192. Whitley Bay to Hebburn

As today was going to be walking along tarmac paths and roads through built-up areas of industry and suburbia,  I would ditch my walking boots in favour of my trainers. I also had to drive through the Tyne Tunnel and park at the Metro station at Hebburn. I decided on a very early start and slipped out of my B&B at 5:45. There was a tremendous amount of rebuilding and construction going on around the Tyne Tunnel approach, which confused my sat nav; so it was a case of following the road signs.

Some of the Metro stations offer free parking and I made good use of this at Hebburn. I always thought the Newcastle Metro was a brilliant service, but a broken down train left me and countless others waiting almost 40 minutes for a replacement train to come. Getting back to Whitley Bay should have been easy, but some confusing signage at Monument saw me get off the train (which would have ultimately taken me back to Whitley Bay) and wait for another train which was announced as “For the Coast”, yet have South Shields marked on the front of the Train, even though the train was heading for North Shields. You tell me? Anyway I defied logic and jumped on one of these trains.

Some 2 hours since leaving my B&B in Whitley Bay I arrived back in Whitley Bay and continued my walk. It was dry but very windy, I set off at a good pace, more to keep warm. I had to don my walking jacket as the icy blast from the wind was very cold. I passed the dramatic ruins of Tynemouth Castle and Priory which are only open at the weekends this time of year. Although I would not have paid to gone in, £5.60, is quite expensive for a set of ruins. Although I understand why they must charge, its more than I am prepared to pay. I suppose I could pay the £45 annual membership, like I do with the National Trust and get in free?

Looking towards Tynemouth from Whitley Bay
The ruins of Tynemouth Castle and Priory
Looking south towards South Shields with the Collingwood monument centre-right

Soon after passing by Vice Admiral’ Cuthbert Collingwood’s large monument (a famous mariner who fought alongside Nelson) I turned west and headed along the banks of the River Tyne. I immediately began battling a very strong headwind, that was  giving the Tyne a very choppy appearance. I was soon overtaken by the cruise ferry Princess Seaways arriving after its overnight crossing from Amsterdam (or more precisely Ijmuiden). I entered the town of North Shields, although it would be very difficult to distinguish any boundaries amid the built up conurbation.  I pass through the Fish Quay, where the distinct smell of fish landing, selling, processing, serving and eating gave the area a unique character. Large building and construction barred my way further along the shore side, forcing me inland slightly along the busy A187.

I headed west along the A187 and passed close to the entrance of the Tyne Tunnel. Close by was the entrance to the Pedestrian and Cycling Tunnel, which I would have loved to have used, but was closed until April 2018 for repairs. That would have saved me a few miles walking! I join the Hadrian’s Cycle Way which follows the route of the  old Riverside Branch line of the Newcastle and North Shields railway.  I arrive at Segedunum the Fort which marks the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall at Wallsend. I am afraid I was very underwhelmed by Segedunum. Most of the site is just reconstructed cobbles defining the precise location of the various parts of the fort. After centuries of building, construction and taking of the stones very little remains of the Roman Wall at Newcastle. I continue west towards Newcastle along the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail which continues all the way to Bowness-on-Solway.

Heading west along the River Tyne
The Princess Seaways arriving from Amsterdam
The Fishermans Memorial for fisherman lost at sea at North Shields
One of the many pubs (sadly closed) clad in glazed tiles – North Shields
Offshore construction shipyard, these are small offshore platforms – Wallsend
Looking across Segedunum at Wallsend

I follow a loop in the river loops and the centre of Newcastle comes into view. I catch sight of the very impressive Millenium footbridge spanning the Tyne in a double bow. From the bridge I look further west at the other road and rail bridges which have spanned the narrow Tyne over many years. With the wind at my back now I make good time, taking a circuitous route alongside the river and pass around industrial sites  wherever they occur. By midday the sun has begun to come out and excellent views back across the Tyne where I had previously walked a couple of hours ago. I decided on stopping at Hebburn for a couple of reasons, namely; I did not know how far I could get with the sunshine available, I wanted somewhere free to park and my next section which may be to Sunderland which is also on the Metro and  would make it easy to get back to my finishing point.

An enjoyable days walk, given the biting wind, but an area packed with history that would take me a too  long a time to stop, explore and describe.

The Millienium Bridge and other bridges in the centre of Newcastle
On the Millenium Bridge
Looking east down the Tyne near Hebburn
Looking across the Tyne near Hebburn. The small tower is the observation tower for the Roman fort at Segedunum

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 3,393 miles

 

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191. Newbiggin-by-the Sea to Whitley Bay

It had been a frustrating 4 weeks since I last did any coastal walking due to a host of circumstances namely; lack of 2 day weather windows (particularly in Scotland), a death in the family (my wife’s sisters husband), a poorly dog (now thankfully ok), football and a Christmas Fayre where myself and my wife had a craft stall, selling things we had made – Woodturning and crochet items. Unfortunately, Scotland was about to take the full force of Storm Caroline, So I opted for my back-up walking location – The North East coast.

My wake-up alarm did not go off as I had set the clock time out by 12 hours! So I set off in a bit of a mad rush to catch my planned transport links. Only one major diversion on the A38 – M1 which was something like 10 miles or so. I was very lucky with the next diversion as they were just pulling the cones in. I set off up the A19 which is dualled all the way to the Tyne Tunnel. I located a free car park in Whitley Bay and walked into the town centre to catch the #57 bus to Ashington, where I picked up the #X21 to Newbiggin. The combined fare was £8.30 which was rather expensive, but not too bad as the journeys took almost 2 hours. From the bus stop in Newbiggin,  I walked the short distance to the promenade.

The weather was a mixture of a stiff breeze with sunny spells amongst dull overcast grey skies. I followed the promenade out of Newbiggin getting a good view of “The Couple” statue sitting some 300m offshore on a metal frame. The statue by Sean Henry was erected in 2007 and was quite controversial at the time with the locals having mixed feelings about its siting. As I continued to walk south the sun made an appearance and it became difficult walking into a low strong sun. I reached a caravan site and headed inland slightly along the River Wansbeck. The path passed under the busy A189 and up to a weir with a footbridge on the top. There was a sign on a low locked gate which prohibited public access, I could see the sign lettering had been partly had been scrubbed out, also a number of footprints headed across the bridge and I decided to follow them. I headed back down the river and arrived back at the coast. I emerged on a minor road  which passed through the old mining community of Cambois.

Looking out towards The Couple at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea
Heading towards the weir and footbridge across the River Wansbeck

After 1.5 miles I headed inland again, this time to cross over the Sleekburn, then the A189. I briefly enter the outskirts of Bedlington, before emerging onto the A189 as I cross over the River Blyth. I descend onto a cycle track which followed the River Blyth into Blyth itself. Even though I had checked my route I encountered a couple of dead-ends which required me to retrace my steps. I met a chap out walking who was having his camper van worked on and needed to kill a few hours, he kept me company as we walked into Blyth. Blyth passed by in a bit of a blur as we were engaged in conversation. My new-found walking companion soon disappeared into a local cafe, while I continued  south.

Inland lighthouse in Blyth

As I left Blyth I joined a path that headed towards the dunes and continuesd onto Seaton Sluice. Further on I pass through the small village of Hartley. I continued along the cliff-top path as I pass St Marys Island with its lighthouse and buildings linked to the mainland by a tidal causeway. It is only 14:00 as I approach Whitley Bay but the sun had disappeared and it was getting quite dark already. However, I could still make out the brilliant white building of the Spanish City Dome. I headed for the car park to change and then onto my nearby B&B. I noticed I had passed out of Northumberland and into North Tyneside.

Heading south towards Seaton Sluice
Looking back at Blyth
The harbour at Seaton Sluice
St. Marys Island and lighthouse
Approaching Whitley Bay
The Spanish City Dome – Whitley Bay

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 3,373 miles

 

 

Progress to Date

I thought it would be a good idea to have a visual representation of my progress to date in walking the coast of Great Britain. This is basically just a Google map of Great Britain with a red line indicating my progress, its rather crude, but does the job.

Just a few pieces of information:-

  1. Besides my main line of progress, which is currently in Ardnumurchan on the West coast of Scotland, there are two outliers,the first is my “second front” on the east coast and second, the Norfolk Coastal Path which I walked some years ago.
  2. For scaling reasons I cannot show the “Use of Ferries” sections in Devon/Cornwall/Dorset which I am currently walking when weather further north is not so good.
  3. I’ll up date the map every once in a while

 

190. Amble to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea

The view from my bedroom at the B&B faced onto the sea front and came with a wide panoramic view out across the North Sea and the lights of Blyth some 8 miles away, the view also enabled me to be treated to a beautiful sunrise. The B&B had let me leave my car parked there while I walked back from Amble. I needed to get two buses again today. The first was the X21 to Ashington, the second was the X20 which called at virtually every village before arriving at Amble 45 minutes later.

The weather was again beautiful and on arriving Amble I quickly headed for the spot I finished yesterdays walk. Within 20 minutes I had dropped down to the beach, where I spent the next 2 hours walking. At Low Hauxley I found a brilliant section of an  exposed ancient forest sandwiched between the lower glacial boulder clay and the upper dune system. The ancient forest was about a metre thick and composed of rich black peat, interspersed with large tree trunks. The forest was discovered in 2016 after rising sea levels cut back the dunes and has been dated at 7000 years old.

As I rounded a small point I entered Druridge Bay; this is a long sweeping sandy bay stretching for about 5 miles towards the village of Cresswell. I could also make out the power station at Lynemouth in the far distance. The underfoot conditions along the beach was  on firm sand and  a joy to walk. Unfortunaetly, the low sun made for poor photographs of any anything towards the south. I made excellent progress, passing small groups of people out with their dogs enjoying the late autumnal sunshine.

Coquet Island
Ancient forest sandwiched between Lower Boulder Clay and Upper Dune system
The view south down Druridge Bay
Looking back north along Druridge Bay

I eventually re-joined a minor road at Cresswell, running adjacent to the shore. The road headed straight towards the Power station but then swung around into the village of Lynemouth. The village of Lynemouth and the surrounding area has a rich heritage of coal mining where coal was extracted at a number of collieries up until the early 2000’s. The road passes the Power Station which looks at first glance to be dormant. However, ongoing work to convert the station to a biomass electricity generating station have been underway for some time. I turned left towards the main gate of the Power station  and then took a public footpath which shepherded walkers through a gate in the high perimeter fence onto the open golf links. I headed around the outside of the golf course heading first to Beacon Point and then along the links all the way into Newbiggin.

Memorial to Lynemouth Colliery
Miners Institute Lynemouth
Lynemouth power station
Walkers path close to power station main entrance
Heading to Beacon Point
Arriving at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea

Distance today = 15 miles
Total distance = 3,337 miles

 

 

 

189. Craster to Amble

No chance of a clear two days in Scotland, so I opted to continue my walk down the east coast of England  following the Northumberland Coastal Path. I set off early from Shropshire, this time continuing on up the M6 and then cutting east across country from Carlisle. I made good time and parked in the small coastal town of Amble. Here, I caught the X18 bus to Alnwick, where I got off and waited 20 minutes to catch the #418 to continue my journey to Craster.

It was a beautiful, clear, still, dry and sunny morning as I set off south along the Northumberland Coastal Path. Most of this path runs very close to the shoreline, it is well-marked and wide. From the footfall, I could see  it receives a lot of visitors and you can understand why, with the numerous castles and expansive sandy beaches. Although sunny, the slight breeze has a sharp ‘bite’. The first village I arrive at is Boulmer, a collection of houses and a pub right on the shoreline, giving its name to an old RAF airfield close by. I continue south and begin walking along the beach.

I entered the small village of Alnmouth, situated at the mouth of the River Aln where it enters the North Sea. The riverside path linking the town with the bridge across the Aln is closed for repairs. I walk through the town, cross the River Aln and continue a short distance along the A1086 before heading back towards the coastal dunes. The dunes are quite high and I get fantastic views south towards Amble and the offshore island of Coquet.

Looking back at Craster with Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance
Footbridge over the Howick Burn at Iron Scars
Looking back at Boulmer
Limestone “pavement” near Seaton Point
Looking back at Alnmouth
Looking towards Amble across Buston Links

I continue along the coast before cutting inland slightly to cross the River Coquet at Warkworth. The River Coquet forms a meandering loop around the town with the large and impressive ruins of Warkworth castle dominating the skyline. I continue along the A1068 which follows the River Coquet until it reaches the North Sea at Amble. Before I reach Amble I pass a weir on the Coquet, complete with fish ladder. The weir was probably constructed to keep a steady water level around Warkworth, as the river has a large tidal range. I spot a grey seal in the river, almost a mile inland! I head into Amble following the shoreline and out along the South Jetty, which is a large wooden structure running along the river and out into the sea. There is a lighthouse at the end of the jetty.

I locate my car and drive south to the small coastal town of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and book myself into my B&B for the night at The Old Ship Inn.

The gatehouse to the Old Bridge across the River Coquet at Warkworth
Looking down towards the Market Cross at Warkworth
Warkworth Castle
Warkworth Castle
Looking back along the River Coquet to Warkworth
Weir with fish ladder on the River Coquet
Heading into Amble along the River Coquet
Late afternoon on the South Jetty at Amble

 

Distance today = 15 miles
Total distance = 3,322 miles

 

188. Laga to Achosnich

After a reasonable nights sleep in the back of the car, I awoke early as I had to drive around to Kilchoan to park the car. I parked in the small car park opposite the church and rustled up a warm drink and porridge from my small stove. It was still dark as I waited for the 7:50 Shiel Buses #506 bound for Fort William, the same bus as I caught yesterday.

A number of  children heading for Acharacle Primary School were picked up along the route together with a number of adults heading for Fort William. I had to pay close attention to where I wanted dropped off, as the road looks very similar. I got off at the old Forestry Commission car park at Camas nan Gall. The road was quiet this morning and I walked a lot quicker not having to push the bike. It was a lovely sunny morning, crisp, still with a few high clouds. One of my goals for today was to deviate my route to include the sub-2000ft Marilyn  – Ben Hiant. Although only 528m, it commands a brilliant 360 degree perspective. I had read a number of trip reports of Ben Hiant and I was keen to climb it on fine and clear day. I was also hoping to that I may get a better view of the volcanic ring complex to the west.

I continued along the B8007 past the hamlets of Laga and Glenborrodale. I managed to get a glimpse of the red sandstone castle of Glenborrodale Castle, currently on the market for offers of over £3.75m, boasting 16 bedrooms and 132 acres, as well as the Isle of Risga. I found an interesting sign on a number of gates , displaying a slightly threatening message – “Glenborrodale Castle PRIVATE trespassers do so at their own risk”. At risk of what, being shot? Catching the plague?

Looking west along a tranquil Loch Sunart
Interesting sign at Glenborrodale
Ardnamurchan – Adelphi distillery

I continue on past the Ardnamurchan – Adephi distillery built-in 2013 and producing it own single malt. The road climbs steeply up towards Ardslignish, where I am confronted with a glorious view across Camas nan Geall towards Ben Hiant, which shows an interesting array of slopes, cliffs and greenery. I continue along the road which hugs the very steep hillside. As I the road tracks north along the slopes of Ben Hiant I headed up the steep er slopes making for the first step of rock bands. The underfoot walking was easy, with most of the bracken died back and the grass short with not too much moisture. I gained height easily and within 30 minutes I had gained the main ridge. I joined up with the path coming up from the road and climb onto the small summit area of Ben Hiant. I am treated to a brilliant view which took in Rum, Eigg, Muck, Skye to the north ; Mull and Morvern to the south; down Loch Sunart to the east and to the North West the faint outline of Barra and South Uist in the outer Hebrides – a truly great viewpoint.

The view towards Ben Hiant
The view back towards Loch Sunart
Approaching the summit of Ben Hiant
Looking north towards Eigg and Rum, with Skye in the far distance
East over Loch Sunart
West towards Kilchoan
Looking back at the descent route off Ben Hiant

To the west I could see the road heading towards the village of Kilchoan, spread out along the northern shore of Loch Sunart. I descended steep slopes from Ben Hiant heading towards the footpath passing behind the north flank of Beinn h-Urchrach. The going was easy as I headed to the B8007 road. Climbing over a deer fence gate I entered a deer enclosure, obviously a farming technique practices by a number of Estates in this part of Ardnamurchan. I arrived at the road and continued into Kilchoan. By the time I reached my car outside of the church, a funeral service had just taken place and there were scores of mourners and cars parked around the Church.

At this point and to advance my walking mileage and curtail the distance to get around future walks along the northern shore of Ardmnamurchan, I continued walking for another 3 miles towards the lighthouse at Ardnamurchan point. I climbed up the minor road out of Kilchoan and arrived at the cemetery just as the hearse was arriving. Scores of mourners had driven up the steep road to pay their final respects to the deceased. I quickly passed by them feeling out-of-place.  I continued on for another mile to my bicycle which I had stowed away the day before hoping for a quick descent back downhill back to Kilchoan. In 15 minutes I was back at the car and soon heading south back home. Hopefully, I may still reach Mallaig by Christmas.

Heading into Kilchoan
Lochan na Crannaig – close to where I finished my walk

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23888

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 3,307 miles

 

187. Liddesdale to Laga

I finally found a couple of days that would give me some reasonably dry and bright weather to continue my trek around Ardgour. Unfortunately, the forecast of dry and bright weather did not ring true, well at least for the first day anyway! I left Shropshire in the afternoon, the day before my first walk. This enabled me to get as far as Glencoe, before pulling over and sleeping in the car.

I caught the 6:30 Corran ferry and drove to Carnoch Bridge where I dropped my bike off. I then drove on until the old Forestry Commission car park at Camas Nan Gall near Laga, on the B8007 Salen to Kilchoan road. I then caught the Shiel Buses #506 bus back to Carnoch Bridge. This bus service runs once a day starting out from Kilchoan at 7:50 in the morning and arriving Fort William some 2.5 hrs later via the Corran Ferry.

Today was all about road walking, lots of it! I got off the bus at Carnoch Bridge and collected bike, which I pushed for 3.5 miles towards Liddesdale – where I finished my last walk. I was then able to cycle back to Carnoch Bridge. I could have then left my bike there, but this meant driving back and a round trip of some 35 miles. I therefore decided I would push the bike back to the car. As with previous trips, locals stopped and enquired if I needed a lift, presuming I had a puncture! As I crossed over the Carnoch Bridge I passed out of the district of Morvern into Sunart.

The first of the non-forecasted rain showers hit me as I approached Strontian and this pattern of drizzly rain showers continued on and off all day. I walked out of Strontian on the A816 towards Salen. Although the visibility was not brilliant I could make out my previous walks along the southern shore of Loch Sunart. The road walking, intermittent showers and traffic made the walk increasingly tedious. After passing through Resipole, where I had once set out from for Ben Resipole 8 years ago, I picked up my pace. I was glad to get to Salen, as I knew I only had 4 miles to the end of the walk. Leaving Salen along the B8007 meant I was also leaving Sunart behind and passing into Ardnamurchan, an area I had never before visited.

Heading towards Carnoch Bridge with Garbh Bheinn in cloud
Carnoch Bridge
Entering Strontian
Looking down Loch Sunart from Strontian
Looking down Loch Sunart, the hill in cloud is Ben Laga
Salen
Who needs a Guy when you’ve got Formula 1?
Bagh an t-Sailein

By the time I had reached the car park the showers had all but abated. I decided to drive onto Kilchoan and look for a place to park up for the night. Lots of “No Overnight Parking” signs had me heading off back down the B8007, where I managed to find a sheltered flat spot just off the road on the slopes of Ben Hiant; a hill which I planned to climb the following day. After 10pm, little if any traffic passed along the road and I was treated to a quiet night.

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23887

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 3,289 miles