Close your eyes and think of your favourite place….
Sitting on a bench in the Jardins des Tuileries in Paris spring sunshine, dozing under the welcome shade of a plane tree after a long, liquid lunch and too many moules? Strolling along a deserted Connemara beach, weak winter sun inevitably losing the battle against the wicked westerly wind? Your local café, a haven of strong coffee, comforting cakes and friendly faces?
We’ve just returned from a week in Northumberland and I can definitely add Craster to my own list.
Tucked away on the coastal Area of Outstanding National Beauty, between Amble in the south and Bamburgh in the north, it’s a tiny harbourside community punching way above its fragile weight.
Arriving as we did, past the beguiling hilltop remains of 14th century Dunstanburgh Castle and a long stretch of dramatic wave-pounded and gull-strewn shoreline, seemed to accentuate its remote attractiveness. As if you’ve finally managed to get a first date with the aloof girl who everyone at school fancies.
The harbour pulls focus, a combination of Local Hero and French Lieutenant’s Woman and photogenic enough to have its own starring roles in film and TV productions.
This is the source of the royally famous Craster kippers, thanks to generations of hardy fishermen who brave the ocean swell constantly waving a defiant fist at the harbour entrance.
Explore the village and you’ll stumble across L. Robson & Sons, smoking the fishermens’ kippery catches since 1906; the seafood restaurant attached to the smokehouse and offering a gull’s eye view of the harbour and, beyond, to Dunstanburgh castle; the cosy Shoreline Café, dispensing landlubbery food, coffee and cakes; The Mick Oxley Gallery, for artwork inspired by the constantly changing coastal landscape, the artist reflecting the moods, light and textures of this unique Northumbrian location.
And then drop into The Jolly Fisherman pub as we did, to cement Craster as one of our own special destinations. You know those rare days when everything just seems to fall into place, when you glow with smug satisfaction that maybe, just maybe, life isn’t so bad after all? Eating their famous fresh crab sandwiches and kipper paté with toasted sourdough bread, washed down with neighbourly Yorkshire Masham Black Sheep ale, and overlooking the simultaneously angry and friendly swelling sea was definitely one of those days.
We will return to Craster, and hopefully stay in one of its weathered cottages so that we can uncover more secrets of this idyllic community and its thrilling coastline in even more leisurely fashion.