Bamburgh Castle stands on a 55m- (180ft) high dolerite crag, part of the Great Whin Sill. The original wooden Saxon fort was replaced by the Normans in the 12th century. After much destruction during the Wars of the Roses, its military importance declined. It was partly restored in the 1750s by Lord Crewe, and more extensively in the late 19th century by Lord Armstrong, whose descendents continue to reside there.
Cross the road and ascend the slope to the castle car park. On the far side of this, several footpaths lead through the sand dunes and on to the beach. The dunes are a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation.
On reaching the beach you will get a first view of the Farne Islands. Walk north along the sandy beach then past the black, dolerite rocks toward the lighthouse. Beneath the lighthouse, the rocks are undercut by a softer layer of carboniferous limestone, in which you may see fossilised crinoids.
Continue on the path that runs along the lower rim of the dunes, overlooking the continuation of the rocks. You may see oystercatchers or plovers searching for food in the rockpools, and possibly eider ducks riding the swell at the tide’s edge.
As you approach Budle Point, take a convenient path up through the dunes to join a bridleway that lines the edge of the golf course. This swings round to the southwest and overlooks the broad expanse of Budle Bay, with Lindisfarne standing proud of the northern horizon. At low tide, Budle Bay is a vast area of sand and mudflats, dotted with foraging curlew, godwit, redshank, ringed plover and other waders.
At a marker post the track turns down to the left, through shrubbery and past a wartime gun emplacement, then up to the side of a caravan site. Go round this and follow the road to the west of Heather Cottages, back on to the golf course. Cross this, following a line of blue marker posts through dense patches of gorse. The views back over Budle Bay are superb. The right of way now leads through more dense vegetation, which is a colourful riot of bluebells, gorse and hawthorn blossom in springtime. A gateway opens into a field. Follow the footpath along the eastern side of the field and up a set of steps on to the B1342.
Turn left and follow the track along the grass verge. The road can be busy, and for about 200m the verge is narrow. It then broadens, and after a similar distance becomes a tarred footpath which leads back into Bamburgh.
On the edge of the town, make a short detour into St Aidan’s churchyard to visit the grave of Grace Darling, a local heroine who, in 1838, braved a storm in a rowing boat to rescue sailors shipwrecked on the Farne Islands.
Continue into the town and follow the road back to the car park.
Sand dunes, rocky shore and grassy footpaths.
HOW TO GET THERE
by car: From Newcastle, follow the A1 north, and 11 miles north of Alnwick, turn right on to the B1341. From Berwick, take the A1 south and turn left on to the B1342, about a mile south of Belford. Both roads lead into Bamburgh. The walk starts from the car park below the castle.
By public transport: Regular bus services run to Bamburgh from Newcastle, Alnwick and Berwick.
Lord Crewe Hotel
Front Street, Bamburgh
Tel. 01668 214243
Northumberland National Park Authority
North East England