Located on the eastern coastline of Northern England, the beautiful village of Bamburgh is easily a highlight of the region and one of the can’t-miss villages along this coastal stretch of Northumberland.
Yup, we have yet to come across a North-Eastern village that hits as powerfully and as dramatically upon the senses as Bamburgh. It is, in our humble opinion, the superpower of this stretch of the Northern coastline, small though it is.
Bamburgh is a place where you can fill your tummy with good food at the local pubs, nourish your brain with historical lure and romantic stories, and your soul with the freshest salt air on it beautiful beaches. In fact, there are lots of things to do in and around Bamburgh to satisfy the weekend visitor – and below are some of our favourites; all tried and tested by us.
Things to do in Bamburgh | No. 1
Visit beautiful Bamburgh Castle
If you see only one thing on your visit to Bamburgh (though we hope that’s not the case), let it be Bamburgh Castle—it’s one of the most popular things to do in Bamburgh for good reason. While the site originally held an ancient Celtic Brittonic fort, the current structure dates from the 9th century and is still standing despite its rocky history. It has seen many sieges and passed hands numerous times, from the Britons, to the Anglo-Saxons, to the Normans.
It’s become no less impressive over time, standing resolutely atop its rocky pedestal overlooking the Farne Islands and the North Sea. It’s one of the largest still-inhabited castles in England, which only adds to its appeal! Roam its ancient halls freely, if that’s your style, or have a tour guide walk you through over a thousand years of castle history so you don’t miss a thing.
Some of the most breathtaking rooms include the King’s Hall, a vaulted wood-panelled ceiling that sits in the same spot as the original medieval great hall; the Armoury, full of authentic weaponry from the castle’s battle-scarred past; and the Keep, the oldest surviving part of the castle with eleven-foot thick stone walls.
Things to do in Bamburgh | No. 2
Stroll Bamburgh Beach (also known locally as Saint Aidan’s Beach)
It’s easy to lump this in with your visit to Bamburgh Castle, since it’s just below the castle’s rocky seat. Bamburgh Beach is a sweeping, miles-long stretch of sandy shoreline sheltered by grassy dunes. The beach also has one of the best views of the castle, an ideal viewpoint for a few photos. Though the beach is minutes away from the comforts and facilities of the town, it’s far enough away to feel like you’ve slipped back in time.
You can walk for hours along the sand, breathing in the salty air and crisp northern wind. The beach winds around the bend of the coast without narrowing, and the sandy stretch from dune to waterline remains wide enough to maintain your distance from others out for a stroll. This particular region, especially hugging the coastline, gets a strong English wind, so be sure to bundle up before you head out.
On clear and sunny days, you’ll be able to see the Farne Islands across the water. If you have a sunset evening to spare, spend it along Bamburgh Beach to see the golden light wash over the stone walls of the castle (some hot tea in a carry cup will only add to the pleasure).
Things to do in Bamburgh | No. 3
Take tea in the finest tea rooms in the UK (The Copper Kettle)
The Copper Kettle Tea Room on Front Street, Bamburgh is considered one of the finest in the country. Housed in two 17th century cottages, which were once home to labourers of the Castle, it has a homely, traditional vibe. All food is home-cooked and there’s a range of sandwiches, pies, scones, and jacket potatoes to sink your teeth into, along with many cakes and sweet treats.
Unfortunately, the place gets packed – and we mean packed – with walkers searching for a light lunch and a steaming cup of tea or hot chocolate. But the staff are very accommodating and friendly, and will work around the bustle and make space for you, if at all possible.
Things to do in Bamburgh | No. 4
Go see the famous Longstone Lighthouse
You’ll need to hop on a boat for this one, but it’s hard to say no to a boat ride when in Bamburgh. Just a seven-minute drive south of Bamburgh is Seahouses, the gateway to the Farne Islands. Head straight down Main Street to the harbour, where you’ll find a number of Farne Islands boat trips, departing every hour for the three accessible Farne Islands: Staple (only open seasonally), Inner Farne, and Longstone.
The latter is home to Longstone Lighthouse, famed for being the site of the 1838 Forfarshire shipwreck. You can’t come to Bamburgh without hearing the name Grace Darling, who pushed her father, the lighthouse keeper, to paddle out to the wreck site and rescue the nine remaining survivors. Grace subsequently became a national heroine, and Bamburgh has dedicated a museum to her life and triumph (detailed further down this list).
Aside from her incredible story, the lighthouse itself is worthy of a visit if for no other reason than awe; it stands 85 feet tall and sits at the edge of the rocky outcrop. Though the current lighthouse dates from 1826, there has been a lighthouse standing here since the late 1600s. Although it is now remotely operated, it’s a rather comforting thought that there has been a keeper there throughout history, watching over those who cross the sea.
Things to do in Bamburgh | No. 5
Meet puffins and seals on The Farne Islands
The remaining two Farne Islands, Staple and Inner Farne, may not have lighthouses with rousing stories of daring rescues, but they are a nature lover’s heaven (equally tempting, if you ask us). Just like Longstone, they are reachable only by boat ride from the Seahouses harbour. Staple is only open seasonally; ferries land here from May through July, largely for the bird breeding season.
Birdwatching is a huge draw for visitors, who flock here to witness puffins and rare bird varieties like razorbills and Arctic terns. The latter have an unfortunate habit of dive-bombing unsuspecting island-goers, but don’t let that stop you from visiting; early spring is a good time to come as you can still see most of the wildlife but it’s not yet the season for terns.
There’s a little treat for anyone tagging along with a nature enthusiast but more interested in relics than birdwatching: St Cuthbert’s Chapel, on Inner Farne. While monastic structures were here long before the small chapel, the current one still has an impressive age of 650 years. It features beautiful stained glass windows—quite a bit more recent, having been installed in 1997. But wait for a ray of sunlight to hit the coloured glass just right and you won’t mind their newer age
Things to do in Bamburgh | No. 6
Pay your respects at St Aidan’s Church & Crypt
Even if churches aren’t your cup of tea, this one has a lot of history attached to it so it’s worth adding to your things to do in Bamburgh list. St Aidan’s Church in Bamburgh is about as old as man-made structures get around here; a church has been on this site since 635 AD, when it was said that St Aidan himself built a wooden church.
Unfortunately, wood is not a lasting material, and all that remains of the 6th-century construction is a wooden beam inside the new (12th century) structure. If anything could survive, this beam is probably the best case scenario—it’s said that St Aidan rested upon this beam as he died.
There is also a crypt said to hold the remains of over 100 inhabitants of the area in the 7th and 8th centuries, a 19th-century organ, the grave of an unknown World War II Royal Air Force pilot and the tomb of Grace Darling. It’s a small church, but has a big history and holds so many stories of the past. Even if churches aren’t your cup of tea, it’s hard to beat that kind of intrigue.
Things to do in Bamburgh | No. 7
Visit the brilliant RNLI Grace Darling Museum
We previously mentioned Grace Darling and her heroic rescue of nine shipwrecked passengers off the coast of her father’s lighthouse. If you were intrigued by her, don’t miss the RNLI museum dedicated to her life. This is one of the most fascinating things to do in Bamburgh as it tells the story of a local woman who, against the odds, became an extraordinary Victorian heroine.
The museum details Grace’s early life and upbringing as the daughter of a lighthouse keeper, and showcases a number of keepsakes from her life. Inside the museum, you can find a roster of her dresses, personal effects, letters, and even the very same row boat she and her father rowed for over a mile to reach the remaining survivors (there is something awe-inspiring about knowing that it is the exact vessel that carried her towards danger so that she could help those in need). The museum organisers have even gone so far as to commission a dramatic reenactment film of the events of the night that propelled Grace into nationwide heroism.
To add to this, the museum is located just steps away from the house in which Grace was born, and across the street from the churchyard where her burial site can be found—with a wrought iron tomb marker that was built high enough to be visible to passing ships.
Things to do in Bamburgh | No. 8
Go birdwatching or kitesurfing at Budle Bay
Located roughly halfway between Bamburgh and Lindisfarne is a stunning crescent-shaped stretch of sand known as Budle Bay. During the Tudor period, it was a bustling port and a place of important industry (until recently there was even an old corn mill, abandoned but still standing). However, over many hundreds of years, the old harbour disappeared under rising silt and nature slowly took over.
Today, it is a well-known bird sanctuary within the larger Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, popular with birdwatchers. In the winter, observers come to see several rare varieties of waterfowl that flock in the mud flats.
Not everyone has the patience for birdwatching, so if that’s not something that appeals to you there are other things to do depending on the season. Kite flying, windsurfing, and jet skiing are all popular summer activities, but you can still revel in the beauty of the bay during the winter months by walking along the curve of the shoreline, or following trails that lead further inland from the beach.
One word of caution: it is strongly advised to never attempt to walk across the mouth of the bay, even when the tide is at its lowest. The current is stronger than it looks and has the power to create a dangerous situation.