The mystery of my story...

# "You're my castle, you're my cabin and my instant pleasure dome.  I need you in my house, cos you're my home..." # - Billy Joel

The Lilburn Tower - view from the north...
There are only a few words in my life so far that when uttered make me stare off into the distance with a smile.  My wife's name is one of them, so too is "Vancouver" where we spent the end of our honeymoon (and is possibly my favourite city in the world).  But utter the word "Dunstanburgh" around me and you might be forgiven for thinking I've drifted off to another universe...

It's the name of a ruined castle on the north east coast, near to where I have grown up and still live...  It's also a place I've become a little obsessed with reading about and journeying to, year after year, and it's somewhere I'm going to be blogging about more and more in the future, here on my online journal.  Plus, this being my year of beginning the epic writing task of "My History Mystery", it's probably about time I did actually post something more about that book, as Dunstanburgh is THE place that's inspired the particular scribbles for Novel # 2.

View from the south, walking from Craster...
The castle stands on a craggy outcrop near the ancient village of Embleton in Northumberland, and not far from Lindisfarne (its slightly more well-known neighbour) and it holds so much history (and mystery) that's still not really understood despite recent archaeological expeditions to uncover the truth of the old tumbled stones that make up the ruin of Dunstanburgh.

Take a moment to stop and imagine
before entering the citadel...
The best way to see the castle is via a trip to Craster (a dreamy fishing village famous for its smoked kippers) - park up near the Craster Tourist Information centre and then take the mile-or-so walk across the grassy path, amongst grazing cattle and thorny gorse bushes, towards the crumbled towers of Dunstanburgh which lures you in as you progress towards it.

Each time I make my writing pilgrimage up to the place, my imagination flies off into the mists of time, dreaming of the adventures of the folk who lived in the area in days gone by, going on with their day-to-day life in the shadow of the hulk of Dunstanburgh, both in the years when it was in use as a working castle and then later when in Elizabethan times it was left to wreck and ruin after being laid siege to in the War of the Roses.

Wonder if the Time Team have ever dug here?
There are actually some handy English Heritage plaques dotted around the castle to show you how the fortress would have looked in all its medieval glory, so make sure you stop to take note of these as you visit.  And don't miss peering down the old mysterious well in the entrance courtyard (who knows what blocked-up dungeons this may lead to) as well as making sure to walk down the length of the south wall and finding the "rumbling churn", a small inlet 'back door' to the castle (where it's fabled that smugglers would enter, their small rowing boats laiden with contraband whisky and other ill-gotten gains...)

More secrets will be revealed in 2012...
I've probably allowed more secrets of "My History Mystery" to be freed from my mind onto my keyboard than I originally meant to here, but with this post, I really wanted to give an introduction to the setting of the book before this first year's end of its writing... (and also to hopefully inspire readers to take a trip up to the castle too!)
So watch this space in the near future for more looks into the distant past of the UK's north east coastline and in the meantime, you can also watch this fantastic video of stills from Dunstanburgh and the surrounding area, courtesy of stevejpreston:

P.S. To get an extra insight into the world of "My History Mystery", go to my Official Writing Website - once there, search the desk top for a "sketchy" object - click on it and have your smart phone QR code reader at the ready for a sneak peak into the world of Novel #2!


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