Continuing on with our adventures with our English Heritage family pass we recently visited Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire. Built in the 17th Century, on the site of a medieval castle, Bolsover castle commands lovely views across Derbyshire and is our favourite English Heritage property in the county.
Bolsover castle has quite a lot to see and explore and we passed quite a few hours there. There is a café on site plus a large shop and playground. We started our visit with cake and a drink and finished it with a tasty lunch. Considering how busy it was at lunchtime we were really surprised at how quickly our food was served. I think our food came quicker than the time we spent queueing to order. There is seating inside and outside. We noticed quite a lot of people eating picnics outside, even in October.
Our Visit to Bolsover Castle – Review
We arrived a little after 10:30 am during October half term. The first car park we came to was full, the second car park we came to was also full. Panicking slightly we turned onto a road where my Mum spotted a sign for additional parking. Had we have come from the other direction I doubt we would have spotted it as it’s tucked down to the left of the property. Luckily there were plenty of spaces. However, when we returned later it was packed and we wished that we’d parked facing the other way as it was a bit of an effort getting out. This is clearly one popular place to visit.
The entrance was just a short walk away and as mentioned above we stopped for a needed drink, toilet break and cake. All of these are located next to where you pay to get in. We later noticed people walking around with interactive guides which sadly we were never offered. They seemed to have interactive elements for the kids which is a really good idea. As we exited the shop we saw a handy sign with a ‘what’s on’ list for that day.
Riding House area
Once you have walked down to the castle buildings you will see a long stretch of buildings to your left. There are more toilets located here. There is a very large hall where the day’s activities were being held. There’s a couple of floors with empty rooms to investigate with views over the riding house arena.
At the weekend from April to September you can see the Riding School brought to life at one of their Cavalier Horsemanship displays set to Baroque music.
There is also an exhibition in the furthest end of this building.
The Ruined Castle at Bolsover
Jamie was very keen to explore the ruined part of the castle and soon cut our visit to the Riding area short. This building was clearly once very large but now sadly doesn’t even have a roof. Much of it has fallen away but what is left behind is really fun to explore and imagine the people of the past living there. There are some stunning views of the Derbyshire countryside from the other side of the ruin. The original castle was built back in the 12th Century but neglected by the 14th Century.
There are many rooms to walk around plus a few information signs. You can see from the detail of some of the entrances that this must have once been very grand. You can also see part of the lovely view in my photo below.
This place really fired Jamie’s interest and curiosity. He was asking his Grandma what every room may have been used for. He was in his element exploring and always wanting to be the leader.
The Intact ‘Little’ Castle
What a contrast this building is to its neighbouring ruin. This is a fairy tale type castle with rooms to match. It reminded me a little of other castles I’ve seen such as Tattershall castle in nearby Lincolnshire. You enter via some very grand wooden doors and into some gorgeous gardens which were pretty even in October. Work on the little castle began in 1612 by Charles Cavendish of the famous Cavendish family. Most of the interior design was down to his son William who inherited the castle after Charles died. William famously fought for the Royalists during the English civil war. During his exile, after the war, this is when he set up the riding house range. Some of this history is re-enacted through yearly events at the castle. It is worth keeping an eye on their events page as they often have things on at the castle.
They also had ornamental gardens here back when the castle was habited. There are a few small rooms to explore which apparently used to be used for private romantic dining. Although I’m not sure I’d have wanted to dine there as they were quite dark and dank.
The main draw of this almost circular courtyard is the fountain. I can’t remember ever seeing a fountain quite so impressive. The section below ground is much bigger than normal and the water has to fall so far to reach the bottom that there’s no mistaking the sound of cascading water. The ornamental figures are fabulous and we all spent quite a time here just starring in at everything.
Exploring the Little Castle at Bolsover, Derbyshire
They call it the Little castle, which I guess it is compared to the larger ruin. However, from approaching it from the basement it felt like we climbed an awful lot of steps to get to the top. The basement was fun because it was where the kitchens used to be. Jamie loved peering in the bread ovens and exploring these rooms.
I didn’t half need a rest when we got to the top. Jamie was off eagerly exploring all the rooms though. There is so much to see and no two rooms are the same. Some are pretty much empty aside from some gorgeous fireplaces. Then you will suddenly find a room full of things.
My favourite room was the one pictured in the two photos below. It was in great condition and with seating provided I could have sat there for a long time. But alas with Jamie in tow he wanted to explore some more. Although to be fair to him he did allow me quite a fair amount of time in here.
You can see from my photos below more of the diversity of the rooms.
You can exit the little castle via a wall walk.
Wall Walk around the Little Castle
The walls that surround the little castle form a wall walk and it’s well worth taking a walk around. Recently restored it provides you with a variety of views of all different aspects of the properties.
The playground at Bolsover Castle
There is a small adventure playground located next to the outdoor seating area of the café. I wasn’t able to photograph all of it as it was quite busy. There are quite a few pieces of equipment including a large wooden castle.
Important Information about Visiting Bolsover Castle
If you don’t get offered an interactive guide please make sure that you ask for one. Choose from an adult or child guide. There’s games for the kids and plenty of information for those that want to listen.
Entrance to the castle is free if you are already an English Heritage member. Without membership and without gift aid it is currently (subject to change) £10.80 for an adult and £6.50 for a child of 5-15 years old. A family ticket for 2 adults and up to 3 children is £28.10. For up to date pricing please visit their website. The castle is not open all year round. However, it is open for most of the year. Again I advise checking their website before setting off to visit.
Annual membership to English Heritage is priced from £45.
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