Exploring the Castles of Northumberland and Durham

Exploring the Castles of Northumberland and Durham

Posted by Joanne Wishart on

Exploring the Castles of Northumberland and Durham

The North East is lucky to be home to so much history. I often write about how the region’s stunning natural beauty inspires my art, but I want to take this opportunity to highlight the architectural history here. 

Along the coastlines and into the rugged hills, we have castles dating back hundreds—even thousands of years. And that’s before you consider the even older features left behind by Roman invaders, Norman monks, and Anglosaxon settlers. 

So, if you’re looking to explore some history, then look no further than the castles of Northumberland and Durham.

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle, dating back to the 11th century, has been home to the Duke of Northumberland's family, the Percys, for over 700 years. 

Alnwick Castle is a popular tourist spot and is visited by over 600,000 visitors annually alongside its neighbouring attraction, Alnwick Gardens. The castle gained fame as a filming location for movies and TV shows, most notably as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter film series.

Barnard Castle

Now, we travel from Northumberland to County Durham to Barnard Castle. This fortress, built by Bernard de Balliol in the 12th century, played a strategic role in defending the northern borders of England against Scottish raids. 

Located in the market town of the same name, the castle has undergone several modifications over the centuries and is now managed by English Heritage. 

Visitors can explore the castle ruins, including its imposing towers and ramparts, and enjoy panoramic views of the Teesdale countryside.

Bamburgh Castle

And now, back in Northumberland, we’re arriving at one of my favourite castles. Bamburgh sits proudly atop a cliff overlooking the beautiful sandy beach. If you’re familiar with my artwork, you’ll know I have painted Bamburgh several times. There’s something so special about the ancient architecture positioned against the even older coastline.

Bamburgh has a rich history dating back to the 6th century. It has served as a royal castle, a stronghold against Viking invasions, and a stately home. Today, Bamburgh Castle is open to the public.

A striking painting of Bamburgh Castle with bright yellow flowered fields in the foreground and road sweeping into the village.

Bamburgh Castle Art Print

Chillingham Castle

This medieval fortress is known for two things: its dark reputation and its cattle! 

Built in the 12th century, it has a tumultuous history and is said to be inhabited by various ghosts, including the famous Blue Boy. Having undergone several redevelopments over the years, the castle features a mix of architectural styles and includes a scary torture chamber. 

The most unique thing about Chillingham Castle isn’t inside its eery walls… it’s in the fields outside. The Chillingham Cattle is a breed of wild cattle that has lived in the castle’s park since the 17th century. The herd is unique as it comprises pure-bred survivors of the ancient wild white cattle. 

If you visit Chillingham Castle, you’ll find my greetings card in their shop. 

Durham Castle

Located in the university city of Durham, this Norman castle was built in the 11th century under the orders of William the Conqueror.

Durham Castle served as a stronghold for the Prince-Bishops of Durham and later became part of Durham University.

Today, Durham Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses University College, one of Durham University's colleges.

Lindisfarne Castle

Let’s hop on over to Holy Island for the next castle. Lindisfarne may be small, but it is certainly mighty.

Lindisfarne sits above a volcanic mound overlooking the North Sea. Originally built as a fort in the 16th century to defend against Scottish raids, Lindisfarne Castle is now managed by the National Trust. Visitors can spot local wildlife, including seals and seabirds, as well as enjoy stunning panoramic views.

A colourful print of upturned boats and cobles in the bay on holy Island in Northumberland.

Lindisfarne Art Print

Warkworth Castle

A mixture of foundations, ruins, and fixed buildings, Warkworth Castle is well-preserved, given its date back to the 12th century.

Like Alnwick, this castle was once the seat of the Percy family and played a significant role in the border conflicts between England and Scotland. 

Warkworth is close to one of my favourite quieter seaside spots, Amble Harbour.

Amble Harbour Art Print

Which castle in the region is your favourite, and why? Let me know on Instagram. Remember that you can always bring a slice of the region home with you by shopping for limited edition art prints in my online shop or visiting us in the Cullercoats gallery; we’re open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. 

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