Launceston Castle, Cornwall

Castle from below
English Heritage
Originally a Norman castle, the castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century, and substantially rebuilt by Richard of Cornwall from 1227, including a high central tower inside the circular wall on top of the mound.
Richard’s son moved the administration elsewhere and the castle became partially disused and ruinous. Parts continued to be used for assizes and a prison. It was occupied during the civil war and afterwards stripped for building materials. Parts were used as a prison till 1842, and the site was used as a base during WWII.
The outlines of buildings in the lower bailey can be seen in the grass. Parts of the keep and walls still stand, and the inner tower can be climbed.
The castle is well worth a visit if you are in Launceston.
The castle is on an elevated site in the middle of the town. Parkng is available in pay car parks.

Lindisfarne/Holy Island, Northumberland.

Village street, Holy I
Village street, Holy I
The full name of the place is, apparently, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
The low-lying tidal island lies just off the coast of Northumberland, and is connected to the mainland by a causeway that is flooded by the tide twice a day.
The island is most famous for its priory, founded during the dark ages and abandoned during the dissolution of the monasteries. St Aidan, St. Cuthbert and the Lindisfarne Gospels are associated with the Priory.
There is also a castle (National Trust) on a rock forming the highest point of the island. It was built after the dissolution of the priory. After becoming disused as a fort, it was converted into a holiday home in the 1900’s by the architect Edward Lutyens for magazine owner Edward Hudson. The castle is interesting and worth a visit. If you have time, walk out to the Gertrude Jekyll castle garden, and the nearby lime-kilns.
The ruined priory (English Heritage) is in the village and can be visited (chargeable). Entrance into the churchyard is free, and it is worth looking inside the adjoining church. Among other things, it contains a striking wooden sculpture of six monks carrying a coffin.
There was another fort next to the harbour, but only a few fragments of wall now remain.

Visiting – there are boat cruises to the island, or you can drive there. Beware the tides, which restrict when you can come and go. Be aware also that the police and coastguard take a dim view of people who ignore the warnings and get themselves trapped on the causeway by the incoming tide. There is a village on the island, with the usual amenities.

Castle entrance hall
Castle entrance hall
Boat Room
Boat Room
Cattle from garden
Castle
Gertrude Jekyll garden
Gertrude Jekyll garden
Priory ruins
Priory ruins
Priory ruins
Priory ruins
Priory ruins map
Priory ruins map

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

Castle and curtain wall Privately owned
Alnwick Castle is a large and imposing castle with a curtain wall and central keep, and adjacent to it are impressive gardens which have recently been reworked at great expense.
The original castle was founded by the Normans and has been extended and altered several times, the last two phases of alteration giving it Gothic interiors (designed by Robert Adam) succeeded by opulent Italianate interiors which replace Adam’s work in the State Rooms open to the public.
The castle has a complex history of sieges and occupations, and since 1309 has been in the hands of the powerful Percy family, and the Earls and Dukes of Northumberland.
The outer parts of the castle contain several towers with small exhibitions which are all worth a look. The keep contains the State Rooms which should not be missed. The carved and gilded wood ceilings are exceptional and the furnishings are luxurious. Don’t miss the pair of fine pietra dura cabinets, adorned with pictures worked in stone and supported on animal legs. Their value is unknown, but unless you are a Russian oligarch you could not afford them.
If you are into period china, don’t miss the China Gallery, a long narrow gallery at the exit side of the state rooms, lined with hundreds of fine pieces.
The castle conforms to the popular idea of what a castle ought to look like, and has been even more popular since its use as a location for some of the ‘Harry Potter’ movies.

The Gardens are a separate attraction, established fairly recently at the eye-watering cost of £42 million. They do boast an expensive-looking computerised cascade, a pleasant walled garden with flowers, an interesting Poison Garden, as well as nine stainless steel fountains which produce curious effects with water. There are also arbors, round pools with fountains, tea rooms, and a maze. I found the Poison Garden tour of particular interest.

Visiting – there are separate prices for the Gardens and Castle, and combined tickets. Prices are high, but one inside you probably will not be disappointed. HHA members may get into the Castle free while English Heritage members get a discount (Castle only). If viewing both, allow time for at least a half-day visit.
Click on images to enlarge. Photography inside castle was not permitted.

Fountain pools in garden
Fountain pools
in Walled Garden
in Walled Garden
Cascade in action
Cascade in action
plant in Poison Garden
in Poison Garden
Castle keep
Keep

Pevensey Castle, Sussex

Inner bailey wall English Heritage
Pevensey Castle was founded around AD 270 as a Roman fort called Anderida, defending the Bay of Pevensey. After the end of Roman rule in Britain, the walls sheltered a settlement until at least the fifth century.
In 1066, the ruinous Roman defences were refortified by William the Conqueror, and a great Norman castle developed in one corner of the Roman enclosure. By the early sixteenth century, the castle was abandoned.
The site was briefly remanned in Tudor times, and also in World War II, in response to threatened invasions.
The size of the Roman enclosure is impressive, and the walls stand to nearly their full height over much of the perimeter. The walls and towers of the medieval inner bailey mostly stand, but the keep is very ruined and little remains of the upper floors.
The castle was besieged four times in the medieval period and the keep underwent substantial alterations in the 14th century.
The machine-gun nests and the refitting of several towers for accommodation as carried out in WWII can still be seen today.
A basement room near the gate can be entered by descending steps. It was used as a prison. Another can only be accessed by a hole in the roof and may have been an ‘oubliette’.
The castle is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Access to the outer bailey is unrestricted, but entry to the castle inner bailey is chargeable. If you have time, walk or drive around the outside of the outer wall.

Roman East Entrance
East Entrance
Inner bailey tower
Inner bailey tower
Outer Bailey
Outer Bailey
Inner Bailey view
Inner Bailey view, keep

Herstmonceux Castle

Castle and wide moat Herstmonceux Castle has a chequered history. It was built in the 15th century as a castle-style palatial residence by one Roger Fiennes, Treasurer to the court of Henry VI. By the 18th Century, the castle was in the hands of Robert Hale-Naylor, who had the interior of the castle dismantled in 1777 on the advice of fashionable architect Samual Wyatt. The contents were sold off, and other materials used to build a new mansion, designed by Wyatt, nearby. The outer walls remained as a romantic ruin till the 20th century.
Radical restoration work was started in 1913 by Colonel Lowther and completed for Sir Paul Latham by the architect Walter Godfrey. Despite appearances, everything visible from the inner courtyard is 20th century work.
In 1946 the castle and estate passed into the hands of the Admiralty and by 1957 was the home of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, with the castle being used for accommodation and the grounds housing various telescope domes.
By the 1970s the Observatory had moved out and in 1992 the castle was bought by Queens University of Canada with funds provided by Alfred Bader. In 1994 the Queen’s International Study Centre opened.
The most striking thing about the castle is its size – it is one of the biggest brick-built castles in England and one of the largest early brick-built structures.
The grounds and gardens are normally open to the public, and on some days a guided tour of the Castle is available at extra cost. (Pay at reception in the Castle). It is worth taking the tour, as you will see much of the ground and first floors, as well as the courtyard. The interior contains various bits of architectural salvage from older houses.
The gardens and woods are also worth exploring.

If visiting the castle by car, it is recommended that you do not use postcode navigation, but instead navigate to Bradley Road, Herstmonceux or to the Wartling Road running northward from the A27 at Pevensey.
The only public entrance, shared with the Observatory Science Centre, is off the Wartling Road. The ticket hut for the castle grounds is opposite the Science Centre.

Inner Courtyard
Inner Courtyard
Staircase from older house
Staircase
Fireplace surround from older house
Fireplace surround
Folly House distant view
Folly House

Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire

Little Castle from wall walk
Little Castle
English Heritage
Bolsover Castle was built in the 17th century by the Cavendish family as a country retreat. It replaced the ruins of an earlier castle on the site. The Little Castle was begun by Charles Cavendish in 1612. His son William inherited in 1617 and added the Terrace and Riding House ranges, making the castle a place of aristocratic reception, entertainment and pleasure.
William fought for the Royalists during the English Civil War but having been given command of Royalist forces he suffered a humiliating defeat at Marston Moor and fled abroad. It appears that the terrace range suffered substantial damage during the Civil War. William returned in 1660 and built the riding house range, also rebuilding the state apartment.
William was an enthusiastic horseman and invented the art of ‘menage’. Wm. Cavendish’s son Henry inherited in 1676, and under him Bolsover suffered a decline as interest shifted to Nottingham Castle. The Terrace Range was unroofed by 1770.
In the 19th century the Little Castle was let as lodgings.

There is a lot to see at Bolsover Castle. The riding house range is visible across the outer bailey, and at certain times displays of horsemanship take place inside. At other times the interiors can be viewed.
The Terrace Range is a ruin, but there are various rooms to inspect, and also a series of ruined kitchens at basement level. The outer terrace gives great views over the plain below.
The Little Castle, a miniature Renaissance mansion in the shape of a Norman tower, has rooms on three floors, and a kitchen area in the basement. Each floor has several rooms of varying sizes, which retain some of the original decoration, including notable wall paintings and ceilings. Representative furnishing has been installed in a number of rooms. The Little Castle is the highlight of the tour.
The Fountain Garden is surrounded by a wall with walkway (recently restored) and has an elaborate fountain at its centre.

Thumbnails

Castle from below
Castle from below
Terrace Range ruin
Terrace Range
Little Castle entrance
Little Castle entrance

Dumbarton Castle, Scotland

Historic Scotland
Dumbarton Castle, on the Clyde near Glasgow, has a recorded history going back some 1500 years. In the dark Ages, the rock was the capital of the British kingdom of Strathclyde. It was besieged by Vkings in AD870. A medieval castle was built by Alexander II of Scotland in the 1220’s against the Norwegians, who occupied lands just ten miles downriver.
In later centuries, the rock became a formidable garrison fortress, its defences bristling with guns. It last saw military action as recently as the Second World War.
Substantial new artillery fortifications were built in the 17th and early 18th centuries. These are what the visitor sees today, for nothing survives from the Dark-Age fortress, and precious little from the medieval castle.
The castle rock can be seen from some way off, and great views can be seen from the twin peaks at the top.
If you are looking for an ancient castle keep, what’s here may come as an anti-climax. The most substantial buildings remaining are the King George’s battery and three-storey Governor’s House, both visible from the ground-level entrance. Like almost all the surviving structures, they were built in the 18th century. There are only two other roofed structures, both small.
The views, on the other hand, are great. The Clyde can be seen to the south, and the town of Dumbarton to the north, with distant views of hills and mountains further away.
Thumbnails:

Portcullis Arch & steps
Portcullis Arch
French Prison
French Prison
Wallace Tower base
Wallace Tower base
View to NW, River Leven
View to NW, River Leven
View to North
View to North
Powder Magazine
Powder Magazine
View to SW
View to SE

Menzies Castle, Scotland

Menzies_0171 Private Trust
Castle Menzies (pronounced ‘Mingis’) was built in the 16th century (exact date unknown), possibly on the site of an older castle.
In 1577 the upper storey and roof were altered, adding the series of dormer windows with their elaborate pediments. This completed the construction of a Z-plan house, representing a transition between a fortified tower-house and a mansion.
Despite the domestic features, the house was involved in conflict in 1646, 1715 and 1746.
In the early eighteenth century a new block of apartments was built against the north (rear) side of the main block and the west side of the north tower. A new entrance was made in the middle of the main block. This block was deemed unsalvable in the 1970’s (riddled with dry rot) and subsequently demolished. Marks of its former presence can be seen at the rear. Pictures of the vanished block can be seen on the Canmore website: http://canmore.org.uk/site/25670/castle-menzies and in particular
http://canmore.org.uk/collection/1461079 showing the rear in 1942.
In 1840, another wing was constructed on the west side of the main block. This block still stands today.
On approaching the castle, its striking appearance immediately marks it as a classic Scottish castle. It stands unfenced in open fields, in front of a high escarpment.
The castle was acquired by the Menzies clan in 1957 in a greatly dilapidated condition. Since then the 16th century building has been restored with, it would seem, rather limited resources, followed by the restoration of the 19th century wing.
The ground floor consists of vaulted chambers including a kitchen. On the first floor of the main block is a great hall, panelled and with a plaster ceiling, and a withdrawing room with a fine pendant plaster ceiling.
On the second floor are two more large rooms with plaster ceilings.
The third floor is now an attic-like space open to the pitched roof. There are many other smaller rooms (the total for the castle is about 70).
In the 19th century wing, the first floor hall (Dewar Room) is the only room of note open to visitors.

The castle with its many rooms, some elegantly restored, is a fascinating place to visit. Various objects are identified by handwritten labels, which gives the place a dusty charm quite different from the high-budget National Trust for Scotland or Scottish Heritage properties.
Thumbnails:

Larder with old items
Larder
1st floor hall
1st floor hall
1st floor Withdrawing room
1st floor Withdrawing
1st floor Withdrawing room
1st floor Withdrawing
South wall close-up
South wall
2nd floor hall with displays
2nd floor hall
Attic (3rd) floor with exposed beams
Attic (3rd) floor.
Top S. tower Victorian bedroom
Top S. tower room
Dewar Room, C.19 block
Dewar Room, C.19 block

Rear, from NE
Rear, from NE

Doune Castle, Scotland

Doune Castle Historic Scotland
Doune castle was built in the late 1300’s by Robert Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany, Earl of Monteith and Fife. Albany was younger brother of the ineffectual Robert III, and was ruler of Scotland in all but name from 1388 until he died in 1420.
The castle is situated in a naturally strong position on a wooded river bend.
The castle today comprises the gatehouse tower, great hall, kitchen tower and curtain walls around the central courtyard. There appear to have been at one time other buildings occupying much of the courtyard, but the nature and function of these is now conjectural.
By the 1850’s the castle seems to have become a roofless shell, but a restoration was carried out in the 1880’s.
The towers and great hall all have vaulted storage chambers at ground level. At first floor level the kitchen tower has the great kitchen, and an irregularly shaped servery. Stone-floored rooms survive above the kitchen.
The great hall was restored in the 1880s and the roof and some other features date from this period.
The first floor chamber of the gatehouse tower is known as the Duke’s Chamber. The present interior finish dates from the Victorian restoration. The room has an unusual double fireplace.
On the floors above are a small mezzanine chamber and further up another small chamber leading to the second-floor hall. This is now open to the roof, though clearly there was a third floor of wood, which has not been re-instated.
It is possible to exit onto the battlements, for a great view of the River Teith and country below.
The castle is well worth a visit. Some will be interested to know that it was used as a location for the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
Thumbnails:

Great Hall, west end
Great Hall
Duke's hall, with screen
Duke’s hall, west end
Duke's Hall fireplaces
Duke’s Hall, east end
Upper Hall
Upper hall
Roof view, river, trees
Roof view

Stirling Castle, Scotland

Palace at Stirling Castle
Palace
Historic Scotland
Some people prefer Stirling Castle over Edinburgh Castle, and having seen both I can appreciate why.
The first record of Stirling Castle dates from the 12th century, but most of the buildings withing the walls date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Palace was used as an army barracks until 1965. Now traces of army occupation have been removed and the original Renaissance interiors are being recreated where possible.

Surrounding the Inner Close are a series of notable buildings. The Palace, dating from the 1530s and the work of James V, is the first Renaissance palace in the British Isles. It contained separate suites of rooms for the king and the queen. The interiors were recently recreated, including the notable ceiling with carved and brightly painted heads.
The Great Hall was built by James IV from 1497 onwards. It had a hammerbeam roof and decorated crenellated parapet (now recreated in a recent restoration)
The Chapel Royal was built for James VI, in around 1594, replacing an earlier chapel.
The King’s Old Building, on the western side of the Inner Close, was built around 1497 for James IV. Sections of the building may be older. Parts of it have been altered or rebuilt since. Today the range contains exhibition rooms and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regimental museum.
There are are also various vaults and outworks to look at. Below the castle and car park is Argyll’s Lodging, a town house of historic interest. Access is free with a castle ticket.
There are fine views from the castle ramparts. Look out for the remains of formal gardens on the flat land far below.
There is so much to see at the Castle that you should plan for at least a half-day visit. This is easily expanded to a whole day if you want to walk around the old town as well. The Palace and the Great Hall interior are the highlights.
If you arrive by car, parking on the Castle esplanade is convenient but at £4, not cheap.
Thumbnails:

Great Hall, Stirling
Great Hall
King's Old Building, Stirling
King’s Old Building
King's Presence Chamber ceiling
Presence Chamber
Hall in Palace
Hall in Palace
Tapestry in bedchamber, Palace
Tapestry in bedchamber
Bed in bedchamber, Palace
Bed in bedchamber, Palace
Gilded Ceiling, Palace
Ceiling, Palace
Cupboard, Palace
Cupboard, Palace
Garden remains below Palace
Garden remains below