[Credit: Pixabay – Corfe Castle]
A Castle Fit For A Queen
The experts at Trip Historic round up the best ruined English castles to visit…
In a gap in Dorset’s Purbeck Hills sits the stunning ruins of Corfe Castle (pictured here), an 11th century stronghold built by William the Conqueror and one of the earliest in England to be built from stone. It has served as a fearsome fortification, a royal residence and a perilous prison. The Royalist citadel was demolished in March 1645 during the English Civil War.
The imposing baronial castle of Portchester at the northern end of Portsmouth Harbour was a strategic embarkation point for several campaigns to France and has housed, amongst others, the Romans, Normans and Plantagenets. Built within a former Roman fort, the 2,000 year-old walls rise to six metres – the highest such walls to be seen intact in Britain.
Ashby de la Zouch Castle
The ruined fortification of Ashby de la Zouch Castle towers majestically above the Leicestershire countryside. The original 11th century manor house was added to over the centuries but was damaged during the English Civil War, falling into disrepair under the Parliamentarians. The Great Tower remains open and offers amazing views of the surrounding landscape.
Acton Burnell Castle
As important and beautiful ruins go, Acton Burnell Castle in Shropshire sits at the top table. It is believed that in 1283 the fortified manor house hosted the first Parliament of England in which the Commons was fully represented. It was a potent symbol of the status of Chancellor Robert Burnell and unlike many castles ruined by the ravages of war, Acton Burnell died as the family lineage did, falling to ruin over many years.
With Launceston, Trematon and Tintagel, Restormel Castle is one of the four chief Norman castles of Cornwall. Built in the 13th century and noted for its perfectly circular design, it was once the residence of the Earl of Cornwall. The castle was passed from nobility to royalty, even falling under the remit of the famed Black Prince before being taken by royalists in the Civil War and abandoned soon after.
Used as a Lancastrian base during the Wars of the Roses, Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire is described as ‘the finest surviving example of a semi-royal palace of the later Middle Ages’ and is significant for its role in one of history’s most famous love stories. In 1563, Kenilworth became the home of the Earl of Leicester, the one true love of Elizabeth I. His alterations point to his affection for her but was destroyed during the Civil War and left to ruin.
It’s rare to see the exact reason an historic site fell into ruin, but at Goodrich Castle between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye, the cannon that dealt it its heaviest blows, known as ‘Roaring Meg’, is on display. No less than William Wordsworth described the ruined Norman medieval castle as ‘the noblest ruin in Herefordshire’ and it played a vital role in the English Civil War, passing between the Royalists and Parliamentarians in violent clashes until finally falling into disrepair.
This feature was compiled with help from Trip Historic, the leading online travel guide to the world’s historic sites.