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Castles and forts

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NB - this is nowhere near Bolton, Lancashire!

Bolton Castle is a 14th century fortress built on a grand scale by Sir Richard le Scrope - whose descendents still own the place. Mary, Queen of Scots, was held here for 6 months and was allowed to use the time hunting and learning English. It was besieged, and badly damaged, by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War, but is still remarkably intact and well worth a visit. Great views of the Yorkshire Dales from the battlements. Pleasant medieval gardens. The adjacent chapel of St Oswald and the village of Castle Bolton are both charming.

Warning: Bolton Castle is used as a wedding venue - check it is open to visitors before making a special trip.

Castle Bolton
Nr Leyburn
North Yorkshire
Bolton Castle's website
Minor road off the A684 about 5 miles west of Leyburn. Nearby - Aysgarth falls
Private - open to the public

The imposing red sandstone ruins of Bothwell Castle guard a strategic crossing point over the River Clyde. One feature is the castle's unusual round keep, or donjon. You can also explore the prison cells, great hall and chapel. Construction was started on the castle in the late 13th century, but was incomplete when captured by the English, recaptured, captured again... It then changed hands several more times and had a chequered history, being intentionally ruined at least twice so that it could no longer be used.

The castle sometimes has to be closed at short notice due to bad weather. Check with Historic Scotland before making a special trip.

Castle Avenue
G71 8BL
Glasgow attractions
Historic Scotland

Impressive, atmospheric, but austere, ruins of a 13th century fortress, built in a strategic position partly on the site of a Roman fort. It was in the frontline of border warfare between the English and Scots, restored by Lady Anne Clifford in the 17th century, but declined after a fire in 1666 and was abandoned in the 18th century.

NB Castle Brough is an attractive part of the village on the south side of the A66.

Church Brough
CA17 4EJ
Brougham Castle, Appleby, Penrith
English Heritage

Situated in a beautiful, but defensive, spot on the south bank of the river Eamont, next to the long-abandoned Roman fort of Brocavum.  Brougham Castle saw action in the wars between England and Scotland, and was captured by the Scots. But kings stayed here and it was one of the formidable Lady Anne Clifford's favourite castles - she died here in 1676. The ruins are fascinating - impressive and unusual gatehouse - plenty to explore and in spring the stonework is covered in aubrietia.  A tiny museum displays a couple of Roman grave markers - and at least one was re-used when building the castle.

Moor Lane
Nr Penrith
CA10 2AA
Two thousand years at Brougham Castle
Brougham Hall is very close and Acorn Bank is just up the road.
English Heritage

South Cadbury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort, overrun by the Romans in the 1st century and subsequently used by them, but then reoccupied and its defences restored in the sub-Roman period and in occasional use up to at least the 10th century. It is one of several places associated with the legendary King Arthur and suggested as a possible location for the mythical Camelot. The walls and defences are now wooded, but the size of them can be appreciated, and there is a wonderful view of Glastonbury Tor, on the mystical Isle of Avalon, from the top.

Take the pathway, Castle Lane, from the village; it is invariably muddy.

South Cadbury
BA22 7HA
Dark Ages
Glastonbury, Wells

A 17th century residence (possibly the original Maxwell House?!), built inside a forbidding triangular medieval fortress, surrounded by a romantic moat, besieged by the English, ruined by religion. Plus a colony of Natterjack toads AND the site of an earlier castle.

What more could you ask?

It is about 6 miles south of Dumfries off the B725.  Follow the A75 west from the M6/M74.

Dumfries and Galloway
Caerlaverock Castle
Sweetheart Abbey
Historic Scotland

Enormous medieval castle, with iconic polygonal towers, constructed from the late 13th century on the orders of Edward I as part of his strategy to subjugate the Welsh. It was built on the site of an earlier Norman castle and close to where a Roman fortress had once stood. The castle and town then became the English administrative HQ for North Wales and was besieged many times - and captured too.

Caernarfon Castle is part of the World Heritage Site "Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd".

Castle Ditch
LL55 2AY
Harlech, Conwy and Beaumaris castles are part of the same World Heritage Site.

Caerphilly Castle is simply enormous. Huge. It is the largest castle in Wales and the second-largest in Britain, after Windsor. It covers a 30-acre site and is a mass of concentric defensive walls, surrounded by moats and artificial lakes. It was built by the Norman Gilbert de Clare, known as Gilbert the Red for his red hair, mainly between 1268 and 1271, in order to subdue the Welsh - and it still dominates the area. The castle declined as it became redundant and it was rescued from total ruin by the Bute family in the 19th century.

Castle Street
CF83 1JD
Listing on Cadwy's website
Castel Coch

First a Roman fort, then a late 11th century Norman castle, Cardiff Castle became a medieval fortress involved in the Anglo-Norman wars against the native Welsh. It was held by both Royalist and Parliamentary forces during the Civil War and managed to escape the destruction meted out on many of its contemporaries. Eventually, in 1766, it passed by marriage to the Bute family. The 2nd Marquess of Bute turned Cardiff into the world’s greatest coal exporting port and his son John, the 3rd Marquess, was reputed to be the richest man in the world. The 3rd Marquess employed the architect William Burges to create a Victorian Gothic revival mansion, transforming the castle with astonishingly opulent interiors, brimming with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding and elaborate wood carvings. After the death of the 4th Marquess of Bute, in 1947 the family gave the Castle and much of its parkland to the city of Cardiff and it is now one of Wales’ most popular visitor attractions.

Castle Street
CF10 3RB
Cardiff Castle's website
City centre
Local Authority

Carew Castle was built by the Norman Gerald de Windsor, constable of Pembroke Castle, on the site of an Iron Age fortification. Gerald had married the renowned beauty, Princess Ness, and the manor of Carew was part of her dowry. Gerald's son assumed the name de Carew and he and his descendants enlarged the castle. By the 15th century, it was in the hands of Sir Rhys ap Thomas, a supporter of Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth (1485). However, Sir Rys' grandson was executed for treason and the castle came into the hands of Sir John Perrot, who undertook extensive modernisation. Perrot, in turn, fell from favour and the castle returned to the de Carew family, changing hands three times during the Civil War, only to be abandoned in 1686. It is leased to the National Park Authority, which has undertaken extensive restoration work.

Castle Lane
SA70 8SL
Carew Tidal Mill is on the same site
National Park