History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Remarkably complete 14th century rectangular castle
Even today, driving along the minor road from Redmire, the outline of Bolton Castle seems to dominate the surrounding countryside like few other castles I've had the pleasure of visiting. To Scrope's contemporaries it must have been an intimidating sight indeed. Scrope may have presumed upon his royal position, for the license to crenellate was obtained in 1379, when the castle was likely complete. Scrope spared little expense building his new stronghold; from 1379 until the structure was complete around 1399 he spent some 18,000 marks on Bolton Castle. He had enough spare change left over to buy the kingship of the Isle of Man for his son William, at a cost of 10,000 marks.
The main entrance is through a gatehouse on the east side. Historians have argued over whether the castle was originally surrounded by a moat, but it seems most likely that it was not. Bolton is an almost perfect example of a rectangular castle; unlike many contemporary fortresses the living and working quarters were built into the ranges along each wall, rather than added as lean-to structures against a curtain wall. The corner towers are not truly flanking towers; they do not project very far beyond the range walls, and thus would not have offered much line of fire for archers aiming along the wall.
But there were other defenses; if an attacker managed to penetrate the long pasage through the gatehouse, with its iron portcullis, they would find themselves in a death-trap, for the inner court is overloked by four ranges, with narrow arrow slits in the walls for archers to pour down a rain of fire on the intruder. Only five doors join the ranges to the courtyard, and each doorway is defended with its own portcullis. Four of the doors are also protected by machicolations (slots for hurling missiles or pouring something unpleasant) overhanging each door.
It was a dismal, drab day when I visited Bolton Castle. Not too surprisingly, there were few other visitors, but I was very impressed with what I saw. The living quarters have been set with 'tableau' illustrating periods in the castle's history, including the Civil War seige and, of course, Mary, Queen of Scots imprisonment. I'm not always a big fan of displays like this, but I must admit I was pleaantly surprised; it really helped bring the castle to life and make dry history much more interesting. I began to feel for Queen Mary, for a start, and I'm not always terribly sympathetic towards her! I enjoyed Bolton Castle enormously.
About Bolton Castle
Address: Castle Bolton, North Leyburn, Yorkshire, England, DL8 4ET
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: 5 miles west of Leyburn, off the A684. Open from Spring through November. Admission charge.
Website: Bolton Castle
Phone: 01969 623981
Historic Houses Association
OS: SE035 919
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
We've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.
Historic Time Periods:
Find other attractions tagged with:
14th century (Time Period) - castle (Architecture) - Civil War (Architecture) - Mary, Queen of Scots (Person) - Medieval (Time Period) - moat (Historical Reference) - Queen Mary (Person) - Richard II (Person) - Royalist (Person) -
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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