A 2 mile beach walk to a ruined castle, then back by the side of a golf course. It is possible to get a coffee and snack at the golf course club house.
Postcode for Satnav - NE663XG.
Turn offf the A1 at Charlton Mires, on the B3647 for Seahouses. follow this road round, past the main railway line crossing at Christon Bank, and half a mile past there you will see a right hand turn on the B1369 for Embleton. Drive into the village, past the school, then turn left at the cross roads by the Dunstanburgh Castle hotel. Follow the golf course road up a short hill, then park by the road just over the hill. There is another car park at Dunstan Steads, which gets you closer to the castle.
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Walk down the footpath which runs by Sea Lane, behind a hedge, right down to the golf course clubhouse. You might see a small lending library halfway down the hill. Go past the clubhouse and over the fairway, watching out for any golf balls that might be passing. As you enter the grassy wetlands you will see a small unrailed bridge crossing a stream. Turn right before this bridge and follow that path over another bridge, one with a railing this time. This path takes you to the beach.
Walk along the beach towards the castle, until you come to some rounded rocky volcanic boulders. It is possible to walk over these, but you risk a broken ankle, and my small dog could not manage them. So take a path leading upwards just at the start of the stones, which leads you between the golf course and the sea. Follow this path right round through a gate and to the castle. The entrance is on the far side, and dogs are allowed inside. As you reach the castle mound you will see a large cliff leading down to the sea, which is home to thousands of nesting seabirds. Also by the beach is a convoluted rock formation running out to the sea.
Once you have seen the castle, retrace your steps back to the golf course, and make your way round the edge of the green, to a path marked as St Oswald's way. Follow this path round the other edge of the golf course. About half way round you will see the Dunstan Steads car park on your right. Once you reach the end of the path, you have to navigate round the edge of another green to reach the clubhouse road. Stop off here for a nice coffee and snack maybe, then walk back up the hill to your car.
Dunstanburgh Castle is said to be the largest in Northumberland, in terms of the area enclosed within its walls. It was built around 1320 by Earl Thomas of Lancaster on top of an older Iron Age fort. He built it as a refuge, as he was conspiring against king Edward II and wanted a safe place to retire to if things went wrong. Unfortunately, he was captured at the battle of Boroughbridge and executed, so he never got to use his new castle. It passed into the hands of the Duchy of Lancaster, when John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster expanded and improved the defences in case of a Scottish invasion. The castle also featured in the wars of the roses, but is only a ruined shadow of its former self today.
When I was a child I was told that the rock formation below the castle was a lava flow, and its twisted shape was due to the shock it got when it hit the sea. Problem is that now I know that the North Sea is relatively young and did not exist when that rock was formed millions of years ago. A geologist might know better, but I suspect it was formed as part of the convultions that created the Whin Sill, the rock formation on which the castle sits (Bamburgh castle and parts of the Roman Wall use the same Whin Sill).
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