“ Richmond is a market town on the River Swale in North Yorkshire, UK and is the administrative centre of the district of Richmondshire. Situated on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, it is a popular tourist destination. The town was founded in 1071 by the Norman, Alan Rufus, on lands granted to him by William the Conqueror. Richmond Castle, completed in 1086, consisted of a keep with walls encompassing the area now known as the Market Place. The prosperity of the medieval market town and centre of the Swaledale wool industry greatly increased in the late 17th and 18th centuries with the burgeoning lead mining industry in nearby Arkengarthdale. It is from this period that the town's attractive Georgian architecture originates, the most notable examples of which are to be found on Newbiggin and in Frenchgate. „
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(Note: this review is purely about Richmond Castle, but at the request of Dooyoo is being added to the general category for Richmond)
Mrs SWSt and I have been to lovely market town of Richmond in North Yorkshire a number of times since we moved to the north east. However, for a whole variety of reasons, we had never actually been into the castle. Having recently invested in English Heritage membership, we decided to put this right.
Getting to Richmond Castle could not be simpler. It sits right in the middle of Richmond town centre, so whether you are travelling by car, public transport or walking, there is easy access. Nor can you miss it, since the castle sits on the top of a hill in the centre of the town.
A Quick History Lesson
Richmond Castle was first built under Norman rule when the land was given to one of William the Conqueror's loyal followers as a reward for his support in the conquest of England. Obviously the castle has evolved significantly over the years, but there are some very old parts of the castle still standing. Interestingly, despite its strong degree of fortification and ideal defensive location, Richmond Castle has never been involved in any sort of siege or war, which has to be some sort of record for a castle that is over 1000 years old.
Before entering the castle itself (accessed via the gift shop), you'd be well advised to go upstairs first (also accessed via the gift shop!). Here there is an excellent exhibition which charts the development of the castle from its origins in the 1060s to its use during both world wars as a camp for conscientious objectors.
Although small, the exhibition is amongst the best of its kind that I have seen. It contains the usual illustrated storyboards which contain a mixture of text and pictures to keep both adults and kids entertained. However, some effort has also been made to make it more interesting. In one area, a number of small market stalls have been set up, showing the types of food which might have been available from the town's market in medieval times, together with a display of some of the various finds which have been made in the castle.
There's also a really interesting section on the use of the castle to house conscientious objectors. Normally, once you get past about 1660, I lose interest in history, but this display was fascinating and very well constructed. One aspect that was particularly interesting was an interactive TV screen which allows you to view some of the graffiti carved by these men during their detention in the castle. This includes things like their names, length of their incarceration or comments on the conditions in which they were held. Sadly, due to preservation and health and safety issues, you can no longer see the actual graffiti, which is very sensible, but a bit of a shame, and the TV screen offers you the only chance to see it.
On entering the castle, there's no doubting its centrepiece - a massive tower, still standing, which can be climbed right to the very top. A few of the rooms on the way up are still accessible, which give you some idea of what life in the tower would have been like. It's from the very top, however, that the extensive climb is rewarded, as it offers some truly stunning panoramic views of the North Yorkshire countryside and, on a good day, you can see for absolutely miles. This really gives you a sense of how crucial the positioning of the castle was from a defensive point of view - no-one could have snuck up on it, that's for sure!
You do need to bear in mind that the climb to the top of this tower is via some very steep stone steps and anyone who is unfit or disabled will not be able to visit this area. In fact, if this is the case, you might want to seriously consider whether it's worth visiting Richmond Castle as there's no doubt that the views from the tower are by far the highlight of the visit.
For the rest, there isn't actually a great deal more to see, as most of internal infrastructure of the castle has fallen down over the years. You can see the foundations and walls of a couple of additional rooms and the walls of most of the original main hall remain which helps you understand how much the castle grew during its lifetime. However, for the most part, the castle is pretty much reduced to shell formed by the outside walls; the interior is mostly an enclosed open, grassed area which contains a few piles of stone marking out the foundations of different rooms.
If you are interested in this sort of thing the original gardens (which would have been used to provide both food and herbs for medicines) have been re-created in one section of the castle. Personally, I found this a little dull, as it was essentially, just a garden like any other, but if you have an interest in plants, I'm sure it will be fascinating.
The actual castle itself is fairly low on facilities. There's a small shop (although this only sells gifts, not food), a picnic area and some slightly primitive looking portakabins providing toilets and a baby changing area. This is not really a problem, however, as the castle sits right in the centre of town, with easy access to all the shops and other facilities.
At 2011 prices, a visit to Richmond Castle will cost adults £4.60 (concessions £4.10) and children £2.80. As with so many other English Heritage properties, I do feel that this is a little over-priced. Once you have climbed the one surviving tower, there isn't actually a great deal else to see. Most of the interior of the castle has long since disappeared, so that with the exception of a few mounds of stone here and there, there is not that much else. Certainly, we spent no more than about 45 minutes in there, although since we got in for free, thanks to our English Heritage membership, we didn't mind this so much. However, had we paid almost £5 each, I think we would have felt a little cheated.
If you don't think you would be able to climb to the top of the tower, you definitely would feel ripped off as there is no doubt that this is the main attraction for the castle. Take that away and all you've really got is some old walls surrounded by a load of grass.
© Copyright SWSt 2011
The first thing you have to know of you are thinking of visiting Bolton Castle is that it is not in Bolton, Lancashire but is in the Wensleydale district of North Yorkshire. The nearest big town is Richmond.
Our history has left us a legacy of many interesting places to visit and Bolton Castle is one such place. The castle has been here since the 14th century and is very well preserved. It appears not to have been badly damaged at any time even though it was besieged during the English Civil War.
During the peak times the blacksmiths area is in work and there are a number of other costumed staff to help show how the castle worked. There are gardens to walk in which are quite informal. Limited refreshments such as tea and snacks are available and the are served in the great hall.
The castle and its staff are very friendly and it is not an attraction which is too large, over-developed or impersonal. At £4.00 for adults and £3 for children and OAPs it is reasonably priced. (Family tickets (2 adults + 2 children) are £10.)
A visit to Bolton Abbey will not take more than a few hours but it is in a beautiful part of North Yorkshire. It is a little off the beaten track but there is also Aysgarth Falls National Park nearby to spend the other half of the day. The Castle does have maps with walks available (subject to Foot and Mouth restrictions being lifted).
Ham House is a seventeenth century National Trust property in Ham, just outside Richmond. Most visitors seem to arrive by car, but you can get there by public transport, provided you don’t mind a reasonable walk from the station or bus stop. I arrived by bus, and found the walk a pleasant one, although it was a pity that they didn’t signpost a shortcut (via a public path) which would have taken a good five minutes off. INTRODUCTION As you enter the gardens of Ham House, the first thing you see is a wall topped with stone pineapples, in front of a stone statue… or do you? Actually, you don’t: they are made of Coade stone, an artificial stone whose secret is now lost. These are the first of many memorable features of the house. Start your visit to the side of the house, in the courtyard. Here, there is a ten-minute introductory video which explains the history of the building and its owners. It’s ten minutes well spent, as it helps make sense of what you see in the house itself. Most importantly, the house was built for the Knight Marshal of James I and was later in the ownership of a childhood friend of Charles I; his daughter and heir married one of Charles II’s ministers. The wealth and power of these early owners is reflected in the house’s lavish interior. THE INTERIOR Cabinets were a status symbol, and it is therefore unsurprising that a house with such influential owners should contain a number of cabinets. On certain days, particularly bank holidays, many of the cabinets are open. I was lucky enough to visit on one such day. Most have some kind of surprise: one appears to contain dozens of small drawers, but in fact most are false fronts for larger drawers; another has gilt figures, plus pillars and a tiled ‘floor’ reflected in mirrors angled to give a sense of perspective. The rooms are lushly decorated with tapestries, paintings, an
d superb plasterwork and carving. Perhaps one of the more surprising aspects of them, however, is that they are generally not as large as one might associate with a stately home. The first room you enter, the Great Hall, is simply not that great in terms of dimensions. However, a tour of the house took me well in excess of an hour, and there was plenty to see in each room. The house even has its own chapel. Also of particular note are the main staircase, elaborately carved with military motifs, the wonderful textiles in the Museum Room (the toilet set with matching gown and slippers were a particular favourite of mine), the North Drawing Room’s elaborately carved fireplace, the rich green wallhangings of the Green Closet (this is hung with miniatures whose hooks were actually sewn onto the wall coverings rather than nailed into the wall), the strong-box in the Duchess’s bedchamber, and the artwork throughout. The basement lacks the finery and visually stunning nature of the upstairs rooms, but has its own atmosphere and interest. Before entering the kitchen, examine the ‘handling collection’ of objects and see if you can work out what they are. The beer cellar holds various antique objects not currently used for display: fire grates, a wheelchair, a water heater for laundry, a huge metal pot, fragments of panelling. These have the same fascination as bric-a-brac shops: that same sort of collection of interesting but unrelated objects. There is also a final example of the luxury from upstairs: the Duchess’s Bathroom. Apparently she bathed here far more often than was customary for the time! THE GARDENS Immediately to the front and back of the house are the gardens, which are being restored to their original design. Their formal structure is best appreciated from the windows of the house, but they are also lovely to wander around. The little summer-houses, with shapes reminiscent of doveco
tes, are particular fun. There are wilderness areas, arranged in ‘compartments’ with mown grass walks between; carefully groomed shrubs creating geometric patterns; and a lawn which was being used for an Easter Egg hunt during my visit. If you would like refreshments, there is a coffee shop in the Orangery. Like many National Trust cafes, it has a delicious selection of home-made cakes. Be a little careful, however: meals (including rolls) are not served after 2.30pm, and on some days the coffee shop closes at 4pm, earlier than the house. There is also a shop, selling a range of National Trust gifts as well as books on the history of the house and the Richmond area. Next to the shop, you can look down into the Icehouse. AFER YOUR VISIT Ham House is set in meadows, and you can walk through these back to the road, or simply wander through the grounds of the property. If you walk straight on from the gates as you leave, you will reach the river in a few steps. From here, you can take a ferry across to Twickenham or walk along the towpath to Richmond Bridge. I did the latter and enjoyed the walk (about a mile) very much – the path is quite rough though, so wear appropriate footwear.
If you are looking for somewhere different to spend a weekend break you might find Richmond the ideal spot. It's not for the party loving club-goers but it is perfect if you just want peace and quiet to get rid of all that stress. Richmond is a borough of London and the River Thames runs through it linking up Hampton Court, Kew Gardens and Central London. (It's easy to go shopping for a few hours and return to the relative calm of Richmond. Richmond Bridge is, of course, the oldest bridge spanning the Thames. Richmond Hill is about the most famous landmark here. It is a quiet beauty spot where many a famous, and not so famous writer, poet and artist has wasted a few hours looking for inspiration. It is very easy to get around down here but tubes into London, Buses and even Taxis can get very busy. It is best really to take a car then you can go where you want to be without wasting time. Accomodation is generally very expensive in this area. You can expect to pay around £35 per person per night in a Guest House like St. Margarets in Twickenham (Tel: 020 8744 2990) to more than £150 per night at the Richmond Gate Hotel on Richmond Hill. This is a country club and so relaxing that it is worth paying the extra to do it in style. (Tel: 020 8940 0061) If you spend a weekend in this area, or a little longer you will find lots to do. There is Hampton Court, Kew Gardens, Richmond Theatre and Hampton Court Palace to say the least (the kids will love the maze!) Worth a trip, try it.
Richmond on Thames This has to be one of London’s most attractive boroughs. The river Thames runs for 21 miles through the middle of the borough and linking Hampton Court Palace, Richmond town centre and Kew Gardens with central London. There are acres of parkland including two Royal Parks, so it is a most beautiful area to visit. Henry V11 named Richmond after his favourite Yorkshire Earldom, and for the last 500 years it has seen a lot of changes but there is still a lot of history about. The gateway of the palace still remains on Richmond Green, and Richmond Bridge across the Thames is the oldest bridge across our Capital River. The town hall is now a museum and displays the history of Richmond, Ham, Petersham and Kew. Richmond Hill is protected by an act of Parliament quite a lovely spot to rest and meditate, it is said some of the most famous poets and artists of our time have spent many an hour here. You can see the wonderful sight of Ham House just up the river it is a marvellous Stewart Mansion and filled with rare 17th Century furniture and textiles. Well worth a visit and the grounds are quite spectacular. Richmond Park is 2500 acres of green land and here you can find herds of red and fallow deer wandering free. Kew Gardens: 300 acres of garden to explore and glass houses full of exotic flowers and shrubs. A marvellous day out for all the family. You can have a guided tour or just wander around at your own leisure. There are a few shops for souvenirs and a nice café. For further information Tel 020 8940 1171 Richmond Theatre: This building is on the Green and very spectacular especially at night when it is lit up. The interior is quite beautiful. It is famous for its legendary actors over the years, and changes its programme every week, so it is a good idea to contact them to find out what is on during your visit. Tel:020 8940 0088 Hampton Court Palace: This is a must to visit, personally I think it is a half-day trip but well worth it. It is full of royal history. It takes thirty minutes by train from London Waterloo to Hampton Court Station, or a bus from Richmond town centre takes about fifteen minutes. You can also have that extra treat and go by river launch; these can be picked up at Westminster, Richmond or Kingston. Tel: 020 8781 9500, Or you can visit their web site, www.hrp.org.uk Hotels and Guest Houses: The top of the range hotel has to be The Richmond Gate Hotel at the top of Richmond Hill. It is a four star Country House hotel with a superb restaurant, and leisure centre attached. Tel:020 8940 0061 Prices start from £120.00 per night. Saint Margaret’s GuestHouse in Twickenham is good quality accommodation at affordable prices from £35.25 per night including breakfast. Tel:020 8744 2990 Richmond is a lovely spot of our country and the riverside is so relaxing, a great choice for that weekend away to totally unwind.