The following article may seem a bit tame for to those who race and drive the S2000 for performance and the thrill of speed, however the story involves a day out with my wife who gets white knuckles at anything over 40mph. US members may find the links and pictures of interest due to the historical content....The Old Country! The Last Kingdom may strike a few chords.
River Coquet - from Source to Sea
I purchased my 2000 Honda S200o in April this year from a friend who had owned it for some eight years and who only managed to clock up around 4000 dry miles and keeping the car garaged, so I was pleased to be able to get a nice low mileage example.
Being my first ever convertible I was keen to get out and about with the top down and began looking for places to trip off to on warm sunny days. I can’t remember what made me think of the idea to follow the course of a river but it popped into my otherwise empty head one day and so I started to google around the countryside for a suitable route.
My wife and I live in County Durham and are blessed with miles and miles of beautiful and remote countryside, especially in Northumberland and Cumbria, and it is in Northumberland where I discovered my new rout plan. Anyone heading to the Annual meeting in Scotland next April may drive right past it so it would be an excuse to extend your trip and see some fabulous scenery. Perhaps stay another night in Rothbury, Alnwick or nearer the coast in Amble.
My little adventure starts in a town called Stanley where we have lived for some 20 odd years off and on and heading west brings us easily onto the A68. The A68 was a regular route for me to take in my motorcycling days and offers superb scenery from Durham right up to Edinburgh where it intersects with the A72 ring road around Edinburgh. Watch out for the speed cameras after you cross the Scottish Border at Carter Bar, they pop up frequently.
This route however does not take us quite that far but turns off to the right at Lat 55.18.27N and Long 2.20.52 W. Onto Cottonshope Road. The junction is just opposite Border Forest Caravan Park and if you reach Byrness Village you have gone too far. This is the interesting bit. When turning onto Cottonshope Road you are greeted by a big sign which states that the road is PRIVATE and belongs to the MOD. Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that the road was impassable and be easily turned back, consequently it is a very quiet road but it is a perfectly legal and legitimate right of way for cars etc. As long as you don’t mind picking up a little sheep shit on your tyres.
Follow Cottonshope road for Four miles and look for a junction to the left. If you reach a severe right angled turn to the right you have probably passed it by a few yards. This is a Roman Road which formed part of Dere Street, the famous road built by the Romans and is in fact called Roman Road, and guess what, a few miles along and down into a picturesque valley you come to the remains of a Roman Fort Chew Green. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chew_Green
They do not build these any longer so it may be worth stopping for a break and walking up to the site. From there you will be able to look back at your beloved S2000 against a splendid backdrop. A good place to get out the camera as I did.
Just near the car parking area you will see a small burn. You have arrived, as near as dammit, at the source of the River Coquet. Carry on heading East and you will pass through some of the most beautiful scenery in Northumberland and keeping very close to the river as you go along. Watch out for wildlife as there is plenty to see if you have a keen eye. We came very close to some Oystercatchers foraging in the river.
Having passed by sheep fanks and farmsteads as you wind your way along the valley you will cross several bridges and places of extreme beauty where again you can stop, have a picnic or just take some more pictures of your ride. Eventually you will reach the village of Harbottle. Just before entering the village on the left you will see a sign for Harbottle Castle. This is the site of a ruined Medieval Castle. http://www.rothbury.co.uk/around/harbottle.htm
It is thought that the mound on which the keep stands was a site used by the ancient Britons and that in Anglian times there was a stronghold on the site held by Mildred, son of Ackman. The present castle was built about 1160 by the Umfraville family at the request of King Henry II on land awarded to them following the Norman Conquest, presumably as a defence against the Scots. Stop here or just keep driving. Past Harbottle there is a turning to the right signposted Holystone where you then follow the road to the left until you come to the B6341. Turn left here and you are on the road to Thropton where you again cross the river and go on to Rothbury.
Rothbury is a perfect spot for a lunch stop as there are several pubs, hotels and cafes and is also the home of the actor and “extreme” fisherman Robson Green.
Near to Rothbury is the very famous Cragside Hall. Once the home of Lord Armstrong and the first house in England where hydroelectricity was generated to light the lamps in the house. Cragside is located in spectacular grounds where Rhododendrons are in abundance and look their best around June. You may need half a day or more to see Cragside properly. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cragside/
Continue along the B6341 to Alnwick. Yet another famous location for its Castle and Gardens. The castle is remarkably preserved, open to visitors and made more famous by the Harry Potter movie where they filmed the Broomstick Training scene. You will need a day if you wish to visit Alnwick. http://www.alnwickcastle.com/
From Alnwick take the A1068 and when you get to a roundabout look out for the left turn to the quaint seaside village and lovely beaches at Alnmouth, worth a visit if you have some time. Or, just keep on until you reach Warkworth and its ruined castle. If you drive past the church at the bottom right side of Warkworth it will take you right down to the river where you can park for free and then either have a walk up to see the castle, along the river to take in the view seen by Turner when he painted the castle or pop into the Post Office on the high street where they have a good selection of ice cream. Including my favourite “Rum and Raisin”. Or “Ram and Rising” if you’re from down south! http://www.visitnorthumberland.com/warkworth
Warkworth is only a mile or so from your journeys end at the small fishing village of Amble where The River Coquet enters the North Sea and where you will; get a great supper of Fish & Chips in the paper. What a way to end a great day’s drive with the top down!
I have uploaded some pictures if you would like to follow our drive here.