Morpeth Castle

Morpeth, Northumberland - Sleeps 7

About this Landmark

The Landmark we know today as Morpeth Castle was originally a gatehouse built at the entrance to the castle from which it gets its name. Morpeth Castle sits on a hill with fine views of the town and the River Wansbeck. 

Dog Beds 1 Single, 2 Twin, 1 Double

  • Sleeps7
  • 4 nights from from£445
  • equivalent to £15.89 per person per night

Built for show

Our gatehouse was built around 1300, more for show than defence but once within the curtain wall, you could be inside the most remote Border stronghold. In 1271 the castle itself passed from its first owners, the de Merlays to the Greystoke family, who chose to use it as a centre of administration for all their other castles. The castle started the 16th century in grand style, welcoming the likes of the widowed Queen of Scotland Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. However by the latter years of the century the castle was described as "mightily decayed." Fast-forward a couple of centuries and the castle was bought by the Borough Council, surely making it a contender for one of the strangest council houses. By 1988 extensive work was required, especially to the roof, at which point The Landmark Trust stepped in.

Your own cosy Northumberland retreat

With new life breathed back into it, the gatehouse stands in parkland on a plateau above the town of Morpeth from which it gets its name. On entering the building you climb the stone spiral staircase to reach the first floor open-plan living area. The bedrooms are on the two floors above and it accommodates up to 7 people. Just a short drive from the Northumberland coast, this is a cosy retreat for people who'd like to enjoy everything Northumberland has to offer such as Alnwick Castle, Hadrian's Wall and Newcastle upon Tyne.

Floor Plan

‘The castle is warm and welcoming – a home from home, except we don’t live in a castle.’

‘Marvellous acoustics in the great hall – we brought our own minstrels.’

From the logbook

Map & local info

The castle stands on the edge of a public park on a small plateau above Morpeth, with views of the town and countryside. Once you shut the gate, the quiet, peaceful garden amongst the ruins becomes your own.

Morpeth Castle
Morpeth, Northumberland - Sleeps 7
Clear directions

Places to visit nearby

Alnwick Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Lindisfarne / Holy Island

Cragside House

Warkworth Castle

Stephenson Railway Museum

‘The castle is warm and welcoming – a home from home, except we don’t live in a castle.’

‘Marvellous acoustics in the great hall – we brought our own minstrels.’

From the logbook

Your questions answered

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    Yes.
  • How is the property accessed?

    Via a driveway.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Morpeth – 0.7 miles.
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    Yes – there are three spaces in the parking area just inside the gates.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There is gas central heating and a stove.
  • How can I get fuel for the open fire or stove?

    Unfortunately, there is currently no arrangement for the purchase and delivery of logs, however details of local sources will be provided with your order confirmation.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also a gas cooker, a dishwasher and a microwave.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There are two bathrooms, one with a shower over the bath and one with a bath. 
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    Yes, the stairs are steep, narrow and spiral. There are stairs between the bedrooms on both floors.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    There is an enclosed garden. 

    Booking and Payment

  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will advise you as to whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to carry out the changeover then we consider that it is open and available. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, which may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking.

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Is it true there are no televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s).

    Facilities

  • Are the kitchens and bathrooms restored to a modern standard?

    Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Is linen provided?

    Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival.
  • Are the kitchens fully equipped?

    Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Do you provide logs for the open fire/stove?

    Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Will there be a mobile signal in the Landmark I book?

    Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • Is there Wi-Fi in your buildings?

    No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
  • What should I bring with me? Are there lavatory rolls, soap, shampoo, milk, teabags, coffee, hairdryer?

    A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide lavatory rolls and a bar of soap, per basin but no other toiletries. We do not provide hairdryers.

A gatehouse added in about 1350

The building now known as Morpeth Castle was originally a gatehouse, added in about 1350 at the entrance to the castle proper. It probably replaced an earlier gatehouse which had been there for 100 years or more. There has, in fact, been a castle in Morpeth since the Norman period. The first one stood to the North of the present site, on Ha' Hill, but was destroyed by King John in 1216.

The second was built soon afterwards, still in the 13th century. It had a stone keep, or Great Tower, in the centre of a courtyard or bailey, protected by the existing curtain wall. This keep is shown on the earliest map of Morpeth, dated 1604.

In 1271 Morpeth passed from its first owners, the de Merlays, to the Greystoke family. They had other castles, and Morpeth Castle seems to have become a centre of administration, in local government and the law, only visited occasionally by its owner. It would have been under the control of a Constable, living there with his household, and a small garrison. There was, no doubt, a Steward or Bailiff as well, with a clerk, to oversee the management of Lord Greystoke's property in the area.

It is possible that the lodging for one or these important officials was on the upper floor of the imposing new gatehouse, built by William Lord Greystoke, the Good Baron, between 1342 and 1359. On the first floor, however, there was just one large chamber, but with two doorways and, possibly, a free-standing screen in the position of the present partition. This unusual arrangement suggests that it was a Courtroom, in which justice was dispensed. The gatehouse is strangely lacking in defensive features, such as a portcullis, and this also suggests that the building was intended mainly for ceremony and show, rather than military strength.

In the early 1500s the castle was, for a short period, occupied by its owner, now the Lord Dacre. Here in 1515-16 he entertained Margaret, widowed Queen of Scotland, one of many Royal visitors to Morpeth over the centuries. His house was adorned with tapestries and there were vessels of silver to eat from. By the end of the century, however, the castle was described as "mightily decayed".

Surprisingly, the one great military event in the history of the castle was yet to come. Border raids had been an occupational hazard, but there is no record of the castle ever having been involved in serious warfare until 1644, and the Civil War. Then, in spite of grave doubts as to its strength, a Parliamentary garrison of 500 held the castle for 20 days against Montrose's Royalist force of 2,700. When they finally marched out, in full honour, it was discovered that they had only lost 23 men, as against 191 men of the besieging force.

By this time Morpeth belonged to the Howard family, who became Earls of Carlisle. For the next 200 years the castle was largely abandoned, providing a useful source of building stone. The gatehouse, however, was lived in, and seems to have been partly remodelled in the late 1600s when an attic floor was inserted. Early 19th-century engravings show it becoming more and more dilapidated. Then, in about 1860, the Earl of Carlisle repaired the gatehouse, as a home for his agent. The parapet was rebuilt and new windows were inserted. Inside, there were new partitions and stairs.

The castle resumed its position as an important building in Morpeth until its sale in 1916. In 1946 it was bought by the Borough Council and became for a while a very unusual council house. By the 1980s, expensive repairs were needed, particularly to the roof. The castle fell vacant, and quickly became derelict. A new solution for its future was urgently sought by the Borough Council. In 1988 the council granted a lease to the Landmark Trust. The restoration of Morpeth Castle was completed in the autumn of 1991, since when it has been let all year round for holidays.

Recovering the tower's medieval layout

In the restoration of Morpeth Castle, the Landmark Trust set out to recover a little of the tower's medieval layout, but also to retain something of the later houses that were made within it in the 17th century and especially in 1860. The long history of the building is therefore visible, perhaps for the first time.

Outside the tower

The tall windows, the corbelled parapet and the corner turrets, which make up the front of the tower, all date from the Victorian rebuilding, but its appearance in the Middle Ages was not much different. The design of the windows has changed, but they occupied roughly the same positions as now. Passing through the stone arch, the rooms on either side were the guardrooms, watching over the entrance to the castle. Once inside the gate, there are stables and outbuildings on your right. These probably date from 1860.

The entrance

The ground level inside the castle has risen over the centuries, so that it now slopes up inside the gate, almost to the level of the main door to the upper floors of the castle. This was probably reached originally by steps at the side of the building. The door surround itself is Victorian, but it is in the same place as the medieval entrance. The Landmark Trust removed a single storey extension added on this side of the tower in about 1916.

Inside the tower - first floor

Opening off a passage to the right are two doors, of which the second, although much altered, was originally the grander. When this floor was used as a courtroom, the first door was for the prisoners and guards; the second for the justices. A free-standing screen in the position of the present partition probably divided the room, so that the sitting room, in the larger end, is much as it was in the Middle Ages. Ahead of you when you enter this room is a cupboard, or aumbrey, in which the seals and paraphernalia of justice would have been displayed.

Both ends of the room had fireplaces. That in the sitting room, however, has been much hacked about in recent years and has lost its original mouldings. Also at both ends are garderobes, or privies. The walls have been re-plastered and limewashed, and nearly all the joinery is new, including the oak-boarded ceiling.

The second floor

The decision to reinstate the original newel staircase caused a minor problem because either in the 17th century or in 1860, the level of the second floor had been lowered by about two feet. Landmark decided to keep to the existing, lower, floor level, so some steps had to be built to bridge the gap between it and the threshold of the medieval door. Under the threshold two 19th-century shoes were discovered.

The second floor was probably always divided into two or more rooms. The present arrangement of the partitions is almost entirely new, however, as are the floorboards. There is another garderobe in the corner of the large bedroom, like those on the floor below. In the bathroom the window sill contains a stone sink, or slop-stone, showing that this floor was always domestic. It possibly formed a self-contained apartment or lodging for one of the castle officials.

The roof

The Landmark Trust put back local stone slates of the kind that would have covered the roof originally. They came from Ladycross Quarry near Allendale, south west of Hexham. The lead was also renewed and the wall-walk itself paved with York stone slabs.

The restoration of Morpeth Castle was carried out under the supervision of the Edinburgh architects, Stewart Tod and Partners. The builders were Bowden & Co of Newcastle-upon- Tyne. Archaeological investigations, and the recording of the castle's structural history, were carried out by Peter F. Ryder, of Riding Mill. These were funded by English Heritage, which also gave a grant towards the cost of the repairs.


Morpeth Castle, nr Newcastle.

  • Ideal venue for time with family or team, accessible by public transport.

  • For up to 8 people in 4 bedrooms, tight spiral stairs at all levels.
    Mobile Signal.

  • Stays offered: 9-13 March, 13-16 March

  • View pictures, floor plans and maps here

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QuestionWhat's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.