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Beyond the Wall.

Winter is coming, of that there is no doubt but first we have Autumn and happily, a few more days of sunshine.  Together with a group of War gaming buddies, Pete, Jaz, John and Josie, Julie and I  were lucky enough to enjoy some superb weather as we took a short holiday break and ventured North above the wall (Hadrian’s, of course) to the Coast of Northumberland. The Wildlings proved to be very friendly but have been keeping a secret from the rest of the country. Far from being a bleak, barren place, this part of the country is simply beautiful. Of course, if you enjoy visiting historical sites and looking at castles, you are spoilt for choice. As an added bonus, the food and beer is pretty good as well.

Amble Harbour

Amble Harbour

We stayed at Amble, a small fishing village just south of Alnwick. The picture doesn’t do it justice but it does show how lucky we were with the weather! On the way up to our accommodation, we stopped of at the appropriately named Wallsend,  and called into Segedunum, the small Roman fort that was built to guard the eastern end of Hadrians Wall. The fort is well excavated and thanks to the viewing tower, you can have a birds eye view of the layout. As well as the fort, there is a recreation of a Roman bath house and of course a small museum that explains the history of the fort. If you would like to know more here is the link to the official site:

Segedunum

Segedunum Roman Fort

Segedunum Roman Fort

The museum and fort are well worth a visit and were a great introduction to Hadrians Wall. Once we had passed Segedunum we were in the county of Northumberland and if the Romans found it a struggle to survive North of the wall, there were plenty that came after that were up for the challenge! All you needed to stay safe was a great big castle – and there are plenty to be found! Warkworth Castle, Alnwick Castle and Bamburg were just three that we visited and all close to where we were staying. To be fair, we didn’t go into all of them, there just wasn’t time but it was great fun touring around and visiting. My photos just don’t do these places justice, so here are some from the web!

Warkworth Castle

Alnwick Castle

Bamburgh Castle

As you can see, all very impressive and inspiring! My favourite was of course Bamburgh Castle, home in fiction to Uthred of Bebbanburg and a most imposing structure built right on the coast. It doesn’t take much imagination to visualise this Castle in ancient times, dominating the landscape and the people around it, keeping them safe from the various marauders from the Vikings through to the Border Reivers. Alnwick Castle may be more familiar to people as Hogwarts from the Harry Potter novels. Not my cup of tea but more evidence of just how cinematic these places are. In fact whilst we were in the area, there was a team filming the new Transformers movie. Goodness knows what Transformers are doing up in Newcastle and on Bamburgh Castle but I’m sure that it will all be done in the best possible taste!

The other ‘must visit’ area is of course that well known holiday destination for the Vikings,  Lindisfarne or as it is sometimes known as, Holy Isle. The day that we visited, we were fortunate to have a full day of sunshine and so the views of the coastline and landscape were spectacular. Here are just a couple of pictures of the coastline and castle at Lindisfarne.

The view from Lindisfarne across the bay to Bamburgh Castle

The view from Lindisfarne across the bay to Bamburgh Castle

The Castle, Lindisfarne

The Castle, Lindisfarne

As well as the landscape, there is plenty of wild life to see. We met these two on the causeway as we made our way back to Amble after a lovely day.

Grey Seals at Lindisfarne Causeway

Grey Seals at Lindisfarne Causeway

We also visited Cragside, a more recently constructed house of the Victorian times and built by the famous Victorian Industrialist, Lord Armstrong. He is credited with inventing modern artillery and he founded the Armstrong Whitworth manufacturing company and specialised in the development of hydraulic power. His house, Cragside, is set in beautifully landscaped gardens and one of the largest rock gardens in Europe. The place is stunning.

Cragside

Cragside

The formal gardens are pretty good, once again, teeming with wild life as of course, is the rest of the estate. Although Cragside isn’t as steeped in history as some of the other sites that we visited, it certainly was one of the most beautiful.

Cragside formal gardens

Cragside formal gardens

Before we knew it, our break was over and it was time to return home. However, as we crossed back over the Wall, we stopped off at perhaps the best place that a wargamer could visit up here, the Roman Army museum and the Roman fort and museum at Vindolanda. I’ll just put a teaser of a photograph up for now and in my next blog post I’ll add some more detail and pictures.

The Roman Army Museum

The Roman Army Museum

All in all, a lovely holiday break, as usual, too short at just five days but we packed a lot into those five days and I intend to return and spend a bit more time at some of those castles! As well as discovering the delights of Northumberland I also found a new way to enjoy my hobby, for now I’ll call it social model making but more of that in a later blog. Back to work now!

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