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Visiting a Castle

Text copyright © by Lise Hull
Photographs Copyright © by Jeffrey L. Thomas

Above: Denbigh Castle in northeast Wales viewed from a distance.

Every castle you explore will provide you with a new and fascinating experience: each castle has a unique character of its own, owing to the extent of its preservation (whether it is still in livable condition or completely ruinous), its history, its location and its singular architecture. Not only do they offer the chance to climb spiraling stairways to the tops of the battlements, castles offer secretive passageways, unusual decoration, breathtakingly spectacular views, and the chance to relive the past.

While some castles are freely accessible, many are open to the public through the efforts of a castle trust or preservation agency. Expect to spend at least one or two hours. In most cases, you will be allowed to roam freely, so be sure to pick up a guidebook with a detailed map of the site - they are great aids in clarifying the confusion you may feel and are also excellent keepsakes. It is your choice: some castles may entice you into an extensive search through each and every corner (it was my goal at many castles to go everywhere I could, to climb every step to the top of every tower!); others are viewable without too much physical labor. Some castles offer guided tours, particularly those that are privately owned or lived-in, or have a wealth of treasures on display. (You may even run into the Lord of the Manor showing the electrician around!) Some castles offer audio tours. Take advantage of these; you walk around at your own pace and see as little or as much as you like, without an escort to move you along. Mostly, you will be left to your own devices, to touch each rock, to amble through every room, to wind up every staircase, to examine the overall design of the place (exterior and interior), and to experience the bird's-eye view of an architect's dream.

When travelling through Britain, become a member of one of the heritage societies and receive free entry and/or discounts to all monuments in their care. English Heritage, CADW: Welsh Historic Monuments, and Historic Scotland offer reciprocal programs of membership discounts at each other's sites. The National Trust also offers membership discounts, but maintains fewer castles than the others listed above. While saving yourself some money, you will also be making a great contribution to the preservation of these timeless, special places. Both English Heritage and the National Trust have branches here in the U.S. for individuals interested in receiving their literature and membership discounts and it is easy to join while in Britain.

Many castles have excellent gift shops (for the serious castle explorer and the general public), as well as wonderful cafes or restaurants for sampling the local cuisine. Castles are grand places to spend your day - and your life!


Below: Ewloe Castle near Flint in northeast Wales.


Lise Hull owns and operates Castles of Britain, an information and research web site providing a wide range of information on the castles of Britain. Mrs. Hull has a Masters Degree in Historic Preservation, and has visited well over 160 castles in Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland. She welcomes any and all questions concerning the castles of Britain, and invites people to visit her web site or contact her directly via e-mail at: castlesu@aol.com.


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