Saturday, February 13, 2010

Visiting Medieval Britain

Britain has some of the best medieval castles in the world. Some are surprisingly still intact and lived in whilst others just have ruins left - a shadow of their former, glorious selves. If you live in or come to visit Britain and have an interest in medieval history, then it's your lucky day because there are hundreds of medieval sites open to the public.

Medieval castles in Wales include Coch Castle, Denbigh Castle and Caernarfon Castle.

Medieval castles in Scotland include Castle of Mey, Hermitage Castle, Caerlaverock Castle.

Medieval castles in England include Alnwick Castle, Naworth Castle,

Many British medieval castles are on or near to the coast. Take, for example, Dunstanburgh Castle and Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. Both are on the coast yet one is in ruins whilst the other intact and still lived in. Both of them command some of the most spectacular locations you could ever imagine for a medieval castle. Tourist accommodation in this area is plentiful and if you want a vacation rental (self catering) cottage that's extra special, there are some luxury Northumbrian cottages on hand to make your stay even more enjoyable.

Moving further north you are soon in Scotland, a country famous for its history including medieval history with the likes of William Wallace. Now there's a medieval folk hero worth talking and writing about - but that's for another time and another post!

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bamburgh Castle, Seahouses & Self Catering - Northumberland

There are many medieval castles built near or on the coast of Great Britain, many of them purposely built as coastal fortresses to defend against possible invasion. Therefore when you visit a British coastal town or port, seeing a medieval castle there or nearby is a common occurrence. Take for example Scarborough Castle which we visited and photographed on a misty, rainy (but very atmospheric day). Slap bang in the middle of Scarborough, high up on the hill straddling the two bays stands the castle and you simply cannot miss it once you enter the town.

One of the most striking views of a medieval castle from a British coastal town has to be that of Bamburgh Castle when viewed standing in the centre of Seahouses, a delightful little place on the Northumberland coast. When we last visited Seahouses we were fortunate enough to enjoy lovely, sunny weather. We were ravenously hungry when we arrived so headed straight for the main fish and chip restaurant (I think it's called the Neptune on Seafield Road and regarded by many as the finest fish and chip restaurant in Northumberland).

Only when we came out of the restaurant, suitably refreshed, did we take in the magnificent view looking northwards down the coast - high up on its rocky crag about 3 miles away stood Bamburgh Castle. You can imagine just how imposing it must have looked back in medieval times to anyone approaching from towns and villages in the area - let alone how it would have frightened anyone if they had dared to attempt an attack from the sea!

We came away that day promising ourselves to revisit Seahouses and perhaps even stay a few days in a Seahouses self catering cottage or a Bamburgh holiday cottage, which I understand from a friend can be high quality and very good value for money as a holiday option. (See his Seahouses blog: for more ideas). There is so much to see on the Northumberland Coast that, whether you are interested in medieval history or not, it's a fantastic place for a holiday. If you stay in a self catering cottage in Bamburgh or Seahouses you can come and go as you please, make your own timetable, enjoy fantastic visits to a wide range of castles including:
  • Alnwick Castle - remember the famous lawn there where Harry Potter was filmed taking his first broomstick flight. Visit the link and see the actual lawn I photographed. Well worth a visit!

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Stunning Bamburgh Castle

I don’t think there’s a more stunning location in Britain for a castle than that enjoyed by Bamburgh Castle. If you have been there you know what I mean. If you haven’t, then you should! Indeed many people believe that Bamburgh Castle is the finest in all England.

It sits high up on a rock cliff overlooking the North Sea with views towards Holy Island and the Farne Islands and the drive approaching it is very special for the castle simply dominates the horizon. I’ve been to Bamburgh Castle several times and on every occasion I never cease to be amazed at how magnificent it looks. You cannot fail to be in awe of the people who actually built it; the sheer effort and planning involved in its construction must have been mammoth.

Having parked our car at the foot of the castle (left is a photo we took of Bamburgh Castle from the car park below), we walked up the fairly steep drive to approach it. As it was a beautiful, sunny day we decided not to go straight up to the castle but to venture a few hundred yards beyond, down through the sand dunes and onto the beach. I can close my eyes even now as I write this and feel that sea breeze on my face and recapture the panoramic, open views. What a setting for a medieval castle! It’s the kind of place you just can’t imagine existing – until you go there. We had 2 cameras with us that day and I can honestly say the shutters didn’t stop clicking for quite some time.

For those interested in haunted castles, Bamburgh has its own, striking ghost story. Read about ‘The Pink Lady’ on our page about haunted Bamburgh Castle.

For those interested in medieval architecture, the oldest, surviving part of the castle is its Keep, believed to have been constructed in the mid 12th century. Today the Keep houses an armoury as well as firearms and crossbows. If you’re interested in what is open to the public at Bamburgh Castle, just follow the link to the official website.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Medieval Blog Launch

As one of 4 ‘medieval’ enthusiasts, I’m delighted to welcome you to the Blog of Our website has been in existence for a number of years and we are committed to developing it to its full potential with ever more information, photographs and special features such as our haunted castles and fantasy castles sections.

Medieval history offers many different things worthy of study – from castle design to the many aspects of medieval life, warfare and weaponry through to the medieval crusades and then on to medieval literature, medieval music and medicine. The list is almost endless!

One thing that makes medieval study really exciting is that we are privileged to be able to see tangible evidence from that era – suits of armour, medieval art, medieval weapons and of course the castles themselves, though often only ruins.

Photo: Caerlaverock Castle - the kind of moated medieval castle that gets medieval enthusiasts excited!

I recently made a trip with my family to the Northumberland coast and saw several amazing medieval castles – Alnwick Castle, Bamburgh Castle, Dunstanburgh Castle and Warkworth Castle. The last 3 are reputed to be seriously haunted so it was just as well that we visited them during daylight! Possibly the most intruiging thing that emerged from the trip was that each castle was very different from the others - in design, architectural features, location and even atmosphere. So much so that I can’t cover them in this one article so I plan to write about each experience separately.

The first one is going to be Alnwick Castle, a truly breathtaking place to visit.

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