East Tower Helmsley Castle

Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire


Helmsley Castle sports some impressive ditch defences. I always think that for them to remain, even if they’ve had serious conservation over the centuries, is one huge tribute to the people who got their hands dirty and probably put their backs out putting them there in the first place. Which is why I have to admit I feel very guilty at managing to visit, walk the perimeter embankment and still fail completely to come home with any photographs that capture the scale of the ditches at Helmsley.

Fortunately, the nice people at English Heritage have some excellent illustrations of the castle as it may have looked and even a scale model (although you have to imagine the real castle without giant fir cones…).


model helmsley castle

So this is what it looked like during the Middle Ages – see what I mean about the defences…

Today the layout remains, but much of the building is gone.

However, two important buildings are still very much in evidence. The East Tower which pretty well dominates the site, and a Chamber Block which owes its current looks to a Tudor make-over.

Now I have to apologise and say that I may have got it wrong, but I thought I heard the audio guide describe the East Tower as ‘partially ruined’. 

East Tower Helmsley Castle

Helmsley Castle’s East Tower


The inside of the East Tower

As I say , I might have misheard, but it had me creased-up with laughter. If that is what is referred to as ‘partially ruined’, I want to know what totally ruined looks like.

Anyway, you can appreciate how impressive a structure it was and remains in its own way even now. The crows certainly loved it – a fabulous bird’s-eye view for them.

The Chamber Block was an unexpected find. Although it contains various display items, it doesn’t detract from giving the visitor an excellent feel for what it was like in Tudor times.

The Chamber Block

The Chamber Block


The artistic gene in me was fascinated by the whitewashed plaster decorations on the ceiling and walls.

plaster helmsley castleIMAG0971

So Helmsley Castle manages to give you a castle and a Tudor manor all for the price of one.

If you visit, I recommend a good wander around the ditches – from lower down, you really feel the full force of how intimidating these places must have been to our medieval ancestors. And remember…TAKE PHOTOS!




For more information

Here is English Heritage’s visitor information link for Helmsley Castle.

Lots of interesting information at Wiki – and it’s worth mentioning that the town is gorgeous, so if you’re visiting, try to plan it better than we did and leave yourself plenty of time for tea and cake in the town before you go home.

Not enough pictures of Helmsley Castle for you here? Then you need to see what the excellent guys at Great Castles have to offer.


2 thoughts on “Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire

  1. B Speaks says:

    Hi! I was looking on a family tree site and found out that I’m actually a direct descendant of the guy (William l’Espec) who originally built this (well, back when it was made of wood). I’m really hoping to visit one day!

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