Middleham castle in North Yorkshire. is not a full day out. But it is certainly somewhere worth visiting and with plenty of other smaller attractions in the area, you can easily incorporate it into a full day out. We were staying a 25-minute drive away at Swinton Bivouac. We stayed in a wonderful tree lodge there which you can read more about here –
That morning before breakfast we had visited the on site Druids temple which I also talk about in the review linked above. After breakfast we did drive up to Bolton Castle. Which actually isn’t in Bolton! It looked wonderful and we were really excited to explore. Sadly, once out of the car we were told that it was shut for a wedding. What a shame! Such a big castle to be shut. We must return one day, so long as it is actually open.
On our way up we had passed by signs for Middleham castle and the Forbidden Corner. We spotted that Middleham castle is run by English heritage so it was a must for us as members. There is no official parking as such, however, we parked in the village for no charge and we were just over the road from the entrance.
This was day 27 of our #80dayschallenge to have at least 80 days out in one year.
About Middleham Castle
Middleham castle is situated in the centre of the village of Middleham. It is in the heart of Wensleydale, north Yorkshire. The castle was built by Robert Fitzrandolph, 3rd Lord of Middleham and Spennithorne. Work started back in 1190. It is most famous for being the childhood home of Richard III. It remained in Royal hands until the 17th Century when it was allowed to go to ruin. A lot of it’s ‘ruin’ was caused by people removing the stone to build other buildings in the village. Although it is a ruin many of its walls are actually still intact. Visiting the castle you soon get a sense of it’s once grandeur.
Middleham Castle – A Review
You enter Middleham castle via its drawbridge. Just to your left there is a small office where you pay or show your English Heritage membership card. We were greeted by a very friendly lady who made sure my son had a pop badge that members can collect.
He was also given a lanyard for the badges which he was thrilled about. Interestingly we were also handed a parking pass which English Heritage has now introduced. This means as members you can park in English Heritage run car parks for free which is a welcome change to the membership package. You can purchase hot or cold drinks here.
We spent around an hour exploring the castle. There is more to see than first meets the eye. It’s not somewhere I can write much about but I can share photos so that you can get an idea. There is a largely intact outer wall with ruined fireplaces and more to discover. We came across a strange round shape in the ground, almost as if a mill wheel was once there.
We found a few towers to wander in and other nooks and crannies to explore. There are no signs telling you to keep off so we clambered on what was safe enough to explore. Once you have made your way around the edge of the castle you can then explore the centre. This is a now roofless building but again with most of its high walls intact. In places, it is a wonder how it is still standing as it looks blown apart in places. Which it most likely had been in the past when they were taking the stone away to use elsewhere.
Make sure you find the tower that takes you up to the highest point of the castle. From there you can admire the wonderful views over Middleham and other parts of Wensleydale. It’s well worth the walk up. There are a few sections downstairs to explore as well including the old kitchen which must have been enormous.
One thing that struck me during our visit was the beautiful purple flowers all over the walls. I don’t know if they just grow their wild or if someone planted seeds but they look lovely in contrast to the grey stones of the castle. We visited mid-May and there was plenty of flowers to be seen.
Here are some more photos from our visit to Middleham castle.
Further Information Middleham Castle
It is free to visit Middleham Castle if you are a member of English Heritage. For more information on becoming a member please see this post – Top 15 English Heritage Sites to Visit as a Family Please check their website for opening times and dates. They have limited opening over the winter months. Currently, admission without a pass and without a gift aid costs £6.00 for an adult and £3.60 for a child aged 5-17. Under 5’s are free.
After our visit we headed back on the road, back en route to Swinton Bivouac. We passed Jervaulx abbey on the way back. We stopped here for a fabulous light lunch and a wander around the abbey.
You can pay for entry to Jervaulx Abbey at the cafe. Or in an honesty box at the entrance. I was a little overwhelmed by the Abbey especially after visiting Middleham castle. It is nice but not spectacular. We explored what we could. Our son enjoyed chatting to the lambs in the next field more than anything.
Jervaulx Abbey is in East Witton near Ripon. It was one of the great Cistercian abbeys of Yorkshire dedicated to St. Mary in 1156. The Abbey is a Grade I listed building. Plundered and pillaged during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, the Abbey now stands as a ruin. The Abbey is open all year round from dusk till dawn. There is a large car park over the road at the cafe. This is £1 in the honesty box. Entrance to the Abbey is £3.00 for an adult again in the honesty box. I think we paid £2.50 for our son.