Fort Grey



I have done battle with the binding machine and submitted the hard copies of my dissertation.  It is well and truly done.

I have already visited a few blogs and have plans to visit many more – I have missed the fun of sharing this great hobby with other enthusiasts.  I have lots of plans, plenty of photographic projects in the pipeline.  But I also want to share some of the photos I took during our holiday to the Channel Islands this year.    This is Fort Grey, on Guernsey’s West coast.  Inside, there is a fascinating shipwreck museum which I heartily recommend. It is never easy trying to do landscape photography on a family holiday.  At this location I noticed the best viewpoint of all just as we were driving away and couldn’t bring myself to ask the family to stop again while I captured it.  This will have to do.  Mostly it was too hazy while we were there and there weren’t enough clouds to make interesting sunsets, but this evening was an exception.

Dunstanburgh Castle


Today I thought I’d share some images taken at Dunstanburgh Castle on Northumberland’s beautiful Heritage Coast. The castle is the largest in Northumberland. In 1313, Earl Thomas of Lancaster, cousin of Edward II of England began construction and John of Gaunt added to it later in the century.


During the Wars of the Roses, the castle was badly damaged and it slowly fell into decay. The castle is now owned by the National Trust and in the care of English Heritage. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building.

Dunstanburgh Castle

This beautiful and evocative ruin can hardly fail to inspire, perched on a rocky outcrop above the coast and the plain below.  Some great painters have immortalised it, including Turner and, one of my favourite contemporary artists, Michael Morgan.


Lilburn Tower, the most intact of the castle buildings, seems to demand a moody black and white treatment. Can you imagine a knight riding along that path, perhaps to rescue a princess from the tower?  I kept thinking instead of Macbeth, riding to meet the three weird sisters, perhaps because Roman Polanski’s film, Macbeth was shot in the area.


Dunstanburgh Castle is reached via a footpath from Craster, a sleepy fishing village to the South.  Or via the beautiful sands of Embleton Bay to the North.


I chased down a rainbow there on our visit, only just managing one hasty exposure before the colours faded, from which I made this, rather more painterly than usual, image with a little help from Topaz Simplify:


For all that I enjoyed the, admittedly rather over the top, colours of the last two images, it remains, for me, the black and white images that suit this location more.  If you get the chance to visit this atmospheric ruin, I thoroughly recommend it.

Lilburn Tower

Grosnez castle

castle ruins, Jersey

Our visit to Jersey gave me an opportunity to add to my castle series.  Grosnez Castle was built in the 14th century.  Little remains of the castle but it makes a very atmospheric ruin, perched atop the headland at the Northwest corner of the island.

Ruined arch of Grosnez Castle

‘Grosnez’ comes from the old Norse, grar nes, meaning ‘grey headland’, rather than the French for ‘big nose’.  According to an interpretation board at the site, the castle was probably built in around 1330.  It was taken by the French in 1373 and 1381 and was likely demolished during or shortly after the French occupation of 1461-8.

Jersey coastline

The castle certainly has a commanding view of the Jersey coast.  Just along the headland stands another martial construction taking advantage of those views, a German WW2 range-finder tower, part of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’.

Tower among heather on cliff, Jersey

It is a strangely forbidding construction, a stark contrast to the tapestry of heather and wildflowers at its base. The two structures together are a reminder of Jersey’s history of occupation, straddling some of her most beautiful landscape.

WW2 observation tower seen from Grosnez Castle, Jersey.



Bamburgh Castle

Several people have recently asked me about the header image for this blog. It is Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. In August 2009, we spent a very enjoyable week in Northumberland, England’s most Northern county and its most sparsely populated. Even in the midst of the summer holiday season, it was easy to find peace and solitude.

We stayed in Seahouses, just down the coast from Bamburgh, and with spectacular views of the iconic castle. Despite Northumberland’s reputation for terrible weather, we had a week of sunny days and, every night, spectacular sunsets.

Bamburgh Castle stands on a basalt outcrop. The first written record of a fort on the site dates from 547CE but a fort had probably been there for at least a century. The Vikings destroyed the original fort in 993. At the heart of the present castle stands a Norman structure. Further building took place over the next several centuries but the castle finally fell into neglect in the 1700s.

The Victorian industrialist William Armstrong completed restoration of the castle and it is still owned by the Armstrong family. It is open to the public and has also been used as a location for several movies, including most recently the 1998 film, Elizabeth.

If you are ever in the area, Bamburgh Castle is well worth a visit, but beware: last admission is at 3.30 and the castle closes at 5 but the staff were so eager to get home that they started clearing us out at 4.30. An hour is most definitely not long enough to see the castle and admission is not especially cheap!



We spent yesterday in Reigate, a quiet market town in North Surrey. The only camera I had with me was my iPhone so, in the true tradition (if there has been enough time for there to be a tradition) of iPhoneography, I have lightly edited the images on my iPad and uploaded directly from there.


Reigate has the remains of a castle so I get to continue my series on castles. The castle was built in the eleventh century and fell into decay in the seventeenth. None of the stonework remains but the earthworks have been turned into a pretty, and peaceful garden.


Underneath the castle gardens is a network of caves. The most well-known, The Barons’ Cave, is reputed to have been a meeting place for the barons who devised the Magna Carta. The stone pyramid in the top photographs guards an underground


The few remains of the castle were removed in 1777 when the land was converted into a garden. The mock medieval gateway was built at that time.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day in Reigate. The town has a lot of interesting independent shops, a fine array of eateries and an Everyman cinema (in which we saw Prometheus). Best of all, the sun shone: a rare event here this summer!


Guildford Castle


Many eyes across the globe were turned towards our little island this weekend as we celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. We may not be a very big nation geographically, or even in terms of power these days, but no one can deny we have a rich and long history. Among the signs of that history are the many castles that still stand right across the country. I do love a good castle so I thought I might do an occasional series about them.


Guildford Castle is the closest castle to where I live. It was originally a Norman castle, built shortly after the conquest in 1066. Wooden defences were replaced with stone ones during the 12th century. As the only royal castle in Surrey, Guildford Castle became the centre for the county’s administration and justice and the keep, photographed here, housed the county gaol. However, after Henry III’s death in 1272, the castle fell into decline. In 1885, the ruins were bought by Guildford Borough Council. The keep has been renovated and now contains an interesting display about its history. The grounds are now a lovely park, full of beautiful flowers.