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Now, THIS is a castle

October 17, 2011

We are in the middle of half term at the moment, which means limited time for mummy to sit mooning over her laptop. Owing to a maddening lack of communication quirk in the timetables of our two schools, we have one son at home for the two week ‘tattie holidays’ followed by the other at home for a week’s half-term. They overlap by only two days. For three weeks, therefore, I am having fun doing family things, while blogging falls by the wayside a bit.

At the weekend just past, we were staying with relatives in Cumbria, just over the border into England. The men were shooting, so the boys and I managed to fit in our first ever trip to Carlisle Castle. There has been some kind of fort or castle hereabouts since Roman times, built to guard the debatable lands of the Anglo-Scottish border. What you see today is based around the heavy sandstone keep built by King David I of Scotland in the twelfth century. There are castles and castles: our family home could hardly be more different from this massive, imposing fortress.

The keep and outer wall of Carlisle Castle, built in Norman 'motte and bailey' style

Being in such a significant geographical position, Carlisle Castle has seen plenty of action in its time. As you approach the gatehouse, crossing the bridge over the vast (although now dry) moat, you are left in no doubt that this is a seat of power, more than capable of keeping enemies out – and prisoners in.

No messin' : the portcullis over the main gateway

I found it a rather oppressive place, especially once we had seen the dungeons where Jacobite prisoners were crammed after Culloden in 1746 – the end of the rebellions which had started with Killiecrankie in 1689 – before being dragged out to be hanged, drawn and quartered before the sickened eyes of the people of Carlisle. For small boys, on the other hand, it was a tremendous playground, full of secret passages and hidden stairways to discover, moats and cobbled courtyards to run about in, inspired all the while by tales of the Romans, Normans, Roundheads and Jacobites whose histories have overlaid each other in these stones. I thoroughly recommend a visit. These days, the natives are very welcoming – and they even let you out again.

When I grow up, I'm going to be the Warden of Carlisle Castle


There’s another Romano-medieval English city to be found in An introduction to York.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. hmunro permalink
    October 17, 2011 5:42 pm

    Now, THAT’S a porticullis! It rather gave me the willies to think that you must have been standing under all those sharp, pointy things to take the photo.

    What a privilege to get to spend time in this magnificent castle, though. The history is palpable just through your descriptions and wonderful photos.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 17, 2011 6:30 pm

      Yes, the portcullis did rather freak me out. I shooed the boys under it as fast as I could! They are already asking to go back to this castle one day, though.

  2. October 18, 2011 1:05 am

    So they each got to be an “only child” for a bit? This looks like a great castle for little boys!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 18, 2011 12:06 pm

      It’s fab, isn’t it. Yes, there’s something to be said for each having time at home without the other, with the (intermittent) full attention of mum. Even better that we are all able to get together at weekends for adventures like this.


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