Dunstanburgh Castle: a 14th-century fortification on the coast of Northumberland

Dominating the horizon on the coast of Northumberland, and overlooking the cold North Sea, Dunstanburgh Castle was built during the fourteenth century reign of infamous King Edward II by the king’s cousin, Earl Thomas of Lancaster between 1313 and 1322.

Approaching Dunstanburgh Castle along the coastal path from Craster.

The castle can only be reached on foot, about 1.5 miles north from Craster. The castle is owned by the National Trust, but the site is operated by English Heritage.

View of the great gatehouse over the southern mere.

Overlooking cliffs on one side, the castle had excellent natural defences, and occupied the site of an Iron Age fort.

Thomas of Lancaster was executed in 1322, and it passed eventually passed into the hands of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. It changed hands between Lancastrian and Yorkist forces during the Wars of the Roses, and suffered damage from which it never fully recovered. By the sixteenth century it was in an advanced state of decay.

Today, just a few of the towers are standing, particularly the entrance Great Gate with its twin towers. Also the curtain wall that surrounds the castle connecting with the cliffs.

It’s possible to climb some of the towers from which there are magnificent views over the surrounding Northumberland countryside.

Steph and I have visited the castle on a couple of occasions, the last being in May 2012. Parking in Craster, we enjoyed the coastal walk on a fine, bright but blustery day. The kittiwakes were nesting on the cliffs below the castle, and we spotted a weasel darting along a stone wall just above the tide line.

Then it was back to Craster for a pub lunch, and purchasing some of the renowned Craster kippers (smoked North Sea herrings).

 

 

Clent Hills – in the heart of the Midlands

The Clent Hills are a range of hills rising proudly to over 1000 feet (315 m) over the surrounding landscape less than 7 miles as the crow flies from our home in Bromsgrove in northeast Worcestershire. They are, as the National Trust states on its website, ‘a stunning countryside haven in the heart of the busy Midlands‘.

In the 39 years that we have lived in Bromsgrove (although we were abroad in the Philippines for 19 of those) we visited Clent Hill on just a handful of occasions, the last being at the end of July 2010, a couple of months after we retired back to the UK.

As you can see from the short video I put together, and the images I have included below, it was a rather overcast day. But the visibility was very good indeed, and we had great views southwest to the Malvern Hills, and even beyond (just) to the Black Mountains of South Wales. Then west into Shropshire, and coming round to the north looking over Stourbridge and on the the Black Country of the West Midlands conurbation.