Warkworth Castle is one of the most potent strongholds in northern England. The unusually-shaped keep was raised by the Earl of Northumberland in around 1390. One tower contained an elegant chapel, and there were living quarters in some others. Rainwater was collected on the roof and channelled to holding tanks in the basement, permitting a constant supply of clean water – a great luxury in a medieval castle. The Earl and his famous son, Hotspur, are perhaps the most renowned residents of the castle, for it was they who fought so hard to put Henry IV on the throne in 1399, and to force the rightful king, Richard II, to abdicate. Four years later, these two men fought equally hard to wrest the crown from Henry once more. The King promptly marched to Warkworth and blasted its walls with cannon fire until the castle surrendered. The King then gave Warkworth to his brother, later the Duke of Bedford, although it was restored to Hotspur’s son in 1416. The Percys’ political favour continued to wax and wane during the 15th century, and in 1572 Sir Thomas Percy was executed for his part in a plot against Elizabeth I. With his death, this great fortress began to decline in importance. Abutting onto the Percys’ keep were walls that formed a large enclosure containing several buildings, now mostly ruins, although the Lion Tower and the Grey Mare’s Tail Tower still stand. A short walk from the castle is a small rock-hewn chapel and stone-built outer chamber: the Hermitage. The inner part comprises a chapel and a smaller chamber, both with altars. The chapel was in fact built as a chantry, and occupied by a series of clergy from 1489 to 1536. It’s usually open in the summer.
Facilities – at a glance
- Parking onsite
- Parking nearby
- Facilities: Ramp, induction loop (shop), handrails, audio tours, tour transcripts
- Accessible toilets
- Open all year
- Opening Times: Castle open all year Apr-Sep, check website for details, Oct, daily 10-5; Nov-11 Feb and 17 Feb-29 Mar, Sat-Sun 10-4; 12-16 Feb, daily 10-4 (last admission 30 minutes before closing). Check website for Heritage details. Closed 24-26 Dec and
Also in the area
About the area
If it’s history you’re after, there’s heaps of it in Northumberland. On Hadrian’s Wall you can imagine scarlet-cloaked Roman legionaries keeping watch for painted Pictish warriors while cursing the English weather and dreaming of home. Desolate battlefield sites and hulking fortresses such as Alnwick, Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh and Warkworth are reminders that this, until not so very long ago, was a contested border region. The ruins of Lindisfarne bear witness to the region’s early Christian history.
Northumberland also has some of Britain’s best beaches. On summer days, and even in winter, you’ll see surfers and other brave souls making the most of the coast. Inland, there are some great walks and bike rides in the dales of the Cheviot Hills and the Simonsides – just hilly enough to be interesting, without being brutally steep. There's dramatic scenery in the High Pennines, where waterfalls plunge into deep valleys, and there are swathes of heather-scented moorland. Northumberland National Park covers over 400 square miles of moorland and valleys with clear streams and pretty, stone-built villages. It’s just the place for wildlife watching too. You’ll find flocks of puffins, guillemots and other seabirds around the Farne Islands, and seals and dolphins offshore.
Places to Stay
Restaurants and Pubs
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