Of the many castles to be found in Northumberland, there are some real photographic gems; Alnwick Castle is a popular choice for film locations, Bamburgh combines dramatic masonry with equally dramatic coastline, Dunstanburgh‘s shattered towers provide a ghostly silhouette to many a coastal sunrise shot, and Lindisfarne’s location must have been photographed so much that many of those who have never been would recognise it without difficulty.
There are many more too; Norham, Prudhoe, Belsay, Aydon etc, because this is a region of conflict, not just reflecting the border tensions between England and Scotland, but also the raids of Norsemen who found the monasteries easy targets for raids across the North Sea.
For years, I’ve neglected the 12th century stronghold at Warkworth, its position above a small coastal town in a loop of the River Coquet is certainly imposing, but the narrow road through the town is often congested in summer and avoiding the traffic means avoiding Warkworth too.
Even when taking this route, the frustrations of stop-start driving make me impatient to press on rather than dally at the cruciform ruin.
The bonus of a sunny Bank Holiday Monday after a wet weekend was enough incentive to end this neglect. The inevitable beauty of a Northumberland beach was the first draw though, so it was late in the afternoon when we arrived at the castle, too late for the archery demonstrations and other activities being demonstrated by a small group dressed in medieval garb. Nevertheless their presence added to the experience; especially the children who, having grown accustomed to their strange outfits, were now behaving unselfconsciously as children doubtless did in the middle ages.
The castle walls and towers are decayed, but at the heart is the keep which is so intact that it was used as a replica of the Tower of London in the film Elizabeth only a few years ago. With its multiple stairways arranged around a central light well it has a great deal of labrynthine charm. The qualify of the masonry is doubtless responsible for its preservation.
Looking down from one of the keep’s great chambers you have a great view of the castle perimeter which is further guarded by a great ditch beyond the walls. Further still is the somewhat incongruous sight of a row of 20th Century semi’s. Though they look wrong from the castle, I’m sure the opposite vista adds something to their market value.
I was sorry it had taken me so long to visit, but in the context of the site’s centuries of use, I’m sure a few years is neither here nor there.
Don’t let the title of this post fool you by the way. The river is pronounced coke-ut.