York and Northumberland UK Short Break


This was a 7 day short break to visit York and the Northumberland coastline in October 2021.

Day One – Travelling

Travelled by car from Eastbourne, on the south coast of England, to the city of York. 


Day Two – York

Walked along the banks of the river Ouse to the city of York. This ancient capital of the North was named Eboracum when it was founded by the Romans. The name was changed to Eoforwic when it was taken over by the Angles. With such a long and varied history it was impossible to see all York has to offer in one day.
Riverside walk into York
My first stop was a visit to Clifford Tower. Perched high on an earth mound, this fortification was first built as a wooden Motte and Bailey castle by William the Conqueror. It was rebuilt in stone in the 13th century on the order of King Henry III and was used as a gaol during the middle ages. It is currently being renovated so I couldn’t go inside but there were display boards outside which told the story of Clifford Tower. The medieval tower was first referred to as Clifford’s Tower in the sixteenth century and may be so named after the Clifford family who claimed the post of Constable to the Tower was hereditary.
Clifford Tower
Next was York Minster which dominates the York landscape. This amazing structure has evolved over the years from its beginnings as a Roman fort under the command of Constantine. A statue of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor sits in the grounds of the cathedral. A small wooden church was later constructed on the site and a stone church built in the 7th century. The Minster was destroyed during the Harrying of the North, when William I forcibly subdued the north but was completely rebuilt in 1080. Over the years it has been added to and has existed in its current state since around 1400.
York Minster
York Minster Interior
After lunch I walked the 3.4km city walls which were built in the 13th century. The Medieval walls are the longest surviving city walls in the country. The walls are built on earthen ramparts which helped the garrisons that manned the walls spot potential attackers in good time. Today, their raised aspect gives tourists a unique view of the city. 
York City Walls
My final stop for the day was the 14th century Merchant Adventurers Hall. Unfortunately it was not open to visit but I managed to get some great pictures of the outside. The Merchant Adventurers Hall is one of the finest existing examples of a Medieval Guild Hall. 
Guildhall York

Day Three York – Berwick – Amble

Drove from York to Berwick on Tweed, the northern most town in England. This border town changed hands with Scotland at least 11 times before being declared English by Richard of Gloucester in 1482. The castle ruins, ramparts and barracks are testament to the town’s long military history. The remains of the castle sit on the banks of the river Tweed offering a good view of the river. 
Berwick Castle
The barracks were built in the early 18th century when William III was trying to end the Jacobite Rebellion which sought to place Catholic Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne. 
Berwick Barracks
The ramparts lead from the barracks and offer good views of the River Tweed and the surrounding countryside, invaluable in spotting invaders.
After leaving Berwick I drove south to the town of Amble on the Northumberland coast, my base for the next few days.

Day Four – Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh Castles.

Bamburgh Castle dates from the 5th or 6th century and came into as a Celtic fort. Around 550 it was taken by King Ida of Bernicia. In 634 King Oswald gave land on Lindisfarne island to St Aiden who founded a monastery there. Vikings attacked Lindisfarne in 873 and thereafter Bamburgh came under attack from hoards of Vikings and was completely ransacked in 993. The dunes around the castle lie above the burial places of countless warriors who died in battle attacking or defending the castle.
Bamburgh Castle
William Rufus, son of the Conqueror, re-fortified the castle and used it as a base for keeping Northumberland under control and for raids into Scotland. This practice continued throughout the Middle Ages until it was destroyed by gunfire during the Civil War.
In 1610 the castle passed into private ownership but unable when the owners could not afford repairs it soon became uninhabitable. The castle was bought by William Armstrong in 1894 and completely refurbished. It has been inhabited by the Armstrong family ever since.
The castle It features in the popular series Last Kingdom, as Bebbanburgh, rightful home of the central character, Uhtred.
Dunstanburgh Castle lies close to the fishing village of Craster. It was built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster in 1313. The Earl was rich, royal and rebellious and joined other members of the nobility in opposing the influence of Edward’s favourite, Piers Gaveston.
Dunstanburgh Castle
After playing a major part in capturing and executing Gaveston, Thomas was executed by the King in 1322 in retaliation for Gaveston’s murder. 
Thomas of Lancaster was an eccentric who styled himself King Arthur. It is believed that he built the castle as his own ‘Camelot’ in the north.

Day Five – Alnwick Castle & a Weather Warning

Alnwick (pronounced Annick) Castle dates from 1096 when it was founded by a Norman noblemen. In 1253 it passed to the Percy family who have lived in the castle ever since.
Alnwick Castle
The castle has featured in numerous films and television programmes, but has more recently found fame as the backdrop for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films and the setting for the Christmas special episodes of Downton Abbey.
Due to torrential rain and high winds it was not possible to see all the site has to offer, but a brief dry spell allowed a visit to the cascading fountain, formal garden and poison garden.
Poison Garden
The poison garden is kept locked and can only be visited with a guide. The 30 minute tour is both informative and entertaining and well worth the time.

Day Six – Hadrian’s Wall, Housesteads and Vindolanda

Construction on Hadrian’s Wall began in 122 CE on the orders of Roman Emperor, Hadrian. When completed the wall stretched along the border between England and Scotland. Along the wall were posts and garrison forts. Although much of it has fallen into disrepair, the wall and remnants of the buildings are still impressive and well worth a visit.

First stop was Housesteads Roman Hill Fort which is maintained by English Heritage. The site features the remains of the Hill Fort and a small museum / shop. Although the site is now in ruins it is well-signed and very easy to understand where the garrisoned soldiers lived and slept.

Housesteads fort Hadrian's Wall

From Housesteads, it was a short drive to Steel Rigg Car Park and then a short walk to a section of Hadrian’s Wall that can be walked along. After ascending a steep rocky bank it is possible to get a clear idea of what it was like for soldiers manning the wall. The views both north and south are amazing. After walking for about 1km you reach the famous landmark, Sycamore Gap.

Hadrian's Wall

Sycamore Gap

Vindolanda lies south of Hadrian’s Wall and is an excavated Roman fort and village. Excavations have been ongoing for the last 50 years and archeologists estimate that only 25% of the site has been uncovered. 

Vindolanda Hadrian's Wall


Day Seven – Travelling

Today it was time to return south to Eastbourne.