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due north

I have a strange affection for service stations – they are places where you are allowed to buy chocolate and coffee and all in the name of ‘travelling’ rather than ‘gorging’. The food however is less than appealing and so after two hours on the M1/A1(M)/A1 we pulled off the road and drove about ten minutes out of our way to Ripon.

I’d wanted to see Ripon for a long time because I love visiting Cathedrals. I looked up the route, planned places to park and eat in advance and was thoroughly excited. It was a complete let down.
The Cathedral had no atmosphere, and didn’t feel at all like a place of worship or faith (marking another one against organised religion). The windows were pretty but not breath-taking or even very symbolic. On the whole it felt, and was largely treated, like a tourist attraction rather than a Church. They have a crypt which is interesting and quite different. Otherwise, not very impressive. We ate at a café called ‘Dish’s’ which had been recommended and had huge meals, nothing fancy but well-cooked and tasty. It seemed popular and the staff were lovely.
Onwards and upwards to Northumberland. I have been three, or perhaps four, times before and it is one of my favourite places to spend time. The walking is lovely, people are kind and generous (to generalise of course) and the scenery some of the best you will find. Usually I spend most of my time near the coast but this time I was keen to explore inland a bit more. I arrived quite late and spent the first evening happily reading and writing whilst looking out at the lovely view from the Bed & Breakfast.
Day One consisted of heading into Alnwick for a wander-around and morning tea at Grannies Café (on Narrowgate, if you’re interested) and then a drive out to an outdoor shop which had a cracking café attached to it and off to Holy Island to look out on the Causeway. Had a brief walk around the island but not far because the weather was miserable!
I decided on the Coastal route to get back down towards Alnwick, because it’s beautiful even in the pouring rain. I got out of the car at Boulmer, rugged up, and went for a walk on the beach. Lots and lots of very slimy seaweed but also gorgeous views. The weather finally cleared up on the way back and I got to see the hills in the light of the almost-setting sun.

Day Two was so completely different weather the landscape was barely recognisable. The sun was out and so straight after breakfast I walked around Lordenshaws, an ancient site with cup and ring markings. I didn’t spend too long here because I took advantage of the weather and had a good long walk around the local hills. Three hours, lots of mud, marshes, wrong turns and climbing later I returned to the bed and breakfast, exhausted but happy.

Not up for much walking afterwards I had lunch at Wallington which was one of the best meals I have eaten in a very long time. The house was less than impressive. Nothing to report, really, the library and reading room were nice but not very special. Bit of a let down and the weather was starting to close in again soI didn’t go around the gardens and instead headed to Otterburn with the promise of Afternoon Tea calling me. I had hoped to go to a hotel there which looked beautiful but we were told, firmly, that as we were not residents we could have a coffee in the bar but not afternoon tea. Grump. So we left, after taking a couple of pictures.
On the way there we had seen a sign for a strange cafe called Goats on the Roof and we headed back there to try our luck. It was getting pretty late when we arrived but we made it in time for a welcome cup of tea with a stonking view of the hills.
Day Three was mostly about the rain. First things first I headed to Barter Books (which I have written about here) I came home with ten books for a bargain price, very happy. Morning coffee was taken at the same cafe followed by a brief, sodden wander around Alnwick. I then had a peek at Warkworth Castle (from inside the car) and after some more driving along the Coastal route we headed back to have lunch with the goats again. I had a completely wonderful bowl of soup followed by a mug of hot-chocolate.
Afterwards it was back to the B&B to relax in the lounge and pack for the journey home.
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