For me, the real magic of Alnwick – the Northumbrian market town best known for its medieval castle with high Gothic architecture immortalized in the Harry Potter films – lies nine miles west at Glanton Pyke. This perfectly secluded 22-acre Georgian estate may be lesser-known, but it’s a balm to soothe overworked and stressed senses. Arriving late from London (it’s also well connected to Edinburgh and Newcastle airport), we quickly settled into Stable Cottage – a Grade II listed postcard stone and slate hideaway, with its own private garden and the kind of cozy classic English decor, designed by Johnston Parke Interiors, that you can really sink into. The linens are crisp, the wood-burning stove fully fueled, and the palette serene, making for a perfectly cocooning hideaway.
Before we got too comfortable, we stepped outside to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking view as the sun sets over Whittingham Vale and Thrunton Woods. Delighted, what struck me was how peaceful it is here. The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we went out to immerse ourselves in the riches of the estate’s gardens. There was an entertaining half hour exploring the maze of beech hedges and the vegetable garden with its impressive greenhouses and water lily pond, before discovering the flower meadows and ancient woods. Days here could easily be spent peacefully contemplating nature – but this is quintessential hiking country, and we had a long way to go.
For the rest of our time we slipped into an easy pace of long walks, hearty meals and pints. The first day, we set out to explore the region on foot, after having organized a hike with Shepherds Walks. The offerings are very user-friendly – the quiet roads and plentiful off-road cycle paths, make it an ideal base for walking or cycling. Having ventured into Northumberland and Cheviot Hills National Park, both come highly recommended.
A Word to the Wise: This is a place where poet Ted Hughes’ oft-quoted words – that there’s no bad weather, just unsuitable clothes – have never rung truer. Luckily we were well prepared and wrapped in layers of wool, with hats, Hunter boots and waxed jackets to protect us from the harsh elements of the Northumberland wilderness. Day trips were rewarded with late afternoon visits to the area’s charming pubs.
One evening, we snuck onto the croquet lawn, cocktails in hand. And on days when the sun decided to shine, we took our chance to pack a picnic and head to the beach. Some of Britain’s best – and my most beloved – are nearby including Alnmouth, Howick, Embleton Bay and Bamburgh. All offer miles of refreshing, underpopulated golden sand, backed by dunes. You can also venture down the causeway to Holy Island or take a boat to the Farne Islands, home to seals and puffins.
Our last day was spent at the Alnmouth Village Golf Club. Created in 1869, it is nothing less than an institution. This is England’s oldest nine-hole links course, beset with challenges but also breathtaking views (notably the seventh tee). Later, as we thawed out, settled back into the farmhouse with a local G&T in hand, we felt tired but oddly restored. Just the tonic.
Stable Cottage sleeps four and starts at £400 for two nights (glantonpyke.com)