Three Castles in a day – oh joy!

A couple of weeks ago, this history junkie had the pleasure of visiting Goodrich, Skenfrith and Grosmont Castles, all in one day – to say that I was in my element would be putting it mildly…

Having grown up in Worcestershire, and with parents willing to drive me all over Herefordshire and the Welsh Marches, my love of ruined castles started at an early age. And the castles of this area are, without doubt, the ones I love most.

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Skenfrith Castle

As long as I can remember, I’ve been entranced by their strong, dominating presence – even those where little now remains, have left an imprint on our imaginations of their once powerful influence.

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Grosmont Castle

The castles of this region were built primarily to dominate – to oppress, to make it clear to the local population, who was now in charge. Some were later adapted for more stately living, but in the main they are business-like buildings, sending out a message that is still obvious today, nearly a thousand years since they were introduced by the Norman invaders of the eleventh century.

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Goodrich Castle

Every time I see one of the castles of the Marches, I debate with myself, why is it that as someone whose natural tendency is to side with the Anglo-Saxons, gets such a thrill from castles, which would surely have been viewed as an unparalleled outrage by the Welsh and Anglo-Saxon population when they were built. I’ve never really found the answer, – perhaps I’m really of Norman descent?  All I can say is, whenever I walk up to one of these brooding beasts, I break out into a massive smile… 

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Windows – interior tower – Grosmont Castle

All three of the castles I visited recently are early examples – castles built to defend and dominate their surrounding area – the Monnow valley – which was an important route between Hereford and Monmouth. Skenfrith and Grosmont, together with White Castle, are known as the Three Castles, and were mainly under the responsibility of the same governor, for most of their active history. But while Skenfrith and Grosmont were largely abandoned and left to ruin by the sixteenth century, Goodrich, which is significantly larger, went on to see action in the Civil War.

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Courtyard interior Goodrich Castle

I’m not going to go into the individual histories of each castle here – there are excellent Wiki pages with links at the bottom of this post if you want to learn more about them.

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Courtyard – Grosmont Castle

The aspect which captivates me, is being able to recreate in my mind the nature of the buildings and to try to put myself in the shoes of the people who actually used them all those centuries ago. I like to look out of the arrow slits or the deep window seats and wonder who else sat there – what were they doing? What were they looking for? Imagine being on watch on the battlements, imagine the sights, sounds and smells of life within those massive stone walls.

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So much stone! – Grosmont Castle

For me, the whole romance of these places is the closeness of the past – I put my hand on the stone as I walk up the spiral staircase, and immediately think about all those other hands that touched exactly that spot…

And I feel transported.

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Skenfrith Castle

Easy isn’t it, to see why they inspire poets, playwrights and painters…

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For more information…

Skenfrith Castle – history

Grosmont Castle – history

Goodrich Castle – history

Skenfrith and Grosmont are free to visit at any reasonable time. There is a charge at Goodrich. The cafe at Goodrich is excellent – try the cheese scones!



Happy 2015…

Well what a strange few months I’ve been having. My almost total absence – again – from Mists of Time probably tells you that I’m still not getting out and about for any indulgent history trips. I’m sure all these things are cyclical and that eventually the opportunities to go out exploring will return, but for now, it’s a bit bleak on the field trips front.


Still, if I can’t get about too much, at least that gives me time to make a few more changes around the website. The main thing that I’d really like to do, which so far I’m failing miserably at, is to find a way to convert previous posts to pages. The hassle with trying to locate old posts is frustrating and I’d like to make it easier to find posts about specific locations other than using the search widget. To date, it seems that the only way a techno-newbie like me is going to do it, is to laboriously copy and past – which I might do if the weather deteriorates, but to be honest, I’d almost rather pull out my own fingernails.

So, what I might opt for instead, is to just set up future posts about specific places as pages – which over time will be better – in my opinion, but will obviously take some time to build up – perhaps a very long time at current rates of visits!

I’ve changed theme again, to use one which I hope will eventually make it a whole lot easier to navigate – thanks to all the lovely people at WordPress for giving us a supply of fabulous themes – a bit of New Year tidying.

And so after all that – I thought I’d just mention that thanks to the special offers on the Kindle over Christmas and also thanks to a couple of lucky shopping trips to our local Oxfam, I have at least stocked up on several history books which I hope will keep me entertained until I get out again. The list is…

  • The Hollow Crown – Dan Jones (The Wars of the Roses)
  • Blazing Star – Alexander Larman (John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester)
  • The Knight Who Saved England – Richard Brooks (William Marshall)
  • Joan of Arc – Helen Castor (self-explanatory)
  • The Winter King – Thomas Penn (Henry VII)


I hope you’re all managing to have plenty of adventures in history. My one resolution (I’m not really a resolution sort of girl, but this is my exception), is to get back to finding the time to read and enjoy my favourite history bloggers in 2015 – things have been so up in the air and distracting recently, that I’ve only been able to keep a passing eye on  your fantastic posts. I’ve missed it – this year I’m going to get back in the swing.

So, until the next time – Happy New Year, here’s to a history full 2015.

Oh, and if you can tell where all the photos in this post were taken, you’ll know which castle is the next to feature here…


Back soon!