Castles, Forts and Follies

 

Nothing oozes history, intrigue, mystery and turmoil like the walls of a castle. Whether you like to explore grand palaces with splendid decoration, or roam through the fallen walls of fortresses long destroyed in battle, we have a host of walks that visit some of the UK's finest castles.

Northumberland Coastal Path

Untitled-1 (2).jpg

There are more castles in Northumberland than any other county in England and while many lie in ruins, most retain the sense of foreboding that would have been so important through the constant battles between the English and the Scots. It is easy to see why the land was fought over so fiercely - it feels wild and remote, yet pretty and peaceful at the same time.

At the start of the trail, the ramparts of Berwick Castle enfold the whole town in an impressive display of defence. Yet, on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, it is an entirely different castle that keeps watch. Built upon a volcanic outcrop, Lindisfarne castle is one of the most prominent features on the island. Despite Viking raids, the castle saw little combat in its 500 year history and was later converted to an idyllic holiday home and renovated by Arts and Crafts architect Edwin Lutyen.

The award for the grandest castle has to go to Bamburgh. Perched high atop a crag, Bamburgh Castle looks over the Farne Islands and was the seat of the Kings of Northumbria. As you continue along the coastline, Bamburgh Castle shines golden under the sun and is a sight to behold, but when you reach Dunstanburgh, the haunting ruins are sure to leave you captivated.

Finally, the Northumberland Coast Path reaches Warkworth with its picture-perfect keep. In the spring, the keep sits atop a mound of daffodils above the River Coquet in a display of peace and tranquillity. In truth, Warkworth was once one of the most impressive fortresses in the north of England and home to 'Harry Hotspur', every Scots raider's nightmare. Harry Hotspur belonged to the Percy family, who now live in Alnwick Castle, so if your thirst for castles is still not quenched; a post-walk trip to Alnwick can be made where you can acquaint yourself with the castle that was used to film the exterior and interior of Harry Potter's Hogwarts.

All of these castles with the exception of Berwick, are also visited on St Oswald's Way.

 

Circular Walks in the Cotswolds

Untitl22ed-1.jpg

If it is royal residencies you are looking for, Sudeley Castle has over 1000 years of connections to royalty. It has been owned by King Stephen, Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI and is the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within its grounds (Katherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII). Today, the castle is one of a few in England to still be used as a private residence and the current owners have undertaken major renovations to enable the castle to be visited by the public. There are gardens, a café, visitor centre and pheasantry as well as exhibitions to discover.

 

Great Glen Way

Unt12itled-1.jpg

Perched on the banks of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle commands perhaps the most impressive views along Scotland's famous loch. Some claim to have seen the Loch Ness Monster form here, but even more intriguing is the castle's turbulent history. Over a thousand years, Urquhart Castle was seized by ferocious clan chiefs, captured by English kings and reclaimed by Scotland's famous Robert the Bruce.

It is difficult not to feel entranced by the atmosphere as you explore the castle walls and uncover the trials and tribulations of this spectacular site. When you're ready for a rest, you can visit the shop, café and visitor centre before continuing along the Great Glen Way.

 
 
 

Cornwall's Atlantic Coast North

12Untitled-1.jpg

Set high on the coastline of Cornwall's Atlantic Coast North, Tintagel Castle occupies a seemingly precarious position on the cliff tops. From the courtyard ruins, there are truly fabulous views out to sea and as you look upon the remains of this magical castle, it is easy to see why the site has attracted so many myths and legends. The castle is reputed to be the birthplace of King Arthur and after exploring the ruins that once served as his fortress, you can discover Merlin's Cave, which is located at the Castle Beach, one of the safest and most atmospheric beaches in Cornwall.

 

Borders Abbeys Way

Untitle21d-1.jpg

Do not be fooled into thinking that the Borders Abbeys Way only showcases the impressive abbeys of Scotland's border towns. In fact, the trail also visits four splendid 'castles' including Jedburgh Castle, now demolished and replaced with a supposedly haunted Howard Reform Prison and museum and Roxburgh Castle, once one of the strongest fortresses in Scotland and the residence of kings throughout its history.

If you have time left for more, there are two more locations bearing the label 'castle'. Floors Castle is actually a country house and the seat of the Duke of Roxburghe. Nevertheless, its fairytale turrets and pinnacles make for an enchanting visit and there are collections of art as well as grand rooms, sprawling grounds and a café, gift shop and walled garden to explore. Similarly, Abbotsford or 'Conundrum Castle', was the grand home of Sir Walter Scott and is one of the most famous houses in the world, charting the achievements and tastes of this literary great.

 

Three Castles Walk

Untit32led-1.jpg

Following the famous Norman conquest of 1066, castles popped up all over the Welsh countryside in a show of wealth and power designed to intimidate the Welsh rebels. White Castle, which was once covered in a striking white rendering, is surrounded by a deep moat that surely would have been foreboding in its day, but surrounded on all sides by glorious scenery and views towards the Black Mountains, the castle is now one of the best preserved of the famous trio of castles owned by Hubert de Burgh in the 13th century and is strangely inviting.

Marking the other points of the triangle are Skenfrith Castle and Grosmont Castle. Their ruined walls still stand dominant against a backdrop of pretty patchwork fields, tumbling river and lush hedgerows in the beautiful Monnow Valley.

 
 
 

Hadrian's Wall Path

Untit32led-1.jpg

Along the 84 miles of World Heritage Site that is Hadrian's Wall, some of the country's finest Roman forts, milecastles and temples can also be found. In fact, the trail begins at Segedunum Roman Fort, one of the most complete excavations of a Roman fort with barracks, stables and a fully working reconstruction of a Roman bath house.

As you stride your way along the Wall, you will encounter three more splendid Roman forts including Chesters, which once housed a Roman army garrison; Birdoswald Roman Fort with its excellently preserved ruins and Housesteads Roman Fort which, perched on the top of Whin Sill, is probably one of the most atmospheric forts in the region. By the time you reach the end of the trail, having discovered the artefacts, excavations, ruins and chambers of the Roman Frontier, Carlisle Castle opens up 900 more years of history for you to explore.

 
 
 

Ayrshire Coastal Path

Untit32led-1.jpg

Castles do not always have to be intact to give us an insight into the history of an area. This is certainly the case of the Ayrshire Coastal Path, which offers a host of coastal ruins. Castles at Ardstinchar, Turnberry, Dunure, Greenan, Dundonald, Seagate, Ardrossan and Portencross have been battered by the elements and in some cases, all that remain are a series of steep humps in the ground. Yet, with tales of Robert the Bruce, smugglers and battles galore, there is a great deal to uncover as you walk between each fascinating place.

In contrast, the trail also presents Culzean Castle, one of Scotland's most impressive castles with vast estates of woodland, landscaped gardens and views over the Firth of Clyde. Similarly, Kelburn Castle is difficult to miss… it is one of the oldest castles in Scotland, but in 2007 four Brazilian graffiti artists were invited to paint the walls of its towers. The graffiti is temporary and will be removed when the castle walls are restored, but it certainly is an unusual feature and adds yet another dimension to the variety of castles encountered on the Ayrshire Coastal Path.

 

Lady Anne's Way

Untit32led-1.jpg

When George Clifford, the 3rd Earl of Cumberland died, his vast estates were passed to his brother. His only living child, Lady Anne Clifford, was denied her rightful inheritance and while her uncle walked away with the family's grandest castles, Lady Anne was left a mere £15,000 in compensation.

A fraught battle for justice ensued and around 50 years later, after fierce legal battles, Lady Anne finally won her rightful inheritance and committed the rest of her life to rebuilding the great castles of Skipton, Brougham, Brough and Appleby, as well as churches, chapels, monuments, bridges and almshouses. Lady Anne would travel with a retinue of ladies, servants and followers between her castles, spending time in each one as she oversaw the work. The so called 'Lady Anne's Highway', retraces this journey and along the way, there is the opportunity to visit her castles. From Skipton, one of the best preserved medieval castles in England, to the picturesque Appleby Castle, one of the few remaining intact Norman Castles, each building offers a wonderful insight into the life of the remarkable Lady Anne Clifford.