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For those with a sense of adventure and a passion for the great outdoors who love the idea of camping but when faced with the reality of a night under canvas crave their home comforts; a tweedy armchair in front of a roaring fire, lashings of hot water and a comfortable bed, The Bothy at Reedsford is the ideal compromise.Read More
Deep in the foothills of the Cheviot hills A far cry from city life, the cottage lies in a sheltered, sunny spot in the remote and extremely picturesque Bowmont Valley, deep in the foothills of the Cheviot Hills. With stunning views from every aspect, The Bothy is an idyllic rural retreat offering unsophisticated elegance combined with the comfortable feel of a real home and although off the beaten track, visitors are in fact only a short drive from local shops, pubs and other amenities. The flexible accommodation at The Bothy makes it ideal for a couple or families. For couples, the larger second bedroom at the very end of the cottage can be shut off and a couple can be perfectly self-contained and cosy in the main part of the house. The large second bedroom is ideal as a ‘dorm' for children. During the winter months, the large second bedroom at the far end of the cottage provides plenty of space for children to play without disturbing adult-time and a television and DVD player are provided. The garden is fenced so children can play safely and dogs can't wander off and the immediate area offers endless opportunities for families to explore whether on two legs, four legs or two wheels! A neighbouring barn provides a fabulous indoor games / picnic room for wet days complete with a wood burning stove, table football, pool and a full size table tennis table.
Dogfriendly Magazine Review
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The Bothy at Reedsford by Stephen and Nia Bridgewater
Against his better judgement Steve Bridgewater – along with wife Nia and their Miniature Poodles Howie and Franklin – visits Northumberland. Will it purge his childhood memories?
“Let’s go to Northumberland” said Nia. “It’ll be fun” she assured me as she sat on the sofa knitting.
If I looked unconvinced it was for good reason. You see, my late-mother’s side of the family originated in Northumberland and my grandparents moved south to the Midlands in search of work in the 1950s when the collieries began to close.
As such, my younger years were littered with holidays and trips “up home” to see distant relations. Yet my abiding memories are of dirty, grey terraced cottages in long-abandoned mining communities and – if I’m honest – I have very few fond recollections of the area other than the overwhelming hospitality of my matriarchal Great Aunts and the lilting Geordie accent.
So when Nia suggested we embark on a four-hour road trip to Northumberland (with the notoriously car sick Howie) I was less than enthused.
She went on to explain that we would be staying at a place called ‘The Bothy’ in the village of Reedsford. A quick search revealed that the village was so small that it didn’t appear on my phone’s navigation app and looking up ‘Bothy’ on Wikipedia gave me further cause for alarm. “A bothy is a basic shelter” it said. “Most are ruined buildings which have been restored to a basic standard, providing a windproof and watertight shelter.” My heart sank further.
Angel of the North
A few days later we were heading north and true to form Franklin was asleep, curled up in his travel basket. Meanwhile, Howie was stressing as usual and demanding to sit on Nia’s lap instead of a basket; thus preventing her from knitting.
It was raining, the traffic was grim and as we passed the Angel of the North sculpture I could feel my own stress levels rising. However, as we exited the A1 something changed. The factories, chimneys and mills were soon replaced by a patchwork of fields, separated by dry stone walls and dotted with livestock. This was not the Northumberland of my childhood.
Eventually the roads narrowed, becoming winding country lanes were flanked by cottages, farm buildings and the occasional village shop or pub.
With my mood rapidly calming we closed in on our destination, passing through the hamlet of Howtel and taking an incredibly tight left hand turn towards Reedsford. Continuing down the lane The Bothy soon appeared.
This was far from the “ruined building restored to a basic standard” that I was expecting. In fact it was stunningly beautiful both inside and out.
This bothy is a listed building and has been renovated to a very high standard. The property is all on ground floor level and has a large open-plan lounge/dining/kitchen area. The lounge has a wood burner, HD Freeview TV, iPod dock, DVD player and a selection of board games.
The convivial dining area has bench-style seating for many guests and the ‘country cottage’ style kitchen is really well-appointed with everything you need to prepare a meal or even do some baking. We had stocked up on food in advance but The Bothy’s owner, Corinne, offers a homemade ready meal service for those who don’t want to cook.
She had also provided a welcome pack of goodies from the local Heatherslaw Cornmill, including muesli, cakes and flapjacks.
Elsewhere in The Bothy there’s a very plush bathroom and two large bedrooms. The master bedroom has an en-suite/shower room and a 5ft king size bed while the second room has a ‘zip and link; bed that can be set up as either a 6ft super king or two 3ft twin beds as required. An additional 3ft single bed with pull out truckle bed (sleeping up to two children) is also available on request and another Freeview TV and DVD player is provided to keep younger visitors occupied before bedtime. There’s also a games room with table tennis and pool tables in an adjacent building and a deep freeze and tumble dryer can be found in the separate outhouse.
Outside, Howie and Franklin wasted no time in exploring the large, enclosed, lawned garden and I checked out the decked south facing patio and the BBQ.
However, as the rain started falling in earnest the dogs were soon curled up in front of the log burner and it wouldn’t be long before Nia and I joined them; me reading a good book and Nia absorbed in her knitting.
Life’s a Beach
The next morning the weather had improved sufficiently for us to enjoy breakfast outside on the patio overlooking the open farmland. Far from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life The Bothy lies in a sheltered spot in the remote and extremely picturesque Bowmont Valley, deep in the foothills of the Cheviot Hills.
Apart from the occasional passing tractor the only sound breaking the silence was the bleating of the sheep and as I poured a second lazy cup of tea we perused the extensive folder of local information. It specifically detailed attractions, beaches, pubs and restaurants that were dog friendly and we found ourselves spoiled for choice. However, our first point of call had to be the beach. This was Howie and Franklin’s first time near water and we were keen to find out how they would react.
The glorious expanse of golden beach at Cheswick Sands is one of the largest beaches in Northumberland and the sand stretches as far as the eye can see. At the north end of the beach you can see as far as Berwick upon Tweed and Scottish Borders on a clear day, while to the south the castle on Lindisfarne (often known as Holy Island) is in full view.
We debated the 3-mile walk across to Lindisfarne, which is tidal and safe to cross twice daily via a causeway, but the dogs were soon flagging from overexertion. It was fair to say they loved their time on the beach though – even risk averse Franklin.
Within seconds of being let off the lead Howie took off across the sand at ‘warp factor six’ and as soon as he was sure it was safe his brother followed suit. Franklin stayed well clear of the waves though, and never as much as got his feet wet whereas the blonde buffoon inadvertently chased a Chocolate Labrador into the sea… Within what seemed like a millisecond he leapt backwards out of the cold water with a look of shock on his face. Needless to say he has never been in the sea since that day.
There were more dogs than people on the beach and the mixture of locals and tourists were incredibly friendly. We stood speaking to one woman for over half an hour while we watched our dogs playing together in the sand.
Matchstick Cats & Dogs
The nearest town to The Bothy is Berwick upon Tweed, which is around eight miles away and situated on the Scottish border straddled by its salmon rich river Tweed. Its location has meant the town is steeped in the history of conflict and is surrounded by Elizabethan-era walls.
The walls are a mile and a-quarter in length with ramparts that completely surround the town and four gates through which entry is possible. They were built in 1558 in an attempt to keep out the marauding Scots who regularly laid claim to the town and contained bastions which were designed to allow gunfire to cover every part of the wall.
Nowadays the easiest way to get your bearings is to walk the walls, which offer an easy – and dog friendly – 45-minute walk around the town offering stunning views towards. They also form part of the town’s Lowry Trail, enabling visitors to follow in the footsteps of Manchester artist L S Lowry (famous for his paintings of matchstick-men and matchstick cats and dogs).
Lowry (1887 – 1976) holidayed in the town many times from the mid-1930’s until the summer before he died and the Lowry Trail identifies the sites of many of his finest paintings and drawings of the town.
There is no shortage of dog friendly cafés and pubs in Berwick but we stumbled across a café called Fantoosh. What set this aside from the others was that it was a ‘knitting café’. That’s right, Nia had found somewhere to knit! However, as the cake and coffee was exceptional and the dogs were treated like kings I really didn’t mind.
Inspired by the contents of The Bothy’s welcome back we called in at Heatherslaw Corn Mill on our way back from Berwick. There has been a mill in operation on this bank of the River Till for over 700 years, grinding flour through long periods of Border unrest and providing rations for both English and Scottish armies depending on who controlled it at that point.
The Heatherslaw Mill Charitable Trust was set up in 1972 and the mill opened as a working museum three years later. Today, Heatherslaw produces about ten tons of flour a year and – refreshingly – it is dog friendly. You obviously can’t take your four legged friend into the mill itself but Howie and Franklin were allowed to go everywhere else, including in the shops and tearoom.
Back at The Bothy we enjoyed a relaxing evening on the patio, watching the sun set and watching the owls embark on their evening’s hunting mission. As darkness fell the eerie silence was broken by Howie letting out a single loud bark. Seconds later a dog on the other side of the Bowmont Valley seemingly replied and for the next few minutes the two new friends continued their long distance conversation. It seemed friendly and I like to think Howie was receiving some local tips.
The following day it was back to the beach – but this time with the spectacular Bamburgh Castle as the backdrop.
Spanning nine acres of land on its rocky plateau it is one of the largest inhabited castles in the country and has stood guard above the spectacular coastline for over 1,400 years.
The site was originally the location of a Celtic Brittonic fort and after passing between the Britons and the Anglo-Saxons three times it came under Anglo-Saxon control in AD 590. The fort was destroyed by Vikings, rebuilt by the Normans and after a revolt in 1095 it became the property of the English monarch.
The area is actually awash with castles with the ancient fortress of Dunstanburgh Castle about 9 miles to the south, Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island five miles to the north and Alnwick Castle, the home of the Duke of Northumberland, about 16 miles inland to the west.
Inventor, industrialist and philanthropist William Armstrong bought Bamburgh Castle in 1894 and set about transforming it to house his unique collection of artwork, ceramics and curiosities. The castle still belongs to the Armstrong family and is open to the public.
Large portions of Bamburgh Castle are dog friendly, including the castle grounds, Tack Room Café, Victorian Stables Bar and the Armstrong & Aviation Museum. The latter features exhibits about William Armstrong and the Armstrong Whitworth manufacturing company he co-founded. Displays include aero engines, artillery, weaponry and aviation artefacts from two World Wars.
Returning to The Bothy for our final night we stopped off in the local village of Wooler in search of a tearoom. The Terrace Café looked promising so we walked up to the door to ask if it was dog friendly. Even before I opened my mouth the lady behind the counter smiled and said “Hello Howie, Hello Franklin – it’s nice to see you again…” It was the lady we had spoken to at length on Cheswick Sands a few days earlier!
The following morning we returned The Bothy’s keys to the key safe and started the journey home with a heavy heart. It had been an idyllic and luxurious rural hide away from the stresses of real life and had given us infinite pleasures – from beach walks to castles, walled towns and some of the nicest people you could hope to meet.
My childhood memories of overwhelming hospitality proved completely accurate and I now realise there’s more to Northumberland than mining communities. So much more…
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Listing Updated: 08/06/2021
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