Northumberland boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the whole of the UK.
Beautiful, rolling countryside meets an epic stretch of coastline dotted with twee little fishing villages, long stretches of golden sand and the odd castle thrown in for good measure.
Within relatively easy reach of much of northern England and southern Scotland (just two a bit hours in the car from my home in Sheffield) Northumberland is a great destination for a weekend break.
Our base for our weekend away was St Mary’s Inn - a quaint pub and B&B on the outskirts of the historic market town of Morpeth, just off the A1.
We arrived late on a snowy Friday evening and the warm welcome we received upon arriving inside the inn was a nice contrast to the bitter winter cold outside.
The bar was full of locals ( many accompanied by their four-legged friends) enjoying a hard-earned drink at the end of a long week at work.
Interestingly, dogs are not just restricted to the bar area - guests staying at the inn can also bring their pooches.
The place had a fantastic atmosphere and this boded well for the rest of the weekend.
We quickly checked in and were shown to one of the 11 country-style bedrooms the inn has to offer.
The rooms had clearly been recently renovated and have been done to a very high standard.
Our room was spacious, elegant and had a touch of the luxurious to it.
Carefully chosen furnishings ensured it had a homely feel to it.
Once we’d jettisoned our luggage and had a quick freshen up we headed back downstairs to the enticing bar area.
The bar has a fine selection of real ales, craft beers, wine and spirits.
We chose our weapons and settled down in one of the many little snugs (each with a real fire). That was us bedded down for the evening.
The next morning got off to a good start with a full English breakfast complete with a reassuringly plump Cumberland sausage.
Our bellies full we headed out for the day to see some of the best of what this part of the world has to offer.
We headed up the A1 to Alnwick and let ourselves get lost in the labyrinthine and captivating Barter Books. A Mecca for all lovers of the written word.
Our minds blown from the sheer number of books on offer we jumped back in the car and took a picturesque drive to High-Newton-by-the-Sea.
It was a crisp, cold still winter’s day and we took a long walk along the beach and any lingering cobwebs we had were well and truly blown away.
The salty smell of the sea air and the sound of the North Sea waves crashing on the shore did wonders for our souls.
After a drink and a spot of lunch at Newton’s Ship Inn we called in at Craster to pick up some of the village’s legendary kippers.
It was then back to our base, St Mary’s Inn, where we were booked in for evening dinner.
The restaurant area at St Mary’s Inn is large yet cosy, with plenty of little hidden corners and mini dining rooms.
Like the rest of the establishment the restaurant is stylishly decored to a high standard.
The menu is as you would expect from any good gastro pub - gourmet burgers, pies and steaks etc.
The food was fantastic and just what were after following a long day out and about exploring the rugged coastline.
I had a juicy and rare rib eye steak and my wife raved about her steak and ale pie..
All washed down with a bottle of deep, rich and silky Malbec.
After dinner we once again retired to the bar area where we chatted away and people-watched.
Our stay at St Mary’s Inn was short-lived but memorable and all in all it was a fabulous base from which explore magical Northumberland.
For more information about St Mary’s Inn, including prices, visit www.stmarysinn.co.uk