Warkworth Hermitage, Northumberland: A hermit’s solitary refuge after an unspeakable tragedy

The Warkworth Hermitage is a cave where a hermit lived as penance for an accidental double killing. Annunciata Elwes explains more.

Modern life feels distant once you’ve walked the lonely half-mile from Warkworth Castle, rung a bell and paid a boatman to row you across the River Coquet. Amid trees, you’ll find a secluded hermit’s cave and tiny chapel hewn into rock, complete with vaulted bays and relief sculpture.

Inside the Hermitage and Chapel of the Holy Trinity, Warkworth, Northumberland.

From the 15th century to the Dissolution, the Earls of Northumberland paid a chaplain to live and say Mass there, but far more romantic is the tale recounted in the 1771 ballad by Thomas Percy, The Hermit of Warkworth; Sir Bertram of Bothal accidentally killed both his brother and his lover, then lived in solitude in the riverside cave for the rest of his days. He is said to have carved the effigy of a lady that can be seen in the chapel, with a figure kneeling at her feet, to honour his love.

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