DINING OUT: Market Place Café, Wooler

Wooler is an attractive market town situated in the foothills of the Cheviots and is a natural gateway to Glendale and the Northumberland National Park.

Although it is a peaceful-looking town dating back to the 12th century, it has had its fair share of drama in the past. There was the English-Scots Battle of Humbleton Hill in 1402 and a Great Fire in 1772.

The clean and natural beauty of the area has built a reputation as a place to relax and recuperate. Wooler’s bustling main street hosts specialist shops and cafés, as well as a wide range of accommodation on offer to entice visitors to stay and sample the great outdoors.

We had heard about the interesting antique shop on the main street and also the new salerooms which had moved to Wooler. We set off from Berwick and parked our car in a large car park directly opposite The Market Place Café which is centrally situated in The Market Place. It looked so inviting and we were pleased to step inside out of the rain.

The café is an ideal place for a quick snack and coffee if you are in a hurry and also ideal for a four-course meal if you want to relax and take more time. The café was busy with visitors and local people dropping in for coffee or a meal. The young waitress showed us to a table. We were lucky it was an ideal spot just near the window where we could sit, dine and watch the world go by.

The menu was varied, with a variety of traditional home- cooked culinary delights.

Edward was hungry and chose ‘The Big Monty’ which consisted of bacon, sausage, tomato, beans, mushrooms, black pudding and toast. It was a huge helping which looked delicious and would certainly satisfy a hungry person. I chose a salad with coleslaw and baked potato with a cheese filling. The meal was delicious, everyone in the café was friendly and we enjoyed our coffee and biscuits as we watched shoppers run for shelter from the rain.

There are a number of seats outside the café which would be very pleasant to use in summer to dine and meet friends. The meal for two of us came to around £12 which included the coffee.

We were sad to leave the warm and cosy little café and go out in the rain, but headed towards the nearby antique shop which had loads of interesting artefacts, books and antiques on display in the window. Sadly it was closed so we progressed to the end of the main street and visited the tourist information centre.

Here we were made welcome and were able to browse round the reception area and see all the local gifts on offer.

Adjoining the shop was the library which had recently been re-housed in the same building. We were most impressed as it was light, airy and very welcoming. There were lots of interesting children’s books available as well as adult books and also an internet resource centre.

If it had been a sunny day we could have sat outside in the library garden to read the books.

The salerooms are at the other end of town. We purchased a catalogue, browsed round the building and were interested in the items and antiques going under the hammer.

Wooler market was established in 1199 and by 1821 Wooler held weekly markets for the sale of corn and two annual markets for the sale of sheep, horses and cattle.

The town is close to the Scottish border and an excellent base for a holiday or to explore the surrounding countryside. The foothills with their quiet back roads and bridleways are ideal for many activities including cycling, horse riding, fishing and rock climbing. From Wooler’s main street three roads head off through the foothills into the National Park.

We returned to the car and decided to have a look at Chillingham Castle before we made the journey home. It was originally a 12th century stronghold and in 1344 became a fully fortified castle and occupied a strategic position during Northumberland’s bloody border feuds. It is rumoured to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain.

As we motored past, hailstones cascaded down, bouncing off the windscreen. We decided to check the castle opening times and return in the future.

I do love Wooler and this beautiful part of Northumberland. Wherever you go the Cheviot Hills seem to envelop you. They are certainly the most serene place in Northumberland and in England.

MAUREEN RAPER

Maureen is a member of the Society of Authors and a member of the Royal Society of Literature. She is a tutor in Berwick.