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Karen Charlton: Notorious history

Other posts by  |  Sheelagh Caygill on Google+ |  January 14, 2012 | 0 Comments
Karen Charlton

Karen Charlton

Karen Charlton is a city girl, hailing originally from Sheffield and Leeds. But for the last 20 years she has lived in a fishing village on Teesside.

Her husband’s Charlton ancestors are originally from Ponteland, Northumberland. She has always had a love of all things Northumbrian, and has recently published her first novel, Catching the Eagle*, based on a true Border Reiver story.

Briefly outline what your business/organisation is: I am a teacher and an author.  My first novel, Catching the Eagle, is based on the true story of how my husband’s ancestor, Jamie Charlton, was controversially convicted of Northumberland’s biggest robbery back in 1810.

How long have you lived/worked/visited in Northumberland or The Scottish Borders?: I first came to Bamburgh on a family holiday during the fortnight of the Queens’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.  Even as a kid, I absolutely adored the beaches and the Farne Islands.   Grace Darling was an early heroine of mine.  Mum and dad also took us on a tour of most of Northumberland’s castles.  I was overawed at the wealth of history in the county.  Northumberland’s castles were – and still are – totally individual and absolutely magnificent.

What is it about the county that appeals to you?: Heavens, where do I start?  Apart from the history, the friendliness of the people and its incredible natural beauty, I also love its open space, its uncongested roads and that vast expanse of ice-blue northern sky which arches above.

What’s your favourite Northumberland/Borders beauty spot?: That is a difficult question. I think it is probably a tie between Hareshaw Linn in Bellingham and Holy Island.  However, I also think the pretty villages, winding country lanes and the gently rolling countryside of lowland Ponteland have unique charm.

Holy Island

Fishing boats at Holy Island © Ian Britton/

We often took the kids to Holy Island when they were little.  My son fell off the causeway once into the encroaching sea. He was dripping wet and wearing his mummy’s coat when we finally got to the hotel.  We loved the fact that once the tide was in, the traffic stopped moving and the kids could run around freely without danger.  We must have explored every beach and rabbit warren of that fabulous island.

The stunning beauty of the walk through Hareshaw Woods to the magnificent waterfall is a relatively new discovery for us.  It has certainly left a lasting impression and is now part of the setting for my second novel, The Missing Heiress.

Tell us about your favourite view/walk/cycle route/town/nightspot?: We’ve had some very memorable nights in the pubs/hotel bars on Holy Island – especially in the days before the rigid drinking laws were relaxed.  It was amazing the difference that being cut off from the mainland – and the constabulary – made to the attitude of the landlords!

The list of places to visit is endless. But some are more special than others.  A trip to Northumberland/the Borders wouldn’t be complete without: A visit to a castle.

Do you have a preferred place to eat out in the county and why?: We adore staying at the Riverdale Hotel in Bellingham.  The food there is out-of-this-world.

Northumbrians and people from The Scottish Borders are renowned for the warm welcome they offer holidaymakers and day trippers alike. What do you think is the secret ingredient for this?: Friendliness. Every Northumbrian we have ever met has been pleasant, cheerful, laid back and willing to go out of their way to help us. Combine that with a fabulous accent, a great sense of humour and a tiny bit of nosey curiosity – and I think it is easy to see why their friendliness is legendary.

Boats at Kielder Water

Boats at Kielder Water © Tom Curtis/

Coast or country, and specifically which part?: Sorry, I’m torn between them both.  I find the Farne Islands with their teeming wildlife almost mystical in their beauty and isolation.  Likewise, a cycle ride around Kielder on a silent, misty day with condensation softly dripping from the branches above, can be both invigorating and soul-cleansing at the same time.

Your favourite market town?: Bellingham.

Your favourite historical site?: The library in Alnwick Castle is my favourite room in the whole world.  I want to be allowed to stay in there for a full day and browse the shelves.  Or perhaps a week. All on my own – except for a plate of sandwiches and a blazing log fire. Bliss.

And the best road to take a leisurely and scenic drive along?: Any road in Redesdale in the autumn.  The colours are fantastic.  The wooded hills spread out before you like a golden, amber and scarlet patchwork quilt.

What would be your perfect day out in Northumberland and The Scottish Borders?: Any of the above.

* Karen’s first novel, Catching the Eagle, is published by Knox Robinson Publishing and is available on Amazon and from selected Waterstones stores.

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Category: Northumberland Best Kept Secrets

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