The best thing about Dunstanburgh Castle is its dramatic location on a crag above the sea, and the 1½ mile walk along the coast from the nearest car park.
The castle was built between 1313 and 1325 for Thomas Earl of Lancaster, nephew of King Edward II. The isolated location of the castle probably reflects Thomas's need to protect himself both from Scottish raids, and from the wrath of the King, with whom he had many disagreements, in particular, over the influence of Piers Gaveston, the King's favourite. Eventually, a group of Lords, led by Thomas, captured and executed Gaveston. Although the king finally pardoned the barons, Thomas, who continued to rebel against the king, was executed in 1322.
The main feature of the castle is the massive gatehouse, which guarded the entrance to a large area enclosed by walls that would have offered good protection to local villagers, their animals and possessions, in the event of a raid from the Scots. In 1362, John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III, inherited the castle. He built a new gatehouse about 30m to the left of the original, and had the great gatehouse converted into a keep.
Dunstanburgh Castle was a Lancastrian stronghold during the Wars of the Roses (1455 - 1485), and suffered heavy damage from cannon, leaving the castle in ruins.
- 8 miles northeast of Alnwick, on footpaths from Craster or Embleton (1½ miles easy coastal walk)
- Dunstanburgh Castle, Dunstanburgh Road, Craster, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 3TT
- English Heritage. Open to the public. Admission fee
- For further information visit www.english-heritage.org.uk
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