The Northumbrian coast of north east England is rich in history and well known for its dramatic and rugged scenery. Quaint seaside towns and villages rub shoulders with medieval castles often hide legacies from a fascinating past.
The small village of Bamburgh is no exception. With its long sweeping sandy beaches and fine sea views to off shore islands this village sits in the shadow of huge medieval castle walls and was once home to a true Victorian heroine.
Bamburgh is dominated by a huge Norman castle perched on a rocky basalt promontory of the Great Whin Sill. Neat grey stone cottages arranged around a triangular green, a cricket pitch under the shadow of the mighty castle walls, a few small shops, tearooms and a restaurant, several excellent hotels and pubs make this small village of only 500 inhabitants is an extremely popular all year round destination for visitors.
The castle and a brief history
The castle, for centuries the royal seat of the Kings of Northumbria, dominates the village. Its dramatic position perched on a rocky basalt outcrop of the Great Whin Sill and the local coastal scenery have made the castle a star and it has featured in many television programmes and films including Becket, Macbeth, Ivanhoe, El Cid and more recently Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth and Robin Hood.
Although built on the site of an earlier castle, the present castle dates from the 12th century towards the end of the Norman period when it was rebuilt in stone to defend against the Scots. Several hundred years later it suffered badly during the Wars of the Roses becoming the first castle in England to be besieged and subsequently defeated by artillery action. Gradually over the next few centuries under a succession of owners it deteriorated until the Victorian era when it was bought by Lord Armstrong. This Victorian inventor and industrialist and founder of the famous Newcastle armaments factory, who also built Cragside the first house in the world to be lit by water powered electricity, completed renovations and refurbished the castle, albeit with some Victorian adornments, into a home.
The castle remains the home of the Armstrong family and includes a museum to his many achievements.
It is open daily from early January to mid December. Current admission prices are £8.50 adults, Senior citizens £7.50, children £4.00 and family tickets at £21.
A Victorian heroine
Grace Darling was the daughter of the keeper of the Longstone Lighthouse on the nearby Farne Islands and she became the nation’s heroine in 1838 when aged 24 she rowed out with her father at the height of a storm to help rescue passengers and crew from a steamer, the SS Forfarshire, laying broken and wrecked on the rocks.
Grace darling only lived for another 2 years, and died from tuberculosis at the age of 26. She is buried in the churchyard of St Aidans Church, Bamburgh. The Grace Darling Museum opposite the church tells her story and the boat in which the survivors were rescued is one of the exhibits.
October-Easter Tuesday-Sunday and Bank Holidays 10am-4pm
(last entry 3:30pm)
Easter-October Monday-Sunday 10am-5pm
(last entry 4:15pm)
Christmas opening times:
24-27 December – closed
28-31 December – open
1 January – closed
Concession (over 60s and 5-16 year olds): £1.75
Family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children): £7.25
How to get there, and further afield
Bamburgh is on the coast in Northumberland in the north east of England, approximately 50 miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne and 20 miles south of Berwick on Tweed, a few miles to the east of the main north/south A1 motorway.
Further afield but still within easy reach other places to visit include Budle Bay and the Farne Islands, a haven for bird watchers, naturists and walkers. Boat trips to see the bird and seal colonies are available from the neighbouring village of Seahouses. Cross the causeway at low tide to nearby historic Holy Island or Lindisfarne with its village, ancient ruined Priory and castle. Or visit the ancient town of Alnwick with its famous castle and gardens, (familiar to Harry Potter fans). Scotland and the border town of Berwick on Tweed is also close by, not to mention many other quaint fishing villages to explore on this outstanding stretch of beautiful coastline.