There’s no better place to be on a wild and blustery day than inside a warm, cosy pub. Last month, on a trip to Northumberland, I was lucky enough to visit the Ship Inn at Low Newton-by-the-Sea on a particularly foul autumn day, and ended up staying there for hours. Watching the grey sea batter against the coast from behind a rime-crusted window, pint of ale and fire on – what could be better? Well, it turns out the Ship is no ordinary coastal boozer – as it also contains a micro-brewery, so everything I drank that afternoon was made on site.
Low Newton (and yes, there is a High Newton) is a tiny village, clinging to the beach near Alnwick. The main feature is a low square of whitewashed cottages, open to the sea, surrounding a village green. Sitting in a corner of the row of buildings is the Ship. Built in the late 18th Century, and originally known as the Smack Inn, today it is run by a mother/daughter team, and serves only its own beer (cask, that is). The brewery began operations in 2008 – four years on, they produce almost eight barrels a week, rolling the beer ten feet into the cellar.
‘The word local has come to mean just that’ says a laminated leaflet nailed to the bar counter – and who can argue? Having become totally self-sufficient in real ale, the three handpulls are always sporting something made just yards away. It reminds you of what pubs must have been like, back in the days when herring was landed by hand on the beach, and nothing travelled very far from its point of origin (people included). The pub doesn’t seem to have changed much since – a large room with a fire at one end and the bar at the other, a dozen tables in between.
People certainly move around more these days – even on a wind-thrashed Tuesday lunchtime, it was packed (we managed to get the only table available). Most of the occupants were hardy walkers, dressed up in various shades of blue GoreTex, walking poles tucked behind chairs. The three beers on offer were Dolly Day Dream (a pleasant ruby bitter), Ship Hop Ale (a dry, fruity golden ale) and Indian Summer (a lemony, bitter pale ale). All were kept and served perfectly, and went brilliantly with a pie ploughmans (a piemans?).
Every so often, a table-load of walkers would force open the door and boldly stride out, resuming their march along the coastal footpath. It wouldn’t be long before a new set arrived to take their seats, all stamping feet and foggy glasses. After our ploughmans; the crumble of the day – they only have one – stewed apple topped with cream. Another beer, and more sitting, listening to the wind rattle the windows and feeling lucky that our hobbies don’t extend to rambling, meaning we had nowhere to go and nothing to leave for.
The Ship Inn, Low Newton by-the-Sea, Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 3EL
01665 576262 Website
Lunch 12-2:30, evening meals 7-8.
Booking essential, (nb – no cards taken in the pub, cash only)