Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland (c) Adrian Warren and Dae Sasitorn

Britain from the Air - Bamburgh Castle

A castle named to honour a wife

Located on the north east coast of Northumberland, Bamburgh Castle was first built by the Normans and then added to over the centuries.

But fortifications have stood on this basalt rock for far longer - more than 1,600 years. In Roman times, a fort was here for political and defensive purposes, located between Hadrian’s Wall to the south and the furthest Roman frontier - the Antonine Wall - to the north.

Its strategic position was again identified by early Britons, when in 547 AD the Anglo-Saxon King Ida, a powerful pagan warlord, captured and then refortified the castle.

He gave it the Angle name Berniccia. His grandson renamed the castle again, to Bebbanburgh (Fort of Bebba) in honour of his new wife, and this name has been corrupted over time to Bamburgh.

The ‘Beast of Bamburgh’

During Anglo-Saxon times, Bamburgh began its association with technology, art and religion. The Bamburgh sword is an example of extraordinary Anglo-Saxon craftsmanship. This specially welded sword would have marked its owner as being hugely wealthy. The ‘Beast of Bamburgh’, a penny-sized solid gold plaque styled in an intricate, animal-inspired Celtic motif, shows off sophisticated tastes.


Bamburgh also witnessed the dawning of Christianity in Britain when the Northumbrian King and martyr St Oswald brought St Aidan from Iona to found the monastery at Lindisfarne close by. Later, under the rule of King Aldfrith, a poet, the region was a centre of culture and learning. That is, until the Viking invasion of north east England in 793 A.D.. 

One of the finest examples of religious art, the Lindisfarne gospels were produced by a monk living on the island in the late 7th or early 8th century. Now preserved in the British Library, the illuminated manuscript reveals a unique style of art that combines both Anglo-Saxon and Celtic themes. Despite lacking the cover, the Lindisfarne gospels are incredibly well preserved considering they are around 1,300 years old.


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Location: Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, NE69 7BJ
Grid reference: NU 18245 35025

Britain from the Air - Bamburgh Castle credits

Thank you to -

Adrian Warren and Dae Sasitorn for aerial photography

Text researched and written by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

The Bamburgh sword, made some 1,400 years ago and discovered in 1960, is made up of six individual strands of carbonised iron bonded together to form the blade - a very rare technique.