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Skipton Castle

Location: Skipton High Street
Features: intact mediaeval castle with a roof and the rooms intact
Facilities: Toilets, tea room, picnic area, guided tours available for parties (no extra charge)
Entry Charges: £6.50 for adults in 2009
Website: Official Website

The Gatehouse at Skipton Castle Skipton Castle is that rarest of beasts, a mediaeval castle which is still intact and pretty much as it would have been in the middle ages. It also has the most amazing location - right at the top of Skipton High Street, but if you didn't know it was there you might well not notice it at all. What you also probably don't realise, is that it's perched on top of a sheer cliff above Eller Beck. You can appreciate that more by strolling round the back of the castle on a rather nice walkway that's been laid out.

The castle was started in the 11th Century, but came into the ownership of the Clifford family in 1310, after which the massive trademark round towers were added. The castle withstood two major sieges by parliamentarians in the Civil War, and afterwards was ordered to be sleighted. Fortunately they did a pretty poor job of it, just dismantling the roof and lowering the walls, and Lady Anne Clifford got permission from Cromwell to make it habitable again in 1657, on condition the walls were made thinner and the roof unable to bear cannon.

The courtyard at Skipton Castle Entrance to the castle is through the imposing gatehouse, where the ticket desk is located alongside a shell grotto dating from the early 17th century.

Passing through the gatehouse the castle stands in all its glory. The mediaeval part is on the left, and to the right is the Long gallery (private) added in the 16th century to transform the castle into a comfortable "modern" dwelling.  The other addition is the current entrance to the castle which would have replaced a flight of stairs leading to the original entrance at first floor level. As you pass through you can still see the grooves for the portcullis and the holes that the drawbar would have fitted in.

That takes you to the courtyard which is the real glory of the castle. Most of it dates from Tudor times, but there's evidence everywhere of the restoration by Lady Anne Clifford after the Civil War. There's a huge inscription let into one wall, and all the drainpipes also bear the family arms and the date of restoration. At the end of the inscription is a reference to Iasiah 58.12, which I didn't understand, so I looked it up.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Detail of a drainpipe at Skipton Castle From the courtyard you can wander round into the domestic buildings and the original towers. I won't describe them in detail as you can get a very good guidebook that does that, but the incredible feature to me is the sheer thickness of the walls. The original walls are about thirteen feet (4m) thick, and in one of the rooms, you can see where they were repaired by Lady Anne with the new wall standing on top of the old one. That really does bring it into perspective. And it's interesting to see the flanks built into the massive loophole embrasures. The only explanation must be that the archers must have been subject to devastatingly accurate incoming fire from besiegers. I tend to think of the longbow as a fairly inaccurate weapon deployed en-masse as at Crecy and Agincourt, but clearly not.

One real shame is that there's no access to the roof. I know there are probably health and safety implications, but the views over Airedale must be fantastic.

Overall, a fantastic castle to visit. Kids love it, and if you can tag on to a group guided tour even better because the guides really are great with kids.

Comments (1)
nice pictures
posted by DAve 18/10/2009 14:50:31
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