Dunstanburgh and Seahouses; It may not be links but it is delicious!
Northumberland. The land of the Prince Bishops. The Domesday Book did not record any property north of the Tees as it was deemed valueless following the 'Harrying of the North'. Neither romantics, nor golfers, the Normans failed to see the potential of links courses along this coastline. And there is great potential; a beautiful coastline with wide beaches, high banked dunes and plenty of space.
Northumberland is probably my second favourite county and is home to a number of links courses. Goswick is undoubtedly the star followed by Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh and Seahouses. A mention must be made of Alnmouth Village Golf Club self proclaimed ‘the oldest nine hole links course in England’. It is an integral part of the village and looks a jolly entertainment if you lived within walking distance and could slip our for nine when you had a spare moment. But as a nine hole course it falls outside my remit. The must have status symbol for a proper Northumberland course is a view of Lindisfarne or a castle. All four comply.
Dunstanburgh isn’t actually listed by David Warley. Compared to many courses he has described, possibly erroneously, as links, I am surprised it didn’t qualify. The first few holes are fairly anonymous, four and five warm up and then there is a nice stretch to the tenth. Many holes have lovely links touches rather than are wholly links like. In the main the soil is too rich, being of agricultural quality, for it to be pure links although there are huge dunes, beaches and beach huts along the seaward boundaries. The rise and fall of the land creates some interesting holes and require links like shots along the shore line. The rest are ordinary I am afraid. Nevertheless fun to play for those holes, the scenery and the fresh air. My wife joined me for a few holes but as a professed non golfer the rain eventually spoiled the views, and dimmed her enthusiasm.
Seahouses is a little further up the coast and lies on similar land bounded by the sea on one side and rather incongruously, a travelling fairground on the other with a road whipping up the middle. Again, those holes most proximate to the beach have the essence of links golf but they fade the further off they lie. Like Dunstanburgh there are links touches but I am afraid that I shall have to be harsh and say that I would feel duped if I had travelled miles looking for a links haven. Oops I just did. Another with a par 3 opener. I am afraid it took awhile to get my mojo going. The rain didn’t help, the birdies weren’t forthcoming, my wife was marvellous and I had a lovely time but it wasn’t what I was looking for. Sorry. Too green, too much parkland, not enough sand or bumps and hollows. It could have been anywhere bar the views. I saw the dim outlines of Lindisfarne and saw the Farne islands and loved all that side of it.
Bamburgh and Goswick are reviewed briefly in the round up of UK links courses already viewed
But there are other compensations apart from the views and the people. The seafood is outstanding.
I am beginning to think that this exercise might be about the food as much as the golf. Firstly, the Old Boat House at Amble. My word, it was just excellent. Piggy had Razor clams and Lindisfarne Oysters as a starter. A contrast of warm, long and chubby with short, iced and chubby. Sweet and perfect. The latter like a Portland pearl. I almost recreated ‘that' scene from ‘When Harry met Sally’ to the consternation of my wife and a packed restaurant. Fortunately my wife chose the mussels, from Shetland, so I didn’t have to have three starters. And they were the best cooked and plumpest little fellows you could wish for. Fish upon fish followed all landed locally and cooked perfectly. All reasonably priced and astounding value for the quality and price.
We didn’t go on to Spurrelis afterwards as we didn’t know about it but happened to be passing through after lunch with friends at The Jolly Fisherman at Craster on the Sunday. Craster is smaller and more beautiful than Amble and is the spiritual home of the kipper. Downwind you get the sweet smell of fresh woodsmoke and kippers; my nostrils flared, my wife’s nose wrinkled. A delicious crab soup was followed by disappointment. The very same mussels were shrivelled and gaunt. What a waste. Off we went to Spurreli’s. A Jambolini for my wife and a couple of scoops for me. Spurrelli’s is an ice cream parlour and cafe on the quay, hard by the lobster hatchery, and serves delicious Italian ice cream. Ice cream is not usually my strong suit and my wife does not normally drink vodka shots with prosecco and a lemon sorbet side which is the essence of a Jambolini. But the Spurrs were excellent hosts and there was no denying the treat.
So race off to Amble and wander onto Goswick for the golf but stop awhile and admire the castles and islands with a golfing stick and a couple of balls at Dunstanburgh or Seahouses or Bamburgh. And do try the seafood it doesn’t getter fresher or better.