VISIT PICKERING CASTLE WITH ENGLISH HERITAGE MEMBERSHIP
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TICKETS & PRICES
Children 5-17 Years: £3.50
Families (2 adults, up to 3 Children): £15.30
Families (1 adult, up to 3 Children): £9.40
Visiting Pickering Castle
Pickering Castle is a fine example of a motte and bailey Norman fort that later became a medieval shell castle keep. Willam I Built the castle in the 1100s, which became fortified in stone over the subsequent centuries. Today, visitors may explore the ruins and climb the keep for a spectacular view.
Visitors will find a well-signposted parking area about 75 metres (246.06 ft) from the castle entrance. The parking area has a loose gravel surface and provides allocated parking bays for disabled visitors.
Although you don't need to book in advance, English Heritage encourages visitors to book their time slot on their website. If you show up and decide to pay on the day of your visit, the fees may increase.
The following prices include a discount for booking beforehand:
- English Heritage Members: Free
- Adult Prices: £6.50 with donation, £5.90 without donation
- Child (5-17 Years): £3.90 with donation, £3.50 without donation
- Family Prices (Two Adults and up to Three Children): £16.90 with donation, £15.30 without donation
- Family prices (One Adult and up to Three Children): £10.40 with donation, £9.40 without donation
Pickering Castle is open to public view from Monday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. unless otherwise specified by English Heritage.
English Heritage gives weekly updates about any changes to visiting hours on their website portal, so be sure to check before your visit. They also advise members to book online before they come to get the best visiting rates.
Location and Access
Visitors can locate Pickering Castle 5 miles (8.04 km) southwest of Scarborough on the A170 in Pickering. Follow the brown heritage signs from the main entry into town to the small designated parking area near the castle entrance.
The nearest railway station is the Pickering station (North Yorkshire Moors Railway), about 400 metres (1312.34 ft) from the castle. Otherwise, Malton Station is 9 miles (14.48 km) away from Pickering Castle.
Pickering Castle Address
The castle ruins are particularly well preserved because they did not suffer slighting like many other castles during the English Civil war. Visitors will find an informative display in the chapel with some interactive exhibits and books for children.
Visitors may explore the ruins at their leisure and climb the castle keep for extensive views of the surrounding countryside.
It is worth your while to follow the well-made path to view the impressive curtain walls and towers. You may also descend into the castle moat, which is dry, and consider how impressive the original castle must have been in its day.
Know Before You Go
- Visitors may use the restroom facilities located in the castle car park.
- There is a Gift Shop on the castle site offering an excellent range of stock at reasonable prices.
- The caste site boasts plentiful grass grounds that are perfect for a picnic.
- Dogs are welcome on the castle grounds, but owners must keep their pets on a leash at all times.
- The castle’s ground floor is wheelchair accessible, but there are a number of steps to the upper levels.
- Visitors should wear sensible shoes as the area may be boggy in inclement weather,
- English Heritage does not permit ball playing and drone flying on the castle site.
- Visitors may climb the keep for beautiful views of the countryside.
- Visitors will find fun family activities in the chapel as well as a small exhibition space.
- English Heritage forbids ball sports and drones flying on the castle grounds.
Places To Stay Nearby
The George and Dragon Hotel
The George and Dragon is a beautifully renovated 17th-century Coaching Inn. They offer 20 charming rooms in the sleep market town of Kirkbymoorside, a great place to base your travels around the historic countryside.
The hotel is near the North York Moors National Park and neatly situated between Helsley and Pickering.
It offers authentic old-world charm with its in-house pub with local craft ales and a restaurant for tasty local fare.
The George and Dragon rates per night start from around £100 per night for a standard double room.
The iconic Black Swan has been part of the town's history as a coaching inn and has housed many famous travellers for over 300 years. Positioned as a gateway to the North York Moors, the hotel offers scenic beauty, outdoor activities, and sites of deep historical significance.
They offer an in-house restaurant with sumptuous local fare, and all 12 rooms provide wifi and ensuite bathrooms.
The rates per room start at £95 for a standard room and increase to £130 for a Deluxe room.
Premier Inn Pickering Hotel
Close to Pickering Castle, the hotel provides a variety of rooms to suit your particular requirements with WiFi and ensuite bathrooms. They also offer breakfast packages with your hotel stay.
Children can enjoy the Flamingo Land Theme Park nearby, and the inn location makes a great base to explore the history of the surrounding towns.
History of Pickering Castle
William I built Pickering Castle around 1070 after his brutal campaign to quell the local uprising against Norman rule. Under King Henry II, the castle transformed into a shell castle keep with formidable defences. However, there is little recorded history of military action at the site.
-1069/1070 (First Motte and Bailey)
William I built the original motte and bailey fort to consolidate his control over the region shortly after his "Harrying of the North Campaign.” The Harrying of the North campaign was a punitive campaign destroying farms and settlements in the area to suppress the resistance to Norman rule in the region.
William I chose a strategic site that controlled the convergence of two major trade and travel routes between Whitby and Malton and Scarborough and Northallerton. He placed the first fort on the east banks of the Pickering Beck, which provided a natural defence.
The original castle was the typical motte and bailey Norman fort, which used a timber palisade set atop a high mound or motte. Early builders surrounded this with a ditch protected by other wood palisades.
-1180 (Stone Build)
Major reconstruction began around 1180, during the reign of King Henry II, and continued in three distinct phases. The first phase replaced the wooden palisade around the inner bailey with a sturdier curtain wall and constructed the first shell keep on the motte.
The 12th Century Old Hall and the Coleman tower arose at this time. The Coleman Tower guarded the inner bailey's entry and functioned as a prison hence its moniker, “The King's Prison.”
During King John's reign, further construction took place on the castle, including strengthening the inner bailey entrance and a stairway was added to access the keep.
-1218 (Royal Fortification)
King Henry III sought to secure his northern territories after the First Barons War. He commissioned his builders to extensively rebuild and fortify the curtain walls of the inner bailey and shell keep.
-1220 (Possible Siege)
Historical records show evidence of an inquiry into the state of repairs of Pickering Castle, implying the castle may fall under siege at this time by Prince Louis of France.
The remains of a siege castle at the nearby Beacon hill may be evidence of this attack, but historians still debate the exact time of the siege castle erection on Beacon Hill.
Siege castles were hastily built forts not for an attack but to form a base of operations to oversee the structure under siege.
Roger Bigod took control of the castle after the outbreak of the second Barons war in 1264. Bigod prepared the castle for an attack, but historical records fail to clarify if Pickering Castle fell under attack.
Henry III granted Pickering Castle estates to his son Edmund Crouchback, who left the castle to his heir, Thomas.
-The Early 1300s
Thomas Earl of Lancaster challenged the Rule of Edward II, his first cousin. After the English defeat at Bannockburn, Thomas fortified Pickering against Scottish attack and formed a royal residence for him and his wife, Alice de Lacey.
Thomas built the New Hall at this time as a residence for Alice de Lacey. Costing Thomas 341 pounds, 15s, 8d, which was quite a fortune at the time.
After the rebellion against Edward II, Thomas suffered defeat at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322. Edward II improved Thomas in Pontefract castle and executed him in 1322. Pickering Castle fell forfeit to the Crown. Edward II commissioned upgrades to Pickering castle, including rebuilding the outer bailey curtain walls in stone. The new stone wall had four towers:
- Gatehouse tower
- Date Hill Tower
- Rosamund's Tower
- Mill Tower.
Edward III restores the castle and earldom to the executed Thomas's brother Henry. The castle passed on through the family line until it passed in marriage to John of Gaunt. His son Henry Bolligbrooke became the future King Henry IV. Henry then gave the castle to his son, the future Henry V.
After Henry V's succession, the castle reverted into crown hands.
A survey conducted at the time lists the structures surviving in the caste site, including the constable's hall, kitchen, and buttery. The facilities also included servant quarters and several storage buildings.
However, the castle began to decline in the mid-1500s, although it was a favourite site for royals to hunt in the neighbouring forest.
Plunderers had begun to steal the stone from the castle site, including Sir Richard Cholmley, the castle constable who robbed stone from Pickering to build his new house at Roxby.
Although the castle was not fit for war, the parliamentarians seized it and passed it into private hands under Cromwell's government.
Charles II gained the duchy and castle when the monarchy retained control in 1660. The Crown did not conduct further repairs (except the chapel). The castle lay abandoned until 1926.
The Office of Works took the castle into its care, and today English Heritage is the custodian of Pickering Castle, a scheduled monument and open to the public.
Pickering Castle Occupants
- 1069: William The Conqueror built the first motte and bailey castle out of earthwork and timber.
- 1255: Roger Bigod occupied and fortified the castle after the outbreak of the second Barons war.
- 1267: Edmund Crouchback inherited the castle and estates.
- The Early 13th Century: Thomas Earl of Lancaster inherited the castle and spent a large sum making a royal residence fitting for himself and his wife, Alice de Lacey.
- The 1500s: The castle was host to several royal visits for hunting in the nearby woods.
Images of Pickering Castle
Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package
Pickering Castle Facts
- Pickering Castle was a favourite hunting spot for the royals in the 15th century, where they hunted wild boar and deer.
- The castle design is unusual in that it has two baileys and a motte between them.
- The Coleman Tower or King's prison housed their inmates in a basement area below the first floor.
- The 14th century "New Hall' built by Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, for his wife Alice de lacey, found later use as a courthouse, and the people called the tower “Kings Hall” or “Moot Hall.”
- Legend tells of a ghostly monk who haunts the castle ruins near the castle keep.
Pickering Castle Q&A
How Big Was Pickering Castle?
Pickering Castle measures 120 by 35 m (393.70 by 114.82 ft) in the inner bailey and is flanked to the north by a steep natural slope. A 15 m (49.21 ft) diameter ditch to the south is linked to the ditch around the motte.
The outer bailey measured 185 by 25m (606.95 by 82.02 ft), protected by ditches and a 5-8 m (16.40-26.24 ft) high bank with palisades. The motte is 20 m high (65.61 ft) and has a 60 m (196.85 ft) base.
How Old Is Pickering Castle?
Pickering Castle was first a motte and bailey structure of earth and timber constructed around 1069 AD. The Baily and stone keep castle was a 13th-century rebuild of Williams I first castle. In the early 1300s, Thomas Earl of Lancaster built a new hall to house his wife, later becoming a courthouse.
What Kind of Castle Is Pickering Castle?
Pickering is an early motte and bailey castle that developed into a vital example of a medieval shell keep castle. William I strategically placed the castle to take advantage of the significant travelling routes and prevent local uprisings.
After the reign of Henry VIII, Pickering Castle lost most of its military use and instead became a judicial seat holding court in Moot Hall up until the post-medieval period.
Location of Pickering Castle
Pickering castle stands on a limestone outcropping that once overlooked an essential trade and travel route in the area. William I chose a site atop the raised banks of Pickering Beck to allow natural defences from attack.
William chose the location to consolidate his power after the local uprisings against his Norman rule, which he suppressed with a brutal campaign called the “Harrying of the North.”
Although the castle was extensively rebuilt from its former earth and timber construction in the subsequent years, little changed from the position of the original motte and bailey fort.
The 12th and 13th century stone rebuild followed a similar pattern to the early castle structure and incorporated the initial build into the later walls.
Other Places To Visit Near Pickering Castle
Helmsley Castle is an imposing 12th-century monument standing on the south edge of the North York Moors National Park. Walter Espec built the stone castle atop an earlier BNorman motte and bailey fortress around 1120 AD.
He made the castle his home during the Anarchy when King Stephen and Queen Maud fought for the Crown.
Helmsley evolved over the 900 years of its history, from a medieval stronghold to a civil war fort to a picaresque Victorian ruin.
English Heritage allows visitors for a fee and provides informative audio tours and fun interactive activities for the whole family to enjoy.
Visitors will find the historic Pickering Church just a short stroll away from the castle. The church is famous for its iconic medieval wall paintings and one of the best surviving medieval murals in the country.
The church stands atop an earlier Saxon site of worship, of which the font and cross shaft remains. The Church also has a 13th-century effigy of Sir Willaim Bruce, a crusader laid out in armour beneath the pulpit.
St Hilda church is a fascinating structure, with carved stone fragments dating back to the 8th century. The small church with its high walls dates back to around 1050, although the chancel arches date to the 13th century.
Historians believe the arch response is Norman or earlier, and there are several spiral carvings and two Scandinavian hogs back grave ends in view.
- English Heritage UK: Pickering Castle
- English Heritage UK: PRICES AND OPENING TIMES FOR PICKERING CASTLE
- Historic England UK: Pickering Castle: 11th-century motte and bailey castle and 13th-century shell keep castle
- Historic England UK: Beacon Hill ringwork siege castle and Royal Observer Corps post
- Wikipedia: Pickering Castle
- Castles Fort Battles UK: Pickering Castle
- Pickering Church: St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Pickering
- Friends of St Hilda's UK: St Hilda's Church
- English Heritage UK: Helmsley Castle