Dunstanburgh Castle
How Northumberland's Largest Castle became England's Most Beautiful Ruin

You can find Dunstanburgh Castle on the Northumberland coastline between the villages of Craster and Embleton, in fact ... you'll have trouble missing it.

In its heyday, Dunstanburgh Castle was the largest castle in England, sitting proudly on a rocky headland that shows traces of occupation going back to prehistoric times.

Begun in 1313 by the Earl Thomas of Lancaster, the castle occupies an 11 acre site.

Its defensive position is simply superb. Its back is protected by steep cliffs and the sea, while the southern approach was barred by a long wall and two large towers.

The twin-towered gatehouse dominates the western corner of the castle and would once have held the main living quarters of the castle's occupants.

Dunstanburgh Castle © David Allan

Dunstanburgh was completed by John of Gaunt in the later 14th century. He turned the comfortably appointed gatehouse into a secure keep by blocking the gate and moving the castle's entrance further to the left.

During the Wars of the Roses, the castle was held for the Lancastrians and twice came under heavy attack - in 1462 and 1464.

The resulting damage was never properly repaired and over the centuries the decaying shell was robbed for building stone until nothing remains than "England's most romantic ruin".

Dunstanburgh Castle

When landscape painting became an art, and painters began to roam the countryside in search of picturesque views, the castle ruin on its rocky promontory inspired many of them. Not least the great Turner, who painted it several times.

Today it has a similar appeal for photographers. And who can blame them? Northumberland's clear light and ever-changing sea and sky make an ideal backdrop to capture the mood of a castle that has stood its ground here for over 700 years.

Take a walk along the coast from the listtle fishing village of Craster and you'll see the ruin loom ahead of you in all its glory.

When the weather is calm and the sky a deep blue, the broken shell is a breathtaking sight. But wait until a storm rolls in from the sea, until the wind throws tall waves against the cliff and jagged shreds of clouds race across a lead-grey sky. Wait until then, and the magic and mystery of Dunstanburgh Castle will really become clear.

Dunstanburgh was given to the National Trust in 1929 and is now in the care of English Heritage.

Plan your next holiday by checking out our selection of holiday cottages in Northumberland.

And if you like castles, you may also find the following pages interesting:

And if you'd like to see Dunstanburgh in different moods and different weather why not check out Images of Northumberland