St Cuthbert's House, Seahouses, Northumberland
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My husband, Steve, and I stayed at St Cuthbert's House in Seahouses, Northumberand, in mid September 2015 and wondered whether it would be worth travelling over 200 miles to get there for just a couple of nights.
In fact, St Cuthbert's House is actually in North Sunderland, a small village attached to Seahouses. We followed the directions sent to us rather than just using the SATNAV and they worked brilliantly, cutting out several series of road works and potential delays.
Somewhat unprepossessing from the outside and with fairly ordinary views over roof tops, St Cuthbert's House is a Grade II converted chapel. It has fresh clean decor making the bedrooms and public areas spacious, comfortable and light. The open plan ground floor has a breakfast area, snuggly, squashy sofas and a remarkably well stocked honesty bar. There are books, games and magazines for guests to use and those preferring fresh milk for tea and coffee in bedrooms can help themselves to it from the fridge in the Cuthbert room. With six bedrooms, there is ample parking for half a dozen cars at the back of the property, but roadside parking wouldn't be a problem either. Guests can come and go as they please all day. A good display of local attraction leaflets is found in the entrance hall.
Our bedroom, the Brigid, was delightful. Totally spotless, it somehow managed to be both spacious and cosy. Decorated in a neutral scheme, it was quiet and restful - I'd even go so far as to say it was totally silent at night. Every possible need had been anticipated, so as well as the usual tea and coffee, there was hot chocolate and a variety of organic and decaffeinated tea with good quality biscuits. We loved the fact there was a proper tea pot to make tea and there were organic washing up materials so that a second brew didn't have to be in used cups.
Unlike many places we've stayed, there was excellent lighting so that guests can read or watch television in comfort and consistent, fast, free and secure wifi made keeping in touch easy. It was also helpful to have a full length mirror and two vanity mirrors in the bedroom as well as a huge one in the bathroom.
We were very impressed by the small extras that gave added comfort to the room. There were super quality towels and bath robes, lovely Gilchrist and Soames toiletries, shower cap, mending and vanity kits in the bathroom. The shower is over the bath and is a bit of a climb in but a firm grab rail and non-slip mat make this safe for all. The bedroom boasted an iron and ironing board, and a powerful hairdryer, which might be expected, but added to these were a hot water bottle for chilly nights, a torch, perhaps to avoid disturbing the sleeper next to you in the night, an extension block so that cameras, phones and tablets can all be charged together, DVDs about the area, a remote controlled CD player and alarm clock, a choice of pillows (and other bedding), lovely facial wipes on the dressing table and an emergency kit of personal items guests might have forgotten like a disposable razor in the drawer. All the items that I've missed or needed in other establishments over the years were present. The room folder had the highest possible quality of information including places to go, things to do and where to eat. It's even possible to book in room treatments like a full body massage from a friend of the owners, or to organise treats like champagne and chocolates for special occasions.
Breakfast is served between 8 and 9 in the week and 8.30 and 9.30 at the weekend. There's iced water and a choice of fruit juices, fresh and dried fruits and yoghurt, a small selection of cereals and a good range of local and well cooked main items. These include vegetarian sausages, as well as the usual cooked full breakfast, porridge, kedgeree and kippers. I particularly enjoyed the home made strawberry jam and the fact that my cooked items were not at all greasy but were piping hot, well cooked, beautifully presented and tasty. Guests are asked to select breakfast items and an approximate dining time by 10 o'clock the previous evening so that foods can be freshly prepared and prompt. Jeff keeps bringing as much tea, coffee and toast as you want too whilst Jill cooks.
Quite rightly, St Cuthbert's House was voted the 'Best B+B in England 2014' by Visit England and has several other prestigious awards. In the room pack the owners state that their aim is 'to make your stay at St Cuthbert's House comfortable and delightful'. They have succeeded. Indeed, Jeff and Gill Sutheran have created the perfect place to stay to explore Northumberland - especially as Jeff prides himself on providing an unusual and interesting possible itinerary for guests. This was wonderful for us and we followed as many of Jeff's suggestions as we could. What we found in doing so is that the people of Northumberland are all friendly and go out of their way to help - what a fantastic county to visit.
After a long journey and having been welcomed with tea and biscuits, we checked in and, on Jeff's suggestion, made our way the three miles to Bamburgh. It is possible to walk from St Cuthbert's House, but we chose to take the car, parking where Jeff had directed us at the Wyndings so that we got a better view of the castle.
Bamburgh Castle is an interesting place to visit, and we enjoyed walking in the grounds, looking across the sea to the Farne Islands and exploring the state rooms, although it would be quite tricky for disabled visitors to access all the areas.
Many of the state rooms have a really eclectic mixture of items on display from china to suits of armour and there is something for all interests. We spent around two hours exploring the castle and had some lovely, if slightly pricy, refreshments too. Disabled visitors would need to have someone order from the tea room and bring food to a lower dining area.
Following our castle visit we had a walk along the beach, relishing the opportunity to be out in the fresh air even though it was quite overcast. The sand is wonderful being powdery and pale, not unlike that found in the Caribbean. Dramatic skies and offshore islands make this part of the country beautiful. We were so captivated by the views and the beach that we totally forgot to visit the museum and Grace Darling's resting place in Bamburgh village.
In the evening, Jeff had kindly made a booking for us at Elan, the pizzeria in Seahouses which is about twelve minutes' walk from St Cuthbert's House, where we had a super meal. The cooking is visible to those in the small dining room and the menu is relatively limited so that there is an emphasis on quality rather than quantity of choice. However, there is still more than enough choice. Our pizzas were incredibly tasty and great value at £6.75. Although there is a bar, it is possible to take your own alcohol too for a nominal corkage charge of £1. We found the staff friendly and charming. The only negative was that the background music seemed slightly incongruous for the clientele, with quite a techno beat, and being marginally too loud.
Having had a truly comfortable night in the spacious bed, Jeff's suggested itinerary was a real pleasure today. After a hearty breakfast where we appreciated being greeted by name (as were all the other guests) we walked the fifteen minutes into Seahouses to go on a boat trip around the Farne Islands with Andrew Douglas on Serenity II. Andy runs a range of trips with different themes, but this was a 90 minute excursion to see seabirds and seals. Although the weather was grey and drizzly to begin, we had a fantastic trip. We were given historical and geographical information and helped to identify the remaining seabirds. We saw shags, gannets, terns and a purple sand piper amongst others as well as the seals.
Reluctantly leaving behind the seals we then made our way to Chillingham Cattle where the only herd of these incredible creatures left in the world is situated. The journey from Seahouses takes about 30 minutes.
Escorted by warden Ellie Crossley, who has appeared on various programmes including the BBC's Country File, we learnt all about the cattle's amazing history and found out what an incredibly successful thing nature is if left undisturbed by humans. These cattle can be killers so we made sure to keep our distance!
The tour leaves on the hour from the hemel and you can just turn up . We went at 2PM and were with another three adults. It lasts about an hour and is reached by crossing a field containing other cattle and sheep or walking up through the woods, so it is unsuitable for disabled visitors and we would recommend wellies or walking boots as footwear as it is quite muddy. In order to protect the Chillingham cattle, visitors need to go through disinfectant so good shoes are to be avoided. The road to the top car park is quite tricky when it has been wet as it is steep and muddy, but the effort is well worth it. Ellie's passion for her subject came through continuously and she answered all our questions with style and cheerfulness, making for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. There are other things to do on the Chillingham Estate but we moved on.
Next we travelled a further 30 minutes to Howick Hall Gardens. The only disappointment in this visit was that the church was locked as we'd have liked to look in, although this was compensated for by being able to see the private garden and by the wonderful tea and cakes in the Earl Grey tea house situated in the old ballroom. Prices here were very reasonable with enormous ginger cake and butter only £2.75 and tea £2 served with a good pot of hot water for top ups. Again we received a warm welcome and it was good to see staff assisting some other visitors with a wheelchair. Disabled access is available to many areas although the arboretum is inaccessible.
It would be easy to spend several hours wandering round the grounds and looking out for the red squirrels which we were lucky enough to see. Even though this was mid-September, there was plenty of colour with the agapanthus not quite over and the grass strewn with autumn crocus. Again, a few of the paths were muddy so we'd recommend walking shoes on damper days.
Returning to St Cuthbert's House to freshen up we chatted to a couple who were on their fourth visit to St Cuthbert's House because they love the welcome they receive every time they go.
We decided we would try The Links Hotel for dinner which had been recommended to some other guests. It is just across the road from Elan where we'd eaten the night before. The building is pretty ugly externally and the bar was heaving with people on a Friday night, many glued to large screen TVs so we were not initially impressed. The friendly and efficient staff soon changed our opinion and we were seated in the dining room away from the bar where the acoustics are still slightly noisy because of the hard flooring but not unacceptable. The menu is extensive and mid-priced with starters averaging around £4-£6 and main courses £10-£15. We had chicken pate, scallops and chorizo starters and chicken and king prawns and lamb shoulder for our mains, both served with fresh vegetables and chunky chips. The food was excellent as was the service. The lamb shoulder genuinely could have fed four adults quite easily and we simply didn't have space for a pudding. It was as much as we could do to lie flat on our comfortable bed back in the Brigid room after such a fabulous meal.
The weather dawned bright and sunny as we woke for our last day in the area. After another lovely breakfast we had a quick meet up with Silver Travel Advisor member Steve Newman who runs the Twitter account @SilverTravelAd. It was great fun to see one of the faces behind the brand.
Jeff had given us some other lovely ideas of how we might
like to spend our day before the long journey home, but as we live so far from
the sea we decided to return to Bamburgh and have a long walk along the beach.
It had been such a wonderful time with Jeff and Jill that we were reluctant to
leave and, despite a six and a half hour journey home as the A1 was closed
following an accident, they need to be
warned - we'll be back!
St Cuthbert's House
192 Main Street
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