Bamburgh Castle Best Tips before Visiting
10 Things you should know about Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle lies in the wild and beautiful Northumberland countryside. It was once the Royal Seat of the Kings of Northumbria but since 1894 it has been the family home of the Armstrong family.
They now share their home with visitors to the castle who can enjoy its stately rooms, action-packed events calendar, ghostly history and stunning setting. Over the centuries the imposing walls of the castle have seen acts of bloodshed and heroism, sheltered rebels and loyalists and become guardians of a treasure-trove of artefacts.
We’ve put together a 10-point guide to Bamburgh Castle with some tips that help you make the most of your visit.
1. Digging up the past – a little bit of history
The site of Bamburgh Castle has been inhabited for over 12,000 years with archaeological evidence of Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman occupation. Its written history, however, starts with the Anglo-Saxons when the castle was recorded as being the most important place in England!
Bamburgh Castle is rated in the world’s top ten of Anglo-Saxon archaeological sites and has revealed some outstanding finds such as the 1960 unearthing of a pattern-welded sword, believed to be the only one of its kind in the world. Every year experts and students from across the globe descend on the castle to uncover its past and if you visit during the summer months you can watch them in action.
- Did you know? The castle’s logo takes its shape from the Bamburgh Beast, a gold piece with a zoo-morphological design excavated in 1971.
2. Moving into the Medieval Age
In the centuries leading up to 1066 and all that, Bamburgh continued to grow in importance with the arrival of saints such as Oswald and Cuthbert. This was followed by the Norman invasion and the Wars of the Roses. Later, in Jacobean England, the castle became a leading surgery and dispensary for the area’s sick and poor.
Visiting the huge castle kitchen gives a glimpse back to the medieval period when hundreds of meals could be cooked in a single day. The three huge fireplaces would have prepared royal banquets which were then carried through to the King’s Hall where the resident family would dine in style.
- Did you know? The castle once housed a poor school when the kitchen became a classroom.
3. Other rooms you can visit
Your entrance ticket lets you wander through fourteen rooms of the castle and their adjoining passages and stairwells. Start in the Great Kitchen before being amazed by the splendid King’s Hall and the stonework of the Keep. Head downstairs for a fascinating glimpse into the below stairs lives of Victorian servants.
Your tour finishes in the Galleries containing some of the archaeological finds. Here you can have fun learning about the castle’s history through interactive games and puzzles.
- Did you know? The castle is home to over 3,000 items ranging from weapons and furniture to paintings and porcelain.
4. An impregnable fortress
The castle residents must have felt reasonably safe and secure living inside its impressive fortifications. The walls were interspersed by guard towers and gates such as the Constable Tower. During the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th-century the castle garrison was stationed here and cannons were placed on the Battery Terrace above.
Today, a Victorian folly sits on the site of at least six previous structures including an Anglo-Saxon basilica. The castle’s square Keep dominates the skyline and was built in the 12th-century. At the time it had all the latest developments in defensive mod-cons!
- Did you know? You can still see medieval arrow slits in the Battery Gate.
5. The Grounds and the Windmill
Everything in Bamburgh Castle is on a grand scale including its well-kept grounds which were restored by Lord Armstrong in the 19th-century. As you stroll around don’t forget to look up at the archways, battlements and cannons.
Part of the West Ward has been turned into a charming picnic area while the castle cafeteria offers a range of hot and cold food made with local produce. And, of course, food was vital if castles were going to be self-sufficient. To this end, a windmill was set in the walls in the 18th-century.
6. A starring role in TV and film
With its impressive skyline and breathtaking setting, it’s not hard to see why Bamburgh Castle has had a starring role in so many TV shows and films. Sir Tony Robinson, Dan Snow and Charlie Luxton are just a few TV historians who love Bamburgh and it has appeared in many classic films.
These include “Ivanhoe” (1952) with Elizabeth Taylor, “Becket” (1964) with Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton, “El Cid” (1961) with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, “Mary Queen of Scots” (1972) starring Glenda Jackson and finally, “Elizabeth” (1998) with Cate Blanchett and Joseph Fiennes.
- Did you know? Sir Tony Robinson recreated the Anglo-Saxon throne that once stood in Bamburgh Castle.
7. A walk through history
The castle’s laundry was located in the West Ward and was built in preparation for the convalescent home an earlier Lord Armstrong had dreamt of creating.
Today it is used to house the Armstrong and Aviation Artefacts Museum. Here you can explore the remarkable achievements of the first Lord Armstrong and marvel at his ingenious engineering as well as view aviation artefacts from both World Wars.
8. Join in the fun
Why not plan your visit to Bamburgh Castle to coincide with an activity from its exciting calendar of events. These are designed to appeal to all ages and interests and cover Viking life, Celtic Art and Living History as well as opportunities to try your hand at Woodcraft or watch traditional singing and dancing.
There are also open-air theatre productions, historical re-enactments and archery exhibitions and workshops.
- Did you know? The world’s first cycling theatre group have performed Shakespeare at the castle.
9. A ghostly presence
No castle can survive thousands of years without acquiring a few ghosts and Bamburgh is no exception. Babies crying, piano music or running footsteps are just some of the unexplained happenings you might encounter!
The tragic Pink Lady returns every seven years to walk from the castle to the beach while starving Green Jane and her baby were turned away by the guards when they came begging for food and fell to their death.
Workers at the castle have rushed to help a woman they see falling down the steps – but when they reach the steps there is no one there! Dr John Sharp led the castle’s reformation in the 18th-century and loved it so much he has never left….you might catch a glimpse of him wandering through the rooms.
- Did you know? Dr Sharp set up the country’s first lifeboat station at Bamburgh Castle.
10. Visitor Information
From mid-February until the end of October, the castle opens at 10:00 am and closes at 5:00 pm. Through the winter months the gates open at 11:00 am and close at 4:30 pm. Storage is provided for pushchairs, prams and bags in the State Rooms and baby slings can be borrowed.
Parking is available inside the castle walls for those with mobility issues and the lower levels of the State Rooms can be accessed by wheelchairs. An audio-video presentation of the upper rooms can then be watched.
Discount prices are available for children between 5 and 16. Children under 5 are free. Only registered assistance dogs are permitted in the grounds and castle.