Bamburgh’s famous medieval castle spectacularly rising from the dunes is undoubtedly one of England’s finest coastal fortresses.Gemma Hall, author of Slow Travel Northumberland
One of the most bewitching coastal views in Northumberland bursts upon the traveller on reaching the brow of the B1340 between Waren Mill and Bamburgh. From here, Bamburgh’s famous medieval castle comes into sight, spectacularly rising from the dunes – all rock, turrets and battlements.
It is undoubtedly one of England’s finest coastal fortresses and this is one of the most unspoilt and dramatic coastal panoramas, with the Farne Islands to the south, Lindisfarne Castle silhouetted on its rocky perch to the north, and the wide, creamy sands of Bamburgh’s three-mile beach below. The view is most expansive from the castle’s Battery Terrace.
What to see and do in Bamburgh
Many writers and architectural historians have declared Bamburgh the most wondrous of all England’s coastal castles. You may well agree when you see its stonking curtain walls and keep crowning a fist of dolerite rock thrust 150 feet from sea level through dunes. Bamburgh is certainly the stuff of fairytales.
Its enviable situation proved a valuable vantage point for settlers from ancient times and almost certainly the Romans. From the Anglo- Saxon period to the present day, Vikings, kings, earls and dukes have seized, pounded and abandoned the castle in various states of ruin. Some of Bamburgh’s Anglo-Saxon treasures are displayed inside the Archaeology Room, and include part of a stone throne.
My 19th-century travel guide describes Bamburgh as ‘clean and cheerful’ and a ‘model village’. Nothing has changed in that respect. The centre is almost entirely made of stone and centred about a wooded green. Front Street has a pleasing run of 18th-century stone cottages, a number of which are now gift shops, eateries and B&Bs.
Keep heading uphill and you’ll reach Bamburgh Gallery, the sister studio to the Chatton Gallery near Wooler. Most prints and original pastel landscapes (largely depicting the coastal scenery between Bamburgh and Lindisfarne) are by well-regarded artist, Robert Turnbull, and prices are reasonable.
Those wanting to escape the throb of tourists in the village centre may like to walk (or cycle) along The Wynding – a quiet paved lane (opposite the Lord Crewe Hotel) north out of the village to a golf course. Walkers can continue beyond the green to Budle Point and drop down on to the sandy shore. A beach towel comes in handy here.
Instead of retracing your steps to Bamburgh, you can make a circular loop via the bird-rich flats of Budle Bay. From Budle Point, continue west on the coast path before striking off inland to meet the B1342 for the final mile back to Bamburgh (on a grass verge).
Grace Darling Museum
Facing the sea to the northwest of the village is this enchanting museum that perpetuates the memory of the Victorian heroine who helped save shipwrecked passengers off the Farne Islands one stormy night in 1838.
The collection of memorabilia in the small museum – including the lifesaving coble rowing boat and some of Grace’s clothes – is elegantly presented. You’ll learn about events on that fateful night, the life of the lighthouse keeper and his family and Grace’s rise to fame in the years following the rescue – an intriguing tale in itself.
On the top floor, children can dress up as RNLI crew and mess about in a model boat. As you walk up the stairs, note the atmospheric Carmichael oil depicting Grace and her father rowing across heaving waves to the sinking ship.