Northumberland, being next to the Scottish border, is castle country. Apparently, it has more castles than any other English county – and I can quite believe it. One of these castles is perched on top of a mound of volcanic rock, known as Beblowe Crag (or Craig), here on Holy Island.
As the Vikings proved, Lindisfarne was vulnerable. The natural harbour provided protection for ships, but the island itself wasn’t safe from invaders: The Vikings may have gone, but there was still a threat from the Scots, and when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, including Lindisfarne Priory, an opportunity presented itself to put the priory’s remains to good use.
Initially, the Priory church was used as a naval storehouse, but as the need for reinforcing Beblowe Crag as a defensive fort became more important, then the stone from the Priory was used to build a new fortress.
However, the need for strong defences against the Scots became virtually unnecessary with the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England, and consequently uniting the two kingdoms together:
Apart from the Royalist castle surviving a six-week siege during the Civil War and a short-lived Jacobite takeover in 1715, in truth, the castle didn’t really see that much action.
In 1820 the guns were removed and the life of Beblowe Crag as a fortification was over, and for a while it became a coastguard station before falling into disrepair.
It remained in a sorry state until Edward Hudson, the founder of Country Life magazine, bought it 1902: He commissioned Edwin Lutyens, one of England’s great architects of the time, to turn it into a fabulous family home.
I say fabulous, because I actually think it is. Lutyens managed to combine the Tudor fortifications and interior Edwardian features into an atmospheric, almost romantic, place to stay. I think that’s partly due to the compact (small to those of us who aren’t estate agents), nature of the building which gives it a nice homely feel.
The carousel pictures below are of the Ship Room.
Edward Hudson sold the castle in 1921, and it eventually ended up in the hands of Sir Edward de Stein who gave it to the National Trust in 1944, and it’s been in their care ever since.
It’s a pity it wasn’t given to me: I can just picture myself tucked up in here on a wild winter’s night with a glass of malt next to the open fire as the waves crash onto the shore below.
There may be other more important castles in Northumberland from a historical point of view, but this one will do for me thank you very much.
This is the final part of my Lindisfarne pages (at least for now), and as much as I would like to live the life of Edward Hudson in the castle, in reality I’ve only got the pockets of St. Cuthbert – but as long as I can continue to come and visit places like Lindisfarne you won’t find me complaining.