North East is Best…
Mighty Dub Fest – Alnwick
We’ve booked quite a few Festivals this year – some we’ve been to before and some, like Mighty Dub Fest, where we’ll be first timers. It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, that I love the North East of England (I was born and brought up in Middlesbrough), so an opportunity to visit Northumberland was too good to miss.
Mighty Dub Fest is held in the shadows of the spectacular Alnwick Castle, a venue many of you will have seen in the Harry Potter films, whilst Alnwick itself is a beautiful market town and well worth a visit. We stopped at Hexham on the way for some lunch and arrived at the site around 3pm after a drama free drive up the M6 and across country on the A69. We’d booked a hook up for electricity and were directed by the gate stewards to an area behind the main stage marquee. Perfect, we thought, until we got to that area through the mud, where a very inexperienced Marshall was struggling to allocate pitches. We eventually got a mud free spot but had to wait until 6.30pm for electricity to arrive and even then it was fellow Dubber from Ramsbottom who sorted things out. No big deal, of course, and the delay may have been caused by the heavy rain that had fallen for days before the event.
The festival itself was excellent, with lots of entertainment and plenty of trade stalls. There was a good choice of food sellers and enough drink opportunities to keep everyone happy. Having the castle as a backdrop helps of course, as does the sun appearing from time to time to dry up the ground.
Alison had booked us into the Treehouse Restaurant in the castle gardens for lunch on Saturday, so we walked into town for a coffee, before heading to the gardens. The Treehouse has been on her to do list for quite a while, so we were both excited to see what they had to offer. To be honest the wooden walkways in the trees are looking a bit dated but it was still fun to walk across the rope bridges. The food was good, rather than spectacular, but we enjoyed our visit and the service was excellent.
We walked back to the Festival and chatted to friends and strangers alike, including a chap who’d bought our friend, Tim’s Brazilian T2c, Ronnie. The van was still looking great and had attracted lots of attention. We enjoyed the cider from Oldfield’s bar in the main stage area and partied until the music finished at midnight. There was also a Silent Disco but by that time we were ready to chill by our van before heading to bed.
We left the site around 1pm on Sunday and drove east to Whitley Bay for a couple of days.
Old Hartley C & M C Site, Whitley Bay
Alison had another restaurant on her list that she wanted to tick off before we left the North East. Riley’s Fish Shack in Tynemouth has a great reputation and we’ve been trying to find a way to visit ever since we read Jay Rayner’s revue in the Guardian in 2016. I’d booked us into the Caravan & Motorhome Club’s site, just north of Whitley Bay, with a plan to travel to Tynemouth on Monday for a meal.
Check in at the site was fine, although when I asked the Site Manager the best way to get to Riley’s, he tried to persuade us not to go because there was a local fish and chip restaurant he thought would be easier to get to from the site. He did suggest that we could walk to Tynemouth along the coastal path to Whitley Bay, through Cullercoats, and onward to the restaurant. He said it was about 4 miles which sounded do-able.
We’d been pitched up for while, chilling with a cup of tea, when he drove over to see us on his lawnmower and informed us that tents weren’t allowed. We always use a small pop up festival tent for storage and we had no idea where we’d put everything without it. He very kindly let us keep it up, much to our relief and we were very grateful.
On Monday we trekked to the restaurant with a really strong wind in our face all the way. We stopped on the way at Spanish City for a coffee in the tea room and were very impressed by the regeneration work that’s taken place, both within the building itself, and in the area around.
Riley’s was perfect. We shared a table and got chatting about our (and their) various adventures in the UK. The food was superb, the beer was excellent and the company great. If you’re ever up in the area, you really should give this place a try.
The walk back was just as hard, as the wind had completely changed direction to remain in our faces. As we entered Whitley Bay we saw a crowd of people and police officers in a side street and stopped to see what was happening. A couple standing nearby pointed out that they were shooting an episode of Vera, the ITV series starring Brenda Blethyn. We didn’t actually see Vera but her distinctive Landrover was parked in the street.
We headed back to Spanish City before catching a bus for the last couple of miles back to the Old Hartley site. One of the features of the site is its proximity, both to the sea and also to St Mary’s Lighthouse, a very well known North East Coast landmark. I imagine it’s been photographed millions of times, so it was only right that we should take a few too.
Fortunately ,we were blessed by quite a lot of sunshine, despite the wind, and really enjoyed our stay. We’ll definitely be back again (and the thought of retiring to the area has resurfaced – watch this space).
Things We’ve Learned
We both love the North East
Some restaurants are well worth the wait
There’s a Schnauzer at every event we attend
You won’t get a lie in if your neighbours are in their event shelter at 8am
The wind is a fickle beast
A T2c won’t let you down in the mud
Having a Raven hammering on the chrome bumpers underneath your head at 4.30am can be quite a shock (slamming the sliding door will scare it off)
There’s a full set of photos here: Flickr