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Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland England

The Ghosts of Dunstanburgh Castle

High upon the cliffs along the North Sea in Northumberland, England, reside the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle. Dunstanburgh was once the largest castle in Northumberland, but today only fragments of it remain.

The castle was built in 1313 by Thomas Plantagenet, Second Earl of Lancaster and was fortified in the 1380s. The castle saw plenty of action during the Wars of the Roses as it changed hands at least five times. Each time it was besieged with cannon fire and in the end, little was left of the castle. The castle is still home to its builder and a few others...

Thomas Plantagenet fell into disfavor with his cousin King Edward II who had him executed for treason in 1322. The executioner must have had a bad day because it took him 11 strokes to ultimately decapitate Thomas. The Earls' ghost has been spotted around the castle carrying his mangled head, with a facial expression still bearing the pain and horror he suffered before the final blow of the executioner finally took his life. The ghost of Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI, has also been spotted wandering the castle grounds. Another purported resident of Dunstanburgh Castle is the ghost of Sir Guy.

As Richard Jones tells the story ...

"According to legend, Sir Guy the Seeker was a gallant knight who, while riding along the Northumberland coast one day, found himself caught in a dreadful storm. Desperate for shelter, he chanced upon the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle and, leading his terrified horse up the perilous and twisting rocky path, took sanctuary from the tempest beneath the shattered turrets of its massive gatehouse. As the storm raged and the wind howled through the crevices of the castle walls, there appeared a hideous figure dressed in white that urged him to follow it to where he would be rewarded by a “beauty bright.”

The fearless knight followed the figure up a narrow, winding staircase and into a room where lay a hundred sleeping knights and their horses. At the center of the chamber, in a sparkling crystal casket, there slept the most beautiful maiden Sir Guy had ever seen. On either side of her were two serpents, one holding a sword, the other a horn. The specter told Sir Guy that he could awaken the lady, but that he must choose whether to use the sword or the horn. Only the correct choice would rouse her. He thought for a moment and then, striding forward, took up the horn and blew it. Suddenly, the sleeping knights flashed into life and rushed at him, whereupon Sir Guy fainted clean away. As the room began to swirl, the figure in white came toward him and as he slipped into unconsciousness, he heard its taunting voice, echoing round and round inside his head “Now shame on the coward who sounded a horn, and the knight who sheathed a sword.”

When Sir Guy regained consciousness, he was lying beneath the ruins of the gatehouse. From that day forth, he was determined to find the sleeping maiden again. It became an obsession as he rummaged around every corner of the moldering ruin. But he never again found the room in which she lay, and he died a broken, lonely old man. On windswept, stormy days, as the waves thunder against the castle rock, and the winds howl through the ruins, his ghost is said to wander the stark passages and winding stone staircases, still seeking the “beauty bright” amid the savage remnants of this imposing edifice."

Haunted Britain and Ireland

This ghost story is from the book "Haunted Britain and Ireland" authored by Richard Jones. We would like to thank Richard for graciously allowing Great Castles to use an excerpt from one of his ghost stories on this site. You can find other interesting stories on his web site, Haunted Britain, or purchase a copy of "Haunted Britain and Ireland" directly from Richard himself by clicking the image of the book to the left.

About the book: Region by region, ghost-seeker Richard Jones reveals, explains and delights in the tales of the tortured phantoms eager to restage their dark and turbulent pasts. The cast of characters ranges from ghostly legionaries that tramp the long-buried streets of Roman York to the malevolent fairy lights of Derbyshire's Longendale; from the shade of Ladford's murderous vicar to the grief-stricken white lady who may or may not have attended pop singer Madonna's wedding at Skibo Castle.