We’ve been castle bagging again. At Barnard Castle castle, if you see what I mean (the castle after which the town is named, if you don’t).
The best view of the castle is from down by the Tees, over which it towers, being built on a small bluff above the river. We see that view every time we cross this bridge…
Over the years, we’ve crossed this bridge many times, since it lies on the route from home in Lancashire to TBH’s ancestral pile in County Durham. But we’ve never been to the castle together (I had a look around many moons again, a lazy interlude on a long walk from Ravenglass to Lindisfarne). We did try once, but despite the fact that the castle was officially open, it was locked up and there was nobody around. “Don’t worry, he’ll have popped out for a moment”, we were told when we asked at the local Tourist Information office. No such difficulty this time.
The castle is Norman of course (aren’t they all?). It feature’s in the opening canto of Sir Walter Scott’s poem Rokeby.
The moon is in her summer glow,
But hoarse and high the breezes blow,
And, racking o’er her face, the cloud,
Varies the tincture of her shroud;
On Barnard’s towers, and Tees’s stream,
She changes as a guilty dream,
When Conscience, with remorse and fear,
Goads sleeping Fancy’s wild career.
Which was highly appropriate to our visit. West of the Pennines the weather had been fresh, but bright, sunny and spring like. As we climbed on the A66 the temperature plummeted, clouds massed ahead, and soon it was first sleeting and then snowing heavily with snow settling on the road. Invisible snow apparently. The sort which it’s quite safe to ignore when driving at 80 miles an hour: or so some people clearly thought. One or two had learned the error of their ways the hard way. When we reached Barnard Castle the sleet had become pouring rain. We took refuge in a splendid little cafe (just off the Morrison’s car-park) for lunch, and by the time we’d finished it had brightened considerably again.
Such varied hues the warder sees,
Reflected from the woodland Tees,
Then from old Baliol’s tower looks forth,
Sees the cloud mustering in the north,
Hears, upon turret-roof and wall,
By fits the plashing rain-drop fall,
Lists to the breeze’s boding sound,
And wraps his shaggy mantle round.
Baliol is presumably Bernard de Balliol after whom the castle, and hence the town is named. He built the castle, or part of the castle, or owned it during it’s heyday depending on which internet source you choose to believe. From him it eventually passed down to Richard III. If I’d done some research prior to our visit, I might have looked up above this high window and seen his boar emblem carved there. I don’t know whether it was Richard who had this window added, but if he did he knew a fine view when he saw it.
We could see a few patches of snow in the hills beyond the Tees. The riverside paths here look very inviting on the map – one for another journey.
The castle is clearly a shadow of it’s former self. When it’s decline began is another issue on which the sources I read failed to agree. What’s clear on the ground however, is that it once covered a very large area. It’s split into four sections: Inner Ward, Town Ward, Middle Ward and Outer Ward. There’s an internal moat between the Inner Ward and the rest of the castle, which I thought was rather unusual.
A small slideshow:
All good fun, and we still have Brough Castle, Bowes Castle and Raby Castle either on or close to the route, for future journeys.