… And now for something completely different

To start with, thanks to Ian and Phil for letting me join their blog. I may feel the need to encroach on their topical territories once in a while, but I’m most looking forward to sharing my main passion, which is, and pretty much always has been, history. When it came to choosing GSCEs, A’ Levels and degree subjects the only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to study history (“proper” history, that is, nothing too modern). And the reason I became interested in history was castles. For as long as I can remember (and before it), family holidays involved visiting castles. There were other things too, like abbeys and beaches and the other great things that the UK has to offer, but the castles were the best.

 I suppose as a child the draw was mainly about the exploration – what was going to be around the next corner and up the next staircase. As I got older I would look for the features I was familiar with and find the new ones, and learn about the unique history of that castle and its surroundings. No two castles are alike, from the grand royal complexes of London and Windsor, to the barely-there remains of the fortified manor house of Rothwell in south Leeds. This means there’s endless potential for visiting and studying, both of which I’ve done rather a lot of.

 Last year though I had what could be the ultimate experience for a castle fan – I stayed in one. For a few years now, English Heritage have been converting buildings within some of their properties into holiday cottages. My first stay, in 2010, was at Hardwick Old Hall in Derbyshire, which was great because you have the place to yourself after hours. How much better then to do the same thing at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. Watching all the visitors and staff leave and lock us in behind them (we did have keys to get out if we wanted!), was quite a treat. The real pleasure though was being able to walk the ramparts in absolute peace and quiet in the evening sunshine. It really was our castle for the week, and the picture is of the fabulous view from my bedroom window. Now that’s what I call a holiday – does anyone have a better castle holiday?