Living Abroad: Storming the Castle

Towers, stones and sloping hills define Northern England’s castles. During her semester at the University of Glasgow, Piper Riley (’16) took time out of her studies to visit three of the area’s historical edifices.

By Piper Riley // Staff Writer

Alnwick Castle in Northumberland


To fly off to Hogwarts, visit Alnwick Castle. Alnwick was used as a set during the filming of the first and second Harry Potter movies, including the filming of Harry’s first flying lesson, first quidditch lesson and Harry and Ron’s flying car crash.

The dungeon of Alnwick, nine feet long, eight feet wide and 11 feet deep, has no entrance but a trap door. The prisoners were let down with cords and saw little light. Dungeons such as these were called “oubliettes,” from the French word “oublier”––to forget. The prisoners were often lowered into its depths and forgotten about.

Alnwick’s grand library houses 14,000 books. Amongst them is one of the finest personal libraries in England, compiled by the Earl of Northumberland in the early 17th century. This unfortunate nobleman was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and read books to fend off boredom.

Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island


Lindisfarne Castle is on Holy Island, or Lindsfarne, off the coast of Northumberland. The island is only accessible at certain times of the day, because the road leading to it is underwater at high tide. There are two farms and a number of small fishing boats on the island. At Lindsfarne, I was able to climb down and touch the freezing North Sea.

Bamburgh Castle in Bamburgh


Bamburgh is an ancient castle––one of the largest inhabited castles in the country––right by the sea. The structure itself contains layers representing more than 2,000 years of continuous occupation, while the landscape around the castle rock is textured by over 6,000 years of human history.

Because of its archaeological significance, Bamburgh continues to play host to modern excavations. Just 50 years ago, researchers found an unusual sword on its grounds. Inside the castle, 14 rooms are open to the public, including the spectacular Kings Hall, with over 3,000 pieces of artwork, furniture and porcelain.


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