There can be few more picturesque spots for a picnic than Edlingham Castle in Northumberland. In fact, a picture of the view of the Castle from Corby Crag, above Alnwick was used as a promotional backdrop to The Hobbit.
Sitting quietly in a narrow green valley that lies between the moors about five miles south west of Alnwick, Edlingham Castle is surely one of Northumberland’s hidden treasures. As part of a day out, on foot or by car, a visit to this beautiful corner of Northumberland is a great way to pass the time of day. And it’s all for free! There is space for car parking by St. John the Baptist Church.
The Castle and the village of Edlingham itself are of considerable antiquity. However, the history of the immediate area stretches back to ancient times. The Roman road known as the Devils Causeway crossed the Edlingham Burn close to the location of the current site of Edlingham Village. Long before the Anglo-Saxon states of Bernicia and Deira had become united to form Northumbria (593-619), those sections of the road that had fallen idle since the Roman occupation had almost certainly begun to fall to ruin.
The Old Name of Edlingham Castle
In early Anglo-Saxon times, the village of Edlingham was known as Eeadulfingham. Meaning the “ham” (old English word hamien – to make a home), of Eadwulf, or homestead of the sons of Eadwulf. During the eighth century, King Ceowulf of Northumbria gave the village to the monks of Lindisfarne. King Ceolwulph was a man with deep religious interests more suited to the life of a monk than to the rigors of kingship. He abdicated around the year 738 and retired to Holy Island, where he lived until his death in 764-65. He was purportedly buried next to St Cuthbert on Lindisfarne.
The Edlingham Burn rises on Brimside Moor and runs into the river Aln. In the thirteenth century, the original Edlingham manor house was built on an area of flat land next to the burn. The remains of manor house are “probably concealed beneath the later building.” of the Castle and was built during a relatively peaceful time in England’s history. In 1295 Thomas De Edlingham sold the manor to William Felton who built the hall (the earliest standing remains today). The hall was fortified against the notorious Border Reivers during the following decades. It became referred to as a Castle around 1400.
Today the land around the Castle is mostly used for grazing. Although, it was probably more heavily wooded in years gone by. The road to Edlingham from Alnwick is one of my favorites; the valley opens up towards the Simonside Hills affording spectacular views over the Northumberland countryside.
Here is a picnic spot that reverberates to the rumble of Roman cartwheels, clashes to the sound of tribal Dark Age warfare, and basks in the golden age of the first Lindisfarne Monastery. All this before the Danes arrived in 866. A quiet corner of Northumberland where our ancestral roots run deep, literally right under our feet. The only thing more ancient is the land itself.
Witch of Edlingham
The castle fell into disuse by the late 17 century. Prior to this in 1683 John and Jacob Mills gave their address as Edlingham Castle in the trial against Mary Stothard.
The story goes…
Margaret Stothard, “ a reputed witch, who was accused of having been the cause of much mischief in the neighbourhood,” had gone to the manor house seeking alms. The lady of the house refused to oblige. This could have been because of her visitors’ reputation in the locality. Or because she genuinely may have been unable to offer help at that time. Margaret went away empty handed. The next day a child of the house became sick and died the following morning. The county magistrates heard the charges that were brought forward citing Margaret as a witch. There are however no records of her death so it might be that she escaped punishment for this supposed crime. Further details of this story were published in an article in the Journal.
A Visit to Edlingham Castle
I recorded this on October 24th, 2014 although I have visited Edlingham many times since.
We headed into the golden autumn sunshine mellow in mood and content of heart, an easy trip on an easy day. For a change, it was a day out with my daughters while my husband made the long trip north to check on Shemaron
On this visit, the autumn wind was blowing savagely. It was forcing the glossy blades of grass to the ground so that they rippled voraciously round the ruined Castle walls. Steel bars stop the tower from falling even though the walls slant at an alarming angle. I stood in front of the slanting gap and watched clouds race by. They moved so fast it was like watching a time-lapse film. We felt sure we would be able to find a sheltered corner to sit and view the open vaults, turrets, and arches in some sunny quarter of the Castle. The wind, however, was un-abating and after a quick clamber over the fallen walls we returned to the car; leaving the corbels, and bartizans to stand alone and brace the wind.
It was too windy for a picnic. However, Edlingham is conveniently situated between the market towns of Rothbury and Alnwick. So we had a good variety of eateries at our disposal!