By indexer
105 days ago

Tips for visiting British castles

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Tip 1:

Join English Heritage and The National Trust. Between them, and their sister organisations, they look after a large number of castles in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as many other historical buildings and places of scenic beauty. An annual membership grants free entry to most of their properties, and other benefits. You can join when you visit your first castle, or online. However, there are also castles that are privately owned and are therefore either not open at all, or are not covered by the above memberships. Some castles, such as Windsor which is a royal residence, only allow public access to part of the site.

Tip 2:

Plan your castle visiting with care. There are some parts of the country that are awash with castles, and it is quite possible to visit several in a day. However, you need to allow enough time to do each castle justice, and not exhaust yourself, so, for most visitors, one before lunch and one afterwards is quite sufficient. Your planning should also take into account the fact that some castles only open for limited seasons. Also, during the summer months there are often events at castles that should not be missed, such as battle re-enactments, or displays of medieval crafts, etc, and you should plan your visits to take in as many of these events as you can.

Tip 3

Learn some background history. The main period of castle building in England and Wales was between the 11th and 16th centuries, which were turbulent, and often lawless, times, during which kings and powerful people sought to defend their territories and demonstrate their power. Knowing the reason why a castle was built, and possibly rebuilt and/or extended many times, helps towards an understanding of why a castle looks as it does today. It is also useful to understand the basic structures of castles at various times, and to distinguish between, say, a motte-and-bailey arrangement and a fortified manor house.

Tip 4

Watch the weather. Many castles in Britain are ruins, sometimes due to enemy action but more often because of the ravages of time. You can still have a great day at a castle ruin on a rainy day, but expect to get wet unless you dress appropriately! Bare stone gets slippery underfoot when wet, so wear sensible footwear and watch your step.

Tip 5

Be prepared to exert some energy! Not surprisingly for defensive structures, castles were often built on hilltops, and so a steep uphill walk is needed before the visit even begins. However, take your time and have a good look at the castle’s exterior while you pause for breath. Imagine yourself as a potential invader! When inside the walls, you are likely to find many paths to walk along, buildings and structures to visit, and stairs to climb. Be patient, especially on busy days, as you climb hundreds of steps in a spiral staircase, and be prepared to have to squeeze past other people who are coming down. Some castle buildings are enormous, and visiting every part is good exercise!

Tip 6

Keep an eye on the kids. Although the people who own and maintain ancient castles take all reasonable precautions to prevent accidents, such as covering wells and fencing off dangerous drops, they cannot guard against every eventuality, and these buildings were put there long before health and safety laws came into force! So it is up to you to make sure that everyone has a great time but does not do anything stupid. This includes making sure that they do not climb on exposed stonework (which will get worn away if everyone does this) and drop litter around the place.

Tip 7

Enjoy the experience. You can learn a lot from a castle visit, and it is certainly worth buying the guidebook. You will probably find boards placed around the castle describing each room and section, and there may be an audio guide that you can take round with you, playing the commentary into your earpiece as you reach each point of interest. Don’t overlook the castle grounds, as these are often pleasant places to walk, especially if an effort has been made to maintain them by, for example, reproducing the planting schedule of the original kitchen gardens. Also, have a look round the local town or village, as this may well have been founded at around the same time as the castle and have many stories to tell. Take your camera with you, but take note of any restrictions placed on photography.

Tip 8

Come back soon!

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Nevena83 nice post
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RasmaSandra You forgot to mention not to be too surprised if you run into some ghosts. Hopefully the friendly kind. I just love roaming old castles and hope to have the chance one day.
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indexer @RasmaSandra In all my castle explorations over many years I have yet to come across any! However, I do know of many castles that are reputed to have at least one!
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viktorija64 very interesting article
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