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Bamburgh Castle (Bamburgh)

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Bamburgh Castle is probably the finest castle in England. It is perched on a basalt outcrop on the very edge of the North Sea at Bamburgh, Northumberland. Bamburgh Castle, Bamburgh, Northumberland. NE69 7DF. E-mail: bamburghcastle@aol.com. Tel: 01668 2145

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      23.02.2014 19:27
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      A great castle inside and out

      Once upon a time there was a kingdom called Northumbria that was ruled by King Aethelfrith, when he married to strengthen his kingdom, he renamed his fortress after his new wife Bebba (Bebbanburgh later became pronounce Bamburgh)*. At the time Bamburgh castle and it's king was the most powerful force in northern England, and Bamburgh castle would be one of the most powerful castles in England for hundreds of years until the vikings attacked around the 10th century. Bamburgh's prominence was such that it had links with early christianity through St Aidan who was bought to neighbouring Holy Island by King Oswald, who also became a saint following his death.

      Th castle that stands today, has been rebuilt and renovated over the years, due to being attacked and neglected. For much of it's history this has been a royal castle, and was built and maintained by them as an important defensive fortress. Some of the main keep dates from around 1163 when the castle, had the great tower started for the sum of £4*, now that sounds a bargain although I'm guessing it was worth a bit more then :)

      Today the castle is in owned by the Armstrong family, who bought it in 1894*, at the time Lord Armstrong of Cragside (see earlier review), saw it for sale in the Times and decided to buy it for £60,000*. He did quite a bit of renovation to the castle, as it was in need of it when he bought it. It's funny my first thought when I realised he owned both Cragside and Bamburgh castle, was why would you buy Cragside if you owned Bamburgh castle, but I now see it was the other way around :)

      Bamburgh castle is probably the castle most recognised, outside Northumberland, unless you were watching Harry Potter (that's Alnwick castle), as it is the one on most advertising, due to it's magnificent appearance.

      I visited on a windy day in February, the timing being because I had bought a Groupon deal for £12 for 2 people and it ran out at the end of February (I bought it in December, not realising the castle was only open on a weekend up to February). I visited with my dad one Friday, as that's the day we go out together :) Normal price is £9.95 for adults, £9 for senior citizens, £4.50 for children or £25 for a family (2 adults 3 children), so we saved £6.95 (my dad is a senior, not me :) )

      **Our Visit**
      The day we visited was initially windy but dry, and we really hit on as, as we were leaving a storm hit and it started to rain heavily. Bamburgh is on the Northumberland coast about 42 miles north of Newcastle, it's about 30 miles from us and took us about an hour to get there going up the A1 and then following the route across to the coast. On the way back we came the coastal route which took maybe 15 minutes longer, and this is considering we were taking it steady due to the weather.

      Bamburgh castle is high up above Bamburgh village, overlooking the sea (150 feet above), and sand dunes. It affords great views of the neighbouring Farne islands, and Holy island, as well as the sea and beach. We parked in the council car park at the bottom, paying £1.80 for 2 hours, we chose here as we had visited the castle years before and remembered the parking above being limited. Walking up to the castle is quite steep, and at the top we discovered the parking has now been extended and there is a reasonable sized car park with all day parking for £2 :) Still I needed the exercise :)

      The entrance to the castle is further up hill through a large gatehouse, with the ticket office being in the constable tower further up. From here you are outside the main section of the castle in the outer ward, the path is quite steep, and you can either follow it up, or walk along the battery (outer defensive wall) as we did. We chose this way so that we could admire the view of the sea, and the nearby islands, although it was quite overcast so we didn't get the best view. There are also lots of cannons along here :)

      **The Outer Ward**
      The battery, and path both lead to the outer ward. There are a lot of buildings here, although the castle grounds themselves are reasonably compact. The ground here is hilly, with the ground sloping rapidly down to the west ward. In the outer ward, is the old stables, which now house the toilets, and a cafe on the left hand side. There is also some stocks on the green, and a replica of the King's of Northumbria's royal stone seat (which I had a seat in). At the bottom of the slope is another gateway which leads into the west ward.

      In the west ward there is a picnic area, 2 sites where they are doing an archeological dig (in summer you can watch them), the armstrong aviation museum, and an old mill. The museum is quite small, but we both found it really interesting with huge engines, and old cameras that had been used on planes. There was also a model of a spitfire, and a large gun.

      The walls on this side of the castle give a great view of the village of Bamburgh.

      **The Inner Ward**
      Uphill is the inner ward of the castle, this has an inner curtain wall, from which you again get a great view of the sea. There are also the remains of the chapel, with a large bell. The entrance to the state rooms, and keep is here. There is one entrance, that is open as you actually go through the state rooms to get to the keep.

      **The castle, and state rooms**
      While you can't explore all the rooms, as there are private apartments above, the parts you can see are interesting. My favourite was the King's Hall, which is a beautiful room with a lovely wooden beamed ceiling which you can admire with mirrors that are provided. In here there was a lovely guide, who we had a nice chat with. This room has a minstrel's gallery at one end, and a lovely seating area (roped off) raised up at the other, the room is actually from the victorian times as it was renovated and designed by Lord Armstrong. In total I think there are about ten rooms that you can look around, including the rooms in the keep itself. Other highlights for me were the secret stairway in the keep's wall, the model of the castle, the well (dug through over 40 feet of solid whetstone), and the victorian hoover (I like my old gadgets :) ). There were a further two guides in other rooms, both of which were friendly and knowledgeable.

      The keep leads to the shop, and from here you can visit the dungeon. This has several figures showing old torture methods, and was pretty interesting. Next to the shop there is also the archeological museum, which houses various finds from the castle's grounds. The exit opens back out onto the outer ward. From here we took some more photos before hurrying away as by this time we were over our parking time (not that we expected a ticket as Bamburgh is pretty deserted in winter), and it was bucketing down and windy.

      **The cafe and shop**
      We visited the cafe for a warming cup of tea during our visit. This is a nice room and the prices were reasonable, about £5 for a sandwich. The drinks were slightly more expensive, at around £4 for a pot of tea for two.

      The shop has the usual range of gifts, as well as some local wine and foods. There is also a small art gallery, with some lovely pictures you can buy in the shop.

      **So what did I think?**
      We both really enjoyed our visit, the only downside was the weather as the views weren't as clear as we might have liked, and quite a lot of it is outside. However, as they say "every cloud has a silver lining", and the weather and time of year meant that there were only a few other visits so we could get some great photos without lots of people in them, and we had plenty of time to see what we wanted to see, as well as to talk to the guides.

      The grounds and buildings are really well looked after, and there are plenty of signposts telling you where you are and what things are, which we found really useful. It is also possible to buy a guidebook or hire an audio tour, although we didn't bother preferring to discover things ourselves. As said inside there are also several guides, who are knowledgeable and friendly.

      Bamburgh castle surprised me as when I visited it in the past I didn't really enjoy it, and my memory was just of lots of plates. I was left feeling that the best thing about it was the outside, but now I have been again I have completely changed my mind, as there is so much to see. From their web site I can see that they have won several awards, including one from trip adviser, and I can see why. Everything feels really well thought out, informative and welcoming, I can imagine that if I visit again in summer, while it would be more crowded you would still enjoy yourself, and it would be pleasant to enjoy a picnic overlooking the sea.

      We spent about 2 and a half hours there in total, including getting a cup of tea in the cafe before going into the castle proper. We took advantage of the walk back down to the car park, to take some more photos of the castle, although by then we were pretty wet.

      **Anything else?**
      The castle has pretty good disabled access, including a separate cafe room, as the cafe entrance is upstairs. By it's nature parts of the castle are not wheelchair accessible, but a surprising amount is, and again this shows how much thought has been put into it, including tarmac paths which while steep provide a good surface.

      The castle is also available for weddings, and wedding receptions, and if I wasn't already happily married I'd be tempted as it would be a great location :)

      The castle is open everyday until the 2nd of November, 10 am until 5pm

      For more information there website is http://www.bamburghcastle.com/index.php


      *Bamburgh castle website

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      • More +
        23.09.2011 08:33
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        A really fantastic castle and a great excursion for all the family.

        We have had several holidays in Northumberland, having fallen in love with the county the first time we visted and Bamburgh is our favourite place of all, manily thanks to this wonderful castle.

        The castle sits atop a huge basalt outcrop overlooking the North Sea and is one of the oldest castles in the UK which is still inhabited. There has been a castle on the site since about 547ad, though that was destroyed and then rebuilt by the Normans,. The only Norman remnant that you can see today is that of the 11c keep. The castle fell into disrepair for hundreds of years, but was restored in the 17th and 18th centuries and later bought by Lord William Armstrong, an industrialist. The castle remains in the Armstrong family to this day.

        If you visit Northumberland then this castle must be top of your list of places to visit. Just standing back to look at it looming up from the beach is fantastic (a great backdrop for a picnic!) but you really must go and have a look round inside too.

        If you want to drive right up to the gates, there is a car-park at the top of the very steep road, though this does get full fairly early in the day. Also, the road up to it is very steep and narrow and personally I did not want to drive it, so we opted to park in the car-park at the bottom of the hill on the other side of the road to the castle. Car-parking fees apply here.

        The walk up the hill is hard work, and disabled people will need to park at the castle's own car-park if they want to visit. Staff at the castle are really helpful and facilities are good.

        Entrance fees are pretty reasonable:
        Adult - £8.50
        Child - £4
        Senior - £7.50
        Family - £21

        School and group visits are catered for.

        You enter the castle through a small turnstile and come straight into the area just inside the walls. There are ramparts to climb up and the view from these is breathtaking. On a clear day, the Farne Islands look wonderful and you can also see right across to Lindisfarne and the castle there. There are several buildings outside the main castle such as the stables, the clock tower, one building houses the Armstrong and Aviation museum and there is also the original Norman keep.

        There is an ongoing archaeological excavation in one area of the grounds, which has turned up many artifacts over the years. Very interesting to watch as the archaelologists work.

        Inside the castle it is just wonderful! You are able to wander round the public areas, though obviously some areas are roped off to protect the furniture and other exhibits. There are some wonderful works of art on the walls too. The Kings Hall has some fantastic portraits and at least one Turner on show!

        As you are guided through the castle, guides are in each area and are happy to answer any questions that you may have and are extremely helpful. You are able to see the Victorian Kitchen, and also go down to the dungeons, which is quite creepy and somewhat claustrophobic!

        At the end of the tour you come to a fabulous little gift shop that sells everything from books and DVDs to jams and chutneys, toys and games. There is something for everyone!

        Once you have walked your feet off you can visit the castle café, where they serve an excellent array of fresh cakes, scones and beverages. Again, staff here are very friendly and give good service.

        A visit to this castle will take a good couple of hours, but it really is worth the entrance fee. We have been back several times now and it never fails to please.

        For me, it is the best castle in the UK, so I would recommend a visit if you are up that way!

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        05.04.2010 14:57
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        An excellent place to visit

        Bamburgh Castle is located in Bamburgh, Northumberland approx 1 hours drive from Newcastle. The Bamburgh castle as seen today was built in the late Victorian time by Industrialist Lord Armstrong and has been the family seat ever since. Armstrong is also known for building Cragside House and Gardens, also in Northumberland.

        It's very easy to get to, I come from Durham and from here it is a simple ride up the motorway until you get to Seahouses and it's approx 4-5 miles from there. If you feel so inclined, leave the car at Seahouses and walk along the beach to Bamburgh. It will take about an hour, but the beach here is lovely and it's a really nice walk.

        If you drive to the castle, you can park just outside for a charge of £1 which is pretty reasonable I thought and there's a very short walk up the hill to the castle. The only problem here is that the car park is very small. I there's a few people visiting and the car park is full, there's pretty limited parking in Bamburgh itself.

        The outside of the castle is really interesting. During the summer months they have archaeologists working, when we went there was an opportunity to have a go at a dig yourself! Everything is kept really neat and tidy and it was really peaceful just having a look around. The views from here are spectacular, on a good day you can see The Farne Islands and there's often boats going past.

        The inside of the castle is a little boring. There's a fair amount to see, but nothing really jumped out to me. In total there's 14 rooms to look through and 2000 different artefacts to see including armour, artwork and furniture.

        For those more interested in their stomach than culture there is also a tearoom within the castle walls. I gave it a miss so can't comment on the food, prices etc.

        The castle is open from the 1st March till the 1st November and the opening times are 10am - 4pm. Remember a family lives here so it must be nice for them to see the back of all the visitors!

        The prices aren't exactly cheap - £8 for adults, £7 for seniors and £4 for children. A family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) is priced at £20 making it a bit more reasonable.

        I do like Bamburgh Castle, mostly for the peace and tranquility it exudes and I will be visiting again!

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          16.08.2009 19:42
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          One of my favourite places to visit.

          Standing majestically up here on the North East coast is Bamburgh Castle.

          To anyone visiting Northumberland's beautiful coastline, Bamburgh Castle is a beautiful site, and there surely are few castles that can claim a more dramatic setting.
          It sits on an outcrop of rocks overlooking the long sandy beach, and is a place I have visited many times over the years, as I love the remoteness of the coast here, and I also love to visit castles and cathedrals.
          I can vividly recall one of my earliest visits, sitting on the huge canons here, and having my photograph taken with my Mum and Dad when I was around 5 years old.

          ~~~~~~
          HISTORY
          ~~~~~~

          There is evidence to believe that this fortress goes back to the Iron age, but the present castle began as a Saxon stronghold, and was later developed by the Normans and became one of the most powerful castles of the North Country.
          During the Saxon period it acquired fame for being the resting place of the head and right hand of St Oswald!
          Not much remains of the original Norman castle developed by the Earl of Northumberland in the 11th century, other than a portion of the mighty keep.

          In 1095, the Earl of Northumberland fell out with William II, and Bamburgh was laid siege by the king, but this was unsuccessful. The Earl of Northumberland was eventually captured fleeing to Tynemouth and his wife surrendered the castle.
          The castle remained a 'royal' castle for much of its life, however on one occasion it was taken by Scotland, but then regained by Henry II, who it is said completed the great keep, and the castle's three baileys.

          During the War of The Roses, the castle was held by the Lancastrians, then in 1464 it was battered by canons after being captured by the Earl of Warwick, and it remined in ruins for over two centuries.

          In the 18th century, Archdeacon Sharp restored the castle by investing his own money into it.
          The castle saw further restoration throughout the Victorian era, followed by more work in the early 1900's, by Lord Armstrong.
          Lord Armstrong is a Newcastle-born inventor, and maker of the renowned Armstrong gun, and bears most of the responsibilty for creating this awesome sight today that is Bamburgh Castle.

          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
          VISITING BAMBURGH CASTLE
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          Visitors to the castle are able to view a number of the castle's rooms, by taking the public tour.
          Walking around the castle both inside and outside, with its breathtaking views over the beautiful coastline and nearby Farne Islands, is a great experience.
          Inside, I particularly like the King's Hall with its medieval character, wood carvings and vaulted ceilings.
          Also included in the tour is the Cross Hall, the Bakehouse, the Scullery, the Armoury and the Dungeon, as well as reception rooms. There are displays of armour, tapestries, arms and furniture throughout.
          Whilst I was on the tour guides were very helpful and happy to answer any questions.
          In what was once the Laundry room, is now a museum dedicated to the life and work of Lord Armstrong.

          Walking around the outside of the castle along its mighty 150ft curtain wall and battlements always takes me back to my visits when I was younger. I have always loved visiting Bamburgh Castle, and although the inside is very interesting, the outside of the castle is my favourite part, and it also looks lovely when floodlit at night. I love views and scenery!
          Walking along the beach below and looking up to this imposing structure is an awesome site. Don't forget your camera!

          If you are lucky enough to visit on a warm summer day, then you may also wish to spend some time on the beach here. The Northumberland coast has beautiful beaches, with long stretches of golden sand, as it is here at Bamburgh.

          A cafe and gift shop are also located inside the castle.

          The castle is open daily from 1st March - 1st November from 10am - 5am.
          Admission prices are Adults £7.50, Children (5-15yrs) £3.50 and Senior Citizens £6.50.
          Group rates are available, contact 01668 214515 for details.

          ~~~~~~~~~~
          GETTING THERE
          ~~~~~~~~~~

          Bamburgh Castle is easily reached from the A1 in Northumberland, and is clearly signposted. You turn off the A1 at the B1342, where it is signposted and the castle is 4 miles down the road.
          The postcode for sat nav is NE69 7DF.

          Also nearby in the area is Holy Island, home to Lindisfarne Castle and Priory which is reached via a causeway at low tide.
          I would throughly recommend a visit here too.

          Bamburgh Castle remains one of my favourite places to visit, and I have never seen another castle in a dramatic setting as beautiful as this.

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            27.08.2000 02:50
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            A castle in Northumberland

            Bamburgh castle dominates both the village of Bamburgh and the coast. Built in the 12th century it has been used in a number of historical films most recently "Elizabeth". Now owned by Lady Armstrong, the castle is opened to the public from Easter until October. From the castle grounds the views are incredible - you can see the two neighbouring castles of Lindisfarne and Dunstanburgh.


            Bamburgh itself is a very pleasant village but can be extremely busy in the summer months. Grace Darling is buried in the churchyard and as well as a visit to her grave there is a museum dedicated to her. The museum is free of charge and is well worth seeing.


            Bamburgh has in my opinion one of the finest beaches in the country, long and sandy and yet still remains one of England's best kept secrets. You can walk the full circle around the castle on the beach.

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