English Heritage

Jo’s Monday walk : A Tale of three Castles- 3. Dunstanburgh

Our last day on the Northumberland coast got off to a gloomy start.  Persistent drizzle clung to the windows and rooftops.  Worse yet, my husband announced, limping down to breakfast, that he thought his gout might have returned.  The medication was something I had neglected to pack, this being just a short break.  We had planned to drive further up the coast to Alnmouth, where we last stayed when our son was small.  And, selfishly, I could not bear to be this close to Dunstanburgh Castle without at least taking a look.  Armed with the golf brolly, he agreed to give it a go!

Alnmouth, though charming, did not invite us to linger, despite the determinedly cheery exterior of the Sun Inn.  Memories of sitting amongst the dunes, in strong sunlight, warmly wrapped against the breeze, and with a small, ‘happy as a sand’ boy, seemed very far distant.

Given the situation, driving was easier than walking.  The wide ranging views I’d hoped for were swallowed up in the gloom, but a surprising number of people were parked in the tiny village of Craster.  The walk along the coast, from here to Dunstanburgh, is deservedly well known.  I had scarcely left the car park when I was captivated by the soft webbing of droplets, clinging to these hardy plants.

It was obvious that he could not limp far but, given a slight break in the rain, I was keen to walk this dramatic coast.  We agreed that I should sprint ahead, while he took it at his own pace, hanging on to the umbrella for support. There, in the distance, was the prize.

The sheep were quite oblivious to its beauty, us walkers far more susceptible to charm.  On the shoreline a sequence of cairns had me hovering with camera for a while.  A mother and daughter, close by, were gleeful in their discoveries.

Almost there now, it’s time for a little history.  Dunstanburgh Castle was built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster, the most powerful baron at the time of Edward II.  Begun in 1313, it was a mighty statement of Lancaster’s intent.  Unfortunately for him, the earl failed to reach the safety of Dunstanburgh when his rebellion was defeated.  Kings not being very forgiving in those days, he was executed in 1322.  John of Gaunt, 4th son of Edward III, inherited the castle on marriage, in 1362.  He subsequently strengthened the castle, converting the twin-towered gatehouse into a keep.  Fierce fighting took place during the Wars of the Roses and the castle was twice besieged, falling into Yorkist hands.  In the late 15th/16th century Dunstanburgh fell into disrepair, too far from the Scottish border and a main road to be of strategic importance.  Over time it became a romantic ruin, famously painted by landscape artist Turner.

Although I’ve done this walk before, I had never been inside the castle ruins.  The sky had brightened for a little while and I simply had to grab the opportunity, while I could.  The layout and scale of the site took me completely by surprise.

Climbing gently away from the gatehouse, you come to Lilburn Tower, with sweeping views across the fine sands of Embleton Bay.  The curtain wall along the coast is still largely intact.  Beyond it a steep cliff drops to shore, then tapers down to meet the sea.

Again I’m taken with the droplets of rain, this time on wildflowers scrambling along the top of the wall.  It turns at right angles, and climbs back up to the keep.  I am amused to see a notice suggesting we take care not to step on the frogs.  Sure enough, there in a puddle, a lively looking chap!

Just time to scoot up the tower, and then I need to get back down and find the other half.  It’s starting to mizzle again, and he’s got the brolly.

That’s quite enough of ‘weather’, for a while, isn’t it?  And probably of castles too.  Today English Heritage manages the castle and National Trust are responsible for the coastline.  Full details of opening times and how to get there are available on the link.  Oh, heck!  No cake this week.

Many thanks to all of you for trekking out with me, in all weathers.  It’s very much appreciated.  Time to put the kettle on and settle in to read some more great walks.  Join me whenever you can, here on Jo’s Monday walks.  You’ll always be welcome.

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Tales around the campfire first, with lovely Miriam :

Walhalla Walkabout

Followed by a gentle riverside walk with Alice :

Following the towpath

While Banactee shares a natural bridge, connecting 2 countries :

Pravcicka Brana- Gate to Czech Switzerland

A little fashion, a little cooking, an air show… a typical week with Jackie :

Drinking stories

Nicole loves hiking with her Dad.  Why not join them?

Superior Hiking Trail: Hike to Leveaux Mountain

Mel is into her last day or two of walking in Italy.  There’ve been highlights!

Day 32 Via Francigena, Radicofani to Acquapendente, 25.7km

A link to a beautiful part of the world, about which I know very little.  Please meet Subhasree :

HAMPI- Morning Tea by the Tungabhadra

Shazza’s been jangling a few of my memory chords.  I’d so love a canal cruise!

A stroll along the Crinan Canal, Britain’s most beautiful shortcut

A walk through truly ancient history, with Candy :

The Path of the Megaliths, Erdeven

While Carol’s Canadian exploits take her to beautiful Butchart Gardens :

For the Love of Flowers

Yay!  Denzil’s back, with a new look and some interesting facts about ‘under the radar’ Belgium :

How to spend a day in Diest

And lastly, Cathy, though still doing a grand job on the Camino, takes us to Navajo territory :

A hike in Hovenweep National Monument

I’m off to Liverpool on Wednesday, so next week’s walk could well be there.  Hoping for sunshine, but anything other than rain will do.  A word of warning that next Monday’s walk will be my last for a little while, so if you have a walk you’d like to share please do it this week.  I’ll be in the Algarve from the end of the month.  Meanwhile, have yourself a great week!

Jo’s Monday walk : A tale of three castles- 1. Warkworth

Standing tall and proud, looking down the hill on its village, Warkworth Castle in Northumberland is a thing of beauty.  Romantically situated on a loop of the River Coquet, Warkworth has a lovely riverside walk, with a surprise in store.  The perfect setting for an anniversary weekend.  Too long since we’d visited the combination of castles and beaches that tell this county’s story, though it’s only an hour and a half drive from home.

Grand though it is, the castle at Warkworth has indeterminate beginnings.  A settlement existed here right back to 8th century, but the motte and bailey (an artificial mound surrounded by a fortified enclosure) and first stone buildings are generally credited to Henry, son of King David 1st of Scotland, after he became Earl of Northumberland in 1139.  The castle is first documented in a charter between 1157 and 1164, when it was granted by English king Henry II to Roger fitz Richard.  It is entirely possible that this Henry was responsible for the castle being built, one of a number intended to secure his position in the north.  In any case, the mighty keep was not added till around 1400.  The lengthy story of the Percy family and their influence in this area can be read on the link above.

The tower is in the shape of a Greek cross, the four wings arranged over three storeys around a central light well.  Stepping inside, the building appears solid and sombre, the ground floor being used largely for storage and service.  Glancing at the floor plan, I bypassed the mighty chimney place, drawn to the lovely views beyond the window.  The coast is just a mile away, along the sinuous curve of the river.

The first floor comprised kitchen, buttery, great hall, great chamber and chapel.  The chapel had an upper level where the earl could worship in private.  The varying size and ornamentation of the windows indicate the importance of the rooms they light.  Prominent within the grounds, the Lion Tower, with flamboyant heraldry, once gave access to a further grand residence.  The Curtain Wall surrounding the bailey and the Carrickfergus Tower date from 13th century.

My guide book had given details of a circular walk, taking in riverside and beach.  It also mentioned a hermitage.  The path drops invitingly down to an idyllic riverside setting.  Looking back, the castle, sitting atop the trees.  All that was needed was fair maiden and a knight in shining armour.

We followed the path until it opened out.  And then, the strangest thing!  Across the river there was just visible a building, built into the rock face.  With a splash of oars, a friendly face appeared.  The ferryman, all set to row us across the 40 foot span of river.  How strange to hire your very own hermit to say a prayer for you.  The Percy family had wealth aplenty to do so.

It gave me goosebumps.  I was glad to see the smiling ferryman, with his next cargo.  Back over the river a track headed uphill, in what we hoped was the direction of the coast.  I was happy to see the sea across a cornfield, and do a little spying over fences, as the trail led us back to the village.

The door of St. Lawrence’s Church was a wide open invitation for a few moments serenity, sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows.

The heart of the village is small and pleasingly intimate.  Weathered stone and tubs of riotous colour a happy blend, encircled by the ever present river.  A gateway heralds the 14th century fortified bridge, beyond which a narrow lane leads to the beach.

Families trek to and fro in the still, warm air, the lighthouse on Coquet Island just visible across the expanse of sea from the river mouth.

At my feet, a mingle of unfamiliar shells and pebbles. The beach is emptying as we walk along, clouds gathering.  A few hundred yards ahead we find the path that leads up through the dunes and beside a golf course.  The sign on the bell dangling beneath the bridge makes me smile, the evidence of danger visible as a golfer hunts in the rough.

Our adventure is almost over now, as we rejoin the path back to the village and, much later, a well deserved reward.

I know that Paula won’t have time to read all of this, but it does fit rather nicely with her Traces of the Past.  Go and linger by the water with her, then follow the link to the English Heritage site for more of the fascinating history, and details of how to get to Warkworth.  A joint ticket can be purchased for the Castle and Hermitage.  My next two walks will continue to feature Northumberland castles, but I hope you won’t be bored.

Many thanks to all of you who labour so patiently beside me.  I just wish I could share the cake!  Never mind, it’s kettle on time.  There are walks to share.  Join me any time here on Jo’s Monday walk.

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Excited to start us off with Debbie and a place I visited and loved, many years ago!

A walk worth its salt

Suzanne gives us a privileged first glimpse of her new environment :

A wetland walk

Janet was cycling and walking this week, with a happy other half :

Monday walk (cycle)… Moraine Hills State Park

Swedish platter, anyone?  You never know what you’re going to get with Jackie!

A Smorgasbord of Sights

Irene has some beautiful close-ups of the Sandhill Crane :

Three in One

And Eunice invites us on another lovely countryside ramble :

A walk on Smithills Moor and a bit of local history

I’m also sharing a wonderful, spiritual experience with Cheryl and Basil :

Walking from Darkness towards Light in Borobudur

And ‘whoop! whoop! whoop!’  Becky’s back!  Join us in the beautiful Algarve countryside :

A splendid walk in the hills

Cathy won’t have started walking yet, but soon!  Meanwhile, let’s grab a quesadilla :

The Mesa Arch Trail & Shafer Canyon Overlook, topped off with a treat from Quesadilla Mobilla

I made it!  Glad you could keep up with me.  See you all next week?  Wishing you a good one!

Cornered at Stokesay

Stokesay Castle is the best-preserved fortified medieval manor house in England. It was constructed at the end of the 13th century by Laurence of Ludlow, the leading wool merchant and one of the richest men in England at that time.

The castle comprises a walled, moated enclosure with an entrance way through a 17th century timber and plaster gatehouse.  It’s a striking sight, and even on a grey day the ochre gatehouse affirms its right to be there.

The gatehouse features elaborate wooden carvings on both exterior and interior doorways, including angels, Adam and Eve and the serpent from the Garden of Eden and dragons.  It had little real defensive value but is undeniably ornamental.

Inside, the courtyard faces a stone hall and solar block, protected by 2 stone towers.  The south tower is an unusual pentagon shape and is 3 storeys high, with impressive views fom the turrets.  The castle has seen drama in its life, including skirmishes with Cavaliers and Roundheads, but never sustained any real damage and has been more affected by the ravages of time.

The hall adjoins the south tower and has a 13th century wood-beamed ceiling. Next to this, a  2 storey solar block with extensive wood paneling, a huge fireplace and intricate wood carving.  This would have been the family’s main living space.

Since 1986 Stokesay Castle has been managed by English Heritage, preserving and opening to the public.  Details of how to get there are on their website.  I’m hoping that you will have observed many an interesting Corner in this post.

I really oughn’t to but I’m also going to link to Paula’s Traces of the Past, just because I think she might like it.  Is that a good enough reason?

A Special Place

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We all have places that we regard as special.  St. Mary’s Church at Whitby holds that special quality for me.  During the Summer I was there, proudly showing my Polish neice, Basia, our English Heritage.  A lovely elderly gentleman was holding court, comfortably seated, with coffee in hand.  He explained that he was waiting for his wife to finish walking the dog, a task he was no longer up to.  Whilst he did so, he was more than happy to entertain all comers, with tales of the church and it’s history.

Reluctantly, we pulled ourselves away.  My own elderly gentleman (dad) was waiting in the car, not able to walk too far himself, and we still had awe-inspiring Whitby Abbey to see.  Before we did so, we were urged to come back again in December, when the church would be alight with dozens of Christmas trees.  On Monday I returned, and this is what I found.

Trees in every style and colour

Trees in every style and colour

Each sponsored by a local business

Each sponsored by a local business

A local gallery

A local gallery

Craft shop

Craftware

Commemorative trees

Gift shops

Natural products

Natural products

Modern style

Modern style

Ornate

Ornate

Traditional

Traditional

The Captain Cook Museum

The Captain Cook Museum

Put the kettle on Ma!

Put the kettle on Ma!  Teashops galore.

And, of course, the fishmongers

And, of course, the fishmongers

Just to complete the occasion I was treated to a carol service from one of the local schools, busy rehearsing for the real thing.  They sounded wonderful.

Small voices raised to celebrate the birth of Jesus

Small voices raised to celebrate the birth of Jesus

St. Mary’s is a delightful church.  The tower and basic structure date from Norman times, around 1110.  A hodge podge of styles have been added since, but it is the box pews that draw the eye, each carpeted and upholstered with cushions.  Overhead galleries are rarely used today, but the large charcoal stove is an essential element with our coastal chill.

Whitby is probably best known for its association with Bram Stoker.  He lived there from 1890 to 1896, and set an important scene from Dracula at the church.  I imagine that the graveyard on a dark Winter’s night is a scarey place indeed, but the church interior is a joyous space.  It was described by Simon Jenkins in “England’s Thousand Best Churches” as “part folly, part museum, part large parlour”.  You should see it for yourself, and I can think of no better time than when the Christmas trees are in residence. (10.00- 15.00 daily until 3rd Jan., excepting Christmas and Boxing Day)

The graveyard and Whitby Abbey

The graveyard and Whitby Abbey

St. Mary's from the Abbey grounds

St. Mary’s from the Abbey grounds

Looking back at church and Abbey from Whitby pier

Looking back at church and Abbey from Whitby pier

It is a bit of a climb up to St. Mary’s and the Abbey, but it’s also possible to get there by road if you can’t manage the steps.

Do you have a special place to share?  Please do.

Six word Saturday

Our English Heritage – walk with me?

Well, the young uns are back at school and, as often happens, we’re enjoying a last glimpse of Summer.  Whoo- hoo!  Share with me a balmy day in Barnard Castle, Teesdale. 

A first peak at the River Tees, sparkling in the sunlight

And cascading over the rocks

I love the power of the water as it slaloms down the river

Around the bend and a hint of castle appears

And then the bridge

Isn’t this how a ruined castle should look?

While the river flows respectfully by

Over the bridge

My favourite shot

Stay close to the river and cross over another bridge

A strange one this, but you can sit in the middle and contemplate

Time to wander back up the High St

Maybe a little window shopping?

Choose between ancient pub and “ye olde tea shoppe”

Who are these little characters?

Back to the bandstand and turn right, signed Bowes

And a chateau awaits, now Bowes Museum

But who is the gargoyle waiting for?

The view from the terraces

The griffin’s spotted something

Much to our surprise, a Bengali wedding is taking place

Heritage of every kind.  Hope you enjoyed our little stroll?  It was too warm to hurry.

Still sunny today and I’m off to walk across the park to my zumba class.  That’ll tire me out for the weekend!  Have a good one, won’t you?

Many thanks to Cath of Show My Face, our lovely lady hostess.  Click on the link or the banner to see full details, and you can follow my activities on the button below.