With over 70 different castle sites, the sprawling county of Northumberland has more castles than any other region in England. Many of these castles were built during the 15th century to protect England against the invading Scottish army during the Border Wars. Although some of the castles were left to crumble over the last 500 years, many of them have been meticulously restored, shedding light on what medieval life was like in England.
Out of all the castles in Northumberland, there are a few major sights that you shouldn’t miss during your trip.
England’s second-largest castle is currently home to the Duke of Northumberland, although the residence quarters only take up a small part of the castle itself. It has also been used in a number of blockbuster hits, including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Harry Potter (Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets), and Transformers. Inside the Alnwick in Northumberland, you can tour the ornate staterooms or even practice a bit of wizardry! Alnwick Castle offers Broomstick Training classes for anyone wanting to learn how to fly a broomstick like their favorite Harry Potty characters.
Chillingham Castle Northumberland
Built in the 12th century, the Chillingham Northumberland is more than just a massive medieval fortress. It’s also considered to be the most haunted castle in all of England! While there are supposedly many stories about the spirits that haunt the castle, the most frightening ghost is Blue Boy. He was known to haunt visitors that came into the Pink Room (although this has recently stopped since renovators found his body inside the wall).
Unlike other castles of Northumberland, the Lindisfarne Castle sits on a small, green island in the center of the North Sea. The road that leads to the castle is covered by the tide twice a day. During the mid-1500s, the castle was often attacked by Scottish and Viking armies, which led to several decades of construction and fortification. While it’s possible to tour the inside of the castle, it’s worth visiting just to admire its imposing position atop a giant hill in the middle of the ocean.
The 12th-century Warkworth Castle on the Northumberland coast was used by the powerful Percy family for more than three centuries. Much of the castle sits in ruins, although some restoration and excavation efforts have been made over the last few decades. The highlight of Warkworth is the cross-shaped keep, a unique architectural structure that sits at the head of the castle. It was once decorated with royal sculptures and was most likely used as a lookout tower during the war between England and Scotland. The Warkworth Hermitage sits above the Coquet River and is considered by many to be one of the most elaborate rock-cut chapels left in the United Kingdom.
The crumbling Dunstanburgh Castle is one of the most awe-inspiring Castles in Northumberland. Situated right on the Great Whi Sill headland near Craster, Dunstanburg boasts spectacular views of the crashing sea, jagged cliffs, and rocky shorelines. It’s worth entering the castle (which has free admission) just to climb to the Lilburn Tower. From there, you’ll be rewarded with dramatic views of Embelton Beach and the neighboring Bamburgh Castle.
With more than 1500 years of history, the Bamburgh Castle Northumberland is one of the most historically important castles in the country. It was once the capital of the Bernicia Kingdom before it was seized and destroyed by the Vikings in 993. Once it was rebuilt, it was turned over to the English Monarch, who left it to deteriorate. When it became privately owned in the 19th century, many refurbishments were made to restore the castle. The staterooms, King’s hall, armory, and keep have been remodeled and are now open to the public.
Castle Hotels in Northumberland
While it’s possible to visit the stunning castles of Northumberland on a day trip, it’s better to spend a few days in the region to see everything it has to offer. Many castles in England have actually been retrofitted to entertain guests, which means it’s possible to stay in the castle overnight.
If you’re looking for castles to stay in Northumberland, we recommend the Langley Castle Hotel Hexham. This 14th-century castle was converted into a five-star hotel with 27 guestrooms, in-room spa and sauna facilities, and an award-winning restaurant. The rooms in the castle are surrounded by fortified stone walls seven feet thick, and many of them boast jaw-dropping views of the lush Northumberland Valley.