BAMBURGH has been named by the Sunday Times as the best rural seaside place in Britain in which to live. So it’s official, then.

Discerning readers will know that it’s on the north Northumberland coast, dominated by a castle that in parts is even older than some of those who write about it and celebrates (as well it might) its kinship with Grace Darling.

They may not know that the Victoria, the village’s best known hotel, offers both “northern peas” and “southern peas”, the latter presumably being softer.

Part of a series, the Sunday Times also named another 99 countryside locations which met especial favour. They included Helmsley – “a tourist honeypot” – Runswick Bay (“walkers will never be bored”) and Barnard Castle, said to be a “gentle market town” and to have colourful plant pots.

Only Bamburgh won a Best in Britain citation. It seemed time for a trip up the A1, though the outing should not be confused with Didn’t We Have a Lovely Time, the Day We Went to Bangor, a 1979 recording by some one-hit wonders called Fiddler’s Dram.

For Bangor read Bamburgh. Mind, that proved very canny, an’ all

THE Sunday Times doesn’t do things willy-nilly, of course. Considerations included the average house price (£336,567), school provision – Bamburgh’s closed many years ago, when the number on roll fell to nine – and crime rate.

The first impression is that crime rate might be about a brass farthing in the pound. The place is so unchanging, so tranquil and so immaculately ordered that so much as dropping a toffee wrapper might result in six months in the Duke of Northumberland’s dungeons at Alnwick Castle.

For Her Majesty’s pleasure, read His Grace’s.

They still take no chances, however. In historic St Aidan’s church, a slim volume about Bamburgh’s ghosts is chained securely to the radiator, lest anyone spirit it away.

Aidan, one of the great northern saints, came to Lindisfarne, across the causeway, in 635 and died on the site where the church now stands in 651. Then known as Dinguardi, Bamburgh had become the capital of a kingdom stretching from the Humber to the Forth.

Grace Darling’s memorial is in the church, too, the RNLI-staffed museum in her honour immediately over the road.

We’re greeted by a friendly chap in a sort of jolly sailor jumper, anxious to point out that admission is free. “Mind,” he says, “it might cost you a few quid to get out again.”

The centrepiece is the coble in which Grace and her father William, the Longstone lighthouse keeper, quite incredibly rescued nine survivors from the wreck of the Forfarshire, one of those ships which from time to time are supposed unsinkable and thus incorrigibly tempt fate.

The story is graphically but unemotionally told, though there’s a contemporary cutting from The Times. “Is there in the whole annals of history, or of fiction even, one instance of female heroism to compare for a moment with this?”

Throughout the museum the temptation to use the phrase “Amazing Grace” has valiantly been resisted – though perhaps, on reflection, they should.

The village and surrounding area were also home to Dorothy Forster, who married Lord Crewe, the Bishop of Durham, when that right reverend gentleman was getting on 40 years her senior, and to many others of that ilk. The Forsters bred and inter-bred with astonishing fecundity, one said to have given birth to 23 offspring. It gave new meaning to the phrase Forster children.

A CASTLE of some sort has stood on that rocky outcrop from at least the 5th Century, though the keep wasn’t built – for £4, it’s recorded – until the 12th Century.

The site was enviable, if not quite impregnable. Armies besieged it, monarchs and princes inhabited it – not always of their own free will – the views and the beach unchangeably marvellous.

Like sundry kings of England, the column once laid its head in Bamburgh Castle, too, one weekend in the 1990s when former Hartlepool United chairman Garry Gibson had taken a three-year lease on a stately five-room apartment. the latest to prove that an Englishman’s home really was his castle.

Garry, son of a Wheatley Hill miner, was 6ft 6in tall and had what might be supposed a commensurate profile. Not everyone, it’s fair to say, shared my lofty opinion.

The castle was owned by Lady Armstrong, whose son Garry knew slightly – “I got him a couple of Cup Final tickets,” he said. He ran the football club from a fax machine in the corridor.

His flash sports car stood in the keep far below, an invitation to contortionism; a rather lugubrious portrait, commissioned for £2,000 at a Save the Children auction, hung on the wall. “If you’d been sitting for three days, you’d look sick, too,” said Garry.

It may have been the fortifications which particularly appealed. “This castle,” said Garry, “was built to keep out the press.”

It was also the only occasion in journalistic history on which a picture I’d taken was considered half-decent-in-an-off-day-sort-of-a-way by the professionals in the Northern Echo’s photographic department.

It was the Bamburgh effect.

THE village is quiet, though may not be for much longer. The Northumberland cheese shop has a sign outside also offering beef jerky and biltong – for which there may not be too much call, as they say in those parts. Carter’s, the shop up the street announces itself as “Butcher, baker and sausage roll maker” and sells Bamburgh bangers, voted the county’s finest. “Available by the ton,” it says.

It’s a small and friendly shop, already occupied by a Newcastle chap in a Professor Screwtop hat who announces himself as Chris Cross – “multi-award winning close-up and cabaret magician” – and who invites customers to pick a card, any card.

His calling card takes things further – “As recommended by his mother”, it says.

We lunch at the Victoria, a pleasant place with a nice Alnwick Brewery bitter called Village Bike (about which nothing more will be said.) There are also copies of The Beano, still with Dennis the Menace, but now also available as an app and via digital radio.

When we were kids The Beano was 2d. Now it’s £3 20. “It’s worse than Polo Mints,” says the lady of this house. “They used to be twopence, as well.”

Outside, the crows build noisily on the attractive, rough-hewn green. A solitary dog walker blows along the beach. A sign of the Sunday Times, Bamburgh may not be so peaceful much longer.