The Coast & Castles cycle route has become one of Britain’s most popular, and it’s not hard to see why. Coast? Check. Castles? Check. Little fishing villages? Check. Hills? Nope. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
The full route continues north to Edinburgh and Aberdeen, but this, the section from Newcastle to Berwick-on-Tweed, is the most popular. The Tyneside start is colourful and bracing, but the true enjoyment comes as you head onto the unspoilt coast and the famous little ports of Alnmouth, Craster and Seahouses. Time your arrival carefully, and you can cross the tidal causeway to Lindisfarne, the ancient monastic settlement.
And then there’s the castles: the glorious ruin of Dunstanburgh, the startlingly well preserved Warkworth, and the bulk of Bamburgh.
To get the best out of the Coast & Castles, you’ll want a hybrid or cross bike, or even a mountain bike. The most dramatic coastal sections are little more than grassy tracks, where you’ll appreciate the comfort of a more rugged bike. Still, if your chosen mount is a road bike, diversions are readily available and the route will be plenty enjoyable nonetheless.
A first-timer could easily complete Newcastle to Berwick in three days (33 miles a day); more experienced riders will do it in two. If you have days to spare, there’s much to see along the way: lively Newcastle, quaint Alnwick, and historic Lindisfarne with its boat trips to the Farne Islands. You could easily spend a week ambling from one place to the next.
Definitely. You’ll feel a real sense of achievement having completed it, but you’ll never be desperately out of puff. The terrain is never too wild, the countryside never too remote.
The coastal route from Berwick to Edinburgh has some glorious sections but is a little unfinished as yet: several sections follow A roads, albeit moderately quiet ones. Consider the inland route of NCN 1 as an alternative; it’s a gorgeous ride through the finest Border towns. The route then continues up the coast to Aberdeen as ‘Coast & Castles North’.
Newcastle is easily reached by train on the East Coast Main Line, which continues up the coast to Berwick. Most trains hereabouts are run by LNER and CrossCountry; both companies are sticklers for bike reservations, and offer good deals if you book in advance. Bear in mind that Berwick is as far north as England gets, and factor the long train trip into your travel plans!