Sitting on a 150-ft (46-m) volcanic outcrop overlooking the North Sea on one side and a cute little town of the same name on the other, Bamburgh Castle began life in Anglo-Saxon times as the fortified home of the kings of Northumberland. By the 12th century the massive stone keep was in place; this is the oldest part of the castle as most of what stands today is a Victorian folly. It is the result of rebuilding in the 19th century by the wealthy industrialist Lord Armstrong, who was also responsible for creating Cragside House nearby, where hydroelectricity was first used in 1863. Today Bamburgh is still the private home of the Armstrong family, and a tour of its interior winds through impressive staterooms laden with decorative arts from Sèvres porcelain to medieval weaponry.
Outside there are Victorian stables, gatehouses and towers to explore as well as the Armstrong and Aviation Museum in the old laundry, showcasing Lord Armstrong’s life alongside aircraft dating from the two world wars. The castle’s Anglo Saxon history is still being uncovered and archeologists work there throughout the summer; a series of family-friendly live events, from traditional craft displays to open-air theater, also take place on the Battery Terrace.
Rated as one of the finest castles in the UK, Bamburgh has spectacular views out to the Farne Islands, which are havens for seabirds, and Lindisfarne, where St Aidan founded a monastery in the seventh century.
Bamburgh. Open Feb 13–Oct daily 10am–5pm; Nov–Feb 11 Sat Sun 11am–4.30pm. Admission adults £10.75, seniors £10.50, children younger than 18 £5; family tickets £25. Best accessed by car, Bamburgh is 50 miles (80.5 km) north of Newcastle upon Tyne on the A1.