The North-East’s se­duc­tive se­crets

Con­tin­ued from the pre­vi­ous page

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL -

fair-trade in­gre­di­ents. Holy Is­land is eas­ily reached from New­cas­tle; you can head straight up the A1, per­haps stop­ping at Al­nwick to view its own cas­tle and fa­mous gar­den.

But on a nice day, it would be a shame not to take the longer coastal route. Bam­burgh Cas­tle, the most fa­mous land­mark, is a for­bid­ding beast of a fort, but the sur­round­ing town is green and pleas­ant, while pret­tier still is Wark­worth, just a mile in­land from the coast, whose own 14th-cen­tury cas­tle was the set­ting for Shake­speare’s “Henry IV”.

One of the most at­trac­tive of th­ese fortresses — a legacy of the border wars — is Dun­stan­burgh Cas­tle, whose ru­ins sit atop a 100-foot cliff near the vil­lage of Craster, of kip­per fame.

At nearby Bead­nell is what must be the most ro­man­tic fish-and-chip shop in Bri­tain: On the Beach, which en­joys a stun­ning sea view. As men­tioned pre­vi­ously in th­ese pages, award-win­ning Beach Court, right on tiny Bead­nell Har­bour, is a pretty and ro­man­tic place to stay for those not ir­ri­tated by whimsy.

Con­sid­er­ing it has just won its own GNER (www.gner.co.uk) takes you from Lon­don to New­cas­tle in three hours from £20 re­turn. Jes­mond Dene House (0191 212 3000; www. jest­mond­dene­house.co.uk) and Mat­fen Hall (01661-855 725; www. mat­fen­hall.com), of­fer deluxe rooms at £195 per dou­ble. The lat­ter of­fers golf and spa pack­ages

A tree­house at Al­nwick, en route to Holy Is­land award for best large ho­tel in Eng­land, Mat­fen Hall seems too large and in­sti­tu­tional on the sur­face to have any po­ten­tial for ro­mance — un­til you get into the VIP suite at the spa, that is. Here cou­ples can en­joy a hot stone mas­sage and the like in can­dlelit pri­vacy, and the ro­man­tic mood is con­tin­ued in a li­brary restau­rant where the food is very good in­deed and strong on fab­u­lously fresh fish from the Northum­ber­land coast. A spa­cious room over­look­ing the golf course had robes whose fluffi­ness could not be faulted.

Mat­fen ac­tu­ally sits to the west of New­cas­tle in Hadrian’s Wall coun­try, near Hex­ham, which has just won its own award as Bri­tain’s favourite mar­ket town. Given the mag­nif­i­cent sev­enth-cen­tury abbey, hand­some build­ings and won­der­ful park wor­thy of a large city, it is easy to see why. There are also some quirky shops which are well worth a visit, in­clud­ing a vi­o­lin re­pairer and at least two an­ti­quar­ian book­sell­ers. A good place to take chil­dren al­ler­gic to shops would be the re­stored Old Gaol, Eng­land’s first pur­pose-built prison, its 14th-cen­tury stones now view­able from a 21st-cen­tury glass lift.

The Ex­change, in the cen­tral Queens Hall civic build­ing, is the kind of buzzy neigh­bour­hood café that ev­ery town de­serves, and serves much bet­ter food than might be ex­pected, strong on lo­cal pro­duce in­c­in­clud­ing lo­cal ice-cream. Much of the con­sid­er­able bounty of Northum­ber­land can be bought in Hex­ham’s twice-monthly farm­ers’ mar­ket, or

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