A good photograph is knowing where to stand - Ansel Adams

Dunstanburgh Castle
Friday, 15 May 2009 19:05

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Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle may well be a "very reuynus howsse and of smalle strength" but those ruins are quite spectacularly situated on a rocky Northumbrian headland, jutting out no small distance into the North Sea. As such, you can be virtually guaranteed some wonderful seascapes, with the reliably wild North Sea crashing against a rocky shore both to the north and south of the ruins. The most striking feature when approaching from the south is the remarkable twin-towered gatehouse, which rises to heights easily visible from some distance away. Equally, the north aspect displays a long enceinte wall punctuated by the tall Lillburn, Constable and Egyncleugh towers. Dunstanburgh Castle is indeed as one 1550 source put it, in a state of "wonderfull great decaye."

Construction of the castle begun in 1313 by Earl Thomas of Lancaster and improved by John of Gaunt in the late 14th century. In spite of it's location near the English-Scottish borders, it was not significantly involved in the border conflicts. It was however held for the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses, with damage inflicted during this period going unrepaired, allowing the castle to eventually fall into ruin. The castle is now owned by the National Trust and managed by English Heritage, so access to the castle itself is subject to opening and closing times, as well as an entrance fee. Access to the beaches to the north and south of the castle are subject to no such restrictions however.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Recommended equipment for such a location would definitely include a tripod. With the proximity of the sea, it's likely you'll want to try some longer exposures to blur the movement of the water slightly. Also bear in mind that the latitude of Northumberland means that the sun will set later than you might be expecting, and so you might have to cope with more light than you may be used to for a specific time of day. On my last trip, my underused ND8 (3-stop neutral density filter) saw use more than once as I attempted to slow down the exposures in comparatively bright sunlight. For that reason, you may want to take a neutral density filter. A graduated neutral density filter will likely also prove useful.

The ruins lie around a mile north from the small village of Craster, and are only accessible on foot, so it is from here that they are best approached. The town itself is small fishing village, with little in the way of facilities, but the The Jolly Fisherman pub provides a welcome rest with food available until about 2pm. It's worth noting that the pub was closed during the late afternoon, so check the pub website for opening times if you are counting on a bite to eat or a pint. Also availble from The Piper's Pitch catering van near the tourist information center, is the apparently famous Auchtermuchty sandwich, which consists of haggis and bacon and is certainly worth trying. There are plenty of other options available however.

I can't speak for the accomodation in Craster, having camped in the nearby Proctors Stead campsite, but a Google search turned up plenty of available options in the vicinity. The campsite however, was cheaper than many others I've stayed in in the Northumberland area, and reasonably well equipped and quiet. I understand from the staff that most sites in the area fill up rather quickly on bank holiday weekends however, and booking early is advised.

You should note that also in the area are the equally impressive coastal castles of Bamburgh and Lindisfarne. My last trip encompassed both of these sites, and if you are making the journey I'd strongly recommend you visit them both also. All three of these sites can be reached via the A1 from Newcastle or Berwick-upon-tweed, with all of these areas being serviced in the summer months by the 505 and/or 501 buses from both Newcastle and Berwick-upon-tweed.

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I am on a constant lookout for new and interesting locations. If you know of a potentially photogenic location you'd like to see included in the guide, please let me know.