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.

The Beautiful Ruin of Dunstanburgh CastleThe Beautiful Ruin of Dunstanburgh Castle ©

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".

View from the Tower of Dunstanburgh Castle © essentially-england.comView from the Tower of 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.

Are You Planning to Visit Northumberland?

Where You Could Stay

There's a reason Northumberland is one of my favourite English counties. Its landscape is utterly gorgeous with long beaches and empty sweeps of hills that just beg to be walked. In between you can find small towns and pretty villages, conntected by lanes that are great on the bike as long as you have the legs for climbing. And there are holiday cottages to suit all tastes and budgets.

Pottergate Tower
Sleeps 2

Holly Cottage
Sleeps 2

The Steadings
Sleeps 6

To see other holiday cottages in Northumberland click here. Or check out holiday cottages in other parts of England by clicking here.

Or you could try a family orientated Parkdean Resort in Northumberland.

If you need to find a hotel, then try one of these search platforms...


What You Could See and Do

Even if you stayed a month, you'd find that you don't have enough time to explore the county top to bottom and see everything it has to offer. There's plenty of history from Hadrian's Wall  to Lindisfarne in the north with reams of castles and ruins in between. There are beaches and seaside towns like Craster, Alnmouth and Seahouses - and some of the best fish & chips in all of England. There are market towns like Haltwhistle, Rothbury, Bellingham, Berwick, Warkworth and Harbottle to explore. And there are hillsides to climb and the great outdoors to enjoy.

Are you feeling in need of a holiday yet? Here are a few more pages that might give you ideas...

And if you want to explore more of Northumberland and its martial history, check out this Northumberland Castle Tour.

For more Northumberland sites return from Dunstanburgh Castle to the Northumberland page.