We have been to Northumberland many times now over the years for a holiday. Miles of wide sandy beaches, magnificent countryside dotted with villages and hamlets and more castles than any invader can raid in one go. Of course inbetween making sandcastles and storming ancient ruins I've also been seeking out the best in local food and producers. Here's a selection of my favourite.
Hidden in the backstreets of Seahouses amongst the terraced holiday cottages and pot-hole ridden roads is Swallow Fish. A smokehouse has been processing herrings into kippers on this site since 1843. It is still in operation today and the shop is open for locals and hoildaymakers to pop in and pick up the catch of the day. We had kippers for our Sunday breakfast. Later in the week we bought some of their fresh fish and had pan-fried haddock with smoked prawns for dinner.
If fish isn't for you then you will bound to be tempted by some of the treats found in The Northumbrian Hamper. It's crammed packed full of local jams, chutneys, cheese, ales, tea and cakes plus a freezer full of my favourite Doddington Diary ice cream. We bought some of their very reasonably priced Northumbrian free-range eggs. In fact we bought several dozen over the week as they were so nice and made the creamiest scrambled eggs I have ever had.
Three miles up the coast to Seahouses is Bamburgh. Famous for its imposing castle and being the final resting place of Victorian heroine Grace Darling it is also home to two fine food shops. The first is the butcher's R. Carter and Son maker of the famous 'Bamburgh Banger' – a pork and sage sausage. On sunny days be prepared to queue out of the door as walkers and beach lovers stock up on their lunch for the day. We headed back to the beach with hand-raised pork pies and fresh out of the oven sausage rolls.
Across from the butcher's you'll see a wall running the length of the road. At the bottom is a small entrance surrounded by boxes of local and homegrown fruit, vegetables and plants.
Behind the wall is where G. S. Clark and Son grow their carrots, broccoli, cauliflowers, leeks and other produce. The actual shop harks back to a bygone era and the feeling that things haven't change much in the last 50 years.
From Bamburgh it's up along the A1 for our final stop. Situated on the banks of the River Tweed and the border with Scotland is the Chain Bridge Honey Farm. The Chain Bridge it refers to is the Union Chain Bridge at the end of the road and forms the link over the Tweed to Scotland. There's a free museum inside detailing the history of honey and the Chain Bridge. The shop stocks of course jars of honey but also honey based products such as candles, shoe polish, lip balms and soap.
We bought their largest jar of Honey Mustard which is their own recipe of pickled mustard seeds and honey. It won't last until our next visit as we like to spread it over pork chops and steaks for instant flavour.
The tea room is actually a old Routemaster double decker bus. Sit upstairs for a cuppa and a slice of honey flapjack whilst overlooking the surrounding fields. After a spot of light refreshment you can have a look round the collection of vintage vehicles, machinery and ephemera. A recent addition to the site is a new honey processing plant. A public view area allows visitors to have a peek at how the honey goes from hive to jar.
This is just a mere morsel of what Northumberland has to offer and I've been inspired by going round the county. What's your favourite food county?