A visit to the 14th century Bolton Castle in North Yorkshire is a fascinating look at English history – and is still held by the Bolton family.
For the longest time, Australians were taught English history in schools, rather than the much older history of our own country. Coming from a long line of the ‘bolshy’ bog Irish, I was never all that keen on English history, but only a fool could fail to have their interest piqued when visiting some of the fascinating British historical landmarks.
Bolton Castle, in Wensleydale in North Yorkshire is one of these.
Built between 1378 and 1399, Bolton Castle was originally one of the grandest and most luxurious homes in Britain and gives it’s name to the local village, Castle Bolton. The castle was severely damaged during the English civil war of the mid 17th century but much of it remains, with one third of the rooms and three quarters of the walls intact and most of it is completely accessible to the public – in fact, it is one of the most accessible castles I’ve visited.
The castle is still in the ownership of Lord Bolton, a direct descendent of the original owner, Sir Richard le Scrope, and offers visitors a look at how some aspects of life were lived in it’s hey-day. They offer falconry experiences, a ‘hawk walk’, archery classes and a visit to feed the wild boar kept on the property.
The costs of maintaining a property of this age and condition must be prohibitive, so only a few of the special areas of the castle are preserved in original condition, including the archers quarters in the bottom of the castle, the kitchen and one special bedroom.
When Mary Queen of Scots was defeated in Scotland, she high-tailed it south to England, where she was promptly seen as a threat to Queen Elizabeth I. She was captured and held in various places, including Bolton Castle where she was given Henry Scrope’s own apartments.
Over more recent years, the castle has been used as a location for several movies and television productions including Heartbeat and, one of my favourites, All Creatures Great and Small.
I was surprised at just how much of the castle we were free to explore. Visitors can even climb up onto the parapets, which offer a glorious view of the surrounding Yorkshire countryside. But, typical of Yorkshire, the weather turned while we were in the castle and by the time we got to the top it was pouring, making photos impossible.
But in a region noted for it’s broody, grey weather I think I’d have been disappointed if it didn’t.