Over the summer, we visited North Yorkshire and did the Richard III trail. Our base was Middleham so this was the first castle we visited. It was great walking through the village and seeing the castle rise up from behind the houses (quite a few of which were apparently built with castle stone). Built in the 12th Century, the castle was added to over the years to become a luxurious fortress before being allowed to become a ruin during the reign of the Tudors.
It was the childhood home of Richard III and one of his favourite places to stay throughout his life, becoming part of his Northern power base. The castle belonged to the Neville family, the Earls of Westmoreland and of Warwick, who were Richards’s wards, and it was here Richard met his wife, Anne Neville, and where his son died aged 10 or 11.
During The War of the Roses, both Edward IV and Henry VI were prisoners here at different times. Because I was reading about the War of the Roses at the time, this was the most interesting part of the castle’s history for me but there is so much more to it than that and we spent a good hour or so walking around the grounds and learning more about it’s past, plus that of Middleham (if I remember correctly, for example, the town still say a mass on Richard’s birthday).
To help you get your historical bearings, there is information in all of the key people connected to the castle in a small exhibition space and children get an activity sheet for going around the castle, encouraging them to look for features etc. There is also plenty of space for them to run around and explore.
As mentioned at the beginning, the castle is slap bang in the middle of the village and Middleham is a great place to spend some time. There were a lot of people on walking holidays whilst we were there as it is in Wensleydale, a beautiful part of Yorkshire, and great pubs and tea rooms for those in need of refreshments. There are also some cute shops if you want to spend your money. Definitely worth a visit! Emma
Sunday was cold. For a change though, at least for England in January, the sun was shining. Never one to miss out on an opportunity to drag my husband and daughter off to some stately home or ruined castle, the English Heritage guidebook was dusted off after being given a break over the holiday season and we were bundled up and in the car within an hour or so. Kenilworth Castle is an easy 40 minute drive from our house and is one of our favourite places from the summer so it seemed a good choice.
Kenilworth began life as a Norman Keep in the time of Henry I (1120 or so) and became a royal castle under Henry II. Over time, it was built up into an island stronghold able to protect Henry III (though it is no longer surrounded by a mere or lake). With each monarch, it changed. This can be seen in the Tudor Stables (which now house a rather tasty tea room) and the Elizabethan Gatehouse. The Gatehouse was built by Robert Dudley as a place for Elizabeth I when she visited. Walking around, it’s interesting to see the changes and imagine what it was like during so many key periods in my country’s history. Not that we are the only one who have ever done that…
When we’d been there last summer (a couple of times) we’d taken a picnic as there is plenty of space for lazing on the grass. On one visit we’d been lucky enough to catch a demonstration of Elizabethan dancing and music, which our daughter loved. There weren’t any demonstrations on Sunday and lolling on the grass wasn’t an option but we still had fun climbing the battlements and visiting the house before walking around the walls and splashing in the mud and puddles – thankfully we’d taken our wellies…
After a couple of hours, and a stop at the coffee shop for a cream tea (because it wouldn’t be a trip to a historical site without a pot of tea and a scone), the sky started to come in dark and the chill in the air turned bitter, meaning it was time to go home.
If it hadn’t, we might have risked the 30 minute round trip to Pleasance, site of an island retreat built by Henry V, or 10 minute walk to Kenilworth Priory, the remains of an Augustinian monestry founded in 1124. About the same distance away is a great park for kids (with the added attraction of an ice-cream shop) – all good for summer visits, when no doubt we’ll be back!
Note: For some reason, I managed to not take a photo of the walk up to the castle. The one used is courtesy of Angela Tuff [CC BY-SA 2.0],
This weekend, we went to Goodrich Castle, a Norman medieval castle (or rather the ruin of one) just outside Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire and about 10 miles from Monmouth on the Welsh border. I read online that William Wordsworth described it as a noble ruin and I can see why. It’s pretty impressive and much more complete than I expected.
(Yes, this was another visit on a grey day – I have a knack for this!).
It was also much busier, despite the not that great weather, meaning my ability to take photos without people in them was limited but I did manage a few, mainly from outside the castle walls…Read More »
Continuing my master plan of making our way around all English Heritage’s sites…
Earlier this summer, we visited one of our favourite English Heritage sites, Witley Court & Gardens in Worcestershire (page 222 of the handbook), which is about 40 minutes from where we live and an easy drive.
Witley Court is a 19th century mansion that was one of England’s grandest homes before it burned down in 1937, leaving a rather impressive if eerie shell.
Note: This photo is by Robek (Own work) via creative commons as mine didn’t turn out – all the rest are mine
The house is surrounded by landscaped gardens which include a still working fountain showing Perseus and Andromeda that is “fired” several times a day.
Around the house are woodland walks where you can see all types of trees, shrubs, and flowers, a lovely little waterfall and a lake which, in nice weather, is so peaceful you forget where you are.Read More »