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Visiting Etal Castle

Located in the beautiful, charming Etal village, Etal Castle is a delightful experience for the whole family. Bring a picnic to enjoy in the estate's surroundings, and make a day of it by visiting the nearby Flodden Battlefields. Don't miss the award-winning Battle of Flodden exhibition located in the old Presbyterian chapel; it outlines the dramatic story of this border castle in relation to the Anglo-Scottish warfare of its day.


Free car park available with spaces for approximately 40 cars - located 10 meters (32.81 feet) from the site entrance


  • English Heritage Members get in free
  • Adult entry w/donation - £6.50, w/o donation - £5.90
  • Child (5-17 years) w/donation - £3.90, w/o donation - £3.50
  • Concession and Family pricing available on official website
  • Group rate for 11+ includes free tour guide/coach driver


Etal Castle is usually open all year. In 2021, it is set to open on 17 May. For updates, details, or to buy tickets, click here


Location & Access

The castle is in Etal village, just 10 miles (16.09 km) south-west of Berwick

Off the A697, near Crookham; on the B6354, around 5 miles (8.05 km) east of Coldstream

Etal Village, Etal; Cornhill on Tweed, Northumberland, TD12 4TN

For train, bus, and bicycle route access, click here

After approaching through the village, you will pass along a lane to the left of the gatehouse that leads to the car park. Entrance is gained via the reception/exhibition area.

Know Before You Go

  • The site is family-friendly - pushchairs are allowed
  • Food and drink sold on-site - an award-winning tearoom and pub is located in the village
  • Facilities available include picnic tables, toilets (with baby changing stations), shops, and a garden area 

Special note: Upon reopening, English Heritage will be operating with new "safety measures" in place. You will need to book your visit in advance.

History of Etal Castle (Time Line)

The castle's history dates back to the medieval period and the Normans' efforts to secure their hold over northern England at the time. The original structure is assumed to have been a timber hall situated within a palisade-surrounded enclosure.


Etal was one of many lands comprising the Barony of Muschamp. Feudal baronies were carved out of the Northumberland estates by Henry I, who awarded the Barony of Wooler to Robert Muschamp.  


Robert Manners, a knight supporting Muschamp, gains hold of the manor around Etal. It's possible his family was granted the estate for Robert's service to the broader Barony. Almost certainly, the Manners family built a rudimentary fortification on the border site, most likely a timber hall enclosed by a wooden palisade. 


By this time, another Robert Manners (either the son or grandson of the one who held the manor in 1180) had received the estate. King Edward I knighted him, and it's very likely that a stone hall was built to replace the wooden one around this time as well. 


This was when the transition of Etal manor into Etal castle began. Sir Robert Manners was granted a license by King Edward III to crenellate the manor house. Historians suggest that Robert was prompted to seek a crenellation licence to protect the manor from both the Scottish threat and a rivalry with his neighbors, the Heron family at nearby Ford. The latter was granted their licence to crenellate a few years prior. 

The three-storey stone tower house had a fourth storey added as well as crenellations around the top. The tower house had a barmekin, or defensive enclosure, with earthwork defences.  


Sir Robert Manners dies and leaves the castle to his son, John Manners, a minor at the time. (This was a break of family tradition, as Etal passed through some six generations of Robert Manners until this time. Some speculate that John was the younger son, and his older brothers--presumably, a Robert--died before inheriting the manor.) 


Sir Edward Letham acquired wardship of the residence, at which point a survey described it as a fortalice or a weakly defended castle. Work continued under John with a gatehouse and stone curtain added. At least one tower was constructed to augment the curtain wall.


Etal Castle was mostly completed, as a survey described it as a proper castle at this time.


The castle was now in the hands of another John Manners, the original Tower builder's great-grandson. He and his family were still involved in a long-standing feud with their neighbors at Ford Castle, the Herons. 

Though the specific events are unclear, it seems that Sir William Heron, the heir to the Lord of Ford, assaulted Etal Castle. A fight ensued between the two families just outside the estate, resulting in William's death. His widow then blamed John and his son (also John) for his death. 

This led to the church investigating the incident. Despite the argument that William had died while attacking the castle and John had no direct involvement, John was made to pay compensation of 250 marks to William's widow and 500 masses for his soul. Records indicate this was a severe blow to the Manners' family wealth, and Etal Castle began to suffer from lack of upkeep here on out.  


Robert Manners, another of John's sons, inherited Etal castle. It was reported at the time as "ruined and therefore valueless." Indeed, the estate's value had fallen considerably over the years due to war, feuding, and poverty among the lands. 


Robert died in 1464 and passed Etal castle to his son (also Robert), who gave it to his son, George, upon his death in 1495. However, from his mother's side of the family, George also received the title of Baron de Ros; By the end of the 15th century, the Manners family abandoned the castle as a residence and moved closer to the royal court. The castle was left in the hands of John Collingwood, the castle's hereditary constable.


James IV of Scotland invaded England; after taking the Norham and Wark border castles, he moved against Etal Castle. John Collingwood quickly surrendered Etal in hopes of avoiding being pillaged. Nonetheless, it was still partially damaged deliberately to prevent any defensive use. 

Yet Scottish control was short-lived, as James and his army were decisively defeated at the Battle of Flodden. Etal Castle was retaken and used by Lord Dacre to secure captured Scottish artillery, protected by a small garrison.  


The castle and its buildings are reported in a royal commission as "in very great decay," and fortification repair is recommended.


In exchange for other estates, the Crown purchased the property from the Manners and put Sir John Elleker in charge of the castle. However, within two years, the Collingwoods were acting as castle constables once more. They retained this position for the rest of the century.


Despite it being notably decayed, the Deputy Warden of the East March uses the castle as his residence.


The castle is noted as in poor condition and declared uninhabitable. 


The castle is again abandoned, and yet another commissioned report states the need for Etal's repair. 


The Crowns of Scotland and England are united, and Etal Castle loses its military value. In the subsequent decades, it passed through several owners, including Robert Carr in 1636. He was made to forfeit Etal during the Wars of Three Kingdoms as he supported the Royalist cause; it was later restored to him in 1660 when Charles II took the throne. 


Etal was abandoned as a residence once more and allowed to drift into ruin thereafter.


Thomas Girtin painted the ruins of Etal Castle in watercolour, based on his visit to the site in the autumn of 1796.


The 1st Baron Joicey of Chester le Street purchased the Etal Estate (as well as Ford). He is responsible for restoring much of the castle that remained standing and transforming the village into the charming place it is today. Guardianship of the castle was given to the state in 1975, and today, it is managed by English Heritage and protected by law as a Grade I listed building and a scheduled ancient monument.

Etal Castle Occupants


Castle Occupancy/Control...

  • Mid 14th century through 15th century: The Manners family

    Early 16th century: The Collingwood family; briefly controlled by the monarchy

    Mid 16th century: The Manners family regain control, occupied by the Collingwood family

    17th century: Various private owners, occupancy assumed but unknown

    Mid 18th century: Etal Castle is ultimately abandoned

 Images of Etal Castle

Etal Castle Etal Castle
Etal Castle Etal Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Etal Castle Q&A

What Type of Castle Was Etal Castle?

Etal has been described as both a certain Masonry Castle and a certain Tower House.

When Was Etal Castle First Built?

The first stone manor was constructed in 1278, and Sir Robert Manners was given a licence to fortify his property in 1341, marking the beginning of the castle's creation. It was mostly completed by 1368, determined by a survey conducted in that year which described it as a proper castle.

What Was the Main Use of Etal Castle?

It appears as though the castle was always meant to be a residence; indeed, it began as an unfortified timber hall. However, Scottish incursions were an ever-present danger for centuries over the nearby border, and the manor was eventually granted a licence to crenellate. It was abandoned and reoccupied a few times and used briefly by Crown Officers in their border duties during the mid-16th century. 

How Big Was Etal Castle?

Etal Castle's plan includes a corner tower, a residential tower, a bailey, and a gatehouse. It forms a rectangular enclosure measuring approximately 55 by 49 meters (182 by 162 ft), and protected by a relatively thin, though well-made, stone curtain wall, generally 1.37 meters (4 feet 6 inches) thick.

In the northeast corner, the residential tower is built from sandstone and measures 5.33 by 2.39 meters (17ft 6 in by 7 ft 10 in), standing four storeys tall. A spiral staircase provided access to all floors, each comprising one small and one large chamber. The ground floor is 14 by 9.8 meters (46 by 32 ft) and initially had a vaulted ceiling. It's possible a neighbouring hall complex linked via a doorway, but any such component has since been lost. 

In the southeast corner, the gatehouse is 11 meters (36 ft) square, and a gate, portcullis, and a drawbridge originally protected the vaulted passageway, where two vaulted guardrooms sit on either side measuring 6.4 meters (21 ft) long and up to 2.03 meters (6 ft 8 in) wide. A large chamber (since lost) was on the first floor that measured 6.7 by 5.8 meters (22 by 19 ft) wide, with an ancillary room, 2.29 meters (7 ft 6 in) square.

The inside of the northwest corner tower is 4.3 by 3.2 meters (14 ft by 10 ft 6 in). It remains uncertain if a second tower was built in the southeast corner.

Does Any of Etal Castle Still Exist?

Etal Castle serves as a well-documented example of a 14th-century tower house, significant in both its standing remains' good state of preservation and the wide range of surviving ancillary buildings featured buried within its barmekin.  

The keep and the gatehouse are the two most intact structures. The large courtyard is surrounded by a curtain wall 25-feet (7.62-meter) high and 3-feet (0.91-meter) thick, of which some parts are nearly complete, others are fragmentary or missing entirely. Today, it is situated within beautiful lawns and framed with trees to provide a pleasant experience in ruin exploration. 

Location of Etal Castle

There is no indication that Etal Castle changed locations at any point in its history. What remains today sits beside the River Till along the west end of the only street that runs through Etal village in Northumberland.