Castle and coast staycations in Northumbria

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With fuel prices rocketing by 10 percent this winter, booking that foreign holiday for next summer suddenly becomes a little more daunting. Staycations will proliferate for families feeling the pinch. Asked where you are heading, just blithely say "Oh we’ve booked a lovely little cottage in Umbria", before muttering under your breath, "North . . . umbria".

Not that the English north-east has anything to feel ashamed about. It might not have the red wine and truffles of the Italian province, but it has castles and a coastline to rival any in England and even in Europe. As a family holiday destination it has plenty to offer.

A perfect day of combining beaches and castles and healthy exercise would involve a start in the rugged fishing village of Craster, famous for its smoked kippers. A brief coastal stroll from here lie the romantic ruins of Dunstanburgh castle with great views out to sea from the lofty battlements.

Heading north you discover one of the region’s great beaches, beginning at Embleton Bay and encompassing the long sandy stretch of Beadnell Bay. The perfect lunch spot s the Ship Inn, amidst a cluster of picturesque fisherman’s cottages at Low Newton. Crab sandwiches and local real ales make it popular with hikers and familes.

Further north, beyond the amusement arcades and fish and chip restaurants of no-nonsense Seahouses, Bamburgh Castle is another spectacular highlight. The castle is a well-preserved coastal fortress guarding a pretty, gentrified village that is all gastropubs and chintzy tea-shops.

Inland, the fortress at Alnwick is the second largest inhabited castle in England and exerts a powerful attraction for kids in thrall to the Harry Potter films (the castle doubles as Hogwarts in the films). It also has superb gardens and a romantic tree-house café. Look out for special offers or online vouchers for tickets though as the full admission price is eye-wateringly expensive. Still cheaper than a flight to Italy though.

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