Chirk Castle (pics)

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Clwyd, Wales, was founded about 1295 as a stronghold for Edward I’s army captain Roger Mortimer, thus becoming one of the great fortresses of Edward’s reign; it is of rectangular, concentric form with walls fifteen feet thick and a massive drum tower at each corner; since 1595 the home of the Myddelton family; conveyed to the National Trust in 1981

Burleigh House

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Fife, Scotland, ruins of a 15th century keep with a courtyard wall with a gate and a corner tower; once a stronghold of the Balfours of Burleigh, and visited several times by James VI.

Alnwick Castle


Dating from the 11th century, the timber motte castle at Alnwick was reconstructed of stone during the early part of the 12th century. However, it was a further 200 years before the castle began to take on the resplendent appearance that it is now such a familiar sight.

When Henry Percy bought Alnwick Castle in 1309, he and his son set about shaping it into a dominant stronghold by strengthening the curtain walls, creating numerous flanking towers, adding gatehouses to both the inner and outer baileys, as well as constructing a barbican for further fortification.

Alnwick Castle – Looking towards the Dining Room across the inner bailey with Constable’s Tower to the right The Wars of the Roses and the Civil War took their toll on Alnwick Castle, and some 400 years later it had fallen into a state of decay. However, during the 18th century the abandoned castle was transformed into a comfortable country mansion under the guidance of Robert Adam, renowned for his Gothic architecture. Vast amounts of restoration work were carried out, even to the extent of the keep being reduced to foundation level and rebuilt in places. Some buildings were completely remodelled or replaced, and new ones were added. New landscapes were created and the site of the medieval garderobes was rebuilt as a gateway from the castle into the new gardens.

alnwick2Internally, most of Adam’s work was superseded in the late 19th century when the 4th Duke of Northumberland had palatial interiors created in the fashionable classical Italian designs. The medieval great hall was retained as the principal dining room. In the Prudhoe Tower, a luxurious library housing some 16,000 volumes of work occupies the whole of one floor. In fact, the entire castle is a showpiece of Victorian extravagance – from its fine art collections and gilded furniture, to its lavish mosaic floors and stucco ceilings.

Alnwick Castle can justly be described as gloriously majestic. Its impressive strength and imposing appearance are offset by the intricate attention to detail as seen in the decorative archways, shields and stone-carved figures that adorn the walls, gateways and battlements.

Aberystwyth Castle

aberystwyth_castleIn the marvellous sweep of Cardigan Bay stand the ruins of one of Edward I’s late 13th century castles. Of the seven major English strongholds he established in Wales, Aberystwyth has fared least favourably in the survival stakes. Now little more than a few fragmented chunks of masonry displayed in a well-kept public park, the castle has lost its imposing hold on the town.

At one time guarded by one of the largest Iron Age forts in West Wales, Aberystwyth has been a place of strategic importance throughout history. The first Norman castle, built on a site further south, was begun by Gilbert de Clare but this has long since disappeared, having been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times during 200 years of political and family feuding. When Edward I begun his castle in 1277, it was a magnificent lozenge-plan concentric building of two stone curtain enclosures, flanked by sturdy round towers. Each curtain had a twin-towered gatehouse, the smaller outer gate leading to a barbican, and the inner gatehouse a substantial fortress with domestic accommodation. Excavations have revealed that a great hall stretched from this gatehouse to the south tower of the inner curtain, some 60ft long (18.3m) and 42ft wide (12.8m).

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