Six of the best: Yorkshire castles

Skipton Castle gatehouse.
Skipton Castle gatehouse.
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With the school summer holidays looming, it’s time to get your diaries out and plan some away days for the family. In the first part of our new ‘Places to go’ series, we look at a selection of the best Yorkshire castles

Helmsley Castle

An imposing sight with a wealth of history. The first castle at Helmsley was built in the early 12th Century by Walter Espec, who also founded nearby Rievaulx Abbey.

The castle faced its greatest challenge in the Civil War period when it was besieged by Oliver Cromwell’s men, who blew up the Great Keep, slicing it in half with the explosion. Now in the safer hands of English Heritage, it has recently undergone a thorough makeover, including a new visitor centre and an imaginative hands-on exhibition. The towering, shattered keep continues to fire the imagination.

Bolton Castle

Dates from the 14th-Century and is near Wensleydale. It lends its name to the nearby village of Castle Bolton. The castle is a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It has never been sold and is still in the ownership of the descendants of the Scrope family. Bolton Castle provides a huge range of exciting things to do in Wensleydale. It is one of the country’s best preserved medieval castles and dates from 1399.

Visitors can expect falconry displays, archery demonstrations and rare breed sheep and hands on crafts and games.

Ripley Castle

Just three miles north of Harrogate, this castle boasts 700 year of history with magnificent grounds, lakes, a deer park, walled gardens, hothouses and kitchen garden.

Ripley Castle is actually a country mansion and has been the home of the Ingilby family for twenty-six generations and Sir Thomas and Lady Ingilby and their five children continue the tradition. The guided tours are amusing and informative, following the lives and loves of one family for nearly 700 years and how they have been affected by events in English history.

Middleham Castle

Childhood home to Richard III, this mighty fortress dates from the 12th-Century. Over the centuries, it was expanded until, by the mid-15th Century, it became a fortified palace. It remained in royal hands until the 1700s, when it was sold and later fell into ruin.

The castle is a compact, massive structure, and though ruinous, most of the walls are intact and it’s still a great place to explore and have a picnic. The castle is in

Wensleydale in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, making it an ideal point from which to plan walks.

Richmond Castle

Staring out from its rocky outcrop over the tightly packed houses of the town below, Richmond Castle is one of the oldest Norman stone fortress in Britain and is almost 1,000 years old, having been opened in 1086.

The towering keep, over 100ft high is remarkably complete and was added in the 1170s.

Tradition has it King Arthur lies in a cavern beneath the castle and during the First World War ‘conscientious objectors’ were imprisoned in the keep - their story is told as part of the tour.

Skipton Castle

At the top of Skipton High Street stands the massive twin towers of Skipton Castle.

The Gatehouse of Skipton Castle is over 900 years old, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England and is well worth a visit at any season of the year.

Visitors can explore every corner of this impressive history-rich castle, which withstood a three-year siege during the Civil War. View the banqueting hall, kitchen, bedchamber and privy. Climb from the depths of the dungeon to the top storey of the watch tower. Relax in the picnic area.

visitors receive tour sheets.