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The Present Past: Whittington Castle

This post is full of images. Whittington Castle changed hands through battle many times in the Medieval period; its place near the border being highly sought after by both English and Welsh alike. Perhaps the most notable of keepers, the Fitwaryns, legend has it, kept the Holy Grail hidden there.

There isn’t all that much to say about Whittington Castle in its present state. Whilst the site is full of history, few walls remain; suffice to say a lot of my visit comprised of guesswork and the sorts of dreams history-minded tourists are predisposed to have, fancying ourselves sitting at windows and at table and what have you. Suffice to say it has taken me this long to write about the place because part of me believes an image of arms held out and ‘this is it’ written below it would sum up the situation quite well.

Whittington Castle as it now stands is situated by a main road, the bridge and entrance facing the road almost as though it were just another residence. The gatehouse is actually Victorian, one of those faux-historical Victorian constructions, and the only part that remains intact (even if the very fact of its Victorianhood makes such a fact less awe-inspiring). Other than the gatehouse there is a barn-like building, newer, that houses the shop (here I must thank the assistant who ran after me when I left my camera there), a tearoom, a couple of crumbling towers, and patches of stonework. You get a sense of where rooms were, but by and large you have to use your imagination, especially as what’s left presents a false impression – the castle would have been larger than it appears.

Modernity, presumably the trust that looks after the castle, has placed a bridge across the moat and a small gazebo overlooking a field/garden. Given that it is free to visit and that the walls have crumbled, you can approach the castle from a few places, namely the car park and the bridge. If approaching from the left, you can get a sense of where the left side of the stone buildings would have been. (Somehow viewing the castle from the left makes it seem bigger – I was a little silly and didn’t think to take a photograph from this angle but there are plenty online.)

I believe the room at the top of the gatehouse is used for parties of some sort but the castle as a whole is taken over once a year by a re-enactment society, Historia Normannis, that focuses on the many battles that took place. I wasn’t there at that time but I imagine such an event would make the castle seem greater than it now does. As with many historical sites, ghost stories abound. There are many, it seems, which surely fits the situation.

Where it is hard to assume which rooms were which there is positive side to visiting for visiting’s sake – the landscape. It is by a road and you will never escape that, but the moat is lovely, the field a nice place for a walk, and it is incredibly quiet on account of Whittington being so small.

Can I recommend it? Tough question. Is it worth a trip for the average tourist, especially someone with little time in England? No, it is not; you would likely feel you’d wasted your time. Is it worth a trip if you are really into Medieval history? Yes, though you would want to make it part of a day because it really only takes a few minutes to view everything unless you are intent on walking through every part. It’s difficult – this place is full of history but that history has long gone.

The rest of my photos. I’m aware this is messy!

Where are you planning to visit this year (or, if you live in the southern hemisphere, where did you go this summer)?



April 6, 2015, 11:27 am

I have never heard of this castle. There is a place called Whittington near me but sadly no castle there. Thank you for sharing your lovely photos again. My friend and I plan on doing a National Trust visit soon but we haven’t settled on where to yet.


April 7, 2015, 9:04 am

We stopped at this castle once on the way to North Wales – and I was a bit surprised how much was there, certainly enough to make a good break in the journey for my 5/6 year old. It was autumn though and we didn’t have such a lovely day as you did. Off to Wales again soon but further south, possibly stopping at Powis Castle or Attingham Park on the way – both fit nicely around the half-way point of the trip.


April 8, 2015, 3:49 pm

This is a castle I will probably never detour to see in real life, so I like seeing your photos!



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