Dunstanburgh Castle lies on a spectacular headland on the coast of Northumberland in northern England, between the villages of Craster and Embleton.
The castle is the largest in Northumberland and the site shows traces of much earlier occupation before the erection of the castle was started in 1313 by the Earl of Lancaster.
Recent evidence suggests that the site of the castle was occupied in prehistoric times: however, the principal remains date from the 14th century. In 1313, Earl Thomas of Lancaster, cousin of Edward II of England began construction of a massive fortress. By the time of his execution in 1322, the castle was substantially complete. John of Gaunt improved the castle in the late 14th century as the Duke of Lancaster.
The castle did not play a significant part in the border warfare against Scotland. In the Wars of the Roses the castle was held for the Lancastrians in 1462 and 1464. The damage done was not made good and the castle fell steadily into decay. A report in 1538 mentioned it as being a "very reuynus howsse and of smalle strength" and another source in 1550 described it as in "wonderfull great decaye". It continued to deteriorate and was robbed of stone for the building of other places in the area. The last private owner Sir Arthur Sutherland donated the castle to the Ministry of Works in 1929. The castle is now owned by the National Trust and in the care of English Heritage. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building. It lies within the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Turner painted Dunstanburgh many times, usually rising at dawn to do so. One of his oil paintings of the subject is in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Another is in the National Gallery of Victoria.
The castle occupies a prominent headland about 1 mile (1.6 km) north of Craster. On the south side there is a gentle slope towards the castle. The northerly approach is much steeper and the northern perimeter juts into Embleton Bay forming a 150-foot (46 m) cliff. The headland itself is part of the Great Whin Sill, a geological formation stretching across Northumberland.
There are signs of medieval rig-and-furrow on the slopes near to the castle - possible evidence of subsistence farming for the castle inhabitants.
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