Religious Place In Warkworth, Northumberland
14th century Hermitage carved out out of the bedrock on the River Coquet.
Warkworth Hermitage has been on my to-do list for a long time, so it was brilliant to be on the first boat trip of the season, over the River Coquet to have a peek at the Hermitage. We visited on 3rd April 2022, and the boat trips only run during the Spring and Summer months.
You can purchase tickets for the Hermitage from Warkworth Castle, and amazingly it is free if you are an English Heritage member, or £6.20 for non-members as of April 2022.
Access to the Hermitage is only by boat, after a fifteen minute walk along the river. Our boatman did warn us that the boat trip was very short though, and it is literally from one side of the river to the other, taking around two minutes to get across. However, I was still like a kid in a sweet shop and very excited about the trip.
Once you get over to the Hermitage, you have 30 minutes to explore it. It is really incredible to think that it was built into the sandstone cliff in the 14th century and it is still in good condition today.
The Hermitage is also much larger than expected, being on two levels and consisting of six rooms: three on each level. A lot of the ground floor is in ruins, however, the upper level still has three clear rooms, which were once the chapel, sacristy and chamber. You can see a number of carvings around the Hermitage, including two figures in the chapel, thought to be part of a nativity scene.
As to when and why the Hermitage was built, there is a 46 page book by Thomas Percy called The Hermit of Warkworth, which contains a ballad originally published in 1771. The ballad suggests that after Bertram of Bothal accidentally killed his wife to be in the mid 1300s, he lived out the rest of his days in the Hermitage. However, it is more likely that it was built as a private chapel for the first Earl of Northumberland, a little later in the 1370s. It was used by a series of clergy from 1400 until 1536, but has not been used since.
The first hermit recorded here was Thomas Barker in 1497, who was appointed by the 4th Earl of Northumberland to live at the Hermitage. The hermit's prime duty at this time was to offer prayers to God for the wellbeing of his patrons. However, as time went on, the hermit became essentially a tenant farmer.
I wasn't disappointed by the Hermitage - it had a very peaceful atmosphere about it. It's definitely worth a look, and on your walk back to the car along the riverside, you get to see glorious views of Warkworth Castle.
For more information on access to the Hermitage visit: English Heritage
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From the castle, turn right towards a set of stairs, and walk down them. Turn right again and follow the path to a sharp left turn. The Hermitage is signposted from here, and is around a 15 minute walk away along the river.
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Parking is available at Warkworth Castle.
Contributed by Sandra Clemens
I love the great outdoors and have been a National Trust & English Heritage member for years. I also love going off the beaten track and finding places like Sharp's Folly or Rothley Castle which are hidden gems in Northumberland. My favourite recent hike was climbing Red Screes in the Lake District on a whim, not fully grasping how high 776m was. It was still an achievement to conquer a Wainwright walk and I hope to do more one day.
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