Forget what others have said about the North of England. It is not grim or grimy, it is absolutely stunning.
I was already aware of how beautiful the countryside is in the north of England. I have travelled to the Yorkshire Dales regularly as my husband has family there. I enjoyed a youth hostelling and walking holiday with my school in the Lake District back in the early 1970’s and have revisited this area many times since. The furthest north I have been is Gretna Green, after some mad idea to hitch there with fellow uni friends when on a field trip in The Lakes. But I had never been to Northumberland, and it was time to see this part of the country.
A work colleague of my husband has renovated a house in Newbiggin by the Sea, as a holiday let, and we were to be the very first guests. They were still in the process of putting a few finishing touches to the house and we agreed to give honest feedback about our stay there. And so, in late September 2014, we travelled for a good four hours up the M1 and A1 to explore the area for a few days.
I didn’t know much about Northumberland. The owners had asked us to collect information of what to do in and around Newbiggin by the Sea, to inform future guests. My husband was more familiar with the area, but had not been there for over 50 years. We were on a mission to cram as much as possible into five days. Our son had also decided to come with us. While we didn’t have small children to entertain, keeping a 22 year old gamer who doesn’t do National Trust, happy in a house without wi-fi, cable tv and Netflix, would be a challenge.
As we drove past Gateshead, The Angel of the North welcomed us. Visiting this was on the to do list and we decided to save it for the return journey, when we were less travel weary.
The house we stayed in is on the main road into town and is at the end of a row of terraced houses in a quiet residential area. From the outside it is an average house in an average terrace. Yet once inside this cosy house, you know you are on your holidays.
Ebb N Flo has been decorated with a cheerful sea-side theme, with a mixture of modern and vintage furniture, which I loved. Even the garden shed had been painted like a bright beach hut.
Despite being close to the road, there was no traffic noise as it is double glazed. There was a selection of games and DVD’s for rainy days, a well appointed kitchen, with dishwasher and washing machine, if you wanted to self cater and wash clothes (I was on my holiday, I wasn’t there to wash and cook). A stairgate and high chair are also available. One dog is also welcome and dog towels are provided.
The beds were extremely comfortable, with good quality mattresses. The bathroom is compact, with a good shower over the bath and plenty of storage space.
As soon as we had unloaded the car, we crossed the road and stretched our legs with a walk along the longest promenade in Northumberland.
This is less that a minutes walk from the house. Golden sands, and the perfect place to walk a dog, jog or cycle or take in the view.
Newbiggin by the Sea, is as I have just discovered, (I didn’t do much research before the trip) is a Portas Pilot town. I should have guessed really, given that I was involved in the bid that Bearwood made to become one of the pilot towns. I remarked when we were there that the town looked as if money and love were being poured into it to regain its former glory. There is an art trail and a number of independent retailers, including an excellent and friendly butcher.
A green grocer.
And a number of quirky shops selling various vintage bits and bobs.
A lovelie indie cafe.
This was my favourite hair salon.
This barber offered free wifi.
A couple of pubs on the high street were closed.
This was a former library.
This is the current and much neglected library.
And sadly I think this may close when the superduper new combined library and leisure centre being built in Ashington opens. Indeed this and the Since writing this I have found out that there are plans to develop a new landmark building in Newbiggin-by-the-sea. This includes the building a new library (great news) offices and apartments on the site of the derelict pubs.Thankyou Sue (owner of Ebb n Flow for pointing this out. More on this can be found here.
Asda still remains the biggest threat to Newbiggin by the Sea thriving, and it needs more than Mary Portas to help it survive. If locals and holidaymakers decide to use this instead of these wonderful independent retailers, then they will struggle to stay open. And this would be a shame. Local people and tourists need to use the indies or lose them altogether.
Looking for somewhere to eat, we popped into a pub on the sea front, that promised bar food. No, they didn’t do food, but we could get a take out and bring it in to the pub to eat if we wanted, the barman, who was polishing glasses with a grimy cloth and informed us. I looked around the pub and decided that this would not be a good idea. Not one pub in the town looked welcoming. Newbiggin by the Sea needs a decent pub, it deserves a decent pub. On the sea front, this one could be the one. If someone has deep pockets and is ready to take a leap of faith in the town.
One of the two customers, told us to go to ‘The Italians’, and pointed vaguely into town. The dog belonging to the other customer, licked my shoe. We wandered back to the promenade and met a couple walking a dog. The dog came from Birmingham, and was altogether better behaved than the shoe licking dog. We had chosen the right people to ask for directions. Sensible people who were not in the run down pub and who had been to Birmingham to buy a dog. They pointed us in the right direction.
Another independent trader in this little town, Due Fratelli offered a three course meal for £6.50. It has an open kitchen and friendly staff. The food we had was fair to good. I suspect if we had gone for one of the special fish dishes, rather than the meal deal, we may have been more impressed. It met the need of feeding three hungry, travel weary adults. The garlic flatbread was excellent, the house wine was above average, the decor was tired and uninspiring and they still think giant pepper grinders impress.
Newbiggin by the Sea offers everything you need for a base to explore. And there was a lot of exploring to be done. Castles, Roman Forts, Lindesfarne, boat trips, Hadrians Wall, Book shops and stunning coastlines were all there, waiting for us. As were some excellent fish and chips. Let the great northern adventure begin.
Ebb N Flo is a lovely, well appointed, clean, comfortable and convenient place to stay. I cannot fault the house, its location and being close to the sea is always a winner with me.
The view from the kitchen window may not have been of the sea, but it cheered me all the same.
If there is a downside, it is the lack of wifi. I am still not sure if this is a good thing, as most of us benefit from a digital detox, or a bad thing, as I am so used to having information at my finger tips 24//7. While I didn’t check out if the library had wifi, I know that Asda has free wifi, as does the Sapphire Enviro 400 bus to Newcastle.
The bus also has somewhere to charge your devices. So if you really need your digital fix, catch the bus to Asda. Just don’t shop there. Or go visit the barber, he is an indie after all. What did we do? We played Scrabble.
What about you? Is wi-fi a deal breaker when booking a holiday home? Or is a digital detox and not being able to check your work email a good thing? I would love to know your thoughts on this.