Perched on the eastern edge of Britain's coast, Bamburgh Castle's high walls and ramparts jut upwards into the sky, and loom imposingly over the fine yellow-grey sand, shining in low-tide, down on the beach below. It's here our walk along the Northumberland coast starts.
It is, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful spots in the country, and it's made all the more special by our company on a sharp, brisk, bright wintery afternoon: our faithful black labrador. There will be muddy and sandy paw (and boot) prints in the car - the Land Rover, naturally enough - by the time our circuit is complete. We begin on the beach, with Bamburgh Castle to our left: a historic site which has stood here, unmoved and barely-changed, since the days of the Vikings.
We step along the sand until the fine and compacted crunch beneath our feet gives way to something sharper. We pick a line across the jagged and uneven stones at Harkess Rocks towards the lighthouse at Blackrocks Point. The wind whistles around my ears and his fur, until the sand dunes at Budle Point slope into view. The scenery here is clear and unhurried. The sea stretches out before us, tranquil even in a brisk wind. It is a timeless sort of place.
We push on past the Point, climb up and out of the dunes and inland, beyond a World War Two gun emplacement - yet another reminder of the sheer weight of history that has taken place here - and through a gate marked private. I decide to blame my wandering companion if anyone ticks us off for trespassing. He'll be harder to prosecute.
We skirt the edge of the village golf course, hopping fences and uneven stone walls, and kicking our way through long grass towards the village of Dukesfield. At Dukesfield, we aim back towards the coast: the countryside is beautiful, uncluttered -- characteristically of this part of the world -- but the pup prefers to feel the damp sand kicking up behind his racing paws. He goes temporarily back on the lead, just in case he decides to dash off in pursuit of the sea across the fields and winding country lanes before us.
We rejoin the coastline to the east of the castle, which cuts impressively into a moody and greying sky. It looks a little like a scene from Game of Thrones. I let the pup off the leash and cross my fingers we do not bump into any furious dragons. Thankfully, we do not. We haul ourselves back to the castle and back into the car, salt water spray on our respective coats, a thoroughly satisfying and memorable walk complete.
But a word of advice, should you ever make the walk yourself: bring a companion who can share the duty of the drive home. The lab wasn't much help on that front -- and not just because of the state of his paws.