Monday, March 31, 2008

A Medieval Sunset & Tragic Love Story

A beautiful sunset is always a pleasure to be savoured - but a medieval one? On a recent day trip to Northumberland, having visited the medieval castles of Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh earlier in the day, we had started heading inland for the journey back to Cumbria. We knew that Warworth was not too far away and because of its importance as a medieval castle (built in the 12th century), we decided to call in. It had been a sunny, cloudless though cold day and so it was that, without too much of a detour, we managed to get to Warkworth Castle in time to watch a glorious sunset.

When we arrived there was no-one there - only us. Overhead the sky was still blue and the setting sun cast a glorious golden light onto the castle. We couldn't gain entrance as it was well past opening time but without anyone to disturb us we were able to walk around the perimeter and down to the river in the direction of the hermitage.

I'll never forget the quiet of the early evening and how the only discernible movement around the castle was that of several black crows high up on top of the ruined walls; they were enjoying swooping down on the air currents and then back up again, clearly enjoying the last remnants of daylight before settling down to roost for the night.

Watching the crows I was reminded of the legend of Warkworth Castle's ghost, Sir Bertram de Bothal (of Bothal castle), a medieval knight whose story is one of the most tragic you will ever hear. Set in the 14th century when the powerful Percy family had taken up residence at Warkworth, Bertram fell in love with Lady Isobel Widdrington (sometimes referred to as Lady Isobella). By a weird quirk of fate, Bertram accidentally killed both his brother and Isobel and retreated to Warkworth for sanctuary. There he retreated to a nearby place carved out of rock, known as the hermitage and there he is reputed to have died of a broken heart, having carved into the rock the words:

'my tears have been my meat by day and by night'

The scar left by this tragedy is the ghost that is said to haunt the castle and its grounds - the ghost of Sir Bertram himself. A more detailed account of the legend of Warkworth can be found on our web page: Haunted Warkworth Castle.

There's also an interesting extract about Sir Bertram on Google Book Search

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Stunning Bamburgh Castle

I don’t think there’s a more stunning location in Britain for a castle than that enjoyed by Bamburgh Castle. If you have been there you know what I mean. If you haven’t, then you should! Indeed many people believe that Bamburgh Castle is the finest in all England.

It sits high up on a rock cliff overlooking the North Sea with views towards Holy Island and the Farne Islands and the drive approaching it is very special for the castle simply dominates the horizon. I’ve been to Bamburgh Castle several times and on every occasion I never cease to be amazed at how magnificent it looks. You cannot fail to be in awe of the people who actually built it; the sheer effort and planning involved in its construction must have been mammoth.

Having parked our car at the foot of the castle (left is a photo we took of Bamburgh Castle from the car park below), we walked up the fairly steep drive to approach it. As it was a beautiful, sunny day we decided not to go straight up to the castle but to venture a few hundred yards beyond, down through the sand dunes and onto the beach. I can close my eyes even now as I write this and feel that sea breeze on my face and recapture the panoramic, open views. What a setting for a medieval castle! It’s the kind of place you just can’t imagine existing – until you go there. We had 2 cameras with us that day and I can honestly say the shutters didn’t stop clicking for quite some time.

For those interested in haunted castles, Bamburgh has its own, striking ghost story. Read about ‘The Pink Lady’ on our page about haunted Bamburgh Castle.

For those interested in medieval architecture, the oldest, surviving part of the castle is its Keep, believed to have been constructed in the mid 12th century. Today the Keep houses an armoury as well as firearms and crossbows. If you’re interested in what is open to the public at Bamburgh Castle, just follow the link to the official website.

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