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Bamburgh's Coast and Castle

Enjoy a fine beach, rolling countryside and superb views to Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands.

Distance 8.5 miles (13.7km)

Minimum time 3hrs 15min

Ascent/gradient 450ft (137m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field paths, dunes and beach, 10 stiles

Landscape Coastal pasture and dunes

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 340 Holy Island & Bamburgh

Start/finish NU 183348

Dog friendliness Can be off leads on dunes and beach

Parking Pay-and-display parking by Bamburgh Castle

Public toilets Bamburgh

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1 Walk towards Bamburgh village, where you'll find the museum and church. Our route, however, continues along the beach, reached either across the green below the castle or by following The Wynding, just beyond, and then crossing the dunes behind.

2 To the left, the sand soon gives way to Harkess Rocks. Carefully pick your way round to the lighthouse at Blackrocks Point, which is more easily negotiated to the landward side. Continue below the dunes, shortly regaining a sandy beach to pass around Budle Point.

3 Shortly before a derelict pier, climb on to the dunes towards a World War Two gun emplacement, behind which a waymarked path rises on to a golf course. Continue past markers to a gate, leaving along a track above a caravan park. At a bend, go through a gate on the left (marked 'Private') and carry on at the edge of the field to reach the cottages at Newtown.

4 Beyond, follow a wall on the left to regain the golf course over a stile at the top field-corner. Bear right to pass left of a look-out and continue on a grass track to the main road.

5 Walk down Galliheugh Bank to a bend and turn off to Dukesfield. Approaching the lane's end, go left over a stile, walk past a house to the field's far corner and continue by a hedge to a road. Cross to follow a green lane opposite and eventually, just after a cottage, reach a stile on the left. Make for West Burton farm, turn right through the farmyard to a lane and then go left.

6 Beyond a bend and over a stile on the left, signed 'New Shorestone', bear half-right across a field. Emerging on to a quiet lane, go over another stile opposite and continue in the same direction to Ingram Lane.

7 Some 300yds to the left (274m), a gated track on the right leads away and then around to the left towards Fowberry. Meeting a narrow lane, go left to the farm, then turn right immediately before the entrance on to a green track. In the next field, follow the left perimeter around the corner to a metal gate. Through that, remain beside the right-hand wall to a double gate, there turning right across a final field to Greenhill. Keep ahead to the main road.

8 Continue across to the beach and head north to Bamburgh. Approaching the castle, turn inland, over the dunes, where a cattle fence can be crossed by one of several gates or stiles. Work your way through to regain the road by the car park.

For as long as people have sailed this coast, the Farne Islands have been a hazard, claiming countless lives on their treacherous rocks. The most easterly outcrop of Northumberland's whinstone intrusion, they form two main groups and comprise around 30 tilted, low-lying islands, some barely breaking the waves. Their harsh environment and isolated position attracted the early Christian saints, who sought seclusion for a life of prayer and meditation. And on Inner Farne, the largest of the group, is a restored 14th-century chapel dedicated to St Cuthbert, who spent the last years of his life there.

The first attempt to mark the Farne Islands for shipping was around 1673, when a signal fire was lit on a 16th-century tower, built by the Bishop of Durham, on Inner Farne. Later, other beacon towers were built, first on Staple Island and then, in 1783, on Brownsman. The first modern lighthouse was erected on Inner Farne in 1809 and was quickly followed by another on Brownsman. However, the latter actually proved a danger and was replaced in 1826 with one on Longstone. Sadly, even these efficient lights were unable to prevent every disaster, and ships continued to founder on the dangerous reefs. The event that caught the imagination of the country, though, was the wreck of the SS Forfarshire in 1838 because of the unstilted heroism of the Longstone keeper and his daughter in rescuing the survivors. The Darlings had been keepers of the Farne lights since 1795, when Robert was appointed to the Brownsman beacon. He later took over the new lighthouse and was followed by his son William in 1815, who then moved to the new light on Longstone when it opened.

A storm was raging before dawn on 7 September 1838 when the Forfarshire struck Big Harcar, just south west of Longstone. William's daughter, Grace, was keeping watch with her father and spotted the wreck, although at first neither could see any survivors. With first light, they sighted men clinging to the wave-washed rock and launched their tiny coble to attempt a rescue. They found nine survivors, including a woman, but were only able to bring five back on the first trip. William returned with two of them for those remaining, whilst his daughter helped the others recover from their exposure. Grace became a national heroine, but managed to remain unaffected by the publicity and stayed with her parents at Bamburgh. Sadly, she died of tuberculosis only four years later at the age of 26. A small museum in the village tells the story and, in the churchyard opposite, there is a replica of the memorial effigy that was placed near her grave, the original having been removed inside the church for protection.

While you're there

Overlooking the beach and a striking landmark for miles around, Bamburgh Castle is every bit as impressive inside as out. It was restored by a trust established by Lord Crewe, Bishop of Durham, who owned the castle during the 18th century. The work was continued by Lord Armstrong, who bought the castle in 1894, and inside, amongst other things, you will find a splendid exhibition illustrating the inventive genius of this great Edwardian industrialist.

What to look for

Pop inside St Aiden's Church, its chancel occupying the site of an earlier Saxon church that marked the spot on which the saint is held to have died in ad 651. A beam, now incorporated within the structure of the tower, is traditionally that which supported the canopy under which he lay.

Where to eat and drink

Places to choose from in the village include the Lord Crewe Arms, Castle Hotel, Victoria House Brasserie and the Copper Kettle Tea Rooms, between them they offer everything from morning coffee to a full evening dinner. If you visit the castle, you'll also find refreshments served in the tea room.

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