Touring Beeston Castle: An Inside Look at These 13th Century Ruins
Beeston Castle may stand in ruins today, but thousands of visitors venture up to its remains each year to take in the spectacular views and catch a glimpse of what the castle, built in the 1200s, may have looked like all those years ago. Visitors can tour the ruins and the grounds all throughout the year, with opening times varying depending on the season.
For families and those interested in the castle’s history, the “Castle of the Rock” museum is a must-see, and the exhibition kicks off the tour of the castle ruins. The exhibition takes you on a 4,000-year journey through the history of the castle. From the Bronze Age to the time when the castle was in all its glory and its eventual demise during the Civil War, the program offers a valuable educational experience.
Touring the Ruins
The journey starts at the gatehouse, which was built in the 18th century, at the base of the hill. The gatehouse now serves as the ticket office, and an extension was added in 1984, which blends beautifully into the original structure. The walk up to the top of the hill is quite steep, but the experience is memorable, with impressive stone walls encircling the area. The walk may be a challenge for those with mobility issues.
Following the trail up the hillside, you’ll reach the castle itself, protected by a ditch carved into solid rock. A modern footbridge, built in the 1970s, allows you to safely cross the ditch and head towards to the towering gateway that leads to the castle courtyard.
While much of the original castle now stands in ruins, the outer and inner curtain walls are believed to be from the original structure. The site is also home to one of the deepest wells in England, where Richard II is believed to have buried his fortune: 10,000 precious objects and 10,000 marks in gold coin. Climbing up to the highest point on the hill, you’ll find the inner ward. The inner ward is also protected by thick walls.
Interestingly, no evidence of major buildings, such as kitchens or a great hall, have been discovered in the inner ward. Historians believe that due to its rocky and uneven interior, the castle was likely never finished. Ruins of towers and the curtain wall paint an accurate picture of what the castle may have looked like in its prime. If touring between the spring and autumn, be on the lookout for wallflowers, which offer bright pops of yellow colour and contrast against the vivid green landscape below.
Inner and Outer Gatehouse
If you can pull yourself away from the views for a moment, it’s worth the short walk to venture through the inner gatehouse. While not much is left of the structure, walls and a few passages remain. Peering out into the arched doorway, you catch a glimpse of the beautiful countryside below. For a moment, you may forget you’re in the 21st century.
Not much remains of the outer gatehouse, but it is believed to be part of the original castle built by Earl Ranulf in the 1220s. Historians believe the outer gatehouse was likely twice the height it is today. A portion of the outer gatehouse was destroyed in the 18th century to make the crag more accessible for quarrying.
The ditch, carved out of rock, separates the inner and outer wards of the castle. Back in the 13th century, the ditch would have likely been crossed via a wooden bridge. Today, a solid bridge helps visitors traverse the steep ditch.
While venturing through the ruins, you’re sure to come across the entrances to the castle’s caves. Carved into the hill and surrounded by grass and trees, the cave entrances look like something out of a fairytale. Unfortunately, the entrances are gated off and no visitors are allowed inside. Rumor has it, the caves were once open, allowing visitors to continue their adventure underground.
Taking in the Views
While visitors come from far and wide to step back into history at these ancient castle ruins, they also come for the unforgettable views. Beeston’s views are said to be one of the most beautiful of all English castles. At its highest point, visitors can see as far as the Pennines and Welsh mountains. Views of nearby castles can be seen, too, including Peckforton, now a hotel and wedding venue.
There’s much to see and explore along the ruins, with a rock moat and dramatic views at every turn. On a clear day, the views stretch on for what looks like forever. The castle grounds are vast and open, leaving lots of opportunities for picnicking, relaxing and soaking up the scenery. Aside from the grassy areas, which are lovely for picnicking, there are also picnic benches on the castle grounds that visitors can enjoy.