Today we took a trip out to Dunstanburgh Castle, a 14th century castle on the Northumberland coast between Craster and Embleton. Dunstanburgh Castle is about 1 1/2 miles along the coast from the nearby village of Dunstanburgh.
Built between 1313 and 1322 by Earl Thomas of Lancaster, Dunstanburgh Castle was a statement of the earls wealth and power. Built on the site of a former Iron Age fort it had natural defensive qualities due to its location right on the coast.
It’s a strangely located castle situated separate from the village and not close to any major towns. Earl Thomas was the leader of the barons opposed to King Edward II, so due to the uncertainty of his position designed the castle as a stronghold. It also showed off his wealth and power by being as grand as the nearby royal castle of Bamburgh. Thomas didn’t get to enjoy his new castle because after the Battle of Boroughbridge as he tried to escape from the royalist forces he was captured. After Thomas was executed the castle was forfeited to the crown before being gifted to the Duchy of Lancaster.
John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, expanded the defences due to the Scottish and peasant uprisings of 1381.
Dunstanburgh castle was used as a strategic northern base during the Wars of the Roses. The castle changed hands between the Lancastrian and Yorkist armies several times.
After the sieges during the War of the Roses the castle was fairly extensively damaged so in 1604, King James I sold it off privately to the Grey family.
The castle slowly decayed over the centuries until Sir Arthur Sutherland gave it to the state in 1930.
During WWII the castle was used as an observation post so the surrounding grounds were reinforced with trenches, barbed wire, machine gun posts and a mine field.
These days the ruined castle is owned by the National Trust and run by English Heritage. It’s quite a popular spot with walkers and day trippers. As Dunstanburgh Castle is a ruin there are no toilets or facilities on site. Nearby Dunstanburgh however, has a few lovely spots to eat with views over the coast. The ride out to Dunstanburgh Castle takes in lots of little villages and some beautiful farming country. It’s definitely worth a stop on a Sunday drive.
Dunstanburgh Castle is an easy 1 mile walk along the coast from the car park. Entry is £4.70 (free for both National Trust and English Heritage members) more information is available here.