Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle panorama
Bamburgh Castle panorama

On the last morning of our Northumbrian weekend, the May Day Holiday, we parted company. Valerie and Kenn headed south to Yorkshire, via Newcastle for a family visit, and we decided to visit Bamburgh Castle before setting off for home. Now, I knew I hadn’t been to Lindisfarne or Alnwick Castle before but I was sure I had been to Bamburgh. However, I didn’t recognise it at all inside and concluded that I’d only viewed it from outside where it dominates the coastal views for miles.

There is evidence that this area has been occupied for over 10,000 years, but the oldest building now goes back “only” to the Normans, a keep (tower) that remains the heart of the castle, but with many additions over the centuries. Its character today, however, has been determined by 19th century industrialist Lord Armstrong. He bought the castle from distant relatives in 1894 and set about restoring it, having already built a country manor – Cragside, also worth a visit – which was the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity. He wanted Bamburgh to be just as up-to-date, and invented and installed air conditioning and central heating systems. £1m later, he died with his dream still incomplete. His heir finished the work and the Armstrongs still live there today. Let’s take a walk round.

The first thing we did on arrival was stroll along the Battery Terrace. The castle, as you can already see, is blessed with a wonderful sea view.

Then we turned left to visit the State Rooms – a few external details to admire first.

Inside, by far the most impressive room is the King’s Hall, a 19th century construction but sitting on the footprint of the original Great Hall. Nothing but the best in materials – the ceiling weighs 300 tons, is made of Siamese teak and held together with over 1300 oak pins. The stained glass window adorns the minstrel’s gallery. Rather cosier is the Billiard Room with its spectacular fireplace to keep the players warm.

At this point we tried to visit the café, but it’s quite small and was jam-packed with Bank Holiday Monday visitors so we visited the rest of the grounds first. (When we went back, the lunch was very good – better than Alnwick Castle’s café. These things matter to me!)

A small camp was set up for a military re-enactment, and suddenly it burst into life! Those pesky Scots were invading…… 😉

Below the windmill around the camp there were archaeological digs to look at and we also toured the Armstrong and Aviation museum which thrilled one member of the party more than the other. After that, we headed back out and turned left to take the walk underneath the castle walls and down onto the beach. I can’t decide if it’s more imposing close up or from a distance.

Finally, we walked along the almost-deserted beach as far as we thought practical given that we had a two and a half hour drive ahead of us.

The island we could see is Inner Farne. I’ve only been out to the Farne Islands once, on a school trip when I was about 14. When I look back, I shudder at the health and safety standards. We might complain about pernickety details now, but things have improved so much.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief Northumbrian interlude. Of the three places we visited – Bamburgh, Alnwick and Lindisfarne – the last-named was definitely my favourite, but I’d happily return to them all.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks where you can visit more wonderful places from Yorkshire to Japan.


  1. Another truly fantastic place. It looks beautiful inside and outside 🙂

    And you know? I thinkit’s really great that, although the family still live there, they allow people to visit the castle. I have this funny idea that if a place it’s historical, it shoudl belonge to everyone, and by this I don’t necessarily mean that the state should own it, but that everyone should have the possibility to visit and to learn.

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  2. Great post Anabel! I have never been to Bamburgh Castle so very interested to read all about it. For some reason, although I grew up in Yorkshire, we didn’t really venture up this way when I was younger – our family holidayed initially in Wales and later Somerset and Devon though I know my parents have subsequently visited the north east a a fair bit. I can imagine Vikings invading or the Scots for that matter! The beaches look so beautiful in a wild and windswept way! The interior of the castle is amazing – can’t imagine living in all that space!

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    • I was actually born in Northumberland, lived in various parts of the NE growing up and still had never been! We spent our summer holidays with relatives in Scotland so I feel I’m only now filling in gaps in my knowledge of England.

      I’m not sure I’d like living here even with all its Victorian “mod cons”. I’d get lost! Lindisfarne Castle was much more homely.

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      • Yes I’d prefer the more “homely” castle too – it would be lovely to wander round Bamburgh but not to live in! Always the way – you live in a place and don’t get to see some of the well known local attractions! Glad you’ve been able to visit now and write it all up for the blog – lovely photos! 🙂

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  3. On Bank Holidays you can always rely on the odd pesky Scot or some other sword swiping warrior, Anabel. Livens things up a bit 🙂 I like it but it does test out the tea rooms. I can’t honestly remember whether I’ve been inside Bamburgh. I suspect not. You wouldn’t believe it was just up the road from us, would you? Actually it’s probably not much different in distance than for you. I can defer visiting a while longer now I’ve got your report, can’t I? Many thanks for your persistence. 🙂

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