FOR centuries, Belford, just across the A1 from Bamburgh, in lovely Northumberland, has been renowned for welcoming travellers and the former coaching town still provides the perfect location to sample one of the most stunning counties in the country.

The Market Cross Guest House, once part of a Georgian coaching house, serves the area proud too, with charming appeal and welcoming hosts, Steve and Amanda White, to suggest some gorgeous places to visit.

On arrival Amanda served up some homemade banana bread, a nice little touch that set the tone for the stay. She has always had an interest in food and retrained to be a chef in her 40s, so creates her own dishes – predominantly from a real kitchen garden and local suppliers.

The cake was washed down by some Lindisfarne Mead, an ideal way to get a flavour for the area. The Mead is produced in the centre of Holy Island at St Aiden’s Winery, which has been open to the public since 1968. It is a unique alcoholic fortified wine made from fermented white grapes, honey, herbs and natural water.

Holy Island is just ten miles away from Belford, around 18 minutes in a car, provided you can get across the causeway before the tide comes in. But it would be rude not to sample the delights of Belford too, and the other servings Amanda and Steve had on offer. Amanda makes her own granola, as well as cherry flapjacks and cookies. Even the baked beans served up for breakfast on a slice of toast with black pudding are home-made.

In Belford, there are a number of independent shops, as well as a few pubs and restaurants. The Black Swan is very much a place for the locals, but within half an hour two or three of the townspeople settled in for a chat. There were tales of previous travellers to the area, help to secure a taxi – there's only one in town – and two very friendly Cavalier King Charles spaniels keen to introduce themselves.

It would have been easy to have spent more time between Market Cross and the Black Swan, but the taxi was booked for Bamburgh where Steve and Amanda had correctly approved the choice of the excellent seafood restaurant, the Potted Lobster.

There weren’t many people walking around Bamburgh that Friday night, but the meal – a sharing platter including a fully dressed crab - was first class, and the Castle lit up in the night sky illustrated why Northumberland is such a special place.

It is a place to get away from it all, to relax and enjoy the countryside and stunning views, but there are places to visit beyond the likes of Holy Island and Bamburgh.

You can take a circular walk around St Cuthbert’s Cave, where Lindisfarne Monks apparently brought in St Cuthbert’s body during Viking raids in AD875. If you take your binoculars, you can head to Waren Mill and Budle Bay to watch thousands of waders and wildfowl on the tidal lagoon. There’s also the Sunnyhills Farm Shop, which stocks great local produce and has friendly llamas, or you can hike stretched of the Northumberland National Park.

All this exercise will leave you needing a lie down back at Market Cross. Colour-themed rooms are appointed to a high standard and the double rooms have king size beds, and en-suite showers or bathroom with soft fresh bath sheets and bathrobes. There is a Nespresso coffee machine, kettle and a hospitality tray, each with a selection of teas, other drinks and homemade treats to help make a little Northumberland break more enjoyable.

Websites: and


Market Cross Guest House, 1 Church Street, Belford, Northumberland, NE70 7LS. T: 01668-213013. Red Room - £110 (summer); £90 (winter). Deposit payable on booking. The Black Swan is a traditional English pub, located next door.

Nearby towns: Seahouses, Alnwick, Bamburgh, Holy Island, Berwick upon Tweed