The latest stretch of the King Charles III England Coast Path, opened in August 2023, takes hikers along the enchanting Northumberland coast via imperious castles, eerie mudflats, and a tidal holy island with a monastery/castle (picture above).

       The travel author, Paul Theroux, wrote in his book “The Kingdom by the Sea” that “The whole of Britain looks like a witch riding on a pig.”  The coast of Northumberland, under that description, would be the witch’s neck – obscured and forgotten about – which aptly describes Northumberland’s image in the tourist industry.

       King Charles III England Coast Path will be 2,700 miles long when it is completed in late 2024 – the longest coastal walking route in the world.

       This latest section of the path starts in Bamburgh, a well-to-do village whose most famous resident, Grace Darling, encapsulates the danger and glory that this coast holds for its residents. The village churchyard contains a grand, canopied monument to Darling, a local lighthouse-keeper’s daughter who achieved national fame in 1838 when, as a 22-year-old, she helped save the lives of nine passengers on a paddle steamer that had shipwrecked off the nearby Farne Islands.

      As you leave the village, Bamburgh Castle, the mythical Joyous Gard, home of Lancelot, is a mighty edifice of red sandstone that rises from a craggy black rock. It has stood sentinel over this coastline for 1,400 years. The current hereditary owner, Francis Watson-Armstrong, grew up in the castle, and recently converted two of its towers into holiday apartments.

       The path winds on through undulating sand dunes, covered with brushy grass, until it enters Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, where the land begins to merge with the sea. The ground here, which is submerged by the tide every day, is a soft mudflat. Seaweed and driftwood crunch under foot, and tangles of bright blue fishing net lay alongside curly piles of sand.

       Beyond, to the right, Holy Island begins flickering in and out of sight like a mirage, the shifting tide causing tricks of light on the horizon.

       Eventually the Island takes bolder form as you approach the causeway that connects it to the mainland at low tide. Signs show photographs of cars up to their wing mirrors in water, swallowed by the onrushing tide, with the warning: “This could be you. Please consult tide tables.”

       To the right of the car road is a parallel three-mile footpath, known as the Pilgrim’s Way, which only the brave will attempt. Boots splashing in the wet sand, the route ahead is marked only by towering wooden poles stuck in the mud – these poles have guided pilgrims to the island on foot for centuries. If you are braving this route on foot, there is even more reason to consult the tide tables!

      Holy Island, also called Lindisfarne, has been known as a sacred place since the 7th Century CE, when a succession of Celtic Christian monks made their home here. First came Saint Aidan, originally from Ireland, who arrived in 635 CE and established a monastery. He was followed by Saint Cuthbert, who gained popularity as a pious hermit, and became known as the patron saint of Northumbria after his death in 687. Cuthbert was made Bishop of Lindisfarne at one point, but he gave it up – he preferred the life of a hermit: Holy Island wasn’t quite remote enough for Cuthbert, who would retreat to the tiny Hobthrush Island just offshore, when the monks of Lindisfarne Priory began to annoy him.

       A hundred years after Cuthbert, the monks finally saw some excitement – of an unwanted kind – in 793 when marauding Vikings raided the island, killing or enslaving many of the residents, and kickstarting the period of Norse conquest known as the Viking Age.

       The monks are gone now, the priory a somewhat spooky ruin. However, you can pay a visit to St. Aidan’s Winery to sample the sweet, rich selection of mead that is still produced here, 1400 years after the monks first made it.

       Continuing on, you eventually reach civilisation in the form of the outskirts of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the most northerly town in England. Berwick has a split personality – it has been described as Europe’s most fought-over town, having changed hands 13 times between England and Scotland, and it is still a place where national borders blur.

       The locals speak with a noticeable Scottish burr, and many of the younger residents go to school in the Scottish town of Eyemouth, eight miles to the north. The local football team, Berwick Rangers, is the only English club to play in a Scottish league.

       The final stretch of the path takes you along the cliffs to Marshall Meadows Bay, the northernmost point of England, where a metal sign emblazoned with the Scottish flag marks the national border.

       There is no more of England left, and so King Charles III English Coast Path finally terminates. Definitely, a bucket-list destination.

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