As well as travelling abroad I’m a huge history geek. I love reading about it, watching history documentaries and visiting historical places, whether it be old country houses, ancient sites or museums. One of my favourite sites to visit in the UK are castles. I think it stems from when I was a child and we used to go on day trips, many of which ended up being castles. Since then I’ve always loved them and really enjoy visiting visiting them and having a good explore. I’ve visited so many castles over the years, but in this post I’m going to write about three of my favourite castles.
In deepest Sussex is Bodiam Castle. It’s owned by the National Trust and is a good example of a 14th century castle with existing moat. It was built in 1385 by a former Knight of Edward III. Despite some of the interior being in ruins, it’s a great example of a medieval castle, and is protected as a scheduled monument with Grade I listed status. The castle sits in the middle of a large moat, connected to land via a long wooden bride, that leads to a drawbridge section. At the end is the main entrance which has a large portcullis, and various ancient defensive mechanisms.
Originally the castle had two entrances, but only one is used now. The castle is square in shape, with four towers, one at each corner, that visitors can climb via winding staircases to reach the tower roof. The views are extensive and you can see why the castle was built in the location it’s in. The castle has thick, defensive stone walls, a large open courtyard at the centre, with multiple rooms that run around the edge. These rooms include the Great Chamber, old kitchens, Lords Hall, ante rooms, service rooms, stables and even a chapel.
Bodium Castle is one of the best examples of this type of castle I’ve ever visited. As you wander the grounds, the old rooms and climb the towers, you get a real feel for the castle and its incredible history. It’s definitely a castle I’d recommend visiting.
Situated near Sandwich in Kent, Richborough Castle is actually an old Roman/Saxon fort, reputed to be built on the site of the first Roman landing in AD43. It is owned by English Heritage, and forms almost a perfect square on the site. It has been through many additions, and much rebuilding. A lot of what now exists are later adaptations, but the site itself is historically noted.
Many of the internal structures are no longer in existence, due a fair bit of it being built of timber, although some stone foundations do still exist. The outer walls however still stand, and are quite imposing. There are also many other interesting Roman features inside the site that are worth visiting, such as the Mansio. The site was an important defensive and supply base, so the Mansio was an important part of the fort. There are also remnants of an old hypocaust system and a ditch and rampart system.
As Roman forts go, Richborough Castle is pretty impressive even though it doesn’t look much from the outside and it’s incredible that as much of it has survived, especially considering the building materials used. When you stand next to one of the outer walls it’s a real shock to see just how tall they are and how massive the site would have been when first built and in use. There is also the remains of an old amphitheatre nearby, it’s quite difficult to locate, but worth a visit if you can find it. A good map is recommend though!
In the town of Rochester in Kent, stands the imposing Rochester Castle. It guards the medway river and has an interesting history. Owned by English Heritage Rochester Castle was built in 1127 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but it is thought that there has been a defensive structure on the site since about 1086, although exactly where is still up for discussion.
The current castle is a Norman Keep that stands over 100 feet high with a protective forebuilding. The castle like so many, has seen plenty of attacks through time, and been party to many wars. So much so that it has been damaged and rebuilt a few times. Despite all it has been through, the castle continues to stand dominant on the skyline a testament to its efforts of protecting the surrounding area.
What remains nowadays is a great example of a Norman Keep castle. The interior has lost its wooden floor levels, but it is still possible to climb the original stone circular staircases that go all the way to the top, and walk around the parapet to not only look down inside the building, but also out across the town of Rochester, over the Medway and beyond.
Even though I have only listed three favourite castles, there are many others in the UK that I love, and I’ll never say no to visiting one. Others I would recommend visiting are Caerphilly Castle, Chepstow Castle and Dunster Castle. But if you don’t live near any of those, there are plenty of castles all over the UK just waiting to be visited so they can share their incredible history. Find out more on the interactive map of UK Castles.
- Have you ever visited any of the castles mentioned above?
Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring. www.chrissieparker.com