Visitors to Northumberland are constantly surprised by the amount of picturesque little villages dotted all along the coastline. The charming village of Alnmouth is no exception. Situated 4 miles southeast of its larger neighbour Alnwick, this sparsely populated gem still manages to attract visitors from all over the country to its shores; the village’s deserted sandy beaches, fascinating heritage and typically Northumberland warm welcome are a real tonic for the tired soul.
Snuggled into the curve of the northern stretch of beach which forms part of Alnmouth Bay, the village is surrounded by the Aln Estuary which flows in from the North Sea and winds its way inland. To the south of the estuary, you’ll find the southern partner to the north beach, which runs down to the delightful coastal town and seaport of Amble, often referred to as ‘the friendliest port’ – head along to see why.
Surrounding the village is a glorious patchwork quilt of fields of all size and colour, incorporating Alnmouth Common to the north, where it leads up to the bunkers and greens of the Alnmouth Golf Club and joins the sand dunes leading down to the fierce North Sea. This truly is a place to get away from it all.
Swot up on a little history of Alnmouth:
Founded in 1150, the village became known as Alnmouth because of its position at the mouth of the River Aln. In 1207, it had become so prosperous that it was granted a charter to have a port and market. Situated on the border between Scotland and England, it was involved in various wars between the two countries and suffered considerable damage when it was burnt down in 1336.
The village continued as an important port until another tragedy occurred when a mighty storm passed over the village on Christmas Eve in 1806, altering the course of the river and stranding the harbour. The church was also blown down, leaving the area without an Anglican place of worship and the village was never the same again.
How the village looks now:
Alnmouth is blessed with rows of pastel-coloured fishermen’s cottages and stone houses dotted along the north bank of the River Aln estuary, and a friendly village high street peppered with restaurants, coffee shops, pubs and a cluster of little stores and gift shops – all protected from the powerful North Sea by long stretches of golden sands and velvety sand dunes.
Shopping in Alnmouth
If you are looking for gifts, you’ll love The Old School Gallery in the village which mixes both modern and contemporary art as well as a selection of beautiful jewellery, cards and gifts. Stay awhile in the pretty courtyard of their café for a freshly brewed coffee and chunk of homemade cake while you review your purchases.
Chefs needing some bits and pieces to go with that freshly caught seafood should pop into Scott’s of Alnmouth deli which is the place to pick up cheeses, baked goods and other treats. They also have a great selection of gins if you need something to accompany late-night holiday chats. Those looking for gifts to take home or who want a reminder of their holiday should head to the pretty little Aln Gift Shop and Gallery where a range of coastal-inspired gifts line the shelves.
If you’ve got little ones with you to keep occupied, walk over to the harbour area where there is a children’s play area for them to run around – if it’s sunny, a picnic will always go down well, especially if you bring some fun games too!
Where to stop for a bite to eat in Alnmouth
There are a sprinkling of welcoming inns and hotels in the village, one of which, the 17th-century Schooner Hotel, is reported to be the most haunted in the country – it has even been featured in the TV series ‘Most Haunted’ so only go if you don’t mind being spooked! Another less risky favourite amongst both locals and visitors is Hooked, an intimate modern restaurant with fish on its mind. For a quality locally sourced seasonal menu and a pint of the local ale, the more traditional Sun Inn and Red Lion are both good choices.
A newer addition to the village is the lovely Dandelion Café, a good stop off on the way back from the beach. In summertime, grab a cold drink and ice cream on the way home and if you are popping in after a brisk winter walk, indulge yourself with a warming hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles or a couple of freshly baked scones and a pot of tea. As most of these places are on the main village road, they are pretty easy to get to from the beach or after a strenuous day on one of the local golf courses.
If you want to sample some of the best cream teas in the area and don't mind a drive, you'll need our guide to the top five afternoon tea spots in the North East for inspiration.
Families will love the wonderful Alnmouth beach
There are three beach zones around Alnmouth to get acquainted with. The main stretch is the gently curved beach to the north of the estuary and is a perfect spot for a family day out. Pack up your buckets and spades and a picnic bursting with Northumberland produce and head down to the sands for a fun day building sandcastles, playing beach games and splashing about in the shallows.
It’s a lovely drive through the village and you can park in the large public car park right on the seafront, watching the golfers on the left tee off as you search for a space. You can also park on the road by the estuary and harbour and walk to Alnmouth beach – just be aware that it does get busy in summer.
Or if you want something more secluded:
Head south of the estuary if you want something a bit wilder and quieter. Take the dusty track off the main road that runs west of the village down to the deserted stretch of beach leading to Warkworth. Visitors with four legs and tufty paws will prefer this end of the beach as it’s fabulous for long beach walks at any time of year – it’s not that easy to access so it tends to be just dog walkers and those in the know. Be careful at the estuary end though as it has a strong current and dangerous rip tides – make sure that you keep Fido’s lead on if he loves a river swim!
When you arrive, park in the English Heritage car park and pay a visit to the teeny-tiny museum, The Ferryman’s Hut, reportedly the smallest in the country. It used to be a ferrymen’s rest, where tired sailors would stop awhile while waiting for their next passengers to cross the River Aln. You won’t need to stay long as it really is miniscule – just 9ft by 7ft – so just make it a stop-off on your way to the beach.
Alnmouth is also close to several of Northumberland's many other beautiful and unspoilt beaches - see our guide below.
Some visitors come for the wildlife
As the village falls within the truly enchanting Northumberland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there is a diverse selection of both bird and wildlife species to be discovered in the area, including several protected wildlife and habitat sanctuaries. The sand dunes at the back of the beach are an excellent birdwatching spot although you are spoilt for choice along the whole length of the coast.
For a really special day out, take a boat trip from Seahouses, 16 miles north of Alnmouth out to the Farne Islands where you can spot puffins and hundreds of grey seals sunbathing happily on the rocks. Or drive a further 8 miles to the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve to walk the mudflats and discover the fascinating array of wildlife there.
Want to find out more about the Farne Islands? Have a flick through our guide here.
Others come for the scenic walking…
The walking in Northumberland is, without doubt, some of the best in the country. Huge windswept beaches set back from an imposing North Sea on one side, and gentle countryside and tranquil rolling hills on the other. Stride forth along the Northumberland Coast Path, a twisting and dramatic section of the North Sea Trail or head inland to the Northumberland National Park which offers over 600 miles of glorious walking and scenery with footpaths and quaint villages to stop off for a pint of the local ale and a bite to eat.
Northumberland was recently named as the country’s most tranquil spot by the Campaign for Rural England and it will be obvious why as you walk through the remote villages and countryside, often not seeing another soul for miles. It’s a 20-mile drive to the edge of the park but well worth it to discover some serious Northumberland walking country.
We particularly like the Alnmouth walks, especially the short walk that starts in Alnmouth and takes in the village – its sea views are spectacular. The Beacon walk which is a 2-mile hike to the stone cross on top of the hill across from the estuary is another scenic walk but bear in mind that it’s a steep climb up to the Bronze Age encampment. Or take the Lovers Walk which follows the estuary all the way along and is about a mile in distance, also with lovely coastal views.
The foodies and arty crowd flock here for festivals…
Northumberland is well-known for its bountiful fresh local produce, with an array of farm shops and farmers’ markets packed with fresh seafood, artisan breads and creamy cheeses topping the list. Feast on delicious Lindisfarne oysters, or the famous crab and smoked kippers from nearby Craster (7 miles) and don’t forget some of the local ice cream for a sweet treat.
Those looking to pack all of this into a day of eating and celebrating should come in April for the Alnmouth Food Festival or in the autumn, when the bigger Alnwick Food Festival gives its very own salute to the best of Northumberland over two days of feasting and fun.
If art is what sustains you, watch as local artists and craftsmen come together for the two-day Alnmouth Arts Festival, forming an art trail around the little streets of the village and exhibiting their work for all to see. Browse amongst paintings, textiles, photography, live music – bring the kids too as there’s plenty for them to enjoy with special children’s workshops and street food to keep hungry tums full.
Everybody comes for the activities…
There are so many fun things to do in Alnmouth. If you have tired of walking around the Alnmouth shops, have eaten all you can eat in the Alnmouth restaurants and tasted enough of the local ale in the friendly Alnmouth pubs, you'll want something to get you out and about. If you are visiting in the summer, you simply must get involved in the annual Raft Race in aid of the RNLI at Amble. Held on the August bank holiday, it’s the perfect weather (hopefully) for both children and adults to make their own raft and sail down the estuary with one lucky sailor to be crowned the winner.
Winter visitors should pitch up during the last weekend of November when the village celebrates the forthcoming festive season with the Alnmouth Christmas Lights switch-on – wrap up warm and take a stroll around the village to admire the glitter and sparkles, finishing with a hearty meal at one of the local inns.
Golfers will be well catered for at the Alnmouth Village Golf Club which is the oldest nine-hole links course in England. Designed by the famous course architect Mungo Park, it has inspiring sea views to help your game and is near enough to the village for a post-round beer. Slightly north of the village is the Alnmouth Golf Club at Foxton Hall which is private but welcomes visitors onto its fairways. As Northumberland is known for its huge number of courses, why not book a round of golf at another of their excellent clubs? For an extra special game, choose one with a castle view at any of the coastal courses, such as Dunstanburgh, Seahouses or Bamburgh.
See our guide to the best golf courses in Northumberland to find out where you can catch your next game.
Fishing enthusiasts are also catered for at Alnmouth, where sea fishing is allowed without a license from Alnmouth Beach – you can also fish downstream of the Duchess Bridge which is situated at the entrance to the village. Come at the end of summer when both Salmon and Sea Trout can be caught and taken home to grill on the barbie. You can also fish the river in between the bridge and the sea but as it belongs to Alnwick Anglers, you will need a pass (available from the Hardy Fishing Tackle Showroom in Alnwick) and a Rivers Authority Licence available from the Post Office.
Come and stay with us in Alnmouth!
If you are thinking of visiting this charming part of the Northumberland Coast, have a peek at our collection of Alnmouth cottages to find the perfect escape.
Some of our favourites: