Northumberland 5 - Bamburgh Castle /ample parking for a motorhome/ A castle built on arms .

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September 13th 2020
Published: September 13th 2020
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We didm't have a good sleep after our news of yesterday . Well you wouldn't would you? Your head would go round and round trying to work out what had happened . You would have been annoyed that the people buying your house waited so long to decide to come back for a second viewing . You would be angry with them for saying nothing and letting the solicitors start the process . Our night had been well and truly disturbed by our thoughts. Trying to work out what we did wrong . What was wrong with our home ? It did not matter how many times we talked it through we found it hard to understand . A very large red wine did help slightly . Red wine always makes the world seem better . Any wine makes it feel better .

The drive from our overnight stop at Craster was just a short one . I had researched parking and knew that there was a massive car park just in the shadow of the castle . We would not be able to stop tonight but at least we could stop here all day . Tonight would be a night overlooking the sea and in the distance Lindisfarne and Holy Island . That was if we carried on up north . Our night stop would be a free one - Eat and Sleep Northumberland . The day after the Camping and Caravan Club site at Dunbar where we could empty and fill up ready for the journey north to Berwick and over the border to Scotland .However it was getting debateable whether we could stomach continuing . A pox upon our buyers . I wished pustules and eruptions upon them.

And so Gabby the motorhome was parked up on an almost empty car park . A massive one at that . The council had made spaces for coaches of which during a normal summer there would many of them. Spaces marked out for cars and about ten long bays for motorhomes . We were the only motorhome on our bit of parking . Another panel van had parked up and looked abandoned . Its back end either collapsed or overloaded . I walked over to the paying machine . The castle was impressive . I thought there are castles and then there are castles . This one sat up on a rocky outcrop overlooking the town . Many windows gave views over the car park, the croquet pitches and the cricket pitch . Its wicket marked out . I imagine the family starting in the morning having breakfast in front of one window and admiring the view. It would take them all morning to sit at every window . A different window for a different time of the day . A different view of sunrise and sunsets . From the other side the sea. It reminded me of St Michaels Mount or Mont St Michel. For a short while impressive was a word that took over from insults we hurled at our buyers . There were two choices for car parking . £3.50 for three hours and £5.50 for 24 hours . It was 8.50 and the car park was starting to fill up. We had to sit here until 11 before we could get in the castle . Over a cup of coffee we mulled our options . I had paid the £5.50 knowing we would never be back by 11.50. Even a whistle stop tour of the castle would have taken us beyond the 11.50 parking ticket .

By 9.45 we made the decision to head up to the castle . We dropped into conversation with another motorhomer . She was like us heading north to Scotland. She complained about the number of motorhomers on the road . She told us she had booked all the stops on the way but she knew others who would be disappointed as they had not booked in advance .

We headed up the driveway to the castle . What was missing was a garden . There were ample opportunities to plant up the town side of the hill . Many plants would have loved the slope but the owners had just not bothered. At the top was another large car park . Offers of trips to Holy Island - socially distancing of course. We pulled our e-tickets out and wondered if we could get in early. There were two queues . I hoped we could sneak in early . A lady with mask on marshalled those buying tickets on the day to the right and those of us already paid to the left .

It was a slow crawl to the top . Gone 10.00 we arrived at yet another queue . Lighthearted - everyone seemed to have smiles on their faces . No irritation at wearing masks nor of queuing . The snake slowly moved and we arrived with a handful of people waiting at the door . Another pleasant member of staff talked to everyone . He checked masks , He made sure everyone sanitized their hands. Two in and two out he explained . He had an ear piece in and was told by someone at the exit that he could let two more in .

So would the castle deliver as much inside as it did outside . Let's start with how it managed to survive in such a state of good repair . We are talking about Lord Armstrong . A big man with an immense fortune made from the fortunes of war . I first came across him many years ago in my degree course . I knew of his wealth and how it came about .

It seems that site was originally the location of a Celtic Brittonic fort known as Din Guarie. It may have been the capital of the kingdom of Bernicia and passed between the Britons and the Anglo Saxons many times . The fort was destroyed by the Vikings in 993. The Normans built a new castle and inside the renovations is the basis of that Norman castle and keep. By the 17th century the castle was deteriorating very badly but was a subject of some renovation during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was finally bought by William Armtrong who completed the restorations . His family still owns it and what a lucky family they are .

We were showed into the buttery. More hand washing ., More instructions on the one way system through the castle . We hardly noticed anything about the buttery. The rooms were small compared to many castles . Intimate rooms with a firegrate and a central heating system . No doubt due to the genius that was Armstrong . Electric lighting too. A radio stood in the corner . A later Lord Armstrongs voiced boomed around the cosy room . I don't know what he talked about but no doubt the radio would have entertained the owners with music but also news of world events .

A billiards room . Well every castle needs a billiards room . Another fireplace , cupboards full of porcelain and collections that the family had acquired over time . A library . 14 state rooms full of furniture , artifacts collected over the years. A wedding dress on display . The owner of which needed a pencil slim waist . An armoury . Everything you come to expect from a self respecting castle . We loved the Cross Hall with its panelling and tapestries . A room you could quite happily sit in even today . The Kings Hall was described as a Victorian masterpiece with false ceiling made of Thai Teak . You could just imagine the concerts and the dances held here.

From the hall the snake like line of visitors headed for the Keep. It proved easy to see things . Covid 19 was a blessing in disguise . It meant fewer visitors and more time to enjoy the castle without the hustle, bustle and general pushing .

The Keep was the oldest part of the castle and with its thick walls was impressive . Inside were vaulted ceilings , an Anglo Saxon well and massive chains hanging from the walls . We left the Keep and headed to the kitchens . All light and modern . If you call Victorian modern . Did we want to go into the shop? We declined and became two out so that two in could be admitted the other end of the building .

Outside were a number of cafes . It was hard to tell if they were doing any business . Cannons all round the grounds . Wonderful gargoyles that we never noticed before and drainpipes of wrought iron . All emblazoned with dates - 1897 or 1902. There were stables and a museum to Armstrongs aviaton history . Bits of planes from the First World War. Engines from planes from the Second World War . Industrial machinery . Only a small museum . Just a handful of rooms .

Was the visit worth it ? A little over £11 a ticket each . A strange amount . Worth it? Yes it was . A beautiful castle with an interesting history .

We walked back down to Gabby . By now all the motorhome spaces had gone and it looked like the Wacky Races in the car park as cars came in , drove round each bay looking for a spot to park in. As there were none they drove out again . Some though decided that they would ignore the bays and park outside them . If a traffic warden had appeared they would have had a field day . We decided to get out as it looked as if we would get blocked in if we stayed longer .

We were heading home . We had a phone call - viewers wanted to come and see our house . With fingers crossed we might be able to resurrect the mess we were in we headed south . Another night at the Old Farmhouse at Darlington and another meal .

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