Craster and Dunstanburgh Castle
When planning this year’s Rothbury Walking Festival I thought let’s do a few ‘different’ walks and this was one – a trip to the coast.
The weather was a little cool as we all met at Craster and after a few minutes we were walking along one of the most famous coastlines in Northumberland between Craster and Dunstanburgh Castle.
Thankfully we had some sheep to look at on our journey with people from all over the country attending a walk there was a great mix that all gelled very quickly.
We soon reached Dunstanburgh Castle.
Recent evidence suggests that the site of the castle was occupied in prehistoric times: however, the principal remains date from the 14th century.3 In 1313, Earl Thomas of Lancaster, cousin of Edward II of England, began construction of a massive fortress. By the time of his execution in 1322, the castle was substantially complete. John of Gaunt improved the castle in the late 14th century as the Duke of Lancaster.
The castle did not play a significant part in the border warfare against Scotland. In the Wars of the Roses the castle was held for the Lancastrians in 1462 and 1464. The damage done was not made good and the castle fell steadily into decay. A report in 1538 mentioned it as being a "very reuynus howsse and of smalle strength" and another source in 1550 described it as in "wonderful great decaye". It continued to deteriorate and was robbed of stone for the building of other places in the area. The last private owner Sir Arthur Sutherland donated the castle to the Ministry of Works in 1929. The castle is now owned by the National Trust and in the care of English Heritage. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building. It lies within the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
From Dunstanburgh Castle we headed onto Dunstanburgh Golf Course and then dropped down onto Embleton Bay from where we had some great views looking back at the castle.
We then passed inland and turned south again on our journey to Dunstan Streads. On our way we passed an old Lime Kiln and a Pill box which made for an ideal lunch stop.
After Dunstan steads we headed back towards the coastline and made our way back to Craster.
A truly great 5 mile walk with great company.
When I arrived at Hartside it was raining gently and Hedghope was in cloud, shades of my previous day on Cheviot! A quick chat with Linda and we agreed that it would be prudent to don overtrousers in addition to the waterproof jacket, it was only just after the summer solstice after all. Then the drizzle turned to rain and we sat in the car awaiting the arrival of the day’s clients who were quick on the uptake and dressed accordingly. It was good to meet-up with old friends from previous walks (Valerie and Darren, Linda and Muriel) and to meet some new faces (Rowland and Maria). As everyone assembled early we set-off exactly on the advertised start time, most unusual.
We managed to cross the moorland and start climbing towards Cunyan Crags before the first heavy shower caught us. They only lasted a few minutes but were quite intense with big drops. Fortunately the wind wasn’t anywhere near as strong as it was on the previous day but the hailstones still stung a bit, flaming June? We followed a quad bike track up onto Cunyan Crags and on to Dunmoor Hill which was surprisingly dry. The peat alongside the summit fence had largely dried out and even developed desiccation cracks. The new fencing, management for sheep and grouse and lines of shooting butts made an impact on everyone as did the extent of Threestoneburn Wood. The conifers of this huge plantation are due to be harvested soon and it will make a big difference to the appearance of the landscape east of Hedgehope.
We descended to the dip between Dunmoor and Hedgehope, “walked the planks” over the boggy bits before beginning the steady two kilometre climb up to the summit. The weather alternated between twenty-mile-an-hour fog (i.e. low cloud) and occasional glimpses of the hill between heavy showers so we were more than ready to crouch in the summit shelter for lunch.
The descent involved much less exertion except that the frequent showers had now liquefied the surface peat and the small stream that originates just below the summit beside the fence was now running; it had been dry on the way up. Slips and slides were the order of the day so we had to be careful on the way down. The fast moving shafts of sunlight picked-out the granite domes of Great and Little Standrop and we were able to see exposures of granite on the path down towards the Linhope Burn. A short detour to see Linhope Spout and take photographs from both the top and the plunge pool below saw us actually beginning to dry-off as we walked through the hamlet of Linhope. It was easy to appreciate the environmental difficulties of hill sheep farming in these hills having experienced such a wet day in summer. Similarly the difficulty of building and drystone walling with the irregularly shaped lavas found locally. All of the building corners, lintels and window frames were constructed of cut and shaped sandstone with the random stone of the lava being held in place by mortar. The contrast in both the materials and building techniques used in the construction of “the big house” and the adjacent farm cottages was noticeable too. Leaving the hamlet the location of Grieve’s Ash, an Iron Age settlement, was pointed out. Everyone had heard of Brough Law, which we could easily see from where our cars were parked. However the plethora of other hillforts in the area were largely unknown so the Northumberland National Park’s Hillforts Trail was mentioned as was the idea of looking at our route on Google Earth when everyone returned home.
Hopefully a good day was had by all and, despite the weather, I hope everyone enjoyed the day and saw and learnt something new, we certainly had a few laughs. The fact that Val and Darren are booked on walks over the next two weeks is encouraging, see you both soon.
Richard Monday, 24 June 2013
Up bright an early and it was a dry sunny morning, by breakfast it was clouding over and by time we arrived at Biddlestone Chapel it was raining but by 10.00 the sun had come out.
As usual Mike was making excuses that Sundance’s soft shoe shuffle had not worked this week as a radio presenter had been playing sunshine music every morning and he does not work on a Saturday he had put the hex on the weather.
A gentle stroll through the woods brought us to the major climb of the walk. Mike was soon out of breath and stopped for a rest but had enough breath to begin to whitter fortunately it started to rain so Mike shut up to put on his waterproofs. As we continued to climb it stopped raining and from the top of the hill we had good views all the way round.
After a short stretch across the hill top we met with a farm track which we followed until we came to a way marker that lead us across some rough, wet ground. As we walking this stretch we heard a tremendous bang and looking back into the Otterburn Range we could see a huge column of smoke raising this was that start of a number of shells being fired.
Just as we stopped for an early lunch (Mike was Hungry) it started to rain once more, fortunately after a couple of minutes it stopped and the rest of the day was dry and fairly bright. After lunch we continued along the hill side until Mike said we were on the wrong path but this was OK because we had by-passed a herd of beasts (cattle to the rest of us).
A short walk brought us back on the path Mike Said but in reality it was just rough pasture and is was only when we reached a farm gate at Singmoor that we knew we were back on the correct track.
From Singmoor we followed a farm track down hill until we were near the top of Biddlestone quarry. Here Mike took us on a slight detour so that we could look down on to the workings of the quarry, then it was back down the track to Biddlestone. A short walk along the road brought us to the track leading to Biddlestone Chapel. Half way up we stopped to look at the Biddlestones which are supposed to be part of an anglo-saxon cross. Once back at Biddlestone Chapel Mike opened up the chapel and gave us a guided tour.