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Review: Harbourway, Craster, Northumbria, UK

Harbourway is one of a collection of properties managed by Catch The Breeze Retreats, which is run by the Sykes family. They are no strangers to self-catering accommodation, having pioneereed the nationally-acclaimed Sykes Cottages. Using their knowledge of the industry, Catch The Breeze Retreats has been developed with a focus on truly special places to stay that enjoy the perfect balance between luxury and natural charm.

Tucked away in the traditional fishing village of Craster, where the North Sea meets the rugged coastal beauty of Northumbria, Harbourway is more than just a holiday cottage – this end-terrace is a luxury retreat where you can truly unwind and spend time with friends or family. This much overlooked corner of England has so much to offer the visitor and you’d be hard-pushed to find a better place on base yourself.

The welcome

Since Harbourway is a self-catering property, we were able to check ourselves in, having been sent arrival instructions by email in advance. The email detailed other useful information about the property and the local area, as well as contact numbers should we require assistance at any point during our stay.

The property

Harbourway has undergone quite a transformation since it was originally built as a fisherman’s cottage more than 200 years ago. On entering this luxurious holiday home, you are immediately struck by the wonderfully inviting ambience and how this is a very sociable property with plenty of shared living spaces. Taking centre stage is a large dining area; an artificial fire occupies a grand fireplace, above which two large oars are displayed.

This is an area with strong seafaring associations; most notable among them is the story of Grace Darling, a lighthouse keeper’s daughter who, along with her father, bravely rescued survivors from a shipwreck off the Farne Islands in 1838 – heroics that gained her national acclaim.

From this central space, there’s immediate access to three further rooms. The first is a living area, with three large sofas positioned around a second fireplace occupied by a wood burner. In the corner is a large TV which, I must admit, we rarely used throughout our stay.

The second room emanating from the dining area is the kitchen with a central island, a Professional+ Rangemaster stove and oven, a large American-style Samsung fridge freezer (in addition to a Lamona wine cooler), microwave oven, dishwasher and washer dryer. The kitchen is very well-equipped with everything you need – not just a kettle and toaster, but items that might be less expected such as a hand blender and electric whisk.

Also from the dining area is access to a conservatory where an abundance of light….

The conservatory leads out on to a patio within an enclosed garden from which you can dine al fresco, if the weather permits, with a sea view.

This luxury property can sleep up to 8 people across 4 bedrooms. On the ground floor is one easily-accessible bedroom, sumptuously furnished and with its own en suite.

Three further bedrooms can be found on the floor above (two double, both en suite, and one twin, with access to a shared bathroom). The bedrooms enjoy a contemporary, homely style with exposed beams, whilst the bathrooms are bright, modern and clean-cut.

Fixtures and fittings embody an unparalleled standard of quality, marrying simplicity with sophistication and seamlessly blending modern aesthetics with a respectful nod to tradition. The meticulous attention to detail ensures that every room epitomises contemporary luxury living.

We were without mobile signal when at the property (on the O2 network) but there is good WiFi throughout, meaning that we could still use services such as WhatsApp, so this did not present an issue for us. In fact, I’d actually argue that not being easily contactable by phone is a plus point!

The location

The property is close enough to the sea and Craster harbour that you can hear the waves crashing on a windy day and the squaw of herring gulls. The village enjoys a captivating history, with fishermen casting their nets into the North Sea for generations, but really came to prosperity through the quarrying of hard-wearing basalt formed 295 million years ago (Craster Winstone). Just one mile to the north lies Dunstanburgh Castle, a medieval fortress dating back to the 14th century, which you can reach from Craster via a pleasant walk along the coast.

A quaint harbour, timeless appeal, the aroma of smoked kippers (make sure you buy some for breakfast) and the Jolly Fisherman pub, once an inn for fishermen, characterise the village. A visit to the latter for dinner is highly recommended for crab sandwiches at lunchtime or the clam chowder or mussels in the evening, but do book ahead.

During our stay, we ventured up the coast to Seahouses and Bamburgh, an area we have visited many times before, and also took a trip to Alnwick which is only 7 miles away, where we participated in The Pastures parkrun, but where you can also of course visit Alnwick Castle, of Harry Potter fame, and Alnwick Gardens. Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands are also nearby, the latter renowned for their diverse wildlife, including puffins, seals and seabirds.

Other nice touches

A number of local produce items were very throughfully left for us in the property, ready for our arrival, including tea, coffee, milk, bread, butter, eggs, jam and a rather delicious coffee and walnut cake.

Harbourway is dog friendly and a bag containing a blanket and ball was even left for our canine companion.

Board games such as Scrabble and Monopoly are available for guest use. And a great deal of thought had been put into the décor given that we were visiting just a few weeks before Christmas, with a number of very tasteful festive decorations on display.

All of these considerate additions were a further demonstration of the care and attention given towards guests staying at Harbourway.

The cost

Short stays (Monday-Friday or Friday-Monday) start from around £1,000 out of season.
A full week (Friday-Friday) in peak season is £2,600.

The best bit

It’s always a little tricky to pick out just one thing when when every aspect of our stay has been meticulously catered for. If pressed, though, I’d say that it is exceptionally cosy, whether it be the sofas around the fire in the living area, the homely soft furnishings throughout the property, the south-facing window seat looking out towards the harbour, or the delightfully comfortable beds. (OK… so I cheated a little and rolled a few things into one!)

The final verdict

The exceptional cosiness, inviting living spaces, tasteful décor and comfortable beds (the word ‘comfortable’ is used repeatedly in the guest book and for good reason!) combine to make Harbourway a compelling choice for a UK seaside escape. Add to this the location, friendliness of the local people, abundance of things to see and do, and relative solitude of the area compared to other parts of England, and you really don’t need to look anywhere else.

Dislcosure: Our stay was sponsored by Catch The Breeze Retreats.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. Back in the summer of 2020 we stayed in a Sykes property and it was very, very impressive. The kitchen was so well-equipped that I felt as if I were on MasterChef or the Great British Bake off. I’d almost forgotten how good it was, a nice reminder that it’s time that we did another Sykes property.

    1. Hi Charlotte – just to clarify, this is a property that’s available from Catch the Breeze Retreats which is more of a handpicked portfolio of luxury properties (currently on the Northumberland Coast, in Snowdonia and in the Yorkshire Dales). I’m not sure it’s available through Sykes Cottages.

  2. Nice timing. Now that Christmas is beginning to edge towards the door our minds began to turn towards holidays in 2024.

    We haven’t done self-catering for ages and it would be nice to have a good quality cottage in the Spring.

    1. Hi Karen – this time of year (between Christmas and New Year) and throughout January tends to be a very popular booking period. If you have specific dates in mind, I’d definitely recommend planning ahead.

  3. Over the centuries, Harbourway’s come a long way from being a fisherman’s cottage. I doubt that the fisherman would recognise his little home after all the improvements.

  4. This looks a step-up from the sort of self-catering cottage that we usually stay at. It looks very well organised and exceptionally well-equipped.

    The last place we went to had one tea towel and two tea-bags in the welcome pack. Harbourway is in a different league to so many self-catering properties.

    1. It was brilliantly equipped, John, and very tastefully furnished. The luxury end of the self-catering market tends to have very high standards nowadays.

  5. Over the last dozen years there’s been such a change in the hospitality industry’s attitude towards dogs. You wouldn’t have got a dog ball and blanket back then. It opens up so many more options for dog owners.

    1. I think so long as you are respectful of any rules towards dogs, many properties nowdays are happy to welcome dogs. Habourway welcomes dogs so long as they are at least a year old, and do not go on the furniture or upstairs. Ours is trained to do just that at home, so this wasn’t an issue for us.

  6. Arriving at a self-catering holiday let used to be so stressful. You’d arrange a meet-up time with the owner and then get stuck in traffic or lost around the area. Nowadays technology makes life so much easier. Via e-mail you get the number for a key box and you can turn-up when convenient. It makes for a much more relaxed start to the holiday.

    1. Yes, Chloe… times have certainly changed! It’s a much more seamless process nowadays. I know there are some who will probably like the ‘meet and greet’ touch (some properties still do it but it’s far less common), but I think many guests actually appreciate just arriving and, without being at all disrespectful, being “left be” to enjoy their getaway straight from the off.

  7. Location. Location . Location. This cottage must be close to having the perfect location. Near the sea, close to the harbour. Absolutely ideal.

  8. It really does tick all the boxes for what you’d want from a rental property. It must be difficult to leave such a dream house to head home at the end of your holiday.

  9. Craster is a long way North for us and consequently it’s a part of the country that we’ve rarely visited. Harbourway would give us a superb base for exploring more of Northumbria.

  10. It’s odd but there’s always something indulgent about having a bathroom more luxurious than what you are used to at home.

    1. You’re right, Jean… it’s always a treat to be able to stay somewhere that has features that are more special than you are used to in your own home!

  11. Is this actually serious?
    £2600 a week. That’s totally insane.
    As a hiker I’m passing through Craster frequently during the hiking season. Yes its a lovely location but the same goes for the whole coastline.
    I can’t believe that people pay such insane amounts to rent a holiday house.

    1. I fear that you might be a little out-of-touch, Andrew. For a large luxury property for a whole week in peak season, a total rate of £2,600 is not unusual. In this instance, it amounts to just £46 per person per night.

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