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Travel North - 35: Bamburgh Round Trip - From the Castle to Holy Island, and Grace Darling's Story

Updated on May 17, 2019

Bamburgh, the castle and settlement (Baebbanburh, named after a 6th Century Northumbrian king's Pictish bride)

Castle and dunes - the castle you see now dates back only to post-Norman times
Castle and dunes - the castle you see now dates back only to post-Norman times | Source
Bamburgh Castle from the village looking along the B1342
Bamburgh Castle from the village looking along the B1342 | Source
Cycle route by Bamburgh to Low Newton-by-the-Sea and back by Beadnell and Seahouses
Cycle route by Bamburgh to Low Newton-by-the-Sea and back by Beadnell and Seahouses | Source
Bamburgh village green in the spring - you can't get away from the castle here
Bamburgh village green in the spring - you can't get away from the castle here | Source

A nice, easy family stroll that even Grandma and Grandad would enjoy tagging along on.

A few facts to get you started. Remember in the Hadrian's Wall Walk (TRAVEL NORTH - 34) I mentioned something about the Great Whin Sill that extends south to the Tees past the wall? Right, well this is at the northeastern corner of that same geological sill. Bamburgh Castle rests on a 180 foot high (55m) dolerite crag, an outcrop of the sill that extends further, to Lindisfarne - just a mile or so away to the east offshore.

The wood-built Anglian royal fortress that stood here was demolished by the Normans and replaced by a stone-built castle in the 12th Century. Following some 'restructuring' during the Wars of the Roses, the castle's strategic importance waned.(It wasn't even on the Scots' 'regular invasion route') Part restoration by its then owner Lord Crewe gave the castle a 'face-lift' in the mid-18th Century. Further work in the late 19th Century by Lord Armstrong gave the buildings their more familiar profile. His descendants still occupy the castle.

Your walk - about four miles (6.5km) is basically an energetic stroll that starts at the castle car park after crossing the road. Beyond are several footpaths that take you through the dunes to the beach. These dunes are classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). On gaining the beach you catch sight of the Farne Islands to the east. Walk northward along the sandy beach and pass the black dolerite rocks on your way towards the lighthouse. Beneath this structure the rocks are undercut by a softer bed of carboniferous limestone (in which can be seen fossilised crinoids).

You have now been on your way for about a mile. Carry on along the path that follows the lower edges of the dunes that overlook the extent of the rocks. Oystercatchers and plovers might be seen foraging here in the rockpools. There is the outside chance of of spotting the odd Eider duck riding the waves at the tidal reach. Where you close on Budle Point follow a handy path through the dunes to a bridleway that skirts the golf course. The bridleway follows round to the south-west and affords a view of Budle Bay. Lindisfarne sticks up on the northern horizon against the grey-blue expanse of sea. Budle Bay at low tide is a broad vista of sand and mud flats on which curlew, godwit, redshank, ringed plover and other waders can be seen, looking like animated dots.

By a marker board - two miles in on your walk - the track bends to the left, through shrubs and on past a WWII gun position. Past this is the northern flank of a caravan park. Pass this and take the road west of Heather Cottages and back to the golf course. Cross the golf course - listening out for anyone yelling 'Fore!' - and follow the line of blue marker posts between gorse thickets. Look back at Budle Bay from here and soak in the view. In springtime your right of way takes you through a knot of bluebells, gorse and hawthorn blossom. Take the gateway, pass along on the footpath on the eastern side of the field and climb a set of steps up to the B1342.

At your third mile take the track along the grass verge. Sometimes this road gets busy and over seven hundred yards or so (200m) further on it widens. After about another seven hundred yards the path is surfaced. This leads back through the town of Bamburgh, past the remains of a friary on your right after a range of buildings known as The Friars. At the edge of town also is the churchyard of St Aidan's, where you can see the tomb of Grace Darling, heroine of 1838 who helped her father rescue shipwrecked mariners off rocks at the edge of the Farne Islands.

There is also a museum to the north side of the B1342 next to the church. Keep on through town back to the castle and car park.

All you need consider is what footwear you need to pass through the loose sand of the dunes. The rest is grassy paths and a short stretch of rough grass.

Getting there by car follow the A1 from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Eleven miles north of Alnwick (pronounced: 'Annick') turn right onto the B1341. From Berwick-on-Tweed (pron. 'Berrick') take the A1 and left onto the B1342 around a mile south of Belford. Both roads take you into Bamburgh. The walk starts at the car park below the castle.

By public transport: regular buses run from Newcastle, Alnwick and Berwick.

Ordnance Survey Map Landranger Map 75, Grid reference NU 182 349.

For refreshments you might like to visit the Lord Crewe Hotel, Front Street, Bamburgh NE69 7BL, ph 01668 214243, www.lordcrewe.co.uk.

Tourist information:

Bamburgh, www.bamburgh.org.uk

Visit Northumberland, www.visitnorthumberland.com

North-East England, www.northeastengland.com


Bamburgh Castle and mainland environs

afternoon view of Bamburgh Castle from the air
afternoon view of Bamburgh Castle from the air | Source
Gareth Evans shot of Bamburgh Castle from seaward across the rocks
Gareth Evans shot of Bamburgh Castle from seaward across the rocks | Source
 Map of the historic county of Northumberland, once part the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia with County Durham before joining with Deira (Yorkshire) in the 7th Century
Map of the historic county of Northumberland, once part the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia with County Durham before joining with Deira (Yorkshire) in the 7th Century | Source
Evening on the first tee at Bamburgh Castle Golf Course, overlooking the North Sea
Evening on the first tee at Bamburgh Castle Golf Course, overlooking the North Sea | Source
Kiln Point, Budle Bay, just north of Bamburgh -  source of lime for agriculture
Kiln Point, Budle Bay, just north of Bamburgh - source of lime for agriculture | Source
Lime kiln, Kiln Point on Budle Bay
Lime kiln, Kiln Point on Budle Bay | Source
One of several military bunkers of different shapes and sizes, scattered along the coast here near Bamburgh to avert possible German landings in WWII
One of several military bunkers of different shapes and sizes, scattered along the coast here near Bamburgh to avert possible German landings in WWII | Source

Featuring Budle Bay

Hunting curlew, Budle Bay
Hunting curlew, Budle Bay | Source
Bar-tailed godwits forage for small shellfish by the shore
Bar-tailed godwits forage for small shellfish by the shore | Source
Budle Point and Harkness Rocks facing seaward toward the Farne Islands
Budle Point and Harkness Rocks facing seaward toward the Farne Islands | Source
Budle Bay, marram grass blows in a gentle breeze from landward - this vegetation prevents the loss of land to strong sea currents by roots binding sand and soil
Budle Bay, marram grass blows in a gentle breeze from landward - this vegetation prevents the loss of land to strong sea currents by roots binding sand and soil | Source
See description below
See description below | Source

Catherine Sanderson and Steve Newman provide a concise guide to the area of the Farne islands that includes Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles as well as Seahouses. Look into the wildlife and history of Lindisfarne, its association with Saint Cuthbert and that raid in AD 793. In the 19th Century a new local figure emerged, Grace Darling rowed to save the passengers and crew from a shipwreck. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution was founded not long afterwards to rescue seamen and other boat users in distress

RNLI, volunteer life-savers on a potentially hostile North Sea coast with strong tidal currents

Newbiggin Lifeboat Station in early days
Newbiggin Lifeboat Station in early days | Source
Seahouses RNLI lifeboat launching into the North Sea - the coastal currents between the Forth and the Humber are notorious
Seahouses RNLI lifeboat launching into the North Sea - the coastal currents between the Forth and the Humber are notorious | Source
RNLI Lifeboat stations in the North East of England - Seahouses is probably closest to where Grace Darling lived
RNLI Lifeboat stations in the North East of England - Seahouses is probably closest to where Grace Darling lived | Source
Blyth lifeboat and lighthouse on a calmer day
Blyth lifeboat and lighthouse on a calmer day | Source
See description below
See description below | Source

Eva Hope relates the story of Grace Darling. Early on the stormy morning of 7th September, 1838 the twenty-three year old daughter of the lighthouse keeper William Darling saw from her room in the Longstone Lighthouse a number of crewmen stranded on one of the rocks. The SS Forfarshire had run aground on rocks close by Big Harcar, the one they clung to for dear life. With her father, Grace took their Northumberland coble (a large rowing boat used by inshore fishermen) and rowed through the storm to the rock several times to take off the surviving crew members. The Seahouses lifeboat from near South Shields took the rescued men from the lighthouse. Grace was a celebrity for a short time, but she died from TB on October 20th, 1842, aged 27.

Her story is linked directly with.the establishment of a national lifeboat service around the coast of Britain..

Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands and associations with Grace Darling

Grace Darling in one of many Victorian paintings, rowing with her father to rescue passengers and crew of the 'Forfarshire' in 1838. She died at the age of 27 from TB in 1842.
Grace Darling in one of many Victorian paintings, rowing with her father to rescue passengers and crew of the 'Forfarshire' in 1838. She died at the age of 27 from TB in 1842. | Source
Grace Darling birthplace plaque, Bamburgh
Grace Darling birthplace plaque, Bamburgh | Source
St Cuthbert - long association with Lindisfarne was only broken when the monks disinterred his remains and eventually reinterred them at Durham
St Cuthbert - long association with Lindisfarne was only broken when the monks disinterred his remains and eventually reinterred them at Durham | Source
Lindisfarne Castle, a much later edifice than the monastery originally founded by St Aidan in the days of King Oswald of Northumbria
Lindisfarne Castle, a much later edifice than the monastery originally founded by St Aidan in the days of King Oswald of Northumbria | Source
Something else Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands in general are famed for: puffins, a study from the files of the National Wildlife Trust
Something else Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands in general are famed for: puffins, a study from the files of the National Wildlife Trust | Source

© 2012 Alan R Lancaster

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    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello Dan, If you've got your own transport on a trip along the coast between, say, Hornsea and Bamburgh - all in these TRAVEL NORTH Hub-pages - or Berwick over a week you'd cover some fair contrasts. you have the long spit of land at Spurn Head, low cliffs to Scarborough where cliffs and 'wykes' (inlets or coves) lead along to Robin Hood's Bay, Whitby and Sandsend. Carry on along the coast road to Staithes, Port Mulgrave and Runswick Bay where high cliffs hide small fishing havens. On past Boulby village down to Skinningrove ('Shining Grove', once a place of worship for the Danes and other Norsemen along this coast), Old Saltburn, Redcar, Coatham and across Teesmouth to Seaton Carew and Hartlepool. The rocks where the French ship ran aground on the rocks, leaving the only survivor - a monkey dressed in pseudo-military 'uniform' - to face trial for espionage and hanging. Yes it's true! On towards Sunderland and Tynemouth, South Shields, North Shields, Blyth, Whitley Bay, Seaham, Alnmouth and Bamburgh. After that of course you've got Berwick upon Tweed that's changed hands over thirty times!

    • Dan Barfield profile image

      Dan Barfield 

      6 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Fabulous - this makes me long for the Northeast. It has been a long time since I last made the trip to Lindesfarne. My fiance is South African but by coincidence her family on both sides come from the Northeast of England a couple of generations back. She'd love this. :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Sorry alan, I missed your answer, no it was my mum in the waafs,but she was never posted there, nell

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello Nell, there's not much new about Bamburgh's village, but you're right there's the caravan site to the NW. Maybe you're psychic? Was it your aunt in the WAAF's? Was she ever posted here?

      Inland for the next one, to Kielder Water.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi alan, now this is the one that I would like to walk through. Its so fascinating, and I knew Grace darlings name but couldn't remember why. Brave girl, and such a shame she died so early on after her bravery. Heres a strange tale for you. For many years I dreamt that I lived in a small town near a castle overlooking the sea. I 'lived' there every night for years, I started off living in a caravan site! and then moved to the town, in this town there is an old part of the town and a more modern part, its so real and spooky. Looking at this made me look twice! spitting image of my dream! maybe I should come up and take that walk, maybe I won't need your map! great hub, now I want to get there! lol!

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Thanks Mariele. Have you visited any of the other TRAVEL NORTH destinations? There's another 34 to plough through; some are walks, some drives and there's a few 'heritage' train rides!

    • Mariele profile image

      Mariele 

      6 years ago

      Very interesting, great photos.

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