Castle Quests

Among the most well known features of the Northumbrian landscape are the castles and fortifications. This post includes seven walks which will enable you to visit castles which are open to the public such as Bamburgh, explore 16th century fortifications at Berwick, or wander past picturesque ruins of follies such as Twizel Castle near the Scottish border.

Restored Castles & Fortifications

Bamburgh Castle: Bamburgh Castle to Budle Bay Circular. 5m. Easy.
Lindisfarne Castle: Holy Island Circular. 5m. Easy.
Berwick Ramparts: Berwick Walls Circular. 1.5m. Easy.

Ruined Castles

Dunstanburgh Castle: Craster, Dunstanburgh & Low Newton. 8m. Easy.
Dunstanburgh Castle: Craster, Dunstanburgh to Howick. 7m. Easy
Twizel Castle: Twizel Castle, Till and Tweed Circular. 2.5m. Leisurely.
Cartington Castle: Rothbury and Cartington Castle circular. 6.3m. Moderate

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Northumberland Castles: Clockwise L to R – Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh, Twizel, Berwick Ramparts. Centre – Lindisfarne

I have included descriptions and videos of each walk as well as route maps. Maps are courtesy of Ordnance Survey ©.

Restored Castles

  • Bamburgh Castle to Budle Bay Circular. 5m. Easy.
Budle : Bamburgh
Budle Bay to Bamburgh Castle Circular. Ordnance Survey ©

Bamburgh Castle is built on the location of a native British fort. It may have been the capital of the British kingdom of the region founded in about 420 until 547, the year of the first reference to the castle. Following a spell under the ownership of the British monarchy and it’s appointed governors, the castle deteriorated during the 18th and 19th centuries until it was finally bought by the Victorian industrialist William Armstrong. He completed the restoration of the castle which is still owned by the Armstrong family and is open to the public.

Bamburgh Castle

Budle Bay to Bamburgh Castle is a 5 mile circular walk starting at Budle and heading south down a quiet road and then cutting eastwards across country along the Northumberland Coast Path via the Shada plantation to reach the road into Bamburgh at Galliheugh Bank. From there you walk along the main street towards the castle before skirting to the left below the castle. This leads to a road which runs north west along the coast past Harkness rocks before turning south at Budle Point past the campsite at Heather cottages and along the sands of Lindisfarne Nature Reserve. At Kiln Point a small road turns inland back to the starting point at Budle. Cafes and shops are available in Bamburgh.

  • Lindisfarne Castle Circular. 5m. Easy.
Holy Island Map
Holy Island circular Circular. Ordnance Survey ©

Holy Island was an important centre of Celtic Christianity under Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne and St Cuthbert. After the Viking invasions and the Norman conquest, a priory and monastery were re-established there by Irish monk Saint Aidan by 634, who remained there until his death in 651. It is thought that the Lindisfarne Gospels were created here in the 8th century.

Lindisfarne Castle is a fort built on Holy Island in 1550, which was subsequently bought and much altered by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1901 with a garden created by Gertrude Jekyll. The castle is now  managed by the National Trust and is open to the public. Visitors to the island and the Castle should check the safe tide times before travelling.

Lindisfarne Castle
Lindisfarne Castle

The Lindisfarne Circular is a 5 mile walk around the island starting at Lindisfarne Priory before heading around the harbour towards Lutyens famous castle and then along the wagonway towards the North Shore. From there it turns westwards returning along a reasonable track towards a gate where you turn back past a farm towards the village. It is graded as easy. Parking available on the outskirts of the village, and there are cafes and pubs are available in the village. Walkers should beware of the pirri pirri bur which grows from July to September on the island. It attaches to fabric, blankets, fur and clothing and is very difficult to remove.

  • Berwick Ramparts Circular. 1.5m. Easy.
Berwick Map
Berwick upon Tweed Walls Route. Ordnance Survey ©

Berwick’s town walls or ramparts are fortifications built on the border between England and Scotland in the early 14th century under Edward I, following his capture of Berwick from the Scots. When complete they were two miles long, over three feet thick, and up to twenty two feet high, protected by a number of smaller towers. The walls were funded in 1313 by a tax on certain goods imported into the town, but by 1405 they had fallen into disrepair. In 1560 it was decided that it was impractical to upgrade the existing walls, and a new set of Italian style fortifications were constructed which destroyed much of the original medieval stonework. These walls were shorter in length, allowing more artillery emplacements, five large stone bastions and four gateways into the town. By the 18th century most of the remaining parts of the medieval walls were lost. Today the ramparts are protected as a scheduled monument and a grade I listed building.

Meg's Mount
Meg’s Mount on the Berwick Walls

This is a 1.5 mile easy circular walk around the Elizabethan walls which surround the town centre. Although not quite a castle, the fortifications are unique in Britain. It is possible to begin the walk at any point on the ramparts but most people join at the point where the raised path crosses Marygate, the main street of Berwick. From here the walk heads down hill towards the River Tweed and joins the pedestrian walkway by the Old Bridge.

During the short circuit, the ramparts pass many historic and listed buildings of Berwick including Berwick Barracks, the old arsenal, Holy Trinity Church, the Customs House and Palace Green pavilion, as well as many fine period houses. From the ramparts you also have fine views of the Bastions, the mouth of the Tweed, Berwick Pier, Tweedmouth and the major landmarks of the town such as the Guildhall. The walk is graded easy and is on good surfaces but there are sheer drops in places where children must be supervised. There are many cafes and pubs in the town centre alongside the usual facilities of a small town. If you want to add to your tally of castles, follow the riverside walk upstream from the old bridge for a half mile or so to see the ruins of Berwick castle and enjoy the River Tweed.

Ruined Castles

Dunstanburgh Castle.

Dunstanburgh Castle is a 14th-century fortification on the coast of Northumberland located between Craster and Embleton. The castle was built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster between 1313 and 1322, and expanded in the 1380s by John of Gaunt in response to the threat from Scotland and the peasant uprisings of 1381. By the 16th century it had fallen into a state of disrepair and was frequently painted by artists including Turner. In 1930 it was put into the guardianship of the state and is now owned by the National Trust and run by English Heritage. There are cafes and a pub available in Craster for both these walks.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Walk 1: Craster, Dunstanburgh & Low Newton Circular. 8m. Easy

Craster to LowNewton
Craster to Low Newton Circular. Ordnance Survey ©

The Craster and Low Newton circular route is an 8 mile easy coastal walk starting from the fishing village of Craster in Northumberland. It heads across country past the wartime radar station to the coastal path around the 14th century remains of Dunstanburgh castle.

Dunstanburgh Castle

From there the route heads north along Embleton beach to Low Newton by the Sea, a well preserved fishing village managed by the National Trust, before circling back to Craster via the nature reserve and bird hides.

Walk 2: Craster, Dunstanburgh and Howick Circular. 7m. Easy

Dunstanburgh and Howick
Craster, Dunstanburgh and Howick Circular. Ordnance Survey ©

The Dunstanburgh and Howick route is a circular walk heading southwards along the cliff path from Craster on the coast, as far as Stone house and then turning inland to reach the gates of Howick Hall & gardens which are open to the public. You then follow the track to the right which follows field edges before heading across the fields below Hips Heugh crags to Craster South Farm where the route crosses a road and heads across the fields and down to a gate into Craster car park.

Dunstanburgh ll
Dunstanburgh Castle

From there you turn right into Craster village. past the harbour and northwards along the coastal pasture to the ruins of Dunstanburgh castle before returning by the same path into Craster. There are sections to the south of Craster where the walk follows a clifftop path on which children should be supervised.

  • Twizel Castle, Tweed and Till Circular. 2.5m. Leisurely
Twizell Castle Walk route, Cornhill. Ordnance Survey ©

Twizel Castle is a Grade II listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument which stands on a bend of the River Till near Cornhill by the medieval Twizel bridge over the river. In 1882, Sir Francis Blake demolished an incomplete castle on the site and used the stone in the construction of this two-story folly which is now described as being in a poor condition, and is officially listed on the English Heritage at Risk Register.

The River Tweed and Till Circular walk starts by Twizel bridge on the Berwick to Cornhill Road. Here you head through the gate and follow the track to your left down along the River Till, passing under a disused railway viaduct until you reach the confluence with the River Tweed, where there is a bench to sit. The route then follows the Tweed eastwards as far as a stone fishing lodge, where the track heads inland and up a bank. At the top the track crosses the old railway track onto a small road southwards. Here you go straight along the road, passing some cottages on the right until the road bears left.

After a short distance you reach a stile on the right. Cross the stile and head diagonally across the field past Twizel Castle on the right until you reach a stile in the bottom left corner of the field. Beware that this field sometimes has livestock in it, in which case it may be safest to keep to the fence and skirt around the edge.

Twizel Castle

This stile takes you onto a track which heads back down the hill through the trees, looking down on the river below to reach your starting point.

Beware that the banks of the Till are sometimes infested with Giant Hogweed. This is a tall, non native, invasive plant which causes skin burns, so be careful not to touch these plants. This walk is approximately 2.5 miles long on good tracks and quiet roads, and is graded easy. There is a pub and a well stocked general store half a mile up the road at Cornhill. Alternatively if you drive north a couple of miles to Coldstream, there is a greater selection of shops and places to sit down.

  • Rothbury and Cartington Castle circular. 6.3m. Moderate
Rothbury & Cartington Castle Circular, Northumberland. Ordnance Survey ©

Cartington Castle is a ruined, partially restored medieval English castle in the village of Cartington, 2 miles north-west of Rothbury looking down on the River Coquet. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building. Its first recorded owner was Ralph Fitzmain who held it during the 12th century. In the late 14th century a pele tower was added. This was extended to include a great hall, and probably a tower-defended courtyard, by John Cartington in 1442 when he was granted a licence to crenellate the building..

In November 1515 Margaret, Queen of Scots, with her baby daughter Margaret stayed here on her journey from Harbottle Castle. Nearly ten years later, Lord Dacre stationed his troops here on a march north to join the Earl of Surrey. During the Civil War the castle was a major Royalist centre. Sir Edward Widdrington raised 2,000 Royalist foot soldiers and 200 mounted with which he withheld a Parliamentary siege for over two hours in 1648, but the castle was eventually taken and rendered unusable by the enemy.

Cartington Castle
Cartington Castle, Northumberland

Despite some demolition, the castle continued to be lived in until it was finally abandoned in the 1860s. In 1887 Lord Armstrong partially restored it, preventing it from completely disintegrating.

This walk is a 6.3 moderate circular route starting on the main street in Rothbury. Frome here it heads uphill, around Lord Armstrong’s carriageway and up to the ruined 12th century Cartington Castle which can be seen from the carriageway. From the castle the route returns along part of the Sandstone Way, through Primrose Woods and across the heather moors back into the town centre.

The route involves a steep ascent up to the castle and some gnarly bits of path on the outskirts of Rothbury which would only be suitable for older children. The town has all the facilities of a small town including banks, a post office, bunkhouse, cafes, restaurants, pubs, shops and galleries. It is accessible by both car and bus. The visitors carpark is on the opposite side of the river to the main part of the town.