A good photograph is knowing where to stand - Ansel Adams

Bamburgh Castle
Sunday, 24 May 2009 21:49

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Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle is built on the Northumbrian coast atop a large basalt outcrop, and though seperated from the sea by a curtain of sand dunes, it dominates the landscape for miles around. The castle is one of the most impressive in northern England, and while in my opinion it lacks the atmosphere of the neighbouring Dunstanburgh Castle, it makes up for that in spades with it's sheer size and grandeur.

Bamburgh Castle is very much a counterpoint to it's nearby neighbour; where Dunstanburgh lies mostly in spectacular ruin, Bamburgh is very much intact. The castle has been extensively restored over the years, first by Lord Crew in the 1750's and more recently by the the Victorian industrialist William Armstrong at the end of the 19th century. Indeed, the castle still serves as home to the Armstrong family, along with a number of other residents who rent out luxury apartments here - reputedly at great cost!

With this in mind, don't expect a hollowed-out shell or bare stone-floored rooms as in many castles of this period; the interior of the castle is much more in line with a more modern stately home than a defensive fortification. As such, visitors to the castle's interior will find that many areas are inaccesible to the the public, and by way of a further disappointment, photography is not permitted in the indoor areas. Expecting that the objection was to flash photography, perhaps due to light sensitivity of some of the artifacts on display, I enquired as to the reasons for this. I was given the somewhat baffling explanation that permitting photography would "interfere with other's enjoyment of the castle", and that there were also "issues of security and commercial fraudulence." It is of course the choice of the owners to allow or dissallow photography on private property as they see fit, but it's always extremely disappointing on the rare occations I hear it. Bear this policy in mind before you visit.

Bamburgh Castle

This is no great loss for the photographer though, as the exterior of the castle is a visual treat. Near to the castle, there is a wide sandy beach with ample scope for sweeping panoramas, or for reflections of the castle in the broad, wet sands. Equally, there is the nearby Blackrocks Point and Harkness Rocks to the north-west for foreground interest and the seemingly obligatory waves crashing on rocks shots. There is also a small lighthouse at Blackrocks Point, though it has to be said, it is a rather squat and unattractive one in the scheme of things.

The castle is floodlit at night, giving the possibility of some photographic interest after the sun has set. I found on my visit however, that the floodlights were only lit once the skies were nearly fully dark, which of course makes perfect sense from an energy saving standpoint, but it does make it extremely difficult to render much more than a dark, featureless sky.

Due to the proximity of the sand dunes, the south-eastern aspect of the castle is perhaps not as photographically interesting and the north-west, but it's always worth investigating if you have the time. The Farne Islands and their collection of lighthouses and monastic buildings are more visible from this end of the beach, though being so far offshore, you'll need a long telephoto to render them as much more than tiny features. There are boat trips available from nearby Seahouses but I can't give an opinion, not having tried one myself.

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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.