Monday: Newcastle to Alnwick

60 odd miles down and we are still standing! We squeezed ourselves and three bikes onto the 8.43 from Durham to Newcastle this morning, alongside the commuters, feeling very pleased not to be heading for work. The friendly train guard took our ‘setting off’ picture for us.

The most tricky navigation of the day seemed to be getting from Newcastle station to the river but, once there, it’s a pleasant 12 or 13 mile ride along the Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway to Tynemouth. The path has been improved in the last couple of years and it was much easier to negotiate the area around the Tyne Tunnel and ferry port at North Shields than last time I used it, which is an unexpected bonus. We have our first coffee break of the day on the fish quay

before heading up hill to the priory and our first sight of the sea proper. This also marks the start of National Cycle Route 1, signs for which soon start to have the same effect as last year’s yellow arrows!

We are soon cycling along next to the sea, enjoying the views over the long white strands of Tynemouth and Whitley Bay. There’s a bit of sea haar now, but it’s still warm and dry. The dunes to the north of the beaches are studded with flowers – bloody cranesbill, buttercups, orchids, speedwell and bird’s foot trefoil, amongst others. The cowslips are just finishing, but must have been spectacular.

As we approach Blyth, we are greeted by the incongruous site of the pink-washed First World War gun battery and brightly coloured bathing huts with sedum roofs. Blyth itself is less fun but the sky has started to darken by this time, so we stop to eat our sandwiches at a dodgy-looking picnic table before the rain really sets in. It rains hard when it does come, but not for too long, and we have more or less dried out in the breeze before we reach the famous Spurreli’s at Amble for a late coffee and ice -cream break.

The sun is out again as we cycle past our first proper castle at Warkworth and the late afternoon light is lovely. We ride along a good track parallel to the road to Alnmouth before turning off to take the rural route to Alnwick itself. This turns out to be the biggest hill of the day – real contours on our cycle map – and is hard work at this stage. We are very pleased to arrive in Alnwick, especially as the next downpour has caught us up. It’s still raining when we head out again for dinner at my regular, The Black Swan – very welcome by this stage. Nice to feel we’ve done enough exercise to justify their sticky toffee pudding this time.

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