Friday, 14 October 2011

HOWICK AND CRASTER

On the way from Boulmer to Craster, Howick makes a worthwhile detour, with its 18th century mansion Howick Hall boasting wonderful terraced gardens, woods full of rhododendrons and wildlife which includes the increasingly elusive red squirrel. The Hall was the home of former Prime Minister Earl Grey, whose family history stretches back to the 14th century. It was also the birthplace of Earl Grey tea, blended by a Chinese mandarin for Charles, 2nd Earl Grey. The history of Howick goes back much further than the Grey family. It is here that archaeologists have unearthed the earliest Mesolithic round-house ever found in Britain.

Craster is a traditional fishing village which is famous for its smoked fish delicacies such as smoked kippers and smoked salmon, which are prepared on the premises of L. Robson and Sons. The local kipper pate can be sampled in the harbourside pub, The Jolly Fisherman, which is also known for its crab sandwiches. A short walk from the village, following a grassy shore dotted with sheep, will take you to the impossibly romantic ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, run jointly by the National Trust and English Heritage. Begun by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster in 1313, the castle’s gatehouse was converted into the keep in 1380 by John of Gaunt, once the most powerful man in England. The castle was the scene of ferocious battles during the Wars of the Roses, and it was after this period that it went into a decline. Of all the castles in Northumberland this is my personal favourite. There’s just something incredibly haunting about this place. The first time we went there, we picked our way through groups of lambs running excitedly down to the shore, their worried mums following on behind. After visiting the castle, on the way back down, a sudden and unexpected sea mist rolled in, and looking back up towards the castle it made an incredible sight as it swirled around the ruins.

Map of the area.

'Craster Village' photo (c) 2011, fearlesspunter - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

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