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Safety near livestock at Dunstanburgh Castle

Aerial shot of two visitors walking along a path surrounded by rocky grassland, at Dunstanburgh Castle
Visitors at Dunstanburgh Castle | © National Trust/Solent News & Photography Agency

Like much of Northumberland, the land around Dunstanburgh Castle and the nearby village of Craster is dominated by cattle and sheep farming. Here’s our guide to staying safe around the animals when you’re walking along the Northumberland Coast towards Dunstanburgh.

Walking on farmland around Craster and Dunstanburgh

When you visit Dunstanburgh Castle, it’s likely you’ll be arriving from the nearby village of Craster, which will involve walking across farmland. To help us keep the area safe and enjoyable for everyone, firstly we recommend that you follow the Countryside Code.

Additionally, here are some tips to help you stay safe around the livestock you may encounter on the farmland:

Aerial view of people walking along a rocky path by the coast, with crashing waves, at Dunstanburgh Castle
Exploring the coastline at Dunstanburgh Castle | © National Trust/Solent News & Photography Agency
Try not to startle livestock
As you’re approaching, whistle or talk to the livestock so they’re aware of your presence. If you then walk past calmly and quietly, the animals are more likely to ignore you. Cattle may become excitable or frightened by large groups, so try to keep members of your group calm and quiet as you pass.
Don’t panic or run if cattle approach you
Cows can be very inquisitive and may move towards you, but they will usually stop before they reach you. If this happens, be confident and don’t panic. If you run, they may try to follow you.
Think ahead
Don’t allow yourself to become cornered by a group of cattle. They may be just curious, but cows pushing from the back of the herd could cause those in front to panic if they are forced too close to you. If you find cattle blocking your path, clap your hands loudly as you approach and they should move out of your way. If not, leave the path and go round them away from the sea where there are footpaths further inland.
Take extra care when livestock are with their young
Don’t get between mothers and their young as most are very protective and can become aggressive. Make sure you give them lots of space.
Leave all gates as you find them
A farmer might have closed a gate to stop their livestock from wandering or left a gate open to let their animals move more freely. Do your bit to help farmers by leaving all gates as you find them.
Visitors heading towards Lilburn Tower at Dunstanburgh Castle, with rocky foreshore and blue sky visible.
Lilburn Tower | © National Trust Images/Rob Coleman

Dogs and livestock

Be aware that walking with a dog may make livestock more likely to show an interest in you.

Keep your dog on a lead

Always keep your dog on a lead when passing through areas with livestock or sensitive wildlife. Never allow your dog to worry livestock, which can involve chasing or attacking them.

Leave space and be wary of cattle

Leave as much space as you can between your dog and the animals. Don’t worry too much about sticking to the line of the path – give them room and take detours if necessary.

If you are threatened by cattle, it’s safer to let go of your dog’s lead. Your dog is likely to run away to safety and meet you further along the path. Don’t risk getting hurt by trying to protect your dog or picking it up. The cattle may still try to get to your dog as they think it's the threat.

The Canine Code

We’ve worked with our partner Forthglade to come up with this Canine Code, which helps to make sure everyone can enjoy their day:

  • Keep them close: using a short lead helps to keep your dog from disturbing ground-nesting birds and farm animals. It's essential to use a short lead around sheep. But if cattle approach you, it's best to let your dog off the lead, and call them back when it's safe to do so.
  • Pick up the poo: please always clear up after your dog. If you can't find a bin nearby, take the poo bags home with you.
  • Watch the signs: keep an eye on local signs and notices wherever you're walking. They'll tell you if a beach has a dog ban, for instance, or if a path has been diverted, or if you're in an area where dogs can run off-lead.
  • Stay on the ball: remember that not everyone loves dogs, and some people fear them. So make sure your dog doesn't run up to other people, especially children.
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