Home > Beer > North Sea Scrolls: The Olde Ship Inn, Seahouses, Northumberland

North Sea Scrolls: The Olde Ship Inn, Seahouses, Northumberland

Last year, when Kate and I spent a weekend in Northumberland, we saw three ships.  One was The Ship at Low Newton-By-The-Sea, a seaside gastro- and brew-pub beloved of Guardianistas; another was The Ship on Holy Island (Lindisfarne), which would have been a satisfactory place to get stranded after the causeway was enveloped by the tide.  The third was The Olde Ship at Seahouses, and we returned to it last weekend.

Bamburgh is a really very beautiful village on the Northumberland coast.  The enormous and largely intact Norman castle stands on a basalt outcrop overlooking an idyllic village cricket green on one side and a beautiful, enormous beach (when the tide’s out) on the other, peering over to the Farne Islands.  We stayed in a hotel in the village and walked the three and a bit miles down the beach south to Seahouses.

Whereas Bamburgh is lovely, it’s clearly a middle class weekender destination: with delis selling locally-produced biltong and local beer, it seems oddly quiet for such a nice place, which suggests it’s entirely populated by well-off holiday-homers and people who work in the hotels.  Seahouses is a more traditional resort, with a working harbour, ice cream parlours, crazy golf and fish and chip shops.  “Grockleised”, as a friend put it, slightly dismissively, but I would say that it has all of the essential components of a fondly-remembered childhood seaside holiday, including the rain.

It was raining by the time we walked into Seahouses, but I didn’t mind at all as I was looking forward to the pub.  The Olde Ship Inn, with its cod-Olde Englishness, is an awful name for a good pub.  It’s been a licensed premises since 1812; which is some time ago but, I would suggest, a while after people stopped spelling “old” with an “e”.

The pub was busy (as it always seems to be) although we got a seat in the corner.  The public bar is full of the most amazing array of nautical tat: lobster pots; gas lamps; mascots; helms; compasses, barometers; fishtanks; flare guns; model ships; photos of salty tars; and a painting of the interior of the pub itself.  Irish theme pubs, with their road signs and bicycles, look positively restrained and minimalist in comparison.

The beer selection is good too.  There was a needlessly comprehensive selection of mainstream cask bitters that would keep your father happy: Black Sheep; Theakston; Old Speckled Hen; Courage Director’s Bitter; Ruddles County.  However they also had a few local beers that were worth trying.  Farne Island Bitter from Hadrian & Border is a solid and refreshing English-hopped pale ale with a good level of bitterness, just right after a walk on the beach. 

Two beers from High House Farm Brewery were interesting: Auld Hemp had a malty, leathery earthiness and Nel’s Best was a mellow blonde. Finally, Hadrian & Border Gladiator Bitter was an amber beer with a slightly salty smokiness to it.  After a few drinks we decided to get the bus back to Bamburgh to avoid the rain, before a hot shower and out again for dinner.  The rest of the night had a Hadrian & Border Tyneside Blonde and a Mordue Workie Ticket in store.

It all added up to a few good drinks of reasonably local beers for a warm, damp June day in the North East, surrounded by the remnants of Vikings, Normans, Anglo-Saxons, fishermen and Grockles.  I like to think that all of them drank a beer and then looked out on the North Sea from this wonderful beach as some light, salty drizzle fell on their faces; all feeling a little more peaceful to be staring at the edge of the world.

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  1. June 24, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I’ve got very fond memories of Bamburgh castle as when I was about 12 I was walking around it with my parents and a little old lady came out of one of the rooms near a coat of armour! After talking to her for about 15 minutes about rugby, of which I plaid at the time, she told me to go down and choose anything from the gift shop I liked. I don’t remember the actual name of the family that own bamburgh but I remember my mum saying ‘that was lady Bamburgh’. My mum still has the small photo in a frame I picked, with ‘given to Neil Walker by Lady Bamburgh’

    I haven’t thought about that in years!

  2. June 24, 2011 at 8:59 am

    *Played. Shocking spelling!

  3. June 27, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Do you know, I’ve never been in the castle. It must have some superb views at the very least. Next time…

  4. JO Slade
    October 27, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Just booked to go to The Old Ship in for Sunday lunch with my parents on 30th Oct… It looks lovely…Hope its nice.

  5. February 28, 2012 at 12:48 am

    My mum was born in Seahouses and I remember spending my holidays when I was a kid. Going to the harbour and getting kippers fresh from the rack. We used to walk to Bamburgh and visit the castle where we were given ice cream and also visit Grace Darlings museum. In the summer we used to get boat across to the Farne Islands. If anybody gets the chance, they should go there as it is filled with lots of things to see and beautiful beaches.

  6. Rebecca Haile
    January 19, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    The Ship is my grandparents’ hotel. Thanks for the fab write up. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve shared it on the Ship’s facebook page? (facebook.com/theoldeshipseahouses)

  7. Frank and Irene Tatoli
    January 20, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    The wife and I have a static caravan on Seafield in Seahouses. Unfortunately it closes from January till the beginning of February. We love both Ships at Newton and Seahouses and the Castle Inn in Bamburgh. You have just made us feel very melancholy. Can’t wait to get back there for the walks and the pubs!

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