ONE of the many attractions of the Northumberland coast is that it is little over an hour’s drive from the Lothians, yet it is a different world.
It is not an area that many naturally identify as one of outstanding beauty - but the scars inflicted further south by heavy industry on the North East’s towns and coastline are more than offset by its other offers closer to the Scottish border.
On the coastline fishing villages such as Seahouses and Beadle boast some of the most breathtaking and extensive beaches in the UK. Miles of golden sands flanked by dunes.
It is a walker’s paradise. A stroll along the three-mile beach from Seahouses to the cliff top ramparts of the iconic Bamburgh Castle - when the tide is right - is a pleasant pleasant way to spend an afternoon, while taking in the views of the Farne Islands.
Frequent boat departures from Seahouse harbour ferry a constant stream of sightseers towards the islands to view its impressive bird colonies.
Further north there is the Holy Island - Lindisfarne - a mecca for pilgrims for hundreds of years and now a major tourist attraction
Bamburgh and Alnwick Castle are the most impressive and preserved of the many castles that litter the area - a testament to its historic strategic importance and often bloody past.
In fact, it is difficult to pick a spot on the coastline where some form of defensive structure is not visible.
Doxford Hall Hotel and Spa is an ideal retreat from which to explore the area. Although situated just a few miles off the A1 it is is set in a ten-acre estate.
The history of the estate can be traced back over 800 years, but its modern-day pedigree as a hotel is a mere 20 years old when it was bought from Northumberland County Council by a developer couple who first extensively renovated the main building and then set about converting it into a world-class hotel.
Three years ago another couple, Robert and Gina Parker, who also own Dalhousie Castle near Edinburgh, took up the job of completing the task. In addition to renovating the impressive arched carriage-way entrance they added additional bedrooms and public areas.
The result is a classy and tastefully decorated hotel - with a genuine country-house feel - boasting 34 luxurious bedrooms - not to mention an AA Rosette restaurant.
For those requiring further pampering Doxford Hall has its own spa - offering a full range of treatments from facials to full-body treatments as well as a pool, Jacuzzis and steam room.
It is not surprising given its stunning setting and facilities that it is a popular local venue for weddings.
Indeed, on the weekend I stayed there such an event took place - though I barely noticed. Apart from guests congregating in the courtyard for the customary photographs there was little sign of it - and certainly no noise.
Such is the design of Doxford that the main function suite is below ground level and out of earshot- or even disco beat - of the main bedroom areas.
Peace and tranquilty indeed - no matter the occasion.
• B&B for one night during July to September £180 per room Sunday to Thursday; £218 Friday and Saturday £240 (based on two sharing). Dinner, bed and breakfast £240 per room Sunday to Thursday; £278 Friday and £280 for Saturday.
The whole estate, operates a strict no smoking policy, although there is a shelter within the grounds where smoking is allowed.