Dunstanburgh Castle is one of the best known photographic locations on the Northumberland Coast. Similar to Bamburgh Castle, Dustanburgh sits right on the coast, and from the north is spectacularly located on a rocky cliff – an outcrop of dolerite which is part of the Great Whin Sill. Unlike Bamburgh however the castle lies in ruins and can only be reached by foot from either Craster or a car park at Dunstan Steads, the walk from either one being just over 1 mile.
Dunstanburgh Castle was built in the early 14th Century by Earl Thomas of Lancaster, partly as a show of strength to Edward II, who owned the royal castle of Bamburgh a few miles along the coast. Earl Thomas’ opposition to Edward ended in 1322 when he was defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge and subsequently captured and executed. Dunstanburgh Castle passed to the crown and gradually fell into ruins after the Wars Of The Roses.
Today, the most prominent parts of the ruin are the Great Gatehouse, which dominates the view when approaching from Craster, and the Lilburn Tower which is stands high on the Whin Sill ridge when approaching from Dunstan Steads. It is the view of Lilburn Tower which is of most interest to landscape photographers because the beach below the tower is covered with rounded boulders which provide wonderful foreground interest. It should be noted however that the rocks are extremely slippy, and being so well rounded it is dangerous to try to step on the top of them. Instead, it is best to step between the rocks, which may involve getting wet feet if the tide is in – great care should be taken and wellingtons are recommended.
One interesting rock formation close to the castle is the Saddle Rock, which provides a graphic example of rock folding, and when we visited in early September, some hay bales in the neighboring field also made a good subject in the early morning light.
Postcode: Craster – NE66 3TW, Dunstan Steads: NE66 3DT
Dunstanburgh Castle can be approached from Craster where there is a car park just outside the village. From the car park, walk down the road and go left around the harbour. A gate gives access to open fields and the castle is reached by a pleasant 1 mile walk across the fields, always with the sea close at hand. Alternatively, to photograph the Lilburn Tower from the Embleton Bay beach, park at Dunstan Steads, which is reached from the village of Embleton by driving south out of the village along Sunny Brae, then taking the first left. From the car park at the end of the road, either follow a footpath directly from the car park on the right hand side of the golf course, or continue towards the beach to pick up a path on the left (seaward side) of the golf course. The walking distance is about 1 mile.
Dunstanburgh Castle is owned by the National Trust but operated by English Heritage, so membership of either organisation provides free entry.