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Coast & Castles – our guide to this lovely cycle route from Newcastle to Edinburgh

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There are hundreds of cycle routes to follow across the UK, and we've written about many of them (read our guide about the Exe Estuary Trail here). But we do have to admit, we have a real soft spot for the Coast & Castles cycle route. This route isn't particularly challenging but it does take you past some of the prettiest areas in the North of England and the Scottish Borders Coast - and of course, plenty of coast and plenty of castles.

We'll be taking a close look at this route, highlighting each section and the things you can see and do along the way. Let's get into it:

Where is the Coast & Castles cycle route?

In simple terms, the Coast & Castles cycle route links the Forth and Tyne estuaries between Newcastle and Edinburgh. It follows part of the North Sea Cycle Route which takes you along the east coast. Typically you start in Newcastle and head North, because travelling in this direction the wind is generally more favourable. Tyneside is also a great starting point, and Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh is a wonderful finish point. The route is 200 miles long and considered medium difficulty as there isn't much of an ascent.
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What sections are there?

Typically the route is split into the following 13 sections (however there is a shorter coastal route you can take, we've included a section about that option at the bottom of this guide):

 

Newcastle – Tynemouth: 12.5 miles (20km)
Tynemouth – Blyth: 10.5 miles (17km)
Blyth – Lynemouth: 11.5 (18.5km)
Lynemouth – Amble: 10.5 miles (17.5km)
Amble – Embleton: 19 miles (30km)
Embleton – Belford: 18 miles (28km)
Belford – Berwick: 19 miles (30km)
Berwick – Coldstream: 18.5 miles (29km)
Coldstream – Kelso: 12 miles (19km)
Kelso – Melrose: 15 miles (24km)
Melrose – Innerleithen: 17 miles (27km)
Innerleithern – Dalkeith: 26 miles (42km)
Dalkeith – Edinburgh: 11 miles (18km)

 

As you can see, it is fairly easy to plan this route as every town, village and city along the way has accommodation and plenty of places to eat.

What is there to see and do as you cycle along the Coast & Castles route?

As you can imagine there is quite a lot to see and do within 200 miles, and you won't have time to stop at every interesting point along the route. However, we thought it would be worth including as many as possible in case you're deciding to tackle this route across a weekend and you are happy to take plenty of stops along the way. Let's take a look at each section:

Newcastle - Tynemouth

Starting in Newcastle, it'll be tempting to do a number of things which won't exactly set you up for a great cycle! You might not be keen to stick around in Newcastle for too long but if you have a bit of time, you could check out a few of the sights on your way to Tynemouth. Segedunum Roman Fort & Museum will require you to veer slightly towards the South, and the Stephenson Steam Railway is just to the North of your route, but if you're looking for something right on the route then the Collingwood Monument is an awesome landmark which is well worth a quick stop.
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Tynemouth - Blyth

You've actually got a number of things to check out in this stretch, particularly on the Tynemouth side. Just up from Tynemouth is Effard Rocks, which is a beautiful stop-off place with some amazing views and a couple of picnic benches if you'd like to grab a bite to eat. Cullercoats Arch is a natural formation a little further up which is also really cool to check out.
A little further up still is Whitley Bay beach, a lovely 2-mile stretch of sand which is great for wandering along. And probably the last thing of note before you reach Blyth would be St Mary's Lighthouse, where if you're lucky and you time it right you'll be able to reach via a causeway when the tides are right.
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Blyth - Lynemouth

This stretch is where things start to get much quieter, but there are still a few things to check out. Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Beach is really beautiful and ideal for a stroll, but the real highlight for many people is The Couple Statue in the sea. This slightly quirky and, let's face it, slightly ugly statue divides opinion, with many thinking it is great and many thinking it totally ruins the views. We'll let you make up your own mind on that one.
FireShot Capture 1748 - Newbiggin's 'Couple' branded as an 'eye wounding erection' by London_ - www.chroniclelive.co.uk

Lynemouth - Amble

This stretch of the route is actually one of the shortest at under 11 miles, and because there isn't much to see it might be a good chance to get your head down and do some pedalling. However, if you do fancy a stop somewhere then you've got a few options - Cresswell Beach is really nice and Cresswell Ices is a great place for lovely ice cream, plus dolphins are often spotted along here. Druridge Pools is a must-stop for birdwatchers, as this nature reserve is a haven for waders and wintering wildfowl. The Hauxley Nature Reserve to the North isn't quite as interesting as Druridge Pools but is still really great for a visit if you want to spot some bird life.
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Amble - Embleton

Fish and chips might not be top of your list, but it is always at the top of ours - Alnmouth, which is right in the middle of Amble and Embleton, is home to probably the best fish and chips in the country at the Hope and Anchor hotel. Trust us! If you're not looking for food then luckily there are a few other things to see and do, such as Alnwick Castle which is just a few miles inland and is really impressive. Near Embleton you'll find Dunstanburgh Castle which, despite being ruinous, is very beautiful.
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Embleton - Belford

This section brings you a bit more inland, but still takes you past some of the most breathtaking parts of the Northumberland Coast AONB - especially if you can capture it on a Camera Drone. It also takes you just past Bamburgh and of course, the mightily impressive Bamburgh Castle which is well worth a slight diversion and is one of the most important Anglo-Saxon archaeological sites in the world. You'll pass through a number of great villages and towns on your way to Belford, and if you're looking for somewhere great to stay then Belford has a number of wonderful options.
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Belford - Berwick

This is one of the longest stretches of the route and there is plenty to see along the way, but the absolute must-visit as far as we're concerned is Holy Island. You'll need at least half a day to see it properly so it would probably require a bit of a stopover, but we think it is totally worth it. Despite being small, there is plenty to see and do on the island - the pubs are great, the restaurants are lovely and the coastal castle is impressive. Crossing the causeway is part of the fun too, as you can only cross at certain parts of the day.
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Berwick - Coldstream

If you follow the original, 200 mile version of the Coast & Castles route then this is the stretch which finally takes you inland and away from the beautiful coast. Luckily, the Scottish Borders countryside is also really lovely to explore, and you'll still be near water in the form of the River Tweed. This is probably a good section to get your head down and make some miles, but if you're looking for somewhere to stop then Norham Castle is right between Berwick and Coldstream and despite being ruinous is very pretty. It's also free to visit and is unmanned so won't take too long to check out! Go for a swim (take your changing robe) or get on a paddle board.
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Coldstream - Kelso

This is another shorter section and a section without too much to see, but still a few gems (especially as you get towards Kelso). Floors Castle is an impressive 18th-century building which is a total gem. The grounds are amazing and lovely to explore. Kelso is also full of interesting independent shops, particularly clothing shops.
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Kelso - Melrose

Another section with not too much to see aside from all of the beautiful, rolling Scottish countryside, however with a few gems. Smailholm Tower is worth a visit if you're into quirky historical buildings. This 15th-century tower doesn't have too much to see aside from the amazing panoramic views from the top, which are well worth the price of admission. If you're looking for amazing views without paying for them, Scott's View is only a few miles further along. It's free and gives you probably the best views of the Eildon hills you'll get anywhere.
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Melrose - Innerleithen

The absolute must-visit location between Melrose and Innerleithen is Abbotsford, which was the home of Sir Walter Scott. The building is hugely impressive and a tour gives you an idea of the influence Sir Walter Scott had on Scottish culture. The grounds are also amazing to explore. For a slightly less grand but still interesting visit, Traquair House just to the south of Innerleithen is worth a look. This is Scotland's oldest inhabited house, built in the early 12th century, and is very fascinating to look around.
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Innerleithen - Dalkeith

This is the longest stretch of the entire route so you might not fancy taking too many breaks during this section, but there are some great things to see if you've got time! Glentress Forest is just to the West of Innerleithen, and we've got an entire guide about this excellent forest if you'd like to learn more. The gardens at Arniston House are beautiful to explore and a great excuse to stop for a wander, and the same goes for Oxenfoord Castle. But to be honest, you're probably best just sticking to the route for this section and saving your sightseeing energy for the last 2 sections!
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Dalkeith - Edinburgh

Almost there! This 11-mile stretch will fly by if you stick to the route, but maybe make some time to check out Dalkeith Country Park, where you can sit next to the creek and reflect on the amazing journey you've undertaken. And once you've regained some zen, get back on the saddle and head for the capital!
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Edinburgh

You made it! And we don't really know where to start with what to see here. Of course, you've got the favourites - the castle, the gardens, the Royal Mile. But make sure to check out the pubs and restaurants, and if you're staying for longer than a day check out some of the beaches near Edinburgh for a chance to relax after your epic journey.
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, East Gate

Cycling to St. James' Park

If you're starting this route in Edinburgh and you finish in Newcastle, then you'll have time to visit St. James' Park. This is the home ground of Newcastle United, and is one of the most impressive and iconic football stadiums in the whole of the UK. If you're on your bike and you're looking to reach St. James' Park from the start of the Coast & Castles route at the KGVI Newcastle University Building, here is the route to follow:

 

  • Cycle along Queen Victoria Road until you reach Richardson Rd, then follow the road over the roundabout
  • Keep following Richardson Road until you reach Leazes Terrace
  • Cycle 0.1 miles down this road and you'll have reached St. James' Park! We created a Google Map for this route here.

Once you reach St. James' Park, you'll find more than 30 Sheffield bike stands at the ground, where you can safely secure your bike while you admire the stadium (or even visit if you've arranged a tour or got a ticket for a match, which we'd highly recommend!)

If you'd like to cycle a different way back into town, then you can follow this route:

  • Head South down Leazes Terrace about 300ft and then turn left onto St James Ter
  • Continue onto Terrace Place, and then onto Leazes Lane
  • At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto St Thomas' Terrace and follow the road for 0.1 miles until you reach the KGVI building again
  • We also created a Google Map for this route here.

Happy cycling!

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What is the alternate Coast & Castles route?

We mentioned in our introduction about an alternate Coast & Castles route, which is actually quite a popular option. Although it doesn't quite stretch to 200 miles, if you're looking for a bit more 'coast' with your Coast & Castles route then the alternative route is definitely the best option to take. As you can see from this image, once you reach Berwick you can keep heading up the coast rather than going inland. This will take you towards East Lothian which is packed with lovely little villages and towns, including Gullane. Also, once you reach Dunbar you'll have the chance to stop at Whitesands Beach, which we visited recently. Either route you take will be flat, the main difference will be the distance.
FireShot Capture 1749 - Home - Coast And Castles - web.archive.org

What should you be aware of before heading along the Coast & Castles route?

This 200 mile route is by no means straightforward but compared to many UK cycling routes, it is relatively quick to complete. That's why we've included so many things to see and do along the way, so don't be afraid to take time to check them out! If pedalling for 200 miles seems like a bit too much effort then get yourself a good electric bike - you'll still be able to pedal when you want, but if you want to sit back and enjoy the views then you can let the electric motor do all the work.
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to tackle this epic route. We've also got guides about other routes like the Borders Abbey Way and the Exe Estuary Trail.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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