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Three coastal castles

Colin Adsley
By Colin Adsley

Bamburgh Castle is a classic example of an experience Northumberland is fulsomely blest with – the stunning combination of  breath-taking landscape and awe-inspiring history. Visually, it takes on different characters at various times of the day and seasons of the year.

Here it seems to float on a shimmering lake (actually wet sand at ebb-tide) silhouetted against a dying winter sunset. On another day, its solid stone battlements will stand proud on its rock base in a mood of utter invincibility.

Its history is long and complex, closely linked to the development of Northumbria, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom, from 600 AD, when a stronghold was built here. The present castle was begun by the Normans and in the later Middle Ages played a prominent role in defending England against incursions by the Scots.

It passed through many ownerships until Lord Armstrong, the Tyneside industrialist, bought and restored it in the late nineteenth century. Recent excavations revealed a graveyard dating back to the seventh century with fascinating discoveries now set out in the unmissable exhibition ‘Bamburgh bones’ in the crypt of Bamburgh church.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle is now a ruin. In the sixteenth century it was badly damaged by cannon fire, an event which spelled the end for stone castles, as they could no longer be relied on as impregnable strongholds.

Today its gaunt outline is a focus of interest in the superb coastal walk from Craster to Low Newton where it surmounts north-facing cliffs at the southern end of the Embleton Bay.

Meanwhile, Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island is another fortress thrusting skywards on a jut of craggy rock

matthew Hunt, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Built in the sixteenth century, it was stylishly redesigned by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the early nineteenth (with a garden makeover by Gertrude Jeckyll), and recently renovated by the National Trust, which looks after it now.

All three castles offer different but equally rewarding experiences, each dominating the skyline in a sweeping landscape of unforgettable power that draws visitors back time and time again.

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The legacy of Ethel’s vision and determination lives on thanks to the continued efforts of the Friends of the Peak District, and she remains an inspiration to everyone within CPRE