Brough Castle

Visiting Brough Castle

Brough Castle ruins stand on an ancient Roman Fort overlooking the Stainmore Pass in Brough, Cumbria. The site offered strategic control of this vital route around the Pennines. Today, visitors are free to roam the 12th-century ruins, the scene of Scottish raids and a devastating fire in 1521.


While parking space is limited in the village near Brough Castle, there’s a small car park that visitors may use free of charge—however, visitors should be mindful of the livestock in the area. English Heritage suggests that visitors do not park at Castle Brough Farm. Guests enter through a kissing gat


Visitors may explore Brough Castle free of charge within reasonable daylight hours when the castle is in operation. Reservations are not necessary to view the castle, even during peak times.



The castle is open daily, 10 am-5 pm from April to September, 10 am-4 pm from October to March. The castle site is closed 24-26 December and 1 January. Visitors boast that the site is best viewed on a sunny day.

Location and Access

Visitors may locate Brough Castle at:

Church Brough


CA17 4EJ

54.521798N 2.324093W

The best route to the castle is off the A685, where visitors should turn into the Church Brough and follow the heritage signs to the castle car park area in the centre of Church Brough. 

Visitors may then follow the signposted footpath that leads a short distance to the castle behind the dairy farm. Visitors will find the keep still standing near its full height and may access the rooftop for a spectacular view of the countryside. 

Know Before You Go

  • Dogs on leads are welcome. However, visitors should be aware that dogs aren’t allowed on private land by the river.
  • Children may enjoy the small play area near the castle as well as the Brough Ice Cream Parlour. 
  • Brough Castle offers toilet facilities and a shop selling gifts, snacks, and hot or cold drinks.
  • Visors may encounter livestock on the Brough Castle site.

Places To Stay Nearby

Penrith Hotel Premier Inn

Penrith Premier Inn is an excellent location for those who love exploring castles. Castle enthusiasts can take in Penrith Castle, Brougham, and Brough Castle from one convenient location as a home base. 

Located in the Lake District, the hotel offers excellent hiking trails nearby and a Penrith beacon with a spectacular view. The hotel offers free wifi, 40” (101.6 cm) flat-screen TVs, and ensuite bathrooms in their competitively priced rooms. Prices start at £50 ($68) for a standard room.


The Inn at Brough

This 5-star AA-rated hotel is based in an 18th-century coaching inn which is a perfect place to explore the historical Brough Castle. The hotel suites nature lovers, situated near the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales, and Lake District National Park.

The Inn at Brough also caters to functions of up to 100 people and offers a bar, restaurant, and function facilities. The luxury Rooms start from £135 for a standard room to £170 for a family room.


The House at Temple Sowerby B&B

The House at Temple Sowerby B&B lies between the English lake district and the Pennine Fells. The Eden area has great natural beauty, and the 1700s hotel is itself a heritage site. The House offers 12 tastefully designed bedrooms with wifi, TVs, and en suite bathrooms. A standard double room price starts at £100 ($136) and £140 ($191) for a Deluxe Double Room.


History of Castle Brough

William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, built the first Brough Castle on the north side of the ruins of a Roman Fort. The castle site was strategic in controlling trade routes and as a defence against Scottish invasion. The Cliffords used the castle as their family seat until Lady Anne Clifford passed away, and the castle fell into decline.

Time Line

-AD 79–80

The future Brough castle site was first a Roman Fort named Vertebrae, a 3-acre (1.21 ha) fortification that protected the Stainmore Pass., an important trade route. Excavations suggest that the fort was substantially fortified in stone and housed as many as 500 men


After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, William the Conqueror used harsh campaigns to sue the area, and the border areas became scenes of frequent conflict. 

William the Conqueror’s son, William Rufus, built the first Brough Castle in 1092 in the northern part of the Roman fort to take advantage of the existing earthworks. The initial castle used a stone foundation and a timber structure, and the rest of the Roman fort was turned into a palisaded bailey.

-The 1100s

Archaeologists believe that herringbone masonry in the walls suggests that stone walls were added to the inner bailey around 100. In fact, the keep visitors see today rests on the stones of an earlier tower built in this period. 


The Scottish sought to reclaim their Westmoreland territories taken by the Normans, and in 1174, King William the Lion attacked north England in revolt against the rule of Henry II.

After taking Appleby castle, he went on to attack Brough. The Scottish attackers forced the garrison into the wooden keep and forced their surrender by lighting the wooden structure. 


Henry II granted the Bough Castle to his ally Theobald de Valoines who historians credit with building the square kept in the castle ruins today. De Valois kept control of the castle from 1189 to around 1199. 

-The 1180s

King Henry II commissioned the construction of stone keep in the 1180s, using the remains of the first razed by the Scottish attack. Builders placed the square into the bailey wall to improve the defences of the castle. 


King John commissioned Thomas de Wyrkington to convert the remaining timber of the castle into stone. 


King John granted the lordship of Westmoreland, including Brough, to Robert de Vieuxpont to enhance his control over the region. Robert extended the castle to improve the defensive features adding curtain walls and improving the keep. Historians also believe that he added several domestic structures to the site. 


At Robert’s death, the castle passed to his son John under the curatorship Hubert de burgh.

When John died in the second baron’s war, his executors divided his daughters Isabel and Idonea. Roger de Clifford, sent by Henry III to guard these lands, married Isabel and became the first of the Cliffords to control the Brough castle and surrounds.


Robert Clifford, Roger and Isabel’s son, continued to control the Bough area and improve the castle defences against the Scottish invasion. When his aunt Idnoea died, he inherited the title of 1st baron of Clifford. He rebuilt the east wall and built a new hall and apartments housed in the circular tower.

Roger lost his life fighting the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn, and the Brough region around the castle and the castle itself suffered several attacks by the Scottish.


When the Scottish attacked again, Brough Castle was better defended with 15 men at arms and 20 cavalry officers. After this attack, the Cliffords further strengthened the curtain walls. 

-The 1380s 

Roger, the 5t Baron, extensively modified the castle, rebuilt the south wall, and revamped the residences, adding a first floor and a chamber block. 


Thomas Clifford and his clan supported the Lancastrian cause in the War of the Roses, and Clifford lost his life in battle supporting HenryVI.

When the Yorkist Edward IV took over the Crown, the Clifford estates lay forfeit, including Brough castle, and were granted by the Crown to the Neville family.


The 10th lord Clifford had to hide until the Tudor victory at the Battle of Bosworth when Henry Tudor VII regained the Crown and restored the confiscated lands and castle to Henry Clifford.


After an all too brief return to their castle home, the Cliffirds suffered a devastating fire that destroyed the residences during a Christmas feast at Brough Castle. The castle remained uninhabitable until Lady Anne Clifford took control of the castle and estate.


Lady Anne Clifford inherited four castles in Westmoreland: Appleby, Brough, Brougham, and pendragon. She restored Brough extensively, made the castle habitable again, and moved between the four castles as her residence. Her lengthy stays at Brough always found her occupying the top chamber of Clifford Tower, 


After extensive renovations, Brough castle succumbed once more to a devastating fire, and when she died in 1676, the castle fell into a state of ruin. 


Lady Anne’s estates passed through marriage to the Tufton earls of Thanet until 1714, when the 6th Earl decided he only needed Appleby Castle. Thomas Tufton, Lady Anne’s grandson, stripped the castle of its roofings and fittings and used it to reconstruct Appleby Castle as their primary residence. 


Historical engravings show the castle in an advanced state of disrepair, and in 1763 part of the famous Clifford's tour was plundered of its stone to build Brough Mill.


The southwest corner of the castle collapsed, and lord Hothfield granted the site to the Office of Works. They conducted work to stabilise the building, and later, the castle passed to the care of English Heritage, where today it is a listed building and scheduled monument.

Brough Brough Castle Occupants


  • 1092: William Rufus built and occupied the first motte and bailey castle on the site.
  • 1179: Theobald de Valoines occupied the castle until 1199.
  • 1203:  Robert de Vieuxpont extensively enlarged and modified Brough Castle to form his residence. John de Vieuxpont then occupied the castle, which passed to his daughter Isabel.
  • 1228: Isabel marries Roger de Clifford, and the castle becomes the family seat.
  • 1308: Robert Clifford improved the defences of the castle and built the round Clifford’s tower still in evidence today.
  • 1380: Roger Clifford, the 5th Baron, occupied the castle and improved the residences by adding a first floor and a chamber block.
  • 1461: Thomas Clifford occupied the castle until the Yorikst confiscated the castle and lands for his Lancastrian support in the War of the Roses.
  • 1461-1485: The Neville family occupied the castle until the Cliffords regained the castle and estate.
  • 1659: Lady Anne Clifford inherits Brough Castle from one of four castles left in her inheritance. She resides between the castles and spends lengthy stays in Brough Castle.

Images of Brough Castle

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Brough Castle Facts

  • In the early 1970s, archaeologists found evidence of a Roman cemetery including over 50 cremation burials a few meters east of the new road line. They believe that the new road line destroyed a more significant number of cremation burials. 
  • Excavations uncovered remains of wattle and daub and stone structures and well-preserved remains of a Roman bathhouse south of the access road to Brough Farm.
  • Brough Castle was destroyed three times in its history, first by Scottish siege in 1174, then in two fires in 1521 and 1666.
  • Around 1714, most of Brough Castle’s roofs and fittings were sold for only £155.
  • The Brough Castle was the seat of the powerful Clifford clan, an ancient Norman family. Many of the Clifford men died unnatural deaths quite often in battle.

Brough Castle Q&A

How Old Is Brough Castle?

Brough Castle stands atop the Roman Fort, whose outline is still visible today. Historians credit Willam Rufus with the original castle built in 1092. The first castle had stone foundations and a timber structure with a palisaded bailey. Robert Clifford built the stone keep in the 1300s. 

What Kind of Castle Was Brough Castle?

Canmore describes Brough Castle as a medieval castle. The ruins are a fine example of the smaller border fortresses built at the time, such as Old Man of Wick and Borve. In the tumultuous political times, Willian II built the first fortress for control of Westmoreland and Cumberland from Scotland. 

What Remains of Brough Castle?

The plundering of the castle for stone has reduced the castle ruins considerably over the centuries. There are remains of a gatehouse, once three stories high, sandstone paving, and remains of the stables. The ruined keep once had four turrets, but the upper floors and stairs have fallen to ruin. 

There are remains of a brewhouse, bakehouse, and castle kitchen in the southeast corner of the site. The most imposing part of the ruins is the Cliffords Tower, built in the 1300s and was once the residence of Lady Anne Clifford.  

Was Brough Castle the Scene of a Famous Battle?

The strategic site of Brough Castle was a defensive tactic to prevent Scottish attacks in the tumultuous border disputes. William the Lion captured Bough Castle in his campaign against the Crown in 1173. King William had the aid of Flemish mercenaries when he attacked the Brough Castle.

Christopher Gravett tells of the six brave knights who attempted to withstand the Scottish attack. Once the Scottish had penetrated the outer defences, the six knights sought refuge in the Wooden keep. 

When the Scottish troops set the structure alight, one brave knight stood atop the keep and hurled spears at the Scots, killing several. The Scots later captured the brave knight when he had to flee the encroaching fire. 

Brough Castle Location

Castle Brough ruins stand atop a long, narrow promontory with a broad natural depression that builders enhanced to form a flat bottomed ditch. The original castle site was a vital Roman settlement called Vetrtarae, which the Romans occupied until the 5th century.

The stone castle occupied the northern part of the Roman fort and re-dug some of the earlier Roman ditches for defence. 

After the Scottish razed the castle in 1174, they rebuilt it towards the end of the century. Robert Clifford built the round tower around 1300, a famous attraction at the heritage site today. Robert’s grandson built the main block with residence and hall around 1350. The castle burned down in 1521 and 1666, after which the castle remained uninhabitable. 

Other Places To Visit Near Brough Castle

Kirkby Stephen Church

The Kirkby Stephen Church is the second largest in Cumbria, and before the church stood at its site, the place was a centre of pagan worship. On the front pillar of the church, there remains the “Loki Stone,” depicting a bearded devil from around 900-1000AD. The 1170 Norman build replaced an earlier Saxon house of worship. Most of the current church was built in 1220. 

Pendragon Castle

The Pendragon Castle has long been associated with the legend of King Arthur, but historians believe that it was Ranulph de Meschines who built the castle in the early 12th century. Visitors may visit the exterior and interior of the structure and view the medieval garderobe tower, Peele tower, and the surrounding earthwork ditch. 

Shap Abbey

This beautiful ruin of a 12th-century abbey stands in a beautiful valley near River Lowther. Shap Abbey was home to the Premonstratensian order of canons. These contemplative monks were part of a monastic order known as the ‘White Canons” because of their distinctive white woollen habits.

The 15th-century tower remains and is free to visit with informative information panels describing the abbey's history. 

Bowes Castle

Bowes Castle formed part of King Henry II's campaign of fortified castles to protect his kingdom against Scottish invasion. The Honour of Richmond originally built a previous fort, but when he left no heirs, the site fell to the Crown in 1171.

The castle stands atop an earlier Roman fort called Lavatris. Only the keep remains but still stands to an imposing height. Visitors may access the ruins for free in reasonable daylight hours.