Saturday, 10 August 2019

I have been to... Bamburgh

We recently returned from a trip to Northumberland, where we stayed in Bamburgh, ancient seat of the Northumbrian kings and as fans of The Last Kingdom will also know, the stolen hereditary home of Uhtred son of Uthred, Lord of Bebbanberg (as Bamburgh was once known).

It is a fairly historical part of the UK, with Lindisfarne visible on the horizon and Dunstanburgh Castle to the south, and the Church of St Aiden in the village itself.

While we spent a lot of time swimming in the sea and eating, there were also a few points of historical interest.

Bamburgh Castle looking imposing. The site has been occupied since the Dark Ages and there was a dig on while we were there. It was owned and extensively renovated by Lord Armstrong before the National Trust took it over.

The batteries featured a range of artillery, this is an eighteenth century 18pdr.

A carronade.

And a lovely mortar, date 1770.

The great hall, originally medieval.

A rather nice suit of sixteenth century armour.

The armoury was well stocked, a stand of muskets.

Blunderbuss with spring loaded bayonet.

Adams revolver.

Some really nice Anglo-Saxon relics. The tiny bits of gold include the often reproduced image of the Beast of Babbenburgh. The sword looks a bit wrecked, but is the only surviving example of an Anglo Saxon sword made from six interleaved iron rods with steel edging. Supposedly a kings blade (but Uhtreds sword Dragonbreath is made the same way!).

Well, it had to be done. The castle was also interspersed with the Anglo-Saxon legend of the Laidley Wyrme, a fire breathing dragon, laid to rest by Childewynd. He is still commemorated today in the nearby Wynding Road.

My attractive assistant models King Oswalds throne. A reproduction based on fragments, it also has a dragon motif.

Both attractive assistants are in the stocks!

The Norman Keep.

There was a repro Anglo-Saxon encampment inside the curtain wall.

We also took a trip to the Farne Islands. Breeding season for puffins, kittywakes, guillemots and shags. 

Puffin burrows, various teenage pufflings were in evidence.

Dunstaburgh Castle. One in the eye for Edward II from the Earl of Lancaster. The earl was executed for his trouble and the castle passed to John of Gaunt.

The main keep.

View across the marshes under the cliffs.

Inside the keep.

Near to Dunstanburgh is the village of Craster, famous worldwide for its smoked herrings. The smokehouse was in full flow, and some packets of herrings duly purchased. In their UK Food Standards Agency mandated packaging, naturally.

Craster is also famous for its seafood in general. Mmmmm.

A local heroine is Grace Darling, who was born and died in Bamburgh. There is a really well done done museum in the village covering her life and her famous rescue.

Here is the very boat she used to rescue the survivors from the 'unsinkable' Forfarshire.

And her grave in St Aidens churchyard.

St Aidens was first founded in the 600s, and was originally made of wood. The stone building now on the site dates from the 1400s and is largely unchanged from then, and there is some surviving Norman stonework.

This beam has been dated to 637, and is the last surviving part of the original church. Supposedly St Aiden was leaning against it when he died, and it was built into the roof to stop pilgrims shaving bits off it!

Cragside, one of the (many) homes of Lord Armstrong. Famous, and vastly wealthy, for the Armstrong rifled cannon. This was a stunning Arts and Crafts house set in amazing grounds.

The estate was dotted with examples of mid Victorian engineering, this is one of the many water powered engines. Te house was one of the first in the country to have electric light, power from one (later two) hydro-electric power stations.

Kiplings Kharkee Gentleman. Handwritten and signed by the author.

The magnificent kitchen range featured water powered rotating spits.

The inevitable long gallery, painted Farrow and Ball Picture Gallery Red.

I rather liked this, which I thought was a Turner It wasn't.

We also took a trip to Lindisfarne. The Tudor fort dominates the landscape.

A bit of a scramble up, but not as high as Bamburgh.

A depiction of the Spanish Armada being seen off by the plucky English.

After the fort fell into disuse, it was taken over by a number of well heeled individuals and converted into a holiday home. Like Cragside, it was plastered with beautiful Arts and Crafts features.

One of the gun platforms. Not quite Vauban, but the walls are already low and thick.

The remains of the priory.

Looking back to the mainland. The marked footway is invisible but the road causeway is off to the right. In the foreground is St Cuthberts Island, where he lived as a hermit for some years. He died in 687 and was buried nearby but after repeated Viking raids his remains were later moved inland and reputedly formed the site of Durham Cathedral.


  1. Great to be reminded of home, many thanks. That's a good phot of Cragside!

  2. Great pictures of your trip, Martin!

  3. Enjoyed, thanks, it's on my list.

  4. Great Post! Thanks for sharing your trip.

  5. Thanks everyone, I really enjoyed it. And for fans of the TV series 'Vikings' Lindisfarne was of course home to Aethelstan, Ragnar Lothbrooks mentor and gods holy vessel in the birth of Aelfred the Great:)