If there was an Oscar for a best supporting role for castles in films, Bamburgh would surely be a superstar.
It has undeniable screen presence, the perfect backdrop for historic blockbusters and has been a must for a host of award winning directors and actors over the years.
Hollywood giants Richard Burton and Peter O Toole filmed on the beach below the castle for Becket (1964), Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren walked the ramparts in El Cid (1961) while Elizabethan history has been represented here by Vanessa Redgrave as Mary Queen of Scots (1971) and Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I (1998).
Pioneering director Ken Russell selected Bamburgh as the backdrop for his controversial shocker The Devils in 1971, while Roman Polanski filmed a blood drenched Macbeth the same year.
More recently it has provided a dramatic backdrop for Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) and The BFG (2016).
Standing on the castle ramparts, glowering over the North Sea, it’s easy to see how this building has cast its spell over so many. The sense of history and dominance is intoxicating. Seeing it in all its glory as you drive into Bamburgh is a draw dropping experience.
For centuries the basalt outcrop on which Bamburgh Castle was built was a royal seat of power dating back to the native Britons. Records of a fortification on the site go back to 547AD when it was taken by the Anglo Saxon king Ida of Bernicia. His son Hussa and then grandson Æthelfrith established the powerful kingdom of Northumbria.
Æthelfrith, recognised by historians as the first Northumbrian king, passed the site, known then as Din Guiare, to his wife Bebba, from whom the early name Bebanburgh was derived
Vikings destroyed Bamburgh’s original fortification in 993 and not until the arrival of the Normans was a new castle constructed on the site; a structure which was to form the core of what we see today.
Bamburgh became the property of Henry II, who is thought to have built the impressive castle keep. In 1464 during the Wars of the Roses, it became the first castle in England to be defeated by artillery during a nine-month siege led by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick.
The castle then entered a deserved period of peace with the Forster family of Northumberland in residence for over 400 years. The family retained ownership until Sir William Forster was posthumously declared bankrupt, and his estates, including the castle passed to Lord Crew, Bishop of Durham, under an Act of Parliament in 1700.
The castle deteriorated but was restored by various owners during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, it was Victorian industrialist William Armstrong who finished the job and left his own unmistakable stamp on the building.
As a tribute to Armstrong the castle now houses the fascinating Armstrong and Aviation Artefacts Museum.
Whether you are a tourist appreciating its beauty, a student reading its history or celebrating a wedding in its historic confines, Bamburgh Castle has something for everyone.
The credits are destined to roll for many centuries to come on this Northumbrian icon.
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