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A few of my favourite things

April 5, 2012

If there’s one question that’s pointless to ask me, it’s “what’s your favourite castle?”, because there’s too much choice and variety. However, there are some that stand out.

Arguably the king of castles is the Tower of London, which neatly encapsulates the political history of the last thousand years of England/Britain. It’s seen and done it all: the building of castles for both practical and symbolic reasons after the Norman Conquest, home of the ousted regimes during the Wars of the Roses, prison and execution site for political/religious opponents of the Tudor monarchs, home of the Royal Mint and royal menageries, place of execution of a German spy during the Second World War, prison to the Krays, and, of course, tourist attraction. And it has the full range of castle buildings from a number of different periods.

Photo credit: English Heritage

It’s the location that makes it for me with Peveril Castle in the Peak District. All I can say is they had some seriously good builders to be able to perch it on that cliff! The original entrance (over a precipice) has long gone, so the modern access is via the “easier” back door route. Easier it may be, but it’s still impossible to imagine attackers charging up the hill in full armour.

Bolton Castle in North Yorkshire also scores points for its location. It’s not a defensive position at all, but it has pretty stunning views for the inhabitants to enjoy. It’s also notable for a number of features that haven’t survived in many other castles (if they even had them in the first place), such as an oubliette, priests’ cells in the chapel and foundations for animal pens in the courtyard. Not to mention the fact that you can still get up onto the roof to enjoy the views.

Norham I have a soft spot for because of one of the few quotes I can remember. The Northumbrian knight Sir Thomas Grey described it as being “the most dangerous place in Britain” around 1318, giving a colourful impression of the state of Anglo-Scottish relations in the 14th century.

Also in Northumberland is Warkworth Castle, which has an amazing keep. Aside from the fact that it’s an unusual shape, it’s also great for exploring. There are nooks and crannies and rooms everywhere! Particularly good are the passages that disappear from the corner of a room, only to emerge on other floors. It’s obviously highly practical for moving round such a large building (though not necessarily a good thing defensively to allow such access), but it’s not something you see very often. Great fun for inquisitive modern visitors.

Photo credit: English Heritage

The last honourable mention today goes to Colchester Castle in Essex, which has the distinction of having the foundations of a Roman temple in the basement. Colchester was one of the towns that was razed to the ground during Boudicca’s revolt in AD60 or 61, but that small piece survived and the Normans decided to build their castle on top of an earlier symbol of authority.

Of course, other people will have their own favourites, and no doubt on another day I’d choose different highlights. But that’s part of the fun!

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. antiquityandadventures permalink
    April 5, 2012 8:57 pm

    great post :-) I havenot got a clue what I,d call my favourite I keep stumbling on new ones every time I go out hidden away. It,s great fun finding them :-)

    • eleanorsioux permalink
      April 10, 2012 9:57 am

      Definitely! And such a disappointment when you go to somewhere that calls itself a castle, only to find that it isn’t one at all, which is what happened this weekend. It just makes a better name for the property I suppose.

      • antiquityandadventures permalink
        April 10, 2012 2:32 pm

        ooooh noo … hope you didnt travel far, was it a bit of a shock :-)

      • eleanorsioux permalink
        April 10, 2012 4:03 pm

        It was up in North Yorkshire, and it was a family day out so I’d just gone along with the suggestion without bothering to look into it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice trip and a lovely house to live in – but it was definitely a house rather than a castle!

  2. Ian Street permalink*
    April 5, 2012 9:48 pm

    oooooh Peveril looks good, my type of castle and perfect mountain biking country to boot ! Need to go there.

    OK I’ve got to ask what exactly is an obliette – sounds more like a ballet term :-)

    • eleanorsioux permalink
      April 10, 2012 9:54 am

      The oubliette (apologies for the typo by the way, which I’ve now corrected) is popular with film-makers when their characters (particularly if it’s Robin Hood) are being held prisoner in the castle. It’s the pit in the floor of the dungeon that prisoners are put in, with no means of escape (or light) except the hatch in the ceiling. If you can remember Robin of Sherwood (my first crush!), they definitely had one in that.

      Incidentally, Robin of Sherwood is great for a bit of location spotting, with many places in Northumberland in particular being used as backdrops.

      • Ian Street permalink*
        April 10, 2012 3:19 pm

        learn something new every day

  3. Laura B Jenkins permalink
    April 7, 2012 3:31 pm

    fave would have to be Dunnottar Castle in Scotland..well worth a visit…spent all day there…gorgeous…

    • eleanorsioux permalink
      April 10, 2012 9:58 am

      Definitely need to spend more time in Scotland, there are quite a few castles up there I still need to do. Thanks for the recommendation.

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