It’s so big and striking, you just can’t miss it.
Whether you’re miles along the coast or miles out to sea, Bamburgh Castle is a magnificent medieval marvel.
Sitting on the dunes 45 metres above the golden sand beach and overlooking the little Northumberland village that bears its name, it is, quite simply, an absolute beauty.
Now the castle is set to become a global magnet for movie fans after Hollywood came to town earlier this summer with extensive filming for the fifth Indiana Jones movie, starring Harrison Ford.
The producers followed in the footsteps of other big-screen epics, from Transformers to Macbeth, the BFG to Elizabeth. And the fabulous fortress is undoubtedly one of the reasons Bamburgh was recently named by Which? as the UK’s top seaside destination.
While there were earlier incarnations, the current castle largely dates back to Norman times, but attacks and the ravages of time took their toll.
Industrialist William Armstrong bought it at the end of the 19th Century and spent countless millions in today’s money to restore Bamburgh’s splendour.
It’s still very much lived in by the current generation of the family, with Francis Watson-Armstrong making his partner Claire queen of the castle in a fairy tale wedding there just before Christmas.
The state rooms are richly ornate and the King’s Hall, built in the Victorian era on the site of the original Great Hall, has you straining your neck in admiration at the high ceiling with its teak beams from Thailand.
But it’s equally as much fun to wander the grounds, check out the site of an ongoing archaeological excavation or just sit atop a cannon on the ramparts and gaze down at the sensational beach below.
No matter the season or time of day, you’ll find it full of dog walkers and kite fliers, sandcastle-building kids and anyone just looking for some bracing sea air.
Well, in truth, nowhere near full, as the beach is so wide, long and expansive you’ll always feel like you’ve found your own sandy idyll.
The other side of the castle looks down on the village and, like the fortress itself, it seems like a splendid step back into the past.
The straggling one-street line of stone buildings are a mix of cottages, quaint shops and hotels, all with a timeless feel. Butchers Carter’s has been serving the village for over 130 years and the Lord Crewe pub dates back to the 1600s.
Step into the Copper Kettle Tearooms and you half expect to find Miss Marple sleuthing over an afternoon tea.
There’s maritime history at the RNLI Grace Darling Museum. It was off these shores in 1838 that the 22-year-old lighthouse keeper’s daughter helped save the lives of the nine crew of the Dundee-bound SS Forfarshire.
Looking at the surprisingly big and heavy coble, it’s hard to imagine an Olympic legend like Steve Redgrave being able to row it on that stormy September night, never mind a slight young woman.
The current lifeboat station is just a couple of miles along the coast at altogether livelier Seahouses, with its fish and chip restaurants, ice cream parlours and hustle and bustle.
The harbour is the place to head to book a trip out to sea with Billy Shiel’s boats taking visitors to view the seabirds on the Farnes, and the grey seals basking on the shore.
The coast is rockier at Seahouses, but there are plenty more beach beauties up and down the coast.
Alnmouth, just four miles from Alnwick with its equally famous castle – standing in for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies saw to that – has miles of super sands.
The village is just as pretty and refined as Bamburgh and you’ll find another great beach (and another castle) at Warkworth.
For more watery wonders, head up the coast to Holy Island, but make sure to check the tide times for the causeway crossing or flooding the engine will take on a whole new meaning!
Back at Bamburgh, the most scenic of outdoor movie nights have become hugely popular at the castle with the likes of Mamma Mia! and The Greatest Showman being enjoyed in the courtyard.
Indiana Jones 5 looks a cert to follow in years to come.
P.S. If you fancy being king of the castle, you can book to stay in the plush Neville’s Tower within the walls. The top-floor living area boasts awesome views of the gorgeous surrounding area.
Tickets for Bamburgh Castle cost £12.50 adults and £6.15 for kids, with advance booking recommended at bamburghcastle.com/book/
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