Northumberland Castles Challenge #4
This Castle Challenge is turning out to be amazing. The things we are finding from a little bit of exploring around our ‘hood is incredible and Cartington Castle is another hidden gem, particularly if you like your castles mossy.
I picked Emily and Beau up from a little seaside village (they’d been staying there for a weeks holiday) on the east side of Alnwick and within 30 minutes we had gone from seaside to historic town to rolling hills (driving past our beloved Edlingham Castle!) to thick forest, which surrounds the town of Rothbury and Cragside, the spectacular home of Victorian inventor, Lord Armstrong.
I had been to Rothbury once before but I was almost certainly hungover, as it was in the early days of dating Mike, and I didn’t take in the incredible view into the valley. It was another overcast day but the forest looked almost like it was sighing, great puffs of steam billowed out of what looked like its chimney, and the clouds above dipped down to meet it. It was astounding.
Then once we were through the other side of Rothbury, this is when it got a bit tricky to find our castle. We took a wrong turn (thank you apple maps!) down a single forest track, requiring a 35 point turn, then into what looked like a farm crossed with a stately home. The grand topiary in the front garden did not escape our attention!
A kind chap came out of the house and gave us directions back along the forest track and then right up the road into Cartington itself. As we drove along we noticed yet more topiary, which was kind of crazy. I’ve since googled it but this hasn’t turned up any ancient trend for topiary originating in the hamlet of Cartington, much to my distress.
Thankfully from the road you could see the castle. We turned right into a farm and managed an awkward encounter with the farmer who was half-way up a huge combine harvester (or some other giant farming equipment. I should be an expert by now, thanks to Reuben!).
“Errr, do you know where Cartington Castle is please?” “Aye, it’s just doon there” And he kindly pointed us just a bit further, past the huge machine, into the farm and said it was fine to park there.
At the end of this working farm was a fence, a bunch of sheep, and a flipping amazing castle ruin. Just right there! It should also be noted at this point that the castle is on private land, so if you’re planning a trip, you might want a plan b in case you can’t get access!!
The boys were fast asleep, but we were clock watching as we had to be back in Alnwick for 3 to get Gabriella from school! So, no snoozing on Castle time.
I thought the farm would fascinate them both with its many tractors but they both wanted to go find the castle. Well, up until they noticed the sheep, then they wanted to chase them. It took quite a lot to persuade Reuben to leave the poor sheep alone, but then it was onwards with our Cartington Castle Adventure.
The layout of the castle as you approach from the farm has the main section of the castle to the front and a courtyard area at the back – perfect for a picnic, if it hadn’t been overcast, really muddy and February – we decided to start in the courtyard as it looked a bit safer.
And managed to get the obligatory group shot.
I haven’t managed to find anything too juicy on Cartington Castle, but highlights include James 1st’s Grandmother stayed here as a baby and there are rumours of a tunnel that runs from the castle to Rothbury 2 miles away! Originating in the 1100’s it did its usual thing of being improved and being passed by marriage around a few of the well to do families in the area. In 1648 it, along with Widdrington Castle, was besieged and once reowned by Parliament, it was dismantled so the stones could be used for locals houses and farms.
Lord Armstrong (of Cragside fame, above) stepped in in 1887 to ensure it didn’t completely fall down, which is nice!
We were pretty taken aback by how much of the castle is still standing. There are staircases aplenty and an entire spooky room at one end.
As ever at these ruins, keep your eyes on the babies at all times. We were on the edge of sheer drops on more than one occasion.
Then we headed around the front to take on the main, more scary-looking section of the castle. With the afore-mentioned sheer drops either side of the wall to get down into the castle, I opted for carrying Reuben!
Now this section was amazing (and scary). There’s still so much standing, with real archways and large sections of floors above, and I really hadn’t expected a whole room to still be intact.
However, there was a feeling of danger. With Edlingham Castle, at least, we knew that English Heritage are maintaining the grounds. This however, is a little more ambiguous!
The picture above is a spiral staircase that leads out of the room and up onto the roof. Again, watch out for the sheer drops out of windows! The boys then wanted to go back down the stairs but we opted for exploring a bit more of the level above.
Foolishly because the only other option for getting back down was via some creepy looking steps!
We sent Emily down to investigate…
It took us back into another section that was dark and windowless but it quickly lead through into the bit we’d already been in where we hot footed it out the window!
Back into the courtyard where the sheep had come to investigate all the noise!
It really felt like living, you know?! – It was exciting, adventurous and a little bit (maybe a lot?!) dangerous. We left feeling like proper explorers.
Not only did we find a castle on the grounds of a farm, but we also passed through incredible forest, with a back drop of the Cheviots Hills. All within a few miles from Alnwick.
Chris, Emily’s husband, asked if we were castle hunters now we’d done 4. I think we may just be!
Have you done any exploring recently?! And what do you think of Cartington Castle?
I know Alnwick Castle is a big draw to the North East, but there are quite a few amazing ruins within spitting distance that are also well worth a visit!