Dunstanburgh Castle

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Dunstanburgh is one of the most dramatic castles in Northumberland built on a jagged outcrop of the whin sill above the North Sea. It regularly features in the tourist literature. This was on my list of things to do on a January visit to Northumberland, but after all the heavy snow earlier in the week, I’d assumed we wouldn’t get there. Fortunately snow melts quickly along the coast so we were in luck.

There is no road access and you have to walk. Most people walk the 2km from Craster, although it is also possible to walk from Embledon or Low Newton. Parking is in the public car park on the edge of Craster village. Public toilets are here too and there are signs warning you there are no toilets at the castle and the walk is exposed with little cover apart from a few gorse bushes…

The coast is low and flat along here with a flat bare rock shore. It is a superb walk along grass above the shore. There was a lot of surface water after the snow and everywhere was very squelchy and gateways were muddy.

Walking from the south, there is a splendid view of the stark ruins silhouetted against the skyline to encourage us on. It is one of the largest castles in Northumberland with a massive gateway, very log curtain wall and the tall narrow remains of the Lilburn tower. It is believed to have been an iron age settlement and a later Roman stronghold. The present building is 14thC and was a stronghold of John of Gaunt. It is easy to imagine him here reciting the “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,” speech from Shakespeare.

The curtain wall drops down to the shore and runs along it to the north. The massive gateway has two large defensive towers of red sandstone which has been weathered into fantastic shapes on the sides.

The castle is only open at weekends during the winter months, although it is possible to climb over the locked gate and gain entry. We didn’t as from previous visit we knew the inside is a large grassy expanse and this is one of those places which is best seen from the outside.

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