TRAVEL NORTH - 35: Bamburgh Round Trip - From the Castle to Holy Island, and Grace Darling
Bamburgh, the castle and settlement (Baebbanburh, named after a 6th Century king's bride)
Explore Northumberland's coast, in places wild, mostly rocky with acres of sandy beach between Whitley Bay and Berwick. Wide vistas easily reached from the road make parts accessible to the less physically mobile.
By rail: via Berwick-on-Tweed or Alnmouth (between Newcastle-on-Tyne and Edinburgh)
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.
Visit Northumberland, www.visitnorthumberland.com
North-East England, www.northeastengland.com
Farne Islands and Lindisfarne History
A concise guide to the area of the Farne islands that includes Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles, 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
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..