Norham ranks among the finest sights in the border country. Set high on a grassy mound, commanding a vital ford over the River Tweed, it was one of the most important strongholds in this once turbulent region. It was also the one most frequently attacked by the Scots - it was besieged at least 13 times, once for nearly a year by Robert Bruce. But even its powerful 12th century keep and massive towered bailey walls could not resist James IV's heavy cannon, and it fell to him in 1513, shortly before his defeat at Flodden Field.
The extensive 16th century rebuilding that followed, adapting the fortress for artillery, is still clearly traceable.
Read more about Norham Castle's history.
Before You Go
Access: Parts of the site are uneven and can become muddy. Not suitable for wheel chairs.
Opening Times: Norham Castle is only open during the summer season, 10am-5pm daily. View details.
Parking: There is a car park onsite.
Plan a Great Day Out
Norham Castle is just five miles from Etal Castle, where there is an award winning exhibition on the Battle of Flodden, of which Norham is closely connected to. Light snacks and refreshments are available in the shop and the picturesque village of Etal is nearby.
Also, don't miss Lindisfarne Priory on Holy Island. The priory was built by ancient monks nearly 1,400 years ago and is surrounded by a wildly beautiful coastline. Please note, Holy Island can only be reached at low tide so check the tide tables before you visit.
Bishop Ranulph Flambard of Durham founds the castle to protect his lands from robbers and Scots.
During the conflict between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, David I of Scotland captures the castle, but it is soon returned to the bishop.
1157-70A Strategic Location
Henry II orders Bishop Hugh de Puiset to rebuild the castle because of its strategic importance.
King John spends large sums on the castle. He probably builds the Sheep Gate and parts of the outer ward.
Alexander II of Scotland besieges Norham for 40 days but fails to take it.
Bishop Anthony Beck entertains Edward I when the king arbitrates between 13 competitors for the Scottish throne. John Baliol is chosen and pays homage to Edward in Norham church.
Early 14th centuryBesieged
Norham is besieged at least four times, but always restored to the bishop.
A 'new' tower is built within the castle. This is probably the remodelling of the great tower to its present form.
The Scots unsuccessfully besiege the castle in support of pretender to the throne Perkin Warbeck. The celebrated gun Mons Meg is wheeled from Edinburgh for this siege and causes considerable damage.
The Scots again lay siege to the castle, bringing down part of the great tower and destroying the outer ward.
The castle is rebuilt and strengthened, with drastic changes to the medieval defences.
Bishop Tunstall refuses to take the Oath of Supremacy. Elizabeth I seizes Norhamshire, including the castle.
1560sLeft to Ruin
The castle falls into a ruinous state and is judged unfit for a garrison.
The castle is placed in state guardianship. The inner moat is excavated, fallen masonry is cleared and the ruins are stabilised.
English Heritage takes over management of the castle.
English Heritage cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments and places - from world-famous prehistoric sites to grand medieval castles, from Roman forts on the edges of empire to a Cold War bunker. Through these, we bring the story of England to life for over 10 million people each year. The English Heritage Trust is a charity, no. 1140351, and a company, no. 0744722, registered in England.
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