Inside the 12ft thick walls of the historic Bamburgh Castle

Linda J. Dodson

Bamburgh Castle sits atop a rock, 150ft above the thrashing North Sea on the Northumberland coast. It looks every bit a castle, once ­described as “the very cornerstone of England”, with its curtain wall, keep and castellation.

For 400 years, Bamburgh was a royal residence. Today, it is owned by Francis Watson-Armstrong, who runs the estate with his partner, Claire Thorburn, and his son William, 30.

In 2005, the couple moved out of the rather impractical ancient keep and into a farmhouse on the ­estate, where they live with their ­menagerie: dogs Luca, Dan and Monty, parrot Sybil, and cobs Jack and Basil.

The castle has a long history. The first written reference to Bamburgh was in AD 547, when it was captured by the Anglo-Saxon ruler Ida of Bernicia. After that point, the kings of Northumbria chose the castle as their royal capital. By AD 993, the Vikings had destroyed the original castle, and in 1095, William II ­attempted to besiege it.

From then, it became a royal castle; by 1164, the keep was completed, and in 1191 Sir John Forster was ­appointed the first governor. Legend has it that he saved the life of Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade, and was given the castle by the king in gratitude.

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