Clare Castle

Visiting Clare Castle 


Can You visit Clare Castle?

Clun Castle is a ruinous, medieval castle that can still be visited today. It sits atop a hilly landscape in the sprawling countryside between England and Wales; and though not much of its infrastructure remains, the castle has a rich history that is worth exploring.


Car park is available - charged via pay stations


Free Entry


Park has open access daily from 08.30 - 17.00

Location & Access

Castle ruins are within Clare Castle Country Park

Much of the park is wheelchair accessible

Know Before You Go

Visit the Clare Castle Country Park website for current lockdown restrictions

History of Clare Castle  (Time Line)


Following the Norman conquest of England, William the Conqueror awarded a barony in Suffolk (and other lands) to Richard Fitz Gilbert, later known as Richard de Clare. To help guard his new land, Richard built Clare Castle. It's unclear exactly when construction occurred, but records suggest it began circa 1070 and was finished by 1090.

The original Clare Castle was a wooden castle overlooking two baileys on a high motte. It was the caput of the feudal barony.


A stone keep was built during the 12th century on the motte; only a small part remains. It was strengthened over the next century with three towers, a gateway, and stone walls along the top of the earth banks. A small portion of the wall that runs down from the keep can be seen.


The 6th Earl of Gloucester, Richard de Clare, founded Clare Priory. Set close to the castle, it grew to have 29 friars. 

A new shell keep is believed to have been built around this time as well. It had 1.8-meter (6-ft) thick walls supported by fourteen triangular buttresses. Also, new stone walls (estimated 6 to 9 meters or 19.69-29.53 feet tall) were erected to strengthen the inner bailey. 

During this period, a castle-guard system reinforced protection for the castle.


The de Clares had properties throughout England, but they kept most of their possessions in surrounding estates nearby Clare Castle. After his death at the Battle of Bannockburn, Gilbert de Clare, 8th Earl of Gloucester, passed the estate to his sisters. Elizabeth de Clare, newly widowed, acquired the castle and its joining estates, making her one of England's wealthiest women.


Clare Castle is well developed and serves as Elizabeth's primary residence, supporting a wealthy, luxurious lifestyle. Four stone towers were built to protect the inner bailey entrance and the keep, called Maiden's Tower, Audiostower, Oxford Tower, and Constabletower.

Elizabeth built a chamber at the castle for her own use circa 1346-7. During this period, a large water-garden existed, forming part of the east moat; some believe it had a fountain and was perhaps shaped similar to St Benet's Abbey's garden nearby in Norfolk. Orchards and vineyards encircled the property as well.


The castle was passed by marriage twice after Elizabeth de Clares's death; first to Lionel of Antwerp, son of Edward III, and then to the Mortimers of Wigmore. When inherited by Sir Edmund Mortimer in 1405, the castle was noted to be equipped and in good order.


Upon Edmund's death, the castle was passed to Richard of York, who then passed the castle to the Crown via his son, Edward IV.


Edward IV gave a large estate, which included the castle, to his mother, Dowager Duchess of York, Cecily Neville. She used the castle, though not as her main residence; Margaret Neville Scrope, Cecily's half-sister, lived in the castle until 1463 when she died. She was buried at Clare Priory. 

The castle became run-down in the hands of the Crown, and by the end of the century, the castle had been abandoned. The masonry was likely stripped for local building materials. 


The castle was in ruins, with a single remaining tower serving as a prison. Mary I had the castle reverted to her, and it was later obtained by Sir Gervase Elwes. His family retained ownership into the 19th century.


Records suggest that sometime after 1720, the inner bailey walls still standing on the south and east sides were ruined. 


The Great Eastern Railway comes to Suffolk and is constructed through Clare Castle. It cut across the inner bailey, mostly destroying it. In 1967, the railway line and station closed.


Clare Castle Country Park opens in June.


With assistance from English Heritage, the curtain wall and the keep are extensively consolidated.

Clare Castle Occupants

  • 11th-14th centuries - The de Clare family
  • Start of 15th century - Sir Edmund Mortimer
  • Early 15th century - Crown gains control via Edward IV
  • Mid 15th century - Margaret Neville Scrope (monarch controlled)
  • 16th-19th century - Castle is abandoned (still held by the monarchy)

 Images of Clare Castle 

Clare Castle & motte Clare Castle and Priory
Clare Castle & motte Clare Castle and Priory

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Clare Castle Q&A

What Type of Castle Was Clare Castle?

Clare Castle was a wooden motte and bailey on a small hill. It was enhanced with stone a few decades after it was built.

What Was the Main Use of Clare Castle?

Clare Castle was a residence of Richard Fitz Gilbert, aka Richard de Clare, and was considered the caput, or essence of the barony. At its peak, it was the manor for the wealthy Elizabeth de Clare.

When Was Clare Castle First Built?

Records show the castle was first built circa 1066, shortly after William the Conqueror arrived in England. 

How Big Was Clare Castle?

The castle was built between the Chilton Stream and the River Stour. It had a motte and bailey design featuring two baileys rather than just one, which was more common. The motte is 259 meters (850 ft) wide and 30 meters (100 ft) tall, with its flat summit 19 meters (63 ft) across. A shell keep of at least two-storeys once surmounted the motte, one of the highest in the country, and only a portion now remains with its buttresses.

The two baileys stretched north and east alongside the motte and were protected by steep palisades and deep ditches. The inner bailey, sheltered by the Chilton's curve, was linked to the outer bailey with either a drawbridge or a causeway. 

Does Any of Clare Castle Still Exist?

Today, most of the castle is destroyed, but the ruins can be seen at Clare Castle Country Park. The railway line was closed as part of the Beeching Axe, and the disused station along with the goods yard and castle grounds became the popular visiting area. The castle consists of a motte, where part of the keep stands, as well as the outer bailey earthworks. There are also pieces of the inner bailey stone wall that can be seen.

Location of Clare Castle

The castle is still located in the original estate, which is currently the center of Clare Castle Country Park.

Malting Lane, Clare Sudbury, CO10 8NW