Pickering Castle, North Yorkshire.
I can think of several reasons why you’d want to visit the town of Pickering and to be honest, the castle is only one of them. I suspect that the steam trains are probably a bigger attraction, and there were certainly more people in the market on the day we visited than inside the walls of Pickering Castle.
But that’s really only a way of saying that Pickering is a lovely town, and if you visit, you’ll want to fit in more than just the castle – believe me, if you like your towns vaguely old-world, and oozing charm of the genuine rather than painted on variety, Pickering is for you.
And so to the castle itself.
There isn’t a vast amount of the stonework still standing, although it’s quite easy to imagine what was once there.
What Pickering Castle does have, is a fabulous motte. Just look at that slope. It looks as if someone started digging it, and just didn’t know when to stop. In fact, for me, the most impressive part of the castle was simply the slopes and the ditches – which I managed to almost entirely fail to photograph with any skill at all.
I love the fact that there is a tree growing out of it – it’s like a sandcastle that’s had a piece of seaweed stuck in it for no good reason.
But if you wanted to explain the principle of motte and bailey castle structure – Pickering would be a perfect example. I bet the local primary school kids get taken there all the time.
Apparently, Pickering Castle was predominantly a royal property during the medieval period, a place where kings could come to hunt and show off to their friends. Edward II is reported to have kept a horse stud in the area. Not a bad holiday home medieval style.
This is a section of the stonework in Rosamund’s Tower (I start to wonder who this Rosamund was – surely not Henry II’s bit on the side?) But I like her tower.
I’m not sure why, but it seems a little incongruous amongst all the ruins.
So, Pickering Castle – somewhere to go and sit on a slope, gaze across the moors to the distance and imagine what life was like there 800 years ago. The sort of castle that you’d take your flask and sandwiches to every week if you lived nearby.
For more information.
Visit the English Heritage website.