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Dunstanburgh Castle

Gatehouse, Dunstanburgh Castle (© Darren Turner | Dreamstime.com)

Introduction

Halfway between Alnwick and Bamburgh, the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle stand dramatically a rocky promontory by the sea. The shattered and crumbling walls and towers of the once mighty fortress exude a romantic aura, particularly at dawn and dusk.

History

Dunstanburgh Castle at sunrise (© Gail Johnson | Dreamstime.com)

Occupied since prehistoric times, Dunstanburgh was chosen for the erection of a fortress by the Earl Thomas of Lancaster, cousin of Edward II of England. Contruction started in 1313 and was complete for the greatest part in 1322. Fearing a Scottish invasion, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (1340-1399) reinfocred the fortifications and converted the great twin gatehouse into a keep. The Scots never attacked Dunstanburgh though.

The War of the Roses (1455-1485) rang the death knell for Dunstanburgh. Besieged twice by the Yorkists, the castle sustained considerable damage and was never repaired. By the middle of the 16th century it had decayed into ruins. Acquired by the state in 1929, the castle is now owned by the National Trust and is managed by the English Heritage.

The Castle

Dunstanburgh lies on a headland of igneous rock that is part of the Great Whin Sill, a geological formation stretching across Northumberland. Built on an area of 4.5 hectares (11 acres), the castle grounds are the largest in Northumberland - about twice as wide as the area comprised within Alnwick Castle's ramparts, and three time that of Bamburgh. The enceinte forms a sort of parallelogram with four sides of roughly 200 metres in length each.

The best preserved wall towers are the rectangular Constable and Egyncleugh towers on the southern side, and the Lilburn Tower, a turreted watchtower, on the high grounds of the northern rampart. Nothing remains of the castle itself, except half of the keep's twin-towered gatehouse.

Opening Hours & Admission

The castle is open daily from April to October, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (till 4:00 pm in October), and from Thursday to Monday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm the rest of the year. The last admission is 30 minutes before closing. Admission to the castle and grounds is 3.6 for adults, and 1.8 for children.


How to get there

Dunstanburgh Castle is located 2 km (1.5 mi.) north of the village of Craster, a pleasant 30min walk along the coast. Craster is itself 12 km (7.5 mi.) north-east of Alnwick and 65 km (40 mi.) north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

It is possible to reach Craster by bus from Newcastle, Alnwick or Bamburgh. Arriva North East operates the 501 bus service (hourly) from Newcastle, via Alnwick and Alnmouth Railway Station every day except Sunday. Trains to Almouth take 25 min from Newcastle (5.80). Travelsure buses #401 or #411 make 4 trips daily between Alnwick and Bamburgh via Craster, but do not call at Alnmouth Station. Buses take approximately 30-35 min from either Alnwick or Bamburgh.

               

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