It was the end of January in North of England and snow was in the forecast. A perfect setting for our weekend away in Alnwick to celebrate 25 years of a happy marriage. If you recognize the picture of Alnwick Castle, it’s the location of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films and at the heart of this town, which castes its own spell over our magical weekend.
We started in West Acre House – a treat booked by our daughters. Jeannette and Bruce Hewison have been running this Five Star Guest House since 2004 and have the art of hospitality to a tee. They were friendly and chatty with lots of knowledge about where to go and what to see, but instinctively knew when we wanted time to ourselves. Our room, the Edwardian bedroom was a real welcome on a cold night and comfortable with en-suite bathroom and lots of extra treats including sherry.
We weren’t sure what would be open on a cold January, mid-week, but we booked The Art House, in the town of Alnwick. What a great choice! A lively hub for locals, full of Geordies with their cheery personalities and dry wit.
The menu was a touch ‘international’ with everything from halloumi, pulled pork and Southern fried chicken to nachos, ribs and Greek salad. I guess you would call it comfort food? My husband is a traditional Yorkshireman (meat and potatoes, bit of veg if I must) so he happily went for the burger (£9) while I chose the chargrilled chicken breast (£9.95). None of this was fancy, but it was well done and just what we wanted.
If you are in the mood, they also have the Suicide Wing Challenge and Burger Challenge – if you can eat the latter in 30 minutes, it’s on the house!
As the restaurant name suggests, the half dozen rooms of this place are packed with quirky pieces of art and vintage finds – the photos below will give you an idea.
The next morning we started (not too early) with the traditional ‘full English breakfast’ at West Acre: porridge, eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, home-made jams – the works and a fantastic start to the day.
Wrapping up warmly, we went for a walk in the stunningly beautiful Hulne Park and strolled along Alnmouth beach on the most glorious sunny day – freezing but with stunning blue skies. The beaches along this part of Northumberland are among the best in the world.
We had lunch in a pub by the beach and then went back to Alnwick where we strolled around the outskirts of the town (sadly the Castle was closed till the end of March) and ended up at a tea-room just before it closed at 4:00 p.m., for traditional tea and a shared tea-cake.
For our second night, Bruce recommended the Northumberland Arms, a 15-minute drive down the A1 to the charming village of Felton. This was everything you always imagine of a great English pub – roaring fires, great beers (so I understand!), fantastic ‘gourmet but simple’ food and the very best of service: bustling, highly efficient and extremely friendly.
The downside was choosing what to eat! I wanted all their specials – helpfully but sadly, having spent 15 minutes to decide on the haggis, it was sold out! Back to the blackboard and this time I went for the fish plank (£13.95) but with a few extra hot bits thrown in. Crispy, heart-warming, sophisticated and homey all mixed up. Of course the boy went for steak and chips (£18.95) – predictable, but couldn’t have been better.
We aren’t big eaters so no first course for us, but were persuaded to share a sticky toffee pudding (£5.95) with butterscotch sauce and Morwick’s vanilla ice cream – light, packed with toffee flavor and completely delicious.
For the wine connoisseurs, we had a bottle of Merlot (£16.95) – as the label says ‘generous and silky in the mouth’. I know it probably shouldn’t go with fish, but it did!
This place was packed out with locals and visitors, with celebration evenings mixed up with locals getting together for a drink and a catch up. We will definitely return here – and it will have to be another winter’s evening. The atmosphere and food just can’t be beaten.
Our short break felt like a week. The B&B and restaurants were all just what you want from a short visit but it is the warmth of the people and the fabulous beaches that are our stand-out memories. And of course the Northumberland Arms.
Do make a visit – you won’t be disappointed!