Visitors come to Northumberland for its ancient castles but centuries ago many of them were fortifications against the Viking raids of the 9th century.
During the Anglo Saxon and early medieval period Bamburgh was the ancient capital of Northumberland and over the centuries it has had its share of conflict. In 1464, during the War of the Roses, the castle was reduced to ruins and it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries that it was restored. Even today, after all the upheavals over the years, and the restorations it has undergone, Bamburgh Castle still looks like a fortress. It sits on a massive rock 150 feet above the beach and is very impressive
Christianity Comes to Bamburgh
Together with the nearby island of Lindisfarne (also known as Holy Island), Bamburgh was an important centre from which Christianity spread. This was brought about by the arrival of St.Aiden who came to Bamburgh from the monastery of Iona (Ireland) in 635. He was sent by King Oswald,who asked for a monk to preach the Christian faith in Northumbria. The first thing Aidan did was build a wooden church close to the spot where today’s St. Aidan’s Church sits.
From this spot, Christianity spread throughout Northern England and a medieval village developed around the foot of the Castle.
Bamburgh Castle Today
The Bamburgh Castle we see today is a relatively recent structure, built by the industrialist, the first Lord Armstrong, at vast cost in the late 1890s. His restoration saved it from ruin and the castle provides an ancestral home to the Armstrong family to this day.
The early structure of the castle vanished a long time ago and what remains is a great Norman keep (dating to c.1120). Apart from the keep itself, the only significant medieval rooms are the kitchens and cellars. Today, Bamburgh is one of the most spectacular of England’s coastal castles.
Things to Do in Bamburgh
Farne Islands. Boat trips are available from nearby Seahouses. The islands are only two miles off the coast and they are a bird-watcher’s paradise – the breeding home to tens of thousands of seabirds: puffins, thousands of kittiwake, arctic tern, eider duck and guillemot, hundreds of razorbill. In the waters surrounding the Farne Islands are an estimated 2,000 Atlantic Grey Seal.
Visit St. Aidan’s Church. The church was built in the 13th century and is considered one of the finest parish churches in Northumberland. Its origins date back much further to 635 AD when St. Aidan came to Lindisfarne from Iona in Ireland to convert the heathen English to Christianity.
Holy Island – Lindisfarne was invaded by the Vikings and introduced to the word of God by St. Aiden – it is a place with an ancient history and great spirituality.
The Grace Darling Museum. Local heroine Grace Darling is famous for her daring rescue of shipwrecked sailors near the Farne Islands during a terrible storm in1838. She is buried in St. Aidan’s and a memorial stands in the churchyard, situated so it can be seen by passing ships. There is also a memorial in the church.
Bamburgh is a good place to use as a base from which to explore the area. It is set in one of the most picturesque coastal regions in England. A variety of B&B accommodations are available.
Holy Island is 17 miles from Bamburgh; Berwick-upon-Tweed is 21 miles.