Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Bamburgh Castle from Seahouses

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Route: North Sunderland, Coast Path, North Cottage, Saddlershall, Fowberry, Ingram Burn, Redbarns, Bamburgh, Bamburgh Castle, Islestone, Greenhill Rocks, Monks House Rocks, St. Aidan's Dunes, North Sunderland

Date: 24/06/2015
From: North Sunderland

Parking: Roadside in North Sunderland
Start Point: North Sunderland
Region: Northumberland

Route length: 7.9 miles (12.7 km)
Time taken: 03:06
Average speed: 2.5 mph
Ascent: 185m
Descent: 183m

Points of interest: Northumberland Coastal Path, Bamburgh Castle, Monks House

We spent a week staying in Seahouses, a small fishing village in Northumberland, most famous for its daily trips to the Farne Islands, a wildlife refuge owned by the National Trust known for its profusion of nesting seabirds. I'll add some photos of those later.

As a border county Northumberland has more castles than any other part of England. While some of these are ruins, many still stand as very impressive monuments to the Border past and one of these is Bamburgh Castle, one of the largest inhabited castles in the country and only a short three mile walk from the cottage we were staying in. The perfect excuse for a summer stroll.

Running through the village is the Northumberland Coast Path, a 64 mile long distance walk from Druridge Bay in the south to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north. We would follow it between Seahouses and Bamburgh, crossing through green open fields that characterise the County. St. Oswald's Way also uses the same stretch of the coastal path.
The Coast Path is well signposted
The path cuts across a number of fields

Oswald, a 7th Century king of Northumberland, is credited with spreading Christianity through the region and was once the most powerful ruler in Britain until his death at the Battle of Maserfield. The 97 miles route of St. Oswald's Way recalls the life and importance of the king who travelled extensively through this countryside.

We passed the back of Shoreston Hall, before following a hedge-lined lane around the fields to a farm called Fowberry. The view of Bamburgh Castle opened up ahead of us, it sitting on a commanding rock outcrop. Here, the coastal route heads back across fields until it eventually reaches the village of Bamburgh and Bamburgh Castle itself. Here's a potted history.
Shoreston Hall
The walled lane from Shoreston Hall
St. Oswald's Way is waymarked along with the Coast Path
Bamburgh Castle appears on the horizon
A mono shot of a line of trees
The Farne Islands
Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle is built on an outcrop of dolerite, and dates back as far as 420AD when it acted as a fortress of the native Britons known as Din Guarie though this original fort was destroyed by the Vikings in 993AD. The Normans built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one. After 1095 the castle became the property of the monarchy and many of the features we can see today were constructed, including the keep. The Forster family of Northumberland provided the Crown with twelve successive governors of the castle for some 400 years until the Crown granted ownership to Sir John Forster. The family retained ownership until Sir William Forster was posthumously declared bankrupt, and his estates, including the castle, were sold to Lord Crew, Bishop of Durham under an Act of Parliament. The castle deteriorated but was restored by various owners during the 18th and 19th centuries before it was finally bought by the Victorian industrialist William Armstrong, who completed the restoration. The castle still belongs to the Armstrong family and is today open to the public.
The entrance gate
Battery Terrace
Battery Terrace
The Keep
The Inner Ward
We spent a couple of hours having a wander through the buildings and around the grounds of the grand castle until we felt the need to stop off for a cake and a coffee at a nearby café. Satisfied, we made our way back towards the castle and on to the wide expanse of sandy beach that would act as our motorway back to Seahouses.
The dunes at Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle
With the tide being well out, we were able to walk the entire way to Seahouses on the beach, passing over Greenhill Rocks and Monks House Rocks on the way. Monks House Rocks gets its name from the nearby Monks House, a bird observatory that was owned by naturalist Eric Ennion and his wife during the 1950s when bird migration was at the forefront of ornithological study. What better place to study than opposite the Farne Islands?
Bamburgh Castle dominates the beach
The beach at Bamburgh
The beach at Bamburgh
Greenhill Rocks
Greenhill Rocks
Monks House
The Farne Islands
I did promise some pictures of birds earlier so here are a handful of the best ones from our trip a few days earlier.
Puffin
Arctic Tern
Grey Seal
Guillemots
Puffin at sea
Puffin
Puffin
The threat of invasion hangs over the Northumberland coast and is not only evident by the number of castles and fortifications but also the lonely 1940s pillboxes that line the beaches, forming the General Headquarters Line around the UK - the last line of defence against a German invasion. It was hoped that troops in pillboxes could hold off the invaders long enough for other mobile troops to arrive and counterattack. Luckily, this was never tested but some of the pillboxes remain to serve as a reminder to this dark period in our history.
Monks House Rocks
A pillbox defends the beach
We rounded off the walk with a short walk back through the fields and between the caravan parks that separate Seahouses from the smaller North Sunderland. This was a walk with a totally different character than one's I've been used to of late and good practice for an upcoming charity walk across Morecambe Bay. Northumberland is a place I'd highly recommend visiting.
A path links Seahouses and North Sunderland