A short distance from Amble on a loop of the River Coquet, its imposing castle high up on a grassy mound and clearly visible from the coast, Warkworth is a fortified village with a history going back centuries. The picturesque main street of the village, with several pubs, shops and galleries and restaurants, rises up towards the 15th century castle, run by English Heritage. The castle once belonged to the powerful Northumberland family the Percys, one of whose offspring, nicknamed Harry Hotspur for his impulsive nature, was the nemesis of two of England’s oldest enemies: the Scots and the French. He also led a rebellion against Henry IV in 1403, allying himself with the Welsh rebel Owain Glyndwr, but he was killed in the Battle of Shrewsbury.
Across the river from the castle is a hermitage consisting of a tiny 14th century chapel carved out of the rock. The story of how the Hermitage came about was told in a ballad called “The Hermit of Warkworth”, written by Bishop Percy in 1771 in three “fits”, the first of which sets a forbidding scene:
“Dark was the night and wild the storm,
And loud the torrent’s roar;
And loud the sea was heard to dash
Against the distant shore”.
The ballad goes on to tell of the tragic events in which the knight Sir Bertram unwittingly killed both his brother and the lady he was betrothed to in a tragic chain of events. It was this which led the knight to build the Hermitage and retreat from life there.
Warkworth also has an impressive church, St Lawrence, which is almost completely Norman. The earliest record of the church is from 737 AD when the church and village were given to the monks of Lindisfarne by King Ceolwulf of Northumbria.
Map of the area.