Our real goal for the day was Lindisfarne Island. As we stood on the castle on Lindisfarne we could see a castle off in the distance. There was sunlight burning so you know we had to go and explore.
The eastern coastline is vulnerable to seaborne raids and coastal defense is critical. Bamburgh’s crag position is visible for miles and is put to use first in the Roman coastal defense system 2,000 years ago but there is evidence that this site was used as far back as 13,000 B.C. The Romans were unable to defeat the barbarians from the north of the UK (what is now Scotland but the Scots had not yet moved from Ireland to Scotland so it was the Pics – a fellow Celtic tribe). Retreating south the Romans built Hadrians Wall and built a series of forts and defense systems against the north.
Angles and Saxons were both Germanic tribes that invaded the eastern section of England in the 5th and 6th century. Over time these two Germanic tribes filled the political and leadership void left by the Romans and became the Anglo-Saxons. Bamburgh Castle became their royal castle. This area was largest and most powerful of the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and it was known as Northumbria. The natural geographic of this location puts it 150 feet above the coastline with its connection to a natural harbor.
A powerful and ruthless King named Aethelfrith the Destroyer dies in 607 A.D. He is hated so much his children flee into exile upon his death and his second eldest child, Oswald, is sent to Iona in western Scotland to the monastery to be raised and educated. He returns a Christian and is responsible for giving Lindisfarne to the monks. Lindisfarne became the central location for training monks as Christian missionaries which eventually brought Christianity to England.
In 993 the Vikings destroyed the castle or fortification as they so often did. The Normans (Vikings who had originally moved to France and became “French”) conquered England from the south in 1066 in the Battle of Hastings and built the current castle. Since that time the castle has undergone several renovations and additions. It was the first castle ever defeated by artillery in 1464. A siege in 1065 ended after the King was captured and King William II threatened to blind the King if the Queen didn’t surrender.
The castle deteriorated but was restored by the famous Victorian Industrialist William Armstrong. The castle still belongs to his family and what makes the castle unique is that it is open to the public. Many of the non-royal castles of England are ruins so going through this castle was special as you can see the splendor of how royalty actually lived hundreds of years previous. The castle has been used in several movies such as Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, El Cid and Ivanhoe.
Former living quarters are now apartments that are rented out annually. The castle is part of a family trust and is so expensive to maintain that the two surviving Armstrong’s live nearby on farms. Just to the south of the castle are beautiful sand dunes over looking an incredible beach where it is rumored that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton used to meet and picnic.