Bolton Castle

Weatherwise it was a decent day today and so I thought I’d go visit a castle.  As you do.

Of course living in the UK, we’re literally tripping over castles here but I knew there was one nearby that I’d never been to before – Bolton Castle.

I’ve no idea how I managed to “mislay” this castle after living here for over 40 years but I’m blaming the similarly named Bolton Abbey that I’ve been to many times.  I mean Abbey……Castle.  Easy mistake to make when people mentioned it.

So today was the day to make amends and after my porridge breakfast at about 11am, I set off up the A1 with £7 burning a hole in my pocket and a castle all ready and waiting to douse the flames. Over half of the 57 miles were pretty dull as the A1 is just a boring motorway that starts in London and ends in Edinburgh. But once I’d left it to go west, I entered the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the scenery improved 100% and the last 17 miles were a delight.

My delight was briefly tempered when I realised there was a pay and display car park next to the castle but it was back in place again when I spotted the notice on the pay machine saying parking was free today. Woohoo.

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Inside, I had to show my Leeds60 card and bus pass before the lady would believe I was over 60 (my youthful looks are a mixed blessing at times) and give me the concession rate (£7). Then I was off for 4 hours of castle type fun.

And surprise, surprise you immediately have to go through the modern tea room but at least you could bypass the gift shop.

First port of call was the castle courtyard as there was a demonstration of ye olde archery going on.

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The blonde next to the archer was the expert and one by one, visitors could try their hand, literally, at being Robin Hood. It wasn’t as easy as you’d think and several punters missed not only the target, but the bales of hay !

Clearly archery is a lost art in this country but then again, maybe it was a coach party from France.

I knew very little about this 14th century castle and was pleasantly surprised to discover it was in pretty fine fettle, all things considered.  Well preserved came to mind. Each area was well signposted with plaques telling visitors where they were and what happened there. I spent about 90 minutes exploring what I thought was the whole castle with the usual selection of rooms and towers, mostly open to the elements. You could see where there had been 5 floors (maybe more) back in the day but now the floors were gone and only the holes in the walls that held the supports remained.

Of course it was also easy to spot where a floor began by looking up and seeing fireplaces and “window” openings at regular intervals up the soaring stone walls. Surrounding the ground floor courtyard were areas including the stables, the armoury, the garrison, guard room and of course, the dungeon.

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I wasn’t expecting the cannon but then they were first used in the 14th century in England – although I think this one was more modern.

Up on the first floor, visitors could only explore the areas surrounding the central core because as mentioned before, all the floors above the courtyard no longer existed  The first floor was where I’d entered the castle so it had the tea room, previously the guest hall, the gift store, previously….who knows…..and other areas like the kitchens, the malting house and so on. There were several ruined rooms which were inaccessible now, like the buttery, the great hall and the state chamber.

Shame.

I revisited many rooms as I really thought that was all there was to the castle.  Looking out one of the outer wall openings (I’m reluctant to call them windows !) I noticed some activity out in the far garden area and remembered there was a bird of prey display at 3pm and I was missing it !

I scrambled down several sets of ridiculously narrow steps and went into the garden and quietly approached the display half way through. I decided to abandon my plethora of relatively low tech cameras (I wouldn’t call the GoPro low tech of course but I can’t think of it as a high quality still camera yet) and got out the old trusty Canon dSLR and zoom lens as I wanted good photos of these birds.

I was happy with the results.

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That owl spent most of the time on the ground and when I took this photo it was begging for food from the display lady. It was very cute. It followed her around just like a dog and it only ended when she returned it to its cage before moving on to other birds.

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When the display was over, we could look at all the birds in their large cages but I had to take these photos through the wire mesh.

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Returning to the castle I soon realised there were still 3 more floors to explore, mostly bed chambers on the 3rd and 4th levels.

To get there, I went up to the 2nd floor where there was the chapel (empty of course), the great chamber and the nursery.

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This room was crying out for a long table with banners and flags along the walls and people tucking into joints of meat washed down with flagons of ale……or was that just the Hollywood version ?  I donno if the table was away for refurbishment but the sad little table for 2 at the far end seemed just sad.

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These are two little beds in the nursery and there were some toys on the floor in front of them.

Not an Xbox in sight though.

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As I said, the top 2 floors were the adult’s bed chambers.  Apparently one of the four poster beds was supposed to be haunted but the rooms were so cold and unwelcoming that I’m surprised the beds got any action at all, ghostly or otherwise.

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Finally, the only level left to explore was…out onto the roof.  This didn’t take long as there wasn’t much roof left TO explore and in fact there was just a very short narrow walkway that led to the edge of the castle wall that overlooked an end tower and the village of Castle Bolton way down below.

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And that was it.  I was knackered with all the climbing and as it was almost 5pm and “closing time” for the castle, it seemed a good idea to leave. I had no wish to spend the night in any of those bed chambers, hunted bed or not.

But on the way out, I stopped off to take a “selfie” as I’d got the stick in my backpack and it seemed a shame not to use it.

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That was taken from the 3rd floor with the camera looking back towards the castle’s external wall.

I did walk around the gardens, which included a neat maze but I think this post is long enough without any more photos.

I can now say I’ve been to Bolton Castle and I have to say it was a delightful visit and I was very impressed by how much is still left of it more than 6 centuries after it was built.

I guess it’s like they always say……things were built to last back then !

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