By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by Castle's UK©
The wind is brushing across the endless dunes, which today are covered in white snow. The sea is rough; waves battering the damp sand. Standing, as if an ancient Shepard watching his flock, is Bamburgh Castle – one of Britain’s most picturesque and breath-taking Castles.
The sky is grey, though as the morning swiftly turns to afternoon; the clouds lift revealing the deep blue winter sky and with it the sunlight bathing the Castle in a topaz glow. But amongst the encapsulating beauty of the place, it is cold. Freezing cold.
Wrapped in a thick coat, hat, scarf, gloves and all manner of garments to keep me warm, the beach is empty, except for a handful of dogwalkers and wind surfers. Out to sea are the Farne Islands as well as Holy Island, but they can’t distract me from the awesome majesty of Bamburgh Castle.
Dating back as far as 10,000BC, Bamburgh has seen its identity change through the years and has seen many owners come and go. First mentioned as the “most important place in all of England” in Anglo-Saxon times, the castle would eventually grow in size and importance throughout the medieval period. The Great Tower was constructed with the arrival of the Normans, as well as the War of the Roses with the siege of 1464.
The ruins which were left were given to the Foster family by James I who transformed the castle into a leading surgery and dispensary for the poor and sick. Finally the castle passed into the hands of the First Lord Armstrong, creating Bamburgh into a respite home. Sadly, he never saw it completed, and the castle has remained in the Armstrong family ever since.
Walking around Bamburgh, it’s long and meandering history feels consistently present. Through every room, hallway and gallery, the castle is touched with the footsteps of its previous owners, as well as its future ones.
As with every heritage home, they come with their fair share of mystery and intrigue and Bamburgh is no different. It is home to numerous ghosts and legends, the most infamous being the Pink Lady.
Said to be the ghost of a beautiful Northumbrian Princess who lived at the castle, she was left broken hearted after her father disapproved of the boy she loved. Sending him overseas for seven years, the King forbade any contact between the pair. With each passing day the Princess became more and more depressed, and in the hope of bringing her from his her stupor, the King told the Princess her love was betrothed to another. The King ordered the house seamstress to make his daughter a new dress in her favourite colour – pink. Upon her final fitting the desperate Princess climbed the stairway to the highest battlements and threw herself to her death on the rocks below.
It is claimed that the Princess’ spirit returns to the castle every seven years. She wanders the hallways and rooms before gliding to the beach where she stares forlornly out to sea, forever hoping her love will return to her.
Another is Dr John Sharp, a kindly and intelligent man who led the castle’s restoration in the 18th century. His ghost has been seen frequently by guests who recognise him from his portrait. Even the Armstrong family and staff have said to have watched his ghost “keep an eye on things” for such was his love of Bamburgh Castle, he never left it. With the winding corridors it is easy to see how these stories find life and they add an air of wonder to the castle. But Bamburgh isn’t all about fortifications and the ghosts that haunt them.
Just a thirty-minute drive away is Holy Island, a stunning piece of island joined to the mainland by a causeway which floods at high-tide. Similarly with Bamburgh, Holy Island is steeped in history, most notably the Lindisfarne Priory and Castle. The evocative ruins of the Priory was the birthplace of the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the world’s most precious books and remains a place of pilgrimage today.
Driving to the island is dependent on the tidal times which cut off access twice a day, so it is worth noting high and low tide times. But if you are lucky to make it across, driving across the shallowing waters as the Sun slowly begins to settle beneath the horizon is awe-inspiring.
And whilst the Priory and abundant wildlife compliment Holy Island, rising from the sheer rock face at the tip of the island is Lindisfarne Castle. Built in 1550 as a fort to defend the harbour against attack from Scots and Norsemen, the castle recently underwent extensive restoration work during 2017. Walking up to the towering Fort, watching the sky melt from blue to pinks and purples there is an air of calm and serenity. It is a peaceful place which strolls hand-in-hand with spellbinding beauty. A photographers dream!
Bamburgh is one of those places that stays with you. The history, mystery and magic create more than just a castle on the beach, it breathes life into location. From the regal interior, to the powerful and dominating fortifications, Bamburgh Castle has earned its name as ‘The King of Castles.