Traveling brings me happiness! Having the opportunitty to meet new people and explore new places brings me so much joy and satisfaction, and, of course, it brings me closer to nature. Having the chance of a change of scenery or simply being able to photograph some of the most amazing places on earth recharges my batteries like no amounts of coffee and catch ups will ever do. I love to travel, and I wish I did it more often. As this was one of the things on my Bucket List, I'm trying my hardest to make it happen. So far, this year, there's been so much work and new freelance jobs and projects I've been working on, that it feels like there's barely any time for anything else, including blogging. Still, instead of using life as an excuse (like always...), I've decided to man up and plan a fun trip for the weekend to break from a tiring routine and give me some much needed peace.
On Friday, 20th April, after work, I've started planning a little trip for the weekend. It would have to be on Saturday, because the weather was going to be glorious! Sunday's weather forecast wasn't going to be so generous...in fact, it was going to be dark, cold and rainy, not ideal for a road trip.
My plan was to drive from Newcastle upon Tyne and explore the East Coast of the UK, from Warkworth Castle all the way up to Bamburgh. Along the way, I wanted to do a few important stops at Alnmouth, Seahouses and Dunstanburgh. After some research on google, I found a horse riding centre that do walks along the beach (one of the things on my Bucket List I'm most excited to do), so the plan was to finish it off big, with a walk along a beautiful beach, riding a horse. I can't put into words how excited I was for this.
On Friday evening I drove to ASDA to pick up some supplies for the trip: bottles of water, bread for sandwiches, and a few snacks to keep me going throughout the day. Once I got home, I prepared everything for the next morning, as the plan was to leave the house at 8am sharp!
The weather was absolutely gorgeous! With highs of 16 degrees in forecast, I knew I had picked just about the right day to go on a trip like this. I packed the car up and it was time to go! I drove straight to Warkworth, my very first stop. Once I arrived to the Castle, it was still closed and opened at 10am, so i knew I had some time to kill. What did I do with that time? I grabbed a cup of coffee and walked in the sun, photographing the beautiful castle.
There wasn't a single cloud in the sky, the weather was warm, and the castle was just glorious! A bed of yellow flowers surrounded the whole fortress, and there were so many people going around the castle taking photos. There were photoshoots going on, and a bunch of photographers trying to get the best shots and best angles from the castle. I, for once, didn't want the pressure of getting the right angle or the best shot. This trip had nothing to do with that for me. Sure, I'd want to photograph the places to keep a memory alive, and I did take lots of photographs during the trip, but my ultimate goal was to unwind and recharge batteries. I just wanted to enjoy myself, take it all in and breathe in a new air. I wanted to enjoy this day and be thankful for the opportunity to be there in the first place.
The ruins were beautiful. There was something so majestic about them. I asked how long the tour would take, but the answer I got made me question whether or not I'd do it. I really wanted to stick to my travel plan, and I didn't want to have to cut out any stops in between because of lack of time.
The castle was still accessible to everyone and I managed to see the both the inside and outside, but the prices for the tour were not so generous, not to mention that the car park was paid too. So, after exploring enough and taking lots of photos, I've decided to move on to my next stop on this mini road trip.
My next stop was Alnmouth. a coastal village in Northumberland, situated just 4 miles east of Alnwick. I have visited Alnwick before, so this time I wanted to explore the coast. I didn't want to have too much expectations for this trip, especially because it was planned in a rush on the day before it actually happened, but my God, was I impressed with Alnmouth!
I found a free car park (say whaaat...?) at the Alnmouth train station, and walked all the way to the village.
Along the way, I saw some of the most beautiful houses I have ever seen in my entire life! I'm not even going to try and guess the price of any of those properties, but honestly, they were absolutely stunning with incredible views, I believe.
I was very intrigued by this beautiful chapel, The Wesleyan Chapel. The architecture was so cute and discreet, yet somehow it stood out with this medieval look and trees surrounding it. It was closed, but I still couldn't help but to take a picture of it. Isn't it the most adorable chapel you've ever seen?
Alnmouth was definitely a great surprise! Once I arrived at the village, I came across the cutest little cafés, hostels, parks, and people! Everyone was out on the streets (a natural reaction of the brits once the sun comes out...) and I was greeted several times with respectful 'good morning's' from EVERYONE! It was crazy! But I loved it.
After some reasearch, I've learned that the village had a port supporting a small fishing industry and engaging in national and international trade. It was for a time a leading north-east centre for the export of grain and other foods, especially to London; and specialised in the import of timber and slate. These activities to some extent shaped the village, as granaries were constructed to store grain, and sawmills and a boatyard established to process wood and build ships.
In a way, I felt like I was in a movie set of Smurfs. Everything around me felt so little and cute - the houses were not very tall, the doors of the several cafés, hostels and houses looked so tiny it made you wonder if you'd ever fit through. Then, of course, the town was planted by the sea, so you could smell the fresh breeze. I found myself wondering if I'd be capable of living there, in a town were stress seems to not exist, and everyone seems to know how to enjoy life...Would I quickly be fed up or would I actually enjoy such freedom, away from the noise, polution, stress and drama of my every day life? My phone didn't even have signal during most of my trip, which also made me wonder how I'd manage to drive around without GPS. Would I actually be able to follow a map? (I know...it's sad!)
Having found no answer to my inner questions and thoughts, I kept walking until I reached the sea, where I sat on the sand for ten minutes taking it all in...
I had to keep moving if I wanted to have time to do everything, and I still had a bit of a drive ahead of me, so I decided to head back to the car park. I crossed a cute little bridge once more and waved a final 'mental goodbye' to a huge house I abdolutely LOVED. It was time to move on my next stop: Dunstanburgh!
Before I reached the car park, I came across beautiful gardens with very healthy, lively, colourful flowers. Spring is here!
The drive to Dunstanburgh castle was a little bit of a disaster. If I had no signal on my phone, I couldn't use google maps, so I drove for literally half an hour, in circles....trying to find the castle. I tried asking for directions but ended up getting lost...again! Woops...
Once I finally got there, I parked the car - this time it was a paid car park; you only get lucky once. I then had to walk along a huge path to reach the Dunstanburgh Castle. There were several wooden gates along the way that I had to keep closing behind me, as I was walking among sheep. Yup....sheep! Only in England, folks!
I could see the castle already in the distance...but I still had a lot of walking to do! With sheep to my left and the sea to my right, it was impossible to feel any closer to nature.
Once I finally reached the castle, I was absolutely overwhelmed. It was beautiful!
I could have stayed here for hours, but I knew I had to keep going if I wanted to be home any time before midnight...so I walked back to the car, ready for my next stop: Seahouses. Just like Alnmouth, this was also one of my favourite spots of the trip. Such a cute village that attracts so many tourists. I was excited to visit, and it did not disappoint.
I had spent such an incredible morning that I had forgotten to eat! I had so many snacks packed up and only then I realised it was nearly 2:30pm and I was hungry! So, I decided to risk it and take a sandwich out of the backpack. I say 'risk it', because the seaguls have shown themselves very interested in my lunch...odds would have been 50/50, if you ask me...but I can confidently say that I won that battle without any incidents....
This yummy sandwich tasted and felt like heaven! I also had a bottle of water and a few more snacks. After lunch, it was time to explore the shops and get some souvenirs.
There were so many local shops with famous local liqueurs, foods, postcards, mugs and all sorts of merchandise you can possibly imagine, most of the items with sentences written, claiming the beach as the 'place to be', the 'happy place', the place that's 'good for the soul', the place 'like no other'. And I honestly don't doubt it....
My parking lasted until 4:30 in the afternoon, so I took my time in the shops and bought some postcards and other presents and souvenirs to bring back home. I wanted to buy a fridge magnet, but they were so expensive and I didn't find one that I really, really loved, so I came back home without a magnet. On the bright side, I did find the cutest postcards from all the places I had visited.
I left Seahouses and headed straight to the horse riding school to see if there was still time to go on a beach horse ride, something I have been dreaming of since I was little! My ultimate dream! However, and since I hadn't called previously to make any enquiry, I didn't want to be overly excited, in case the plan wouldn't work out. Plus, it was getting late, and there was a chance it wouldn't happen.
I drove to the Slate Hall Riding School, which was about 4 or 5 minutes away from Seahouses town center and knocked on the door with my fingers crossed. Would I finally be ticking riding a horse on the beach off my bucket list???
...I knocked a few times but no one answered the door. I had a sneaky look around and spent a few minutes with a few horses, whilst trying their landline to see if anyone would answer the phone...
...No answer! 'Oh, no!' Maybe I should have called? 'Yes, that would have been ideal, Mariana!' - I thought. But out in the distance, in the arena, a girl was riding a horse, and I thought to myself 'what do I have to lose?'. I opened the gate and walked towards her and asked if she knew if anyone was around. Unfortunately, there were competitions going on, and the owners and everyone weren't home.
'If you come back tomorrow, it shouldn't be a problem. Are you after the beach rides? Those are insane! They do 30 minutes, 1 hour, or even 2 hour long rides! You should do it.' - she said with a smile. I thanked her and went back to the car wanting to cry! Haha! I guess it wasn't meant to be. Not just yet. But one day, eh?
Once the horse riding wasn't happening, I had time for one final stop. And since I was only 5 minutes away from the Bamburgh Castle, I've decided to go there instead.
I didn't have many expectations, especially after the disappointment of the previous stop, however, I was so pleased with the castle once I laid eyes on it. I parked the car (free parking, again!) and started walking towards the top, totally missing the sign at the very bottom that said 'last admissions at 4pm. It was now 4:20pm. So when I reached the top, two staff members informed me that it was closing soon. They did let me take a few pictures though, and one of them advised on the best place to get the best angles and light for photos at such time of the day, but unfortunately, it was too late for me to go in. Still, I didn't let that change my mood or ruin my trip.
As it was already 4:30pm and I had no other plans, I've decided to drive back home.
This experience was incredible, and I don't know why I don't do it more often. I'd love to do it with other people, but the truth is I enjoy it just as much if I go alone! There's no excuse for not doing it more often, and I really want to start changing my perspective of things when it comes to this.
At the end of the day, traveling doesn't have t be about fancy hotels or expensive meals, which I already know. My problem was my perception of 'going on holidays / vacation' being all about getting on a plane and flying somewhere new, eating nice food at nice restaurants and, of course, exploring new places and taking nice photos. And it also doesn't take having to take time off work to be able to travel. A backpack and well-planned route for one day or even a weekend getaway works just as well, if not better. Not to mention the money you'll save (except on petrol....).
I've come to realise that these little trips can be just as rewarding and help to get my mind of the daily stresses of my life just like a proper 'going-away-on-a-plane' traveling experience would. All it takes is some planning (I've planned this trip in less than 30 minutes), and the will to do it!
I will certainly be doing more of these trips in the future, especially since there's still so much I still want to explore in the UK. I want to do more hiking trips, and explore places like the Isle of Man, the Northumberland National Park, the Kielder Forest Park, the North Pennines and even the Moors National Park. These trips can be super affordable, if planned right! Plus, I am lucky enough to have the weekends off work every time, so even if this means a 2 day trip, I'm lucky enough to be able to do that.
I like to think that 'to travel is to live', so I can't wait for my next trip. I had a lot of fun this weekend and I hope you enjoyed this post. Leave me a comment below to let me know if you've been to any of the places I've been to this Saturday, or even the ones I haven't been but really want to go to.
Wishing you all a great Sunday.