Ahead, edging the horizon, like a giant, broken jaw bone, scoured clean of flesh, lays a centuries-old ruin. It dominates the scene, its walls uneven; jagged teeth, gnawing at the sky.
On days like this, visitors are reminded of the violence behind these rolling vistas. Listen carefully, and you may yet hear the ring of iron against iron, and the screams of the fallen. Their blood once stained the soil we now traverse, with our rucksacks and picnics strapped to our backs, and nothing but pleasure on our minds.
Even the sound of the tide, so comforting when sunlight shimmers on the waves, can change on a whim. It becomes the insidious, churning rattle of soldiers’ bones, joining with the chants of those lost at sea—a salt-dried protest, issuing from the mouths of forgotten souls.
As they approach the ruins, visitors are struck by the sheer size of them. Once a great castle, it was the pride of the crown; a seat of power, fortified against invasion. It would have been an impressive sight, holding the gaze of all who came near; filling them with awe, and trepidation. It is a place that has withstood the clashes of Yorkist and Lancastrian, though keenly fought over. But it was not the bombardment of war that brought the castle to its present state. That came through fickle loyalties, its numerous owners’ indifference to that which others had built, and the unrelenting erosion of time.
All reigns come to an end—it’s what’s left behind, that’s the most telling. There is nothing more chilling than an abandoned building, with empty rooms, crumbling walls, and absent ceilings, filled with sky.
Now, only bitter, angry ghosts roam its inner spaces.
Inland from the castle, walkers can find the more benign landscape of fields and woodland. Yet even here, there is a sense of unease. The pathways are often neglected and worn; hazardous in places. Tree roots, exposed and polished by countless feet, have taken on a hard, lifeless patina—like the bones of some long-extinct creature, pushed up from a shallow grave. Their uneven tangle acts as a snare for the unwary. And in the deepening gloom of the tree-line, the detritus of modern Neanderthals can also be seen: plastic bags and bottles, paper napkins and cardboard trays… even the occasional condom box. Such a strange place, to choose for an act of intimacy; more likely, it was lust’s less-fussy touch—a fleeting moment of ‘want it now’.
But whatever man does to this place, through brutal battles, acts of thoughtlessness, selfishness, and greed, the landscape itself will always survive. If history is to teach us anything, it’s that we are the ephemeral ones.
Welcome to Northumberland: Enjoy its splendours whilst you can.