* Prices may differ from that shown
~ Visited 12th June 2007 ~
Skipton Castle is over 900 years old, although the smallest in Yorkshire is one of the best preserved medieval castles in England.
It is still fully roofed (one reason it has been preserved so well). It is best known for having withstood siege by Parliamentary forces for three years.
The castle lies on a steep cliff (You can still travel via barge on the quarter mile branch canal to connect the quarries of Lord Thanet with the new Leeds Liverpool Canal, 1773)
On top of the cliff running parallel to it is the Castles Great Hall. This is a 2 story building. Protecting the hall are 6 drum towers which make up the main part of the Castle. This makes the Castle interconnected and most are easily accessible from an area known as the Conduit court. The court is named after the cistern which supplied the castle's water.
~ The Outer Ward ~
The castle does have an outer ward. This is a rectangular area that is approx. 200 meters in length, by 75 meters wide. This contains the remains of a Chapel and a stable block and a small wall enclosing it.
The tudor gatehouse dominates the outer ward. This is 4 round towers which protect the entrance. As you either arrive or leave, above the entrance/exit is the word Desormais - the word that was the Clifford Family motto meaning Henceforth.
~ The Castle ~
As already alluded to - the main part of the castle consists of 6 towers that all interlock. This also has a great hall, and it is all arranged around a small open courtyard.
To the east are a range of building called the Long Gallery, built in 1536 and these remain a private residence.
You enter the castle via the Anne Clifford steps which takes you into a small porch. You pass between 2 more towers which are the oldest part of the castle. The conduit Court is immediately in front of you with several doorways. You are lead through a specific route via the tour sheet. This takes you through the usual rooms you would expect to find on the ground floor; guard rooms, a curing room, kitchens and cellars (beer and wine) as well as fighting chambers. You can also go down into a tiny dungeon which is reached via a small steep stairway. This is a very small claustrophobic room, but Lord Clifford was known to be good to his prisoners, who weren't tortured. One prisoner is known to have commented while on trial that he had never been as well fed as he was while being held there!
The first floor also has the sort of rooms you would associate with castle life. Another kitchen, a great banqueting hall, the Lord's bedchamber and a watchtower. It is here you really see where the castle was "slighted" (** see later for a little more information) by Cromwell especially where the walls were weakened.
It is said that Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned for a time at Skipton Castle and often looked out of the withdrawing room to the north towards Scotland.
I do have some mobility problems, but with care and taking my time I was able to explore all areas. However it isn't suitable for wheelchair access except for the outer grounds. Even then, there are quite a lot of cobbled surfaces which mean it does take a little effort. This is also true of Prams.
There is a tea room inside the grounds. However we felt they were quite pricey and used a tearoom in the town itself at quite a lot less for similar food and drink.
A shop is also there, with the usual array of gifts for a site like this. Prices seemed pretty good value and they have a specialist area of books relating to the castles history.
Overall, its a castle that doesn't appear to be known or visited as much as some of its counterparts. In many respects its a shame because its one of the best I've visited in a long while. But the upside is, you don't get crowded out even on a nice summers day.
Parking isn't available at the castle itself, but we've found there are plenty of options in the town. On their main website they have a basic map outlining where most of the main parking is available in relation to the castle. The nearest carpark though is very expensive after 4 hours *at the time it was £8-00* so please be aware of this as well if traveling by car.
I'm not too sure how well the other travel links are, but there is a known train service to Skipton and if the local bus service from where we live to Skipton is anything to go by, that should be a good option if you want.
~ Summary ~
Excellent castle to visit with good entrance fees, but poor access for disabled and no parking facilities on or next to the site itself.
So, overall I give this 4 out of 5 stars. I accept its difficult to do much about the disability issue or parking but this does restrict its visiting potential.
Admission Details *taken from Skipton castle website 2007*
Skipton Castle is open daily from 10am (Sunday 12 noon), except for 25 December. Last admission is at 6pm (October - February 4pm).
Children (5-17): £3.00
Children under 5: free
Over 60s and students: £5.00
Family Ticket for two adults and up to 3 children over 5: £16.90 (saves up to £3.60).
Guides are available for pre-booked parties at no extra cost (reduced rate of £4.60 per head for adult parties of 15 or more).
Dogs are allowed within the Castle and grounds but must be kept on a lead.
~ If you want to know more - A History lesson about Skipton and the Castle. ~
Skipton is a bit of an enigma during the times before the Norman conquest. It is know to have been part of an Anglo-Saxon settlement that was based in Bolton in Craven. This was under the control of Earl Edwin, who was killed in an uprising in 1070, when Skipton passed into the hands of the King (William).
The Doomsday book has Skipton recorded, written as Scipton which is believed to be an old English word meaning sheep farm.
From 1086, Skipton became owned by Norman Robert de Romille. It was during this time it became known as The Honour of Skipton. Robert de Romille built the first stronghold here, somewhere around 1090.
The timber structure and ramparts weren't good enough to stop Scots who were rampaging the area, so it wasn't long before a Stone structure went up instead. The dates that are given for this part of the castle are 1190 to 1220, and belong to the Norman archway leading into what is known as the Conduit Court. The inner gate house is also believed to date from this period.
The Honour of Skipton then passed from the de Romilles to the Counts of Albermarle via marriage. From this, the honour passed into the Forz family.
Aveline de Forz died in 1274, and the lands of Skipton passed into the hands of the Crown. The King granted them briefly to a favourite subject, Piers Gaveston.
Edward II granted the Honour of Skipton to Robert de Clifford. Skipton becamse the Clifford's principle family residence.
The control of the de Clifford's extended right through until 1676.
Its around this time that Robert de Clifford enlarged and rebuilt parts of the castle. The outer gatehouse is believed to date from this time
The Scots had a comprehensive victory in Bannockburn in 1314. Robert de Clifford was killed during this campaign, and the Scots subsequently wrecked havoc through the North of England. Skipton Castle remained unharmed by this, but the town itself suffered severe damage.
1455-1485 The Wars of the Roses
The Cliffords were on the side of Lancaster (The Red Rose county).
The 10th Lord of Skipton, Henry Clifford - organised a rebuilding of parts of the castle. This included the living quarters and Tudor entrance to the castle.
The 11th Lord of Skipton and 1st Earl of Cumberland, also named Henry, built the Tudor Wing with it long gallery at Skipton Castle. This was done for the occasion of his son Henry Clifford's marriage to the Kings niece Lady Eleanor Brandon.
Pilgrimage of Grace.
The castle was besieged by a large force of rebels under the command of Robert Aske. Henry 1st Earl of Cumberland, remained loyal to King Henry VIII defended the castle successfully when other strongholds in the North had surrendered.
* What is known as the Shell Room inside the main gate was decorated with Shells and Corals that had been collected by George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland who was a well known nautical adventurer. This included exotic shells, volcanic rock and Jamaican coral and is one of only two surviving shell grottos of the period in England.
The Civil War :
Siege of Skipton Castle.
Oliver Cromwell finally got Skipton Castle after its surrender with colours flying. The Castle siege had lasted three years, longer than any other castle.
** In 1648, Cromwell ordered that the castle be "slighted" which meant walls and roofs were weakened.
Lady Anne Clifford repaired damage to the castle. She added a parapet with the Clifford motto on the main gate in honour of her father. She also planted the Yew tree (still there) in the Conduit Court, as well as erecting a stone tablet above the Tudor gateway.
After her death in 1676 there were no other Cliffords in direct line to assume the title.
Because of no direct line, the Honour of Skipton passed to the Earls of Thanet and then into the hands of relatives.
Lord Thanet in Skipton owning both Skipton Castle and the local limestone quarries wanted to construct a quarter mile branch to connect to the Leeds and Liverpool main canal network. The branch canal was built quickly once permission was gained. In 1785 the canal company took over the lease.
Skipton Castle was acquired by the present owners.
This is also my review of Ciao.