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Visit Bamburgh Castle: A Tour of This Historic Anglo-Saxon Castle

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Get ready to step back in time and explore the magnificent Bamburgh Castle! It is England’s finest coastal fortress and the first castle to fall to gunpowder. Nestled in the quaint village of Bamburgh, England, this coastal stronghold offers commanding views of the picturesque North Sea and has gained a reputation as the most haunted place in all of England.

Despite its eerie reputation, the Bamburgh Castle is a must-visit destination for history and architectural enthusiasts alike. Constructed by the Anglo-Saxons using sandstone blocks quarried from a neighboring hill, this fortress dates back to the 11th century, when Norman invaders had assumed control.

Notably, archaeological evidence reveals that an earlier Saxon structure once occupied the same site, elevating Bamburgh Castle to one of the most impressive examples of Anglo-Saxon architecture in the United Kingdom. Lord Armstrong and his family preside over the castle’s ownership, which is open to the public.

The castle boasts nine acres, including a basement, and is surrounded by a moat. Ascend the impressive towers, including the tallest keep, to marvel at the breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding area.

Don’t forget to visit the Great Hall, where banquets and other gatherings once took place, and as you explore, you’ll uncover the treasures of Bamburgh Castle.

Bamburgh Castle History

Panoramic View of the Bamburgh Castle

This formidable fortress is an indisputable time capsule with a rich history dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries. Previously the location of a fort for the Celtic Britons, the castle was transformed into an Anglo-Saxon stronghold by the influential ruler King Ida of Bernicia, who captured it in 547 AD.

An early medieval burial ground known as the Bowl Hole was discovered 300 meters south of the castle and is thought to be a cemetery for the royal court of the Northumbrian palace that lies beneath the current castle.

The present imposing square structure of the castle was erected in the 11th century by the Normans, who supplanted the earlier Anglo-Saxon edifice. It remained a Norman defense for centuries until it was bestowed upon Sir John Forster by the reigning English monarch in 1600. The Forster family held on to the castle until the 18th century when it was sold to a prosperous Victorian industrialist, William Armstrong.

Armstrong transformed the castle into a Victorian masterpiece, augmenting its splendor with the magnificent King’s Hall and medieval Great Hall.

The castle was utilized as a base for the Royal Navy during the two World Wars. It currently houses an aviation artifacts museum with captivating exhibits from World Wars and beyond.

After the demise of William Armstrong, his great-nephew, the 2nd Lord Armstrong, decided to retain Bamburgh as a family residence. The castle and Bamburgh area boast a wealth of fascinating history, including the fabled Bamburgh Beast, a mythical creature reputed to have haunted the castle.

In 1958, the Crown granted ownership of the castle to the Lord Crewe Trustees, who established the Bamburgh Research Project. It is a collaborative initiative that studies the castle’s captivating history and archaeology.

The castle’s laundry rooms feature impressive housing and a fully functional Victorian-era laundry system. The westwards were originally utilized as a prison until the 19th century when they were skillfully transformed into the magnificent Neville Tower.

To date, the castle is one of the largest inhabited castles in the country, covering an expansive nine acres of land. It represents a must-see destination for anyone passionate about history or architecture, with an array of guided tours available to provide an immersive and informative experience exploring the castle’s engrossing past.

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Getting to Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh center and castle
Vanellus Foto / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Bamburgh Castle, an impressive fortress perched atop a rocky outcrop, commands awe-inspiring views of the spectacular Northumberland coastline. Reaching this remarkable location is an adventure in itself, with various options for travel.

For those traveling by car, Bamburgh Castle is conveniently located about 5 miles from the A1. If driving from Alnmouth, take the A1068 road towards Amble and follow the A1 north to reach Bamburgh.

From Berwick-upon-Tweed, take the A1 south towards Bamburgh. The castle is situated in the charming village of Bamburgh, approximately 50 miles north of Newcastle and 20 miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

The castle offers ample parking on-site and in the nearby village. However, visitors traveling during peak summer months should expect traffic and crowds.

Aerial view of stone arches of the railway viaduct crossing River Tweed in Berwick-upon-Tweed
Zhou / Adobe Stock

Alternatively, for those seeking public transport options, the easiest way to reach Bamburgh Castle is by train. Alnmouth and Berwick-upon-Tweed offer train stations with regular services to and from major cities like London and Edinburgh.

Visitors can take a train from Alnmouth to Berwick-upon-Tweed and then switch to a bus to reach the villages of Bamburgh. Alternatively, a bus from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Bamburgh village is also available.

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Things to See and Do at Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

At Bamburgh Castle, visitors will explore many delightful attractions and activities. Among the site’s most notable features are the keep, towers, and Great Hall, all of which visitors can freely explore.

In addition, guests can visit the museum, which offers fascinating insights into the castle’s history and heritage. There is no shortage of events throughout the year at Bamburgh Castle, including thrilling jousting tournaments, impressive falconry displays, and challenging archery competitions.

The castle grounds are as alluring as the castle, boasting a verdant, well-tended lawn ideal for a relaxing picnic or a stroll. Various attractions beckon visitors to linger, including enchanting gardens, a children’s play area, and numerous inviting seating areas.

Perhaps most stunning of all is the breathtaking views of the castle that can be enjoyed from various vantage points throughout the grounds.

The King’s Hall

The King’s Hall, located within Bamburgh Castle, is a notable example of well-preserved Anglo-Saxon architecture. This imposing structure, erected in the early 7th century, comprises two stories featuring a spacious rectangular hall on the upper floor.

The lower floor was purportedly utilized for storage or as a stable. The entryway is encompassed by smaller chambers possibly used as living quarters or workspaces.

Adorned with intricate carvings of animals and figures, such as dragons and eagles, the hall’s exterior was embellished in the late 7th or early 8th century. As a royal residence, the King’s Hall would have made an awe-inspiring impression on any visitors to the castle.

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The State Room

Constructed in the 18th century, the State Room is a pinnacle of grandeur and luxury. Portraits of former monarchs, aristocrats, and dignitaries who once graced the room with their presence adorn its walls. The intricate ceiling boasts ornate plasterwork painted in gold and red, lending the space an aura of sophistication and elegance.

The furniture in the State Room is no less magnificent than its architecture. The room is packed with elegant sofas, chairs, and tables, all adorned with rich fabrics and intricate carvings.

The grand fireplace at the end of the room is encased in marble and embellished with graceful motifs, imparting a cozy and inviting ambiance to the regal space.

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The Keep

The Bamburgh Castle Keep, a Norman fortress erected in the 12th century, represents the oldest tower in the castle complex and is presently accessible to the public.

The keep is a square tower exceeding 60 feet, with walls exceeding 12 feet in thickness. It towers above the rest of the castle and is the ultimate line of defense against invasion.

Moreover, the keep served as a domicile for the castle’s lord and his household. The keep encompasses various rooms designated for multiple purposes, including a great hall, kitchen, and chapel. Beneath the keep lies a well, delving down 43 meters through solid rock, providing access to fresh potable water.

The entrance to the keep resembles a bottle that allows defending soldiers to ride directly into the structure without dismounting in case of an attack. The keep’s intricate design and robust construction will undoubtedly leave you amazed, prompting you to take numerous pictures to commemorate your visit.

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The Armoury

The armory at Bamburgh Castle is an alluring and fascinating area that will undoubtedly pique the interest of history enthusiasts. It harbors several pieces of armor the castle’s lords and ladies once wielded.

The armory encompasses many helmets, shields, and weapons that trace their origins to Anglo-Saxon times. In addition, numerous suits of armor are available to try on, which will surely enthrall the younger visitors.

Moreover, the armory features a variety of interactive displays, offering insights into the diverse types of armor and how they functioned within the context of the Anglo-Saxon citadel. The castle’s rich history and usage over the centuries are also showcased through these exhibits.

Exploring the armory at Bamburgh Castle provides a splendid opportunity to learn about the site’s enthralling past and marvel at its exceptional artifacts.

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Archaeological Museum

Bamburgh Castle interior and exhibit
Widlydidly / TripAdvisor

The Archaeological Museum at Bamburgh Castle houses an extensive collection of artifacts encompassing the long and captivating history of the castle. Exhibits on display cover a variety of historical periods, including the Anglo-Saxon period, the Norman conquest, and the castle’s involvement in the Wars of the Roses.

The museum’s crowning jewel is the Bamburgh Sword, a great weapon that dates back to the 7th century. Discovered in 1960 during an archaeological excavation on the castle grounds, this sword is regarded as one of the most significant Anglo-Saxon artifacts ever found.

The Cross Hall

The Cross Hall is another fascinating part of Bamburgh Castle, located on the first floor of the castle’s keep. The room takes its name from the 7th-century cross prominently displayed there. The cross, exquisitely carved from stone and adorned with intricate designs and motifs typical of the Anglo-Saxon era, is a sight to behold.

The Cross Hall also houses several other noteworthy artifacts, including a collection of medieval weaponry and armor. Visitors can take their time exploring the room and immerse themselves in the rich history of the castle and the people who lived within its walls during the medieval period.

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The Best Time to Visit Bamburgh Castle

If you are wondering about the best time to visit, consider the following recommendations. With its warm and sunny weather, summer is the peak season for tourists. It offers the perfect opportunity to relish the castle’s enchanting outdoor spaces and beautiful gardens.

Fall, on the other hand, is the perfect time for those who prefer fewer crowds and milder temperatures. It allows visitors to appreciate the castle’s offerings without the hustle and bustle of peak season.

Winter is the most peaceful time to visit the castle, with fewer tourists and lower prices. The castle is adorned with holiday decorations, creating a magical atmosphere perfect for a winter retreat.

Spring is another excellent season to visit the castle as the weather warms up and the surrounding countryside returns to life. It offers visitors a chance to explore the rejuvenated environment.

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The Best Things to Do Near Bamburgh Castle

If you’re seeking leisurely activities following a visit to the revered Bamburgh Castle, look no further than the surrounding region, where you can uncover many captivating attractions. Here are a couple of noteworthy pursuits in proximity to Bamburgh Castle:

Farne Islands

For the ardent nature enthusiast, the Farne Islands are a must-visit. These small isles, situated just off the coast of Bamburgh, can be explored on foot or by boat. Visitors can revel in the charming coastal scenery and observe the splendid wildlife up close.

Lindisfarne Priory

The Lindisfarne Priory is a compelling site for those who appreciate history. This ruined medieval monastery on Holy Island near Bamburgh has existed since the 7th century. It played a vital role as a center of Christianity during the Middle Ages.

Grace Darling Museum

The Grace Darling Museum, situated in nearby Bamburgh village, is a must-see for individuals intrigued by local history. Dedicated to the life of Grace Darling, a local heroine celebrated for her valiant rescue efforts during a shipwreck off the coast of Bamburgh in 1838, the museum offers a fascinating insight into her heroic tale.

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Where to Stay Near Bamburgh Castle

The Bamburgh Castle Inn

When considering lodging options near the esteemed Bamburgh Castle, there are several hotels and bed and breakfasts.

The Bamburgh Castle Inn, situated adjacent to the castle, boasts a variety of room types and features a restaurant and bar. Another exceptional choice is The Olde Ship Inn, located in Seahouses, which also offers multiple room types and on-site dining options.

Bamburgh Castle is a destination that caters to various preferences, offering multiple activities suitable for day trips and extended stays. Whether seeking a peaceful retreat to bask in the sun’s warmth or wanting to delve into the depths of history, Bamburgh Castle provides the perfect vacation spot.

FAQs

Can I bring my pet to Bamburgh Castle?

Dogs are allowed on their grounds at Bamburgh Castle. However, they must be kept on a leash and cleaned up afterward.

Who owns and lives in Bamburgh Castle?

The well-known Armstrong family has owned the castle since 1894 and still lives there.

Is there parking available near Bamburgh Castle?

The castle has a private car park, which is accessible by following the parking signs and driving up the hill to the castle.

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  1. Simon Brotherton says:

    I visited myself last year and it’s every bit as picturesque and engaging as this blog would have you believe. Great stuff