Castle Bolton village
Castle Bolton village

Castle Bolton is a lovely hamlet in Wensleydale, sheltering under Ellerlands Edge on the north side of the dale. The village takes its name from the historic 14th-century fortress of Bolton Castle, at the western edge of a long village green. On the north side of the green stands the early 14th-century church of St Oswald.

A Question of Names

Let's clear up a common area of confusion; the village is named Castle Bolton, but the castle itself is named Bolton Castle. Clear now?

Cottages on the village green
Cottages on the village green


The settlement probably evolved in Anglo-Saxon times, and the name 'Bolton' probably comes from two Anglo-Saxon words meaning an enclosure or settlement. It was an agricultural settlement, and you can see the remains of a well-preserved medieval field system stretching away to the west and south-west of Castle Bolton. The fields were laid out in the 12th century when the area was a grange (outlying farm) owned by Rievaulx Abbey.

The oldest building in the village is not the castle, as you might think, but the church, which was erected around 1325. The church is a very good example of Decorated Gothic style, with its original triple sedilia and piscina and a leper window in the south wall.

About 50 years after the church was built Richard le Scrope, Lord Treasurer and Lord Chancellor under Richard II, began building the castle. the Scrope family had owned the Castle Bolton estate since the 13th century. Richard le Scrope is thought to be the inspiration for the knight in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Bolton Castle
Bolton Castle

Bolton Castle was a statement of Scrope's wealth and importance and it still dominates the Wensleydale landscape over 600 years later. Bolton Castle is an almost perfect example of a rectangular castle, with vaulted storage areas on the ground floor and living quarters on the first and second floors above.

In 1568 Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Bolton Castle after fleeing from Scotland. The castle could not hold her entire retinue, and it seems likely that the village of Castle Bolton grew up from accommodation erected to hold the remainder of the queen's household.

The castle was slighted by Parliament in the Civil War, but the west range and the south-west tower survived almost completely intact.

There are just four listed buildings in Castle Bolton village. Two are obvious - the church and the castle. One is Rose Cottage (Crayke House), dating to the 17th century, and the other listed 'building' is a K6 telephone box, designed in 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Most of the cottages date to the 18th and 19th centuries.

St Oswald's Church, c. 1325
St Oswald's Church, c. 1325

In 1765 Nicholas Manners travelled through Wensleydale on behalf of John Wesley to spread the Methodist philosophy. He stayed in a cottage on Mill Hill above Castle Bolton. This was the introduction of non-Conformist worship to Wensleydale.

A more recent visitor was the artist Fred Lawson, who came on a holiday in 1910 and loved the village so much he stayed until 1968. Lawson lived at Studio Cottage in the centre of the village.

At the east end of the village stands the 19th-century cast-iron water pump, and on the north side of the village green is a stone seat installed to mark the Millennium.

Wensleydale scenery from Castle Bolton
Wensleydale scenery from Castle Bolton

As you wander along the village green you will notice one oddity; almost all the cottages face down the hill, for wonderful views over the dale, rather than facing each other across the green.

Getting There

Castle Bolton is on a minor road just west of Redmire, between Leyburn and Askrigg. Just follow the brown tourist signs for Bolton Castle. There is a large visitor parking area beside the castle.

More Photos

About Castle Bolton
Address: Wensleydale, Castle Bolton, Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire, England
Attraction Type: Village
Location: On a minor road just outside Redmire, about five miles west of Leyburn.
Location map
OS: SE035918
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Bolton Castle - 0 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Castle Bolton, St Oswald's Church - 0.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Aysgarth, St Andrew's Church - 2.5 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Wensley, Holy Trinity Church - 3.8 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Swaledale Museum - 4.6 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Coverham, Holy Trinity Church - 5.2 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Askrigg, St Oswald's Church - 5.5 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Coverham Abbey - 5.6 miles (Abbey) Heritage Rating

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