- Belfort holiday_6
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There is a very nice and gentle day's walk south from Seahouses to the next village of Craster; especially nice if you stop off for lunch at the pub in Low Newton-by-the-Sea and allow your lunch to digest at the nearby bird sanctuary. Eventually the path will bring you to Dunstanburgh Castle.
The first time I saw this castle was many years ago from the south. I was supervising a party of teenagers and the plan was to try and use up some energy in a brisk, late evening walk to the castle, before inflicting them on the other residents of the hostel. With the summer sun setting well to the north the castle presented a dramatic, even sinister silhouette, looking for all the world like a set of rotting teeth. This image taken in daylight shows a gentler aspect.
The castle was constructed in 1313 by Thomas the Earl of Lancaster as his stronghold and seat of power against competing barons, also as a defence agaist the Scots who were frequently raiding from the north. Additions were made in subsequent years when its ownership passed to John of Gaunt. His son became King Henry IV, so it became a royal castle.
During the Wars of the Roses it was besieged and was starved into surrender in 1462. After this, with effective cannon available to any attacker, it fell rapidly into decay and it ceased to be habited sometime in the sixteenth century.
- Belfort holiday_7
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Set in the gentle, rolling border countryside is Duns Castle. Originally owned by Robert Bruce, it was given by him to the Earl of Moray and much later, 1696, acquired by a William Hay, whose family have retained it ever since.
His wife was the Mary Seton who was a lady in waiting to Mary Queen of Scots, so the house has always had strong Stuart connections. The castle as it is seen today is the result of extensive reconstructions carried out in the early nineteenth century.