The area of Northumberland has a lot going for it. It’s beautiful with amazing scenery around, quiet even in the height of summer and absolutely filled with castles to explore too! If stumbling around the historic past of this part of the country is your idea of a good time then you’ll love to visit these 5 castles in Northumberland.
I’m always attracted to explore Northumberland as it’s one of those areas that is a lot quieter than the more popular spots like the Lake District and Cornwall. I’m not a fan or crowds and love to be off the beaten path a little! So Northumberland is a perfect destination for this.
Despite it being a quiet area you’ll likely have seen some of these Northumberland castles as a few of them are very well known!
So, in this article, we will explore some of the 5 most impressive castles in Northumberland that you can actually visit. We’ll be uncovering their stories and secrets, and delving into the turbulent history that shaped this beautiful corner of England. Let’s go!
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A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert. Although I live here I still travel around England as a tourist every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
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Northumberland is a county steeped in history, with a rich and fascinating past that has left behind a legacy of incredible castles.
From the impressive fortresses built to repel Scottish invaders to the grand country estates of the landed gentry, Northumberland’s castles are a testament to the region’s strategic importance and the wealth and power of its ruling classes.
Whether you’re a history buff, a castle enthusiast, or simply looking to explore some of the region’s most iconic landmarks, Northumberland’s castles are sure to captivate and inspire.
They make great days out if you’re staying in the area and some are even close enough for a trip from Edinburgh or the Scottish Borders.
Why so many Castles in Northumberland?
Since Northumberland is located in the north of England and borders Scotland it was a site of battles and power struggles. Loads of castles were built in the area to provide defensive positions for the area as the Scots took back land and then the English returned the favour.
For this reason, it’s one of the counties in England with the most castles and there are supposed to be over 70 castle sites in the area – of course, many of these will have gone by the wayside over the years but there are still a good number that can be visited if you’re in the area!
Map of Northumberland Castles to visit
5 castles to visit in Northumberland
1. Bamburgh Castle
- Dog friendly
- Has a HUGE beach nearby for walks
- was used in Last Kingdom Netflix series
A stunning castle that lies on the Northumbrian coast is Bamburgh. It’s located in a really small village with a few shops, pubs and cafes but the real draw is the beach and the castle as a backdrop. It’s an amazing beach that stretches for miles and even when it’s busy it doesn’t feel overcrowded.
From as early as 420 AD there has been a fort at the location of Bamburgh castle. It was a stronghold that went from the Anglo Saxons to the Britons and back again many times before finally being destroyed by the Vikings in the late 900s. Once the Normans arrived in England a new castle was built and that is the base of what is there now.
As with many castles in the UK it fell into disrepair in the late 18th and 19th century. It was then bought by the Armstrong family who have restored and looked after it to get it to the state that you see today – a huge improvement!
Bamburgh is open daily from the beginning of February until the end of October (if you’re travelling at either end of those dates do check as they may change) from 10am – 5pm. From November until the end of January the castle is only open at weekends from 11am – 4.30pm.
Cost of admission is as follows in 2023:
- £15.50 adult
- £7.65 for children ages 5-16.
- Under 5s are free
- You can also get a family ticket for £41 which covers 2 adults and 3 children under the age of 18.
Parking at Bamburgh castle costs £4 for the day. There’s a dedicated car park for the castle or opposite is a council car park if it’s busy (slightly more expensive at £5 for 3 hours). Just drive through the village and at the base of the castle are the car parks
2. Alnwick Castle
- Loads to do there including Broomstick training!
- Dragon Quest – battle a terrifying dragon!
- Used in lots of TV shows and films – it’s Hogwarts!
Ever since we watched the first Harry Potter films we knew we’d love to visit a real life Hogwarts. Of course, many different filming locations were used but one castle that was famously used in the first couple of films was Alnwick Castle.
Alnwick Castle’s exterior was used to film the outdoor scenes where Harry and friends were learning to use their brooms for the first time (they have daily events where you can learn to do this too – and it’s included in the ticket price). When Neville manages to get himself stuck on the castle that was filmed here!
Alnwick Castle was built in the 11th century and unlike Bamburgh this one is inland and not overlooking the sea.
The Duke of Northumberland still lives in part of the castle although the rest is open to the public – it’s one of the largest castles still lived in in the UK (after Windsor castle near London).
The castle is open daily from the end of March until the end of October (exact dates may vary from year to year so do check if travelling near either end of these dates) 10 am 10am – 5.30pm.
Cost of admission is as follows in 2023:
- £19.50 adults
- £15.75 concessions (60+ or full time students)
- £10.25 for children aged 5-16.
- Children 4 and under are free.
- £53 Family tickets (include 2 adults and up to 4 children) These are in advance prices – it’s a little bit more expensive to buy on the door.
Alnwick is a really nice little town to visit too if you have time to explore so I definitely encourage you to do so if you can.
We found the parking a little confusing at first though be prepared! Basically there are certain car parks that you need a permit disc for (you can buy them in Alnwick for £1), but also right alongside them there are ‘normal’ car parks.
Just be aware where you are parking and you should be fine – it was busy, but we were travelling in the school holidays so this was to be expected. Parking was free also.
Getting to Alnwick Castle from Edinburgh
If you’re interested in visiting this Northumberland Castle from a base in Edinburgh then you’re in luck!
There are a number of tours from Edinburgh to this area and to specifically Alnwick Castle (I blame the Harry Potter Effect!) but also including Holy Island too.
3. Warkworth Castle
Warkworth Castle has a stunning example of a Norman keep which was built in the 1100s – it’s a fairly small structure in comparison to both Bamburgh and Alnwick, but it’s really impressive nonetheless.
Warkworth castle was a residence of the Percy family, remember those who also own Alnwick? They were the wealthiest landowners in the North of England and it definitely showed!
The castle is now in ruins, it fell into disrepair in the 1500s and although many attempts to revive it took place by the Percy family over the years it was eventually passed to the State and declared an ancient monument.
It’s a really interesting castle to look around – we went many years ago now and we all enjoyed the audio guides to help bring the history to life.
As well as the castle, there’s also the remains of an old chapel – the Hermitage – to be seen. It’s on the banks of the nearby river and is carved out of the rock face – really unique! It’s not open every day so do check if you want to go and see it. It’s accessible by boat.
The castle is open daily through the summer months from March until end of October. Opening times vary and you should check their website for up to date times. The Hermitage is only open certain days through the year – again, it’s best to check the official site if you want to visit that specifically.
In winter months the castle is also open but just on Saturdays and Sundays.
Warkworth is owned by English Heritage so if you’re a member there you’ll get in for free – they often have offers on for membership here.
Admission for non members in 2023 is as follows:
- £8.60 adult
- £5.00 child
- £7.70 for concessions (student or over 65)
- £22.20 Family tickets (2 adults and up to 3 children)
Car parking is available at the castle and there’s also parking in the village which is lovely to walk around as well.
Offer – Get 15% off English Heritage Membership when paying by annual direct debit. Use the code – EHAFF2023
4. Lindisfarne castle
The island of Lindisfarne is actually connected to the mainland via a causeway and it’s also known as Holy Island. You can get there by car at certain points of the day and it’s a really nice place to visit with the Priory, some lovely walks, nature and village too.
Of course, the castle is another attraction and the one we’re interested with here.
Lindisfarne castle is the newest Northumberland castle in this list being built in the 16th century at the time of Henry VIII.
When the monasteries, including the one on Holy Island, were dissolved the castle was built to provide protection to the coast from the Scots and also the Spanish.
Inside the castle there is a lot to see and it’s just undergone fairly large restoration works. It’s been left in the style of the early 1900s when it was a holiday home. It’s quite different to many other castles that are able to be visited – some may not like that but I think it’s nice that some are a little bit unique!
Do check opening times at the National Trust website and also be aware of the tidal crossing times so as not to get stranded there! It is closed through the winter months of November to February but of course you can still get some stunning views of it from the outside!
Non member admission in 2023 is
- £8.50 adult,
- £4.25 child
- £21.25 for a family ticket
Parking at Holy Island:
There is a large car park on arrival at Holy Island that visitors are requested to park in rather than clog up the village which is quite small.
There is a charge for the car park – it’s around £5 for 3 hours. You can now pay via app or card but it’s probably a good idea to have the right change for the machine just in case.
Getting to Holy Island from Edinburgh
As with Alnwick Castle there are many tours departing from Edinburgh that cover Holy Island and the castle of Lindisfarne. Check out this one
Fancy a day trip from Northumberland? – If you like the abbey of Lindisfarne you could also visit the Scottish Border Abbeys (It’s actually not too far!)
5. Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle lies on a headland of the Northumbrian coast just a little south from Bamburgh. It was built in 1313 as part of a hostile time between the King, Edward II and the Earl of Lancaster and was apparantly much bigger than it looks. The Earl’s rebellion didn’t amount to much and he was beheaded before he could even get to the castle.
Over the years it was a scene of much fighting, especially in the Wars of the Roses time but after that was abandoned as it decayed.
As with many of the castles in Northumberland, the winter months see the opening times reduced to weekends only. In Spring, Summer and Autumn the castle is open daily but do check the opening times as they change throughout the year.
The castle is owned by English Heritage so is free to members.
Prices for non member in 2023 are:
- £6.80 adult
- £3.60 for a child (aged 5-17)
- £5.90 concession (student or 65+)
- £17.20 for a family of 2 adults and 3 children.
Castles to visit in Northumberland – conclusion
As you can see there are so many wonderful options in the North East of England so whether you’re visiting from Scotland or perhaps from another northern English city like York you’ll have a lot to do!
Whether you love medieval, viking or any other British history (and the films they inspire) you’ll be sure to find a castle in Northumberland to suit!
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