Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dunstanburgh Castle

In Northumberland, the county of castles, in northern England, there is the haunted Dunstanburgh Castle which is the largest in the county by design. Earl Thomas of Lancaster was at odds with his cousin Edward II, who was at Bamburg Castle. In 1313 Thomas built Dunstanburgh Castle within sight of Bamburg Castle. He intended it to be big and strong as a show of defiance against Edward II.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Photo 1 of Dunstanburgh Castle - Courtesy of Alan Rolfe

The castle is, strategically, very well situated on a prominent headland about 1 mile north of Craster. It is protected on two sides by the sea and the sheer cliff face. The troops garrisoned inside would definitely be able to put up a stout defense against any attackers. This is assuming that they were already inside in the first place.

Dunstanburgh Castle Ghost of Earl Thomas

Earl Thomas, unfortunately, did not get inside the castle in time to save his own life. Relations between him and the king turned sour and he led a rebellion against the monarch. His rebellion failed and he was captured. He was sentenced to be executed by beheading on the hill north of St. John’s Priority. However, his end was far from a clean-cut affair.
The man in the black hood on that day was inexperienced. It took him blow after blotched blow before he could cut off Thomas’s head. Altogether, it took eleven strikes of the executioner’s ax to sever Thomas’s head. It was a bloody horrible end indeed.

So much so that Thomas’s ghost now haunts Dunstanburgh Castle. It has been sighted carrying its mutilated head. The sheer agony of its final day on earth is clearly evident on its bloodied face.

The Woeful Tale and Haunting of Sir Guy

Dunstanburgh Castle was also the scene of a woeful tale. In the 16th century, it has been largely reduced to rubble by canon fire during the War of Roses. One day, a gallant knight, Sir Guy the Seeker, came riding along the Northumberland coast. Suddenly the skies opened up and a terrific storm brewed up.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle @timstorrphotography

Lightning crackled across the skies and thunder rumbled competing with the crash of the waves breaking on the rocky shore. Blinded by the rain and lashed by the wind, Sir Guy sought shelter from the inclement weather. He came upon the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle.

He guided his terrified horse carefully up the dangerously twisting rocky path. Then he sheltered as best as he could under the shattered turrets of the massive gatehouse. The storm continued unabated. The wind howled eerily through the crevices of the broken castle walls. Suddenly, there appeared a hideous figure in white. The apparition promised Sir Guy that if he were to follow it, he would be led to a “beauty bright”.

Ever the epitome of chivalry and courage, the fearless knight did as he was bidden. He went up a narrow winding staircase. At the top, he entered a room. In the room, there were a hundred knights and their horses, all in deep slumber. In the center of the room, there was a sparkling crystal casket.

Inside the casket, there lay the most beautiful maiden that Sir Guy had ever laid eyes upon and he had seen quite a few beauties in his time. She was also in deep slumber. On either side of this sleeping beauty, there were two serpents. One held a sword. The other held a horn.

The hideous guide told Sir Guy that he could awake the lady but not with a kiss. He had to choose either to use the sword or the horn. Only the right choice would bring her out of her bewitched slumber.

If Sir Guy had been a connoisseur of conundrums he would have immediately detected the hidden meaning of the puzzle. However, being the good man that he was, he chose the horn. Really, what kind of gentleman would wake a lady with a sword?

So he blew on the horn. Whereupon, instead of the sleeping beauty being roused, the sleeping knights, all one hundred of them, came to life. As one, they rushed upon the intruder. Sir Guy, as bold, brave and fearless that he was, fell down in a dead faint.

As he slipped into the enveloping darkness, the guide came towards him with a contemptuous sneer on its hideous face. It taunted him with these words,

Now shame on the coward who sounded a horn
And the knight who sheathed a sword

Eventually, Sir Guy regained consciousness. He found himself lying beneath the ruins of the gatehouse. Henceforth, he endeavored to locate the sleeping beauty again. He looked everywhere that was left of the castle. No stone that he could move was left unturned. Every crook and every cranny was checked and re-checked. It was all in vain. The room where the sleeping beauty lay was never found again. In the end, Sir Guy died a broken and lonely old man.

Now his ghost haunts the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle. When the weather turns stormy and the raging winds howl in horrendous din against the thundering crash of the wild waves breaking against the castle rock, it can be sighted still seeking the “beauty bright” among the tattered remains of what was once a proud edifice.
Incidentally, Dunstanburgh Castle can only be reached by foot along the beach from the car park nearly two miles away. So there is plenty of time for visitors to savor the full impact of the paranormal atmosphere of the location as they make their way there.

Image 1 by Alan Rolfe

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