Entrance to Skipton Castle

Castles in the Yorkshire Dales

Many have left their mark on the Yorkshire Dales over the centuries. The Romans, Vikings, Normans, Plantagenets & Tudors, the Victorians. And, of course, modern Britain with the coming of roads, greater leisure time and tourism.

But it is the Normans who, arguably, have left the most striking legacy on the land in the shape of their huge, imposing, castles. Once thought impregnable, now mostly in ruins, these dramatic structures, rich in history, still have the power to draw breath. Close your eyes and it is easy to imagine the noise, smells and drama that those walls once enclosed.

Mainly in North Yorkshire, built to protect the kingdom from rampaging Vikings and Scots, the castles are all well worth a visit:

Richmond Castle (Swaledale)

Richmond Castle

Richmond Castle1

Richmond Castle is one of the finest examples of Norman buildings in Britain, including Scollands Hall, the Great Hall of the castle. It is also a Scheduled Monument, a “nationally important” historic building, and a Grade I listed building, thus recognised as an internationally important structure.

Construction of the Castle started in 1071, 2 years after William the Conqueror had brutally put down a rebellion centred in York. Following that rebellion and the consequent devastating ‘harrying of the north’ campaign, the lands in the north of England were divided up between William’s loyal followers. The Castle was part show of strength, part intimidation to prevent further rebellions and part protecting the area from rampaging Vikings and Scots.

More information

Entrance prices are £5.40 for adults, £3.20 for children 5-15 yrs.
Check the English Heritage website for opening times as they vary winter to summer.
Visit the English Heritage Richmond Castle website

Bolton Castle (Wensleydale)

Bolton Castle

Bolton Castle2

Bolton Castle, near Leyburn, has a rich history of intrigue, dubiously acquired wealth, surviving the wrath of King Henry VIII, hosting a 6-month stay of Mary, Queen of Scots and surviving a siege during the English Civil War.

Built between 1378 and 1399 by Richard, 1st Baron Scrope of Bolton it is still owned by his descendents and is one of the best preserved medieval castles in the country.

Bolton Castle today

Today Bolton Castle is a major tourist attraction and wedding venue. It is wonderfully preserved with many of the rooms intact. As well as the castle itself, visitors can enjoy:

  • Medieval gardens, including an herb garden, a rose garden and a maze
  • Falconry displays
  • Learning about archery in sport, hunting and war
  • Wild boar feeding
  • A tea room offering meals, teas/coffees and cakes.

More information

Entry for the castle and gardens is £8.50 for adults with reduced prices for seniors and children 5-18yrs.
Entry for the gardens only is £4.00 for adults with reductions for seniors and children 5-18yrs.
Visit the Bolton Castle website

Middleham Castle (Wensleydale)

Middleham Castle

Keep and horse mill, Middleham Castle3

Much in the news recently because of its links with Richard III, Middleham castle was built in the late 12th century, with work starting in 1190. After a turbulent history which included becoming the home of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III, the castle fell into disrepair. There were some attempts to renovate it but it remains a roofless ruin, now owned by English Heritage.

Despite it being a ruin it is still an imposing and dramatic building in a great location, within a stone’s throw of the town centre.

More information

Entrance prices are £4.60 for adults, £2.80 for children 5-15 yrs.
Check the English Heritage website for opening times as they vary winter to summer.
Visit the English Heritage Middleham Castle website

Skipton Castle (Airedale)

Skipton Castle entrance

Skipton Castle entrance

Whilst other castles are, to a greater or lesser extent, ruins, Skipton Castle is most certainly not a ruin. Over 900 years old, the Castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

It withstood a 3 year siege by Parliamentarian forces during the English Civil War from 1642-45, eventually surrendering, but surviving.

Skipton Castle today

Located right in the town of Skipton, at the top of the High Street, it dominates the surrounding area. Visitors can explore every inch of this stunning castle, whether it is the Banqueting Hall, the Kitchen, the Bedchamber and Privy, the Dungeon or the top storey of the Watch Tower.

More information

Entrance is £7.30 for adults, £4.50 for children 5-17yrs.
For that you get a detailed tour sheet to help you as you explore the castle. There is a tea room and a picnic area in the castle grounds.
Visit the Skipton Castle website

So, if castles are for you, you could do worse than visiting any or all of these wonderful examples in the Yorkshire Dales. They would give you, as we say up here, “A grand day out!”.

1 © Copyright Phil Smith
2 © Copyright wfmillar
3 © Copyright Paul Harrop
All photos licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence .

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