Bolton Castle, located in Wensleydale, was built in 1379, for Sir Henry Le Scrope, Chief Justice of The Kings Bench, Chief Justice of The Common Pleas and Lord Chancellor of England to Richard II. The castle took 18 years to build. The east range was built later to complete the four ranges around a courtyard. The castle remains in the same family today. A fascinating history of the family can be found on the Bolton castle website. Three of the early members were executed by the ruler at the time. “. . . . in the depth of winter men of the garrison lean over the dying embers of the fire, the wooden shutters rattling in the wind, and, in the distance, the howl of a wild and hungry wolf.”
The castle walls are 9 feet thick and topped with battlements. Still existing are oak beams, six centuries old, that support the great halls and galleries. Some of the 15th century castle is in ruins; it was besieged in the 1645 civil war and was slighted after surrender.
Other parts of the castle are still roofed and present to the visitor a castle life tableaux including a nursery furnished with 17th century artefacts, a chaplain’s cell, a miller at work, and a blacksmith in his forge. The old kitchen has been restored. The hall rose to two storeys with the solar located next to it.
The ground floors of the five storey towers held stores, stables, and workshops. The ruined parts of the castle include a collapsed north-east tower where the kitchen was located. An unusual feature is that each of the private apartments had its own garde-robe.
Mary, Queen of Scots, spent 6 months during 1568-69 as a prisoner in the castle. However she did not have to endure the dungeon which is a hole carved from solid rock. She had a suite of rooms and her bedroom is set up as it would have been at the time.
Bolton Castle was where the real life James Herriot, Alf Wight, proposed to his future wife. This cold and forbidding castle seems an unlikely place. A sign on one wall reads:
Two castle gardens reflect medieval times. The original gardens covered 20 acres, and the new plantings are ones found in England before 1600. An herb garden is surrounded by box hedging and has more than 40 species of medicinal and culinary herbs. The walled garden contains ninety grape vines of a red variety of grape.
A formal garden contains 25 varieties of old-fashioned roses, and the bowling green is set off by flowers and shrubs, including hypericum, mallow, clary, catmint, clove pinks and many more. The maze, arbours and hazel wattle fence surrounding the garden are features in keeping with the times.
Bolton, 6 miles west of Leyburn, Wensleydale, Yorkshire
Tel. 0 1969 623 981
Open: April-end Oct, daily, 10am-5pm; check website for up to date information related to special events
Historic Houses Association member; shop; tea-room with light lunches and refreshments; weddings; family trails; medieval costumes for children to try on; special events—check website for details
Web: Bolton Castle
Photos of exterior and willow fence © by Barbara Ballard. Other photos courtesy Hampshire Cam
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