Belinda Archer takes a tour of dog-friendly hotspots along the remote, beautiful and romantic Northumberland coast
Northumberland: the very name sounds sort of historic and windswept and full of drama. You can imagine hairy Viking hordes rampaging across the exposed moorlands and bloody battles ensuing between the English and Scots.
This northernmost county in England is renowned for its ancient castles and expanses of wild, woolly open country. It also has some of the best, most breathtaking and dog-friendly beaches on offer around our shores, its North Sea coastline being designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Here we have put together a collection of lovely Northumbrian places to stay. They range from posh pubs with rooms to smart coastal hotels, all of which will welcome your hound with numerous pats and the odd biscuit or two.
The Lord Crewe is a gorgeous gastropub located in the picturesque medieval village of Blanchland on the Northumberland/Durham border. Built in the 12th century as an Abbot’s Priory, it has undergone many reinventions since then the most recent being a stylishly refurbishment. Think tweedy cushions, huge glass lanterns, giant log baskets and sink-into leather sofas.
It has a vaulted, atmospheric bar which is brimful of top Northumbrian ales, traditional stouts and crisp ciders, as well as a range of decently priced good wines and a smarter selection of “French and Serious” ones. You can nibble on a selection of yummy bar snacks here, such as pork crackling with Brambly apple sauce or smoked salmon Scotch egg with caper mayonnaise, or you can migrate into one of the two restaurants – either The Larder, a relaxed spot where dogs are allowed, or the Bishop’s Dining Room, a smarter, dog-free eaterie serving the same menu.
The food is British and nostalgic, all hocks, shins, shanks and neck, with dishes driven by the seasons and making good use of the pub’s very own kitchen garden and smoke house. You can even order meat roasted in the medieval fireplace, on a spit.
As for the rooms, these are luxurious and chic, with designer headboards, chrome and roll-top baths. The ground floor rooms in The Angel opposite the main hotel (a separate building but part of The Lord Crewe) and in the separate Miners’ Cottages next door all take dogs. Each of the cottage bedrooms has its own front door and there is a special dog and gun room with a big sink and drying facilities for muddy dogs and boots.
When you’ve had your fill of all this gorgeousness, you must remember to exercise the hound. And what choice there is. The whole of the Northumbrian landscape is a dog’s paradise, with miles of open countryside and many footpaths to follow. From The Lord Crewe, simply head straight out of the door and along the river Derwent – a great off the lead circular walk through woodland, with plenty of space to chase about. Or you can explore the nearby Pow Hill Country Park, which is a lovely area with marked trails across moorland, through woods and alongside the Derwent reservoir.
Any round-up of where to stay in Northumberland wouldn’t be doing its duty if it didn’t include somewhere in Bambugh. This attractive village boasts a castle, a pretty green, some lovely old stone cottages – and the biggest beach in the North East. It stretches out forever, linking Seahouses in the south to Bamburgh Castle and beyond in the north – a run of almost four miles.
The Victoria Hotel has a plum location, sitting right on the green overlooked by the iconic castle. This smart hotel was tastefully refurbished in 2012 and as many as 28 out of its 36 beautiful rooms welcome dogs, so it qualifies as properly dog-friendly. The dog-friendly rooms are spread over three floors and combine standard doubles, twins and superiors, and water bowls plus biscuits are provided in all of them – you just have to supply your dog’s bed. All are well-appointed and have been fashionably redone, with big lamps, contemporary four-poster beds in some, and seasidey touches across all.
And as for the food, the menu is extensive and the quality impressive, with local dishes such as Northumbrian steak and ale gourmet pie and North Sea beer battered haddock complemented by fancier foreign fare such as spiced Moroccan lump of lamb and slow-cooked beef bourguignon with Toulouse sausage. For puddings try Bailey’s Irish crème brulée or lemon cheesecake with poached rhubarb.
When you are ready for a walk, you just have to head over to the vast swathe of dune-fringed sands onto the award-winning Bamburgh beach five minutes away, with the brooding ramparts of the castle on one side and the world famous Farne Islands on the other. There is space for everyone, from dog walkers to horse riders and surfers – and dogs are allowed everywhere, with dog bins provided. The hotel does a great takeaway fish and chips for just £5 – perfect for taking to the beach.
The Joiner’s Arms is a luxury inn located in Newton-by-the-Sea, near Harry Potter’s Alnwick (Alnwick Castle served as Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films). It is also not far from the mighty Bamburgh beach.
The inn has five boutique, wow-factor bedrooms, all quite different but all richly decorated in dark, earthy tones with something stand-out, such as a four poster bed or low-slung French bed, a roll-top bath or a Juliet balcony with panoramic rural views.
One large dog or two small dogs are welcome in either Sandwood Bay or Sebastia. Owners have to provide all doggy paraphernalia and are charged £10 extra per dog per night. Sandwood Bay has a giant antler chandelier and inky blue walls, while Sebastia is gorgeously spacious and has a roll-top bath sitting in the corner of the room.
The food is honest, home-style and award-winning, with local produce being almost obsessively focused upon. Unmissable is The Joiners’ “world famous” smoked haddock and leek chowder or you could try the homemade ham hock terrine with pease pudding and drunken raisins to start, followed by excellent versions of pub classics such as fish cakes or burgers, or something a little more Asian such as a Thai red chicken curry.
To burn all this off, walks abound nearby. The Joiner’s Arms is just half a mile from the sea and a string of stunning beaches including Bamburgh and Embleton. It also sits in the heart of Northumberland’s designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which combines spectacular countryside with the breathtaking coastal locations, so your dog will be in heaven.
Battlesteads is a free house pub, a hotel and a restaurant all rolled into one, located in the peaceful, pretty, properly rural Northumberland village of Wark not far from Hadrians Wall (hence the name). It is passionate about good beer, prides itself on serving locally sourced and often home-grown produce, and is a lovely, out-of-the-way place to stay.
Crucially, it is also dog-friendly: dog owners can stay in any of the ground floor rooms. There is a charge of £10 per night per pet and you have to bring your own bedding, but a warm canine welcome awaits in the shape of Winston the resident Labrador.
All the rooms are comfortable, stylish and a little funky even, with lime green, deep turquoise and sugar pink colour pops, as well as nice extras like homemade biscuits (for the humans) and fresh fruit baskets. The ground floor double is particularly appropriate for dog owners, featuring dog-themed wallpaper, while the family room has heaps of space if your dog is on the larger side.
Food is a big focus for the pub. Given its location in the heart of Northumberland, it is surrounded by some of the finest livestock, game, fish, and poultry in the country, so prime local ingredients feature large on the menu. In the summer they grow many of their own herbs, salads and vegetables, with lots of fruit from their kitchen garden in the autumn too.
The style is mostly modern British with a few international choices for the more adventurous palates. So expect Northumbrian fillet steaks and local rabbit pie at the same time as confit of duck leg and beef bourguignon. One tip: don’t miss the award-winning bread and butter pudding. We can vouch for its deliciousness.
There are five recommended walks in the area, with details printed in handily waterproofed booklets available in the pub. These include the 4.5 mile Wark Bridge walk which starts as a pretty riverside stroll then winds uphill through farmland and along a lovely country road overlooking the North Tyne Valley. Or you could do the 4.75 mile walk to Sheilahaugh and Conshield which takes in some wild Northumberland landscapes. There is also Hadrian’s Wall itself which has a public path running along it so is completely dog friendly – you just need to take the usual care around livestock.
THE PHEASANT INN, KIELDER
The Pheasant Inn is all traditional coaching inn, oak beams and open fires. It is situated in Kielder, in Northumberland’s National Park which is one the least populated areas in England – in fact, Kielder Forest was recently identified as officially the quietest spot in the UK in a new book called Sonic Wonderland. So this really is deepest Northumberland.
The emphasis is on the traditional. The pub is super-cosy and inglenooky, with exposed stone walls, highly polished brass beer taps and shiny wooden beams. The rooms are more chintzy than contemporary, but they are still nicely done and extremely comfortable, and the food is hearty and home cooked.
All the rooms are located around a quiet courtyard garden separate from the main pub building and the five on the ground floor are allocated as dog-friendly. Each has its own front door so is handy for your hound, but the pub emphasises that only one dog or, maximum, two small dogs are allowed. This isn’t the place to bring a Bernese Mountain Dog or an Irish Wolfhound perhaps. A small charge of £5 is charged and it is preferred that you do not leave your dog alone in your room. Dogs are also not allowed in the main building at all, because food is served throughout it.
The traditional British menu features unfancy but extremely well-turned homemade game pies, fresh Northumberland dressed crab, Northumbrian cheese souffles and local lamb as well as excellent Northumbrian cheeses, and a warming, irresistible array of desserts including Bakewell tart, sticky toffee pudding and seasonal fruit crumbles. Perfect fodder after enjoying the great Northumberland outdoors. There is also a generous selection of good malt whiskies to entice you to linger in the bar perhaps a little beyond your usual bed time.
The surrounding countryside beckons for brisk, extensive dog-walking. Kielder features the biggest man-made like in Europe and the whole lake, which is just half a mile away, is surrounded by a 27-mile path which is ideal for dog-walking. There are a lot of sheep in the fields beside the pub so it is best to jump in the car and drive a little distance, either to the lake or the forests around it, or the Cheviot Hills.