The newly-launched passport is designed to be carried by walkers on the route who will collect stamps at businesses that they visit along the way. These businesses will be Welcome Ports, offering a warm welcome to walkers and able to provide advice and information about the trail and the local area.
Duncan Lawrence, who owns the Drift Café at Cresswell, said: "We are very proud to be the first business to sign up to this initiative. A walking route like this is so much more than a line on the ground and great scenery. The service and support that walkers receive from businesses along the way can make a real difference to the quality of their experience.
"Walkers are the perfect visitors; they generally arrive without a car and buy everything they need from local businesses. They leave only money in the local economy and their footsteps in the sand."
Iain Robson, from the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership, which is behind the new initiative, said: "We think that the passport will become a treasured possession, a memento of the walk evoking memories of that friendly B&B, fantastic fish and chips or a lovely ice cream on a sunny day.
"Collecting stamps as they walk the route will become part of the experience for walkers and we hope it will improve their visit to Northumberland and increase the amount of money they spend in local businesses.
"Like cycling and birdwatching, people don’t have to pay to walk along the coast, but keeping the path and associated infrastructure in good condition does cost money. This scheme helps the businesses that benefit from the route to support its upkeep."
The Northumberland Coast Path was opened in July 2006 and since then thousands of walkers have completed the 60-mile route from Cresswell to Berwick, contributing millions of pounds to the local economy.
The launch of the passport scheme is part of a year-long celebration of the path’s 10th year. There is a new website – www.northumberlandcoastpath.org - and there will be events and guided walks during the summer.
The scheme will be rolled out to more businesses along the route in the next few weeks. Any business interested in becoming a Welcome Port should speak to Iain Robson on 01670 622660 or email [email protected]