Our guide to castles in Northumberland

Days out, Family, Educational

Posted by Ed Roberts on 30th October 2020

Bamburgh Castle

Northumberland has so many castles that it should be renamed ‘Castle Land’. Home to over 70 castles (from earthworks to fully restored), we need not tell you that this northerly county of England was at the brunt of some fierce battles with the Scottish and during the English Civil Wars. 

There are more castles in Northumberland than anywhere else in England, and that makes it the perfect holiday destination for castle-baggers, budding historians, and young families that love a fun day of exploration and imagination.

We have a varied range of self-catering holiday cottages in Northumberland for you to choose from too; pretend it’s your very own castle!


Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

After Windsor Castle in Berkshire, Alnwick Castle, Alnwick, is England’s second-largest inhabited fortress in the realm. For over 700 years, this gorgeous citadel has been home to the Dukes of Northumberland (the Percy family). Alnwick Castle was originally a motte and bailey castle; nowadays it is an impressive palace. There are family-friendly tours available and you can learn all about Alnwick’s associations with the famous medieval knight, Harry Hotspur; the Percys throughout the ages; the boy-wizard, Harry Potter; and TV’s Downton Abbey. Inside its walls, you will find a library containing 14,000 books and one of Europe’s best private art collections. There are some family-friendly activities to get involved with including ‘have-a-go’ archery and a Harry Potter-themed ‘Broomstick Training Classroom’ for junior wizards and witches. Muggles need not apply.

Prices and opening times: See website for details.

Facilities: Museum, gift shops, information points, parking, WCs, disabled access, guide dogs only

Stay nearby: Thornbrae Retreat | Sleeps: 4 guests


Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

For drama and impact, Bamburgh Castle is the fortress to beat. Sat atop an extinct volcano, the imposing Norman-era castle has loomed over Bamburgh’s dune-fringed beach for 1,400 years. It is one of the largest inhabited castles in the land and was restored during Victorian times by the famous philanthropist, William George Armstrong. Bamburgh and nearby Lindisfarne are thought to be the cradle of Christianity in the British Isles, the site being home to St Oswald and St Aidan. Today, visitors can discover the State Rooms, King’s Hall, The Armoury, The Keep, and 9 acres of grounds. After getting to know the castle, head down to the beach for some photo opportunities; the castle’s profile is best appreciated from afar.

Prices and opening times: See website for details.

Facilities: Café, WCs, disabled access (except for State Rooms), parking, shop, dogs allowed in the grounds

Stay nearby: Smuggler’s Hideaway | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog 


Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle 

The woebegone ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, near Craster, stand at the low summit of a coastal landform overlooking a stony shoreline. The scenery is very dramatic there and it is a stirring sight to behold. It was once one of the largest castles in the North East but nowadays it’s a very picturesque crumbling ruin. Managed by English Heritage, the castellated skyline is best photographed at sunrise; it’s really worth getting out of bed early for. The castle fell to ruin after the War of Roses (1455-1485), but you can still appreciate the scale of its fortifications including its twin-towered keep and its long walls. Dunstanburgh Castle cannot be reached by road and is best reached via the lovely 1.3-mile-long trail along the coast and through some local fields.

Prices and opening times: See website for details.

Facilities: Coffee stand, picnic area, shop, dogs on leads allowed, no WCs, no parking

Stay nearby: Toms Hideout | Sleeps: 5 guests plus 1 dog


Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne Castle

For isolation and spectacle, there are few other medieval edifices in Northumberland to rival the iconic Lindisfarne Castle, Berwick-upon-Tweed. It was built on the site of Lindisfarne Monastery during the reign of Henry VIII when he sacked most of the religious centres in the UK. The castle was built with the same stone and its purpose was to defend Holy Island Harbour; it remained a military stronghold until the late 1800s. In 1901, it was converted into a holiday home by the famed architect, Edward Lutyens, who is known for designing much of New Delhi in India’s modern structure. Today, it is managed by the National Trust and you can explore its grounds and interesting rooms. The island is reached via a tidal causeway, so be certain to check tide times in advance so that you don’t get cut off by the sea.

Prices and opening times: See website for details.

Facilities: Baby-changing facilities, lockers, limited WCs, no parking

Stay nearby: Britannia House | Sleeps: 6 guests plus 2 dogs 


Warkworth Castle

Warkworth Castle

Now managed by English Heritage, the striking ruins of Warkworth Castle were once owned by the Dukes of Northumberland (the Percys), including the knight, Harry Hotspur. Still casting an imposing shadow across the small town of Warkworth, see the cross-shaped keep and visit the enigmatic hermitage on the site. You can enjoy fantastic views over the River Coquet and across the coast from the castle walls. The castle was virtually destroyed during the English Civil War, and partially restored during the 19th century.

Prices and opening times: See website for details.

Facilities: Shop, café, WCs, parking

Stay nearby: 1 Coquet Lodge | Sleeps: 4 plus 2 dogs 


Chillingham Castle

Chillingham Castle

Do you believe in ghosts? If you do, then there’s a likelihood you could see something spooky at the aptly named Chillingham Castle, England’s most haunted castle. A whole host of important figures from history stayed here, including Edward Longshanks (Edward I), Henry III, and Charles I. In the depths of the castle, you will find the dungeons and former torture chambers yet, above ground, modern Chillingham presents a very different picture. Largely unmodified since the castle was built, the Great Halls and State Rooms are full of interesting paintings and tapestries. As for the ghosts, the castle has appeared on Most Haunted and Ghost Hunters; there is even a ghost tour where you can listen to spooky stories of the disembodied whispers in the chapel and other supernatural occurrences at Chillingham.

Prices and opening times: See website for details.

Facilities: Shop, café, WCs, parking

Stay nearby: The Butter Churn | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog


More Northumberland castles to visit:

Belsay Hall and Castle 

The lovely, landscaped gardens make Belsay Hall and Castle a must-see; admire the partially restored medieval castle and the Grand Grecian Hall too. 

Prudhoe Castle

This English Heritage-managed Prudhoe Castle was built after the Battle of Hastings and occupied for over 900 years. It has been open to the public for over 30 years as a visitor attraction. 

Horsley Tower  

Found in the Derwent Valley, this fantastic ruin is graved in by ivy on a wooded hill. The Keep is all that remains of Horsley Castle, but you can still see evidence of its earthworks and partially buried foundations. 


Map of featured Northumberland castles


Stay in Northumberland

We think that there are so many castles to visit across Northumberland that it could be worth booking a holiday here to see as many as you can. Browse our collection of self-catering holiday properties in Northumberland today.

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.