage' where a man in a rowing boat will ferry you across.

You pay for your passage back at the castle but they failed to mention that and knowing nothing of the 14th-century chapel that's built into the cliffs opposite, apparently, there's no way you'll be willing to wade across.

Heading downstream, the same-century-as-the-hermitage bridge used to pack 'em on, packhorses that is, with room for pedestrians to give way when necessary.

Because the river loops, this was the only way in from the north and the tollgate was put here by the Percys to extort those who'd decided to pop to the shops. How else were they supposed to fund the upkeep of their pair of palatial pads?

Still, nice views off it and with the heron evidence of underwater activity something much more exotic can sometimes be seen.

Common seals occasionally make their way up from Amble, goading the gulls into a frenzy as they gorge on sea trout, probably, just not today.

  Warkworth Beach

At the opposite end to the tollgate and right over the main road, there's a narrow road that leads up and over to a beach. Head south from there down to Amble's north pier for a view across to the fish & chips that are tantalisingly out of reach.

As for Warkworth itself, and as has already been seen, it's a single road through with the couple of pubs only recently twigging that people might be going hungry after 3 PM on a Sunday.

This revolution looks to be the latest thing to have happened here but the traditional charm is why this place is such a weekend draw.

A lot of this still belongs to the Percys, apparently, but they won't extort you for your stay nowadays.

No, that tradition has passed firmly into the hands of English Heritage™.