Coast and castles #3.
A pair of lone figures take the early morning walk to Dunstanburgh Castle to view it’s dramatic ruins amidst the rocky beaches of Craster in Northumberland. We had joined them in a day trip from South Shields to reconnect with the history of the north east of England, bloodied by battles and pacified by saints and monks, this stretch of Northumbrian coast has it all.
Dunstanburgh Castle dominates this lonely stretch of craggy coastline and is managed by English Heritage on behalf of the National Trust, it was once one of the largest and grandest fortifications in the area.
The first building works at Dunstanburgh Castle took place under Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, and the remains of the early 14th century gatehouse can be seen in the form of two D-shaped towers either side of an arched entrance. From these surviving structures it is possible to imagine what a magnificent and imposing building the gatehouse must have been.
When, at the end of the 14th century, Dunstanburgh Castle passed into the hands of John of Gaunt, he carried out substantial alterations and closed up the entrance to the gatehouse. Having converted the original gatehouse into residential quarters, a second gatehouse was constructed further along the curtain wall, but almost nothing can be seen of this today, other than its foundations.
John of Gaunt altered the original castle most obviously in the fact that he created an inner and outer bailey from the existing enclosure. Many of the buildings constructed at the time of the remodelling have long since disappeared, but some fragmentary remains can still be made out along the curtain wall.
Situated near to the edge of the cliff on the west curtain wall, the 14th century Lilburn Tower was used as a watchtower. This rectangular structure with its turrets still visible has survived remarkably better than the later buildings. Along the south curtain wall lie the remains of the Constable’s Tower and Egyncleugh Tower, the latter likely to have been used as a water gate. Adjacent to the Constable’s Tower the foundations of a range of buildings have survived.
Despite the ruinous state of Dunstanburgh Castle, it presents a formidable and imposing sight from a distance. To fully appreciate the environment, Dunstanburgh Castle can be approached by a twenty-minute trek across the rocky beach. With unpredictable weather conditions prevalent along the north east coast, it can be an extremely atmospheric experience.
Camera details: Pentax K100D, 28mm lens, 1/250 second, f11, iso 200