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December 2010
The blog page, a place where I can record and then archive my monthly updates and what's new in our hunt for castles UK.

This months Scottish castles and a tower, are from Moray and Inverness-shire.

In November we went hunting for more castles, based in Hastings there was new stuff to be seen, had the big castles of Rochester and Canterbury, along with the smaller ones of Rye and Camber all on that must see list.
Rochester was first, taking in Sutton Valence, Thurnham and Stockbury castles on the way, the castle guards the River Medway but the town is hemmed in by Chatham and Gillingham, so it's built up all the way. But boy when you see the castle it hits you in the face like a brick, impressed you should be, it's big and bold, parked in a car park and there's a nice bit of town wall, flanked by a large round tower to see. By the cathedral, there's a small gatehouse and Gundulph Tower, plus Boley Hill which I didn't see, bit of shopping on the High Street, it's a good day out, which would have been better on a warmer day.
First of all Canterbury must be one of the finest medieval cities in Britain, its got just about everything and it's a big old place. Parked up by the castles and went to see the stone keep, which was shut for repairs, just our luck. Got some pictures but on the city side the keep is now helmed in by houses, so it was hard to get all the angles, walked back across the road and into the park to get some good views of Dane Johns mound which may go back to King William I. Then it was up on the city wall, with its fine round flanking towers for the walk into the main shopping area, lots of shops to keep the castle spotter happy while I went across town to see the Westgate, which looked a bit out of place with the double decker buses driving through its archway. We met back up by the street to the Cathedral, it's still a place of pilgrimage to visit the site of the shrine of the Archbishop Thomas Becket, who was murdered in the Cathedral in 1170. Four knights, Richard Brito, Hugh de Moreville, Reginald fitz Urse and William de Tracy overheard King Henry II rage and took seriously his shout of "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?" Not knowing the size of the city, I only got a 2 hour ticket, so we had no time to visit the Cathedral but a return visit will be very welcome and this time the keep could be open.
Winchelsea, Rye, Mote Place Iden and Camber Castle was another good day out, not far from Hastings it's a nice little group of fortifications. You hit Winchelsea first, once of defended town there are walls, ditches and 3 stone gatehouses to visit, the town inside is unfinished and has a strange feel about it. There are Martello Towers dotted around and Rye is only a couple of miles to the north, again it's a defended town and there's lots to see. Driving around to find a parking space, there's a nice bit of town wall, with the base of a square flanking tower and a super twin towered gatehouse, inside the town is even better with Ypres Tower and good shopping for the spotter. To the east and north of Rye are nice walks to very difference castle sites, at Mote Place Iden where I saw my first red squirrel, are the earthworks and moat of an early 14th century fortified manor house and at Camber Castle, are the ruin of unusually unaltered King Henry VIII artillery fort, it's all very good.
With the bad weather and an open fire down stairs, this months blog is so late that we can wish everybody, a happy Christmas and a good castle hunting New Year, Chris

Click on the pictures, for more information.

Old Wardour Wallpaper
Old Wardour Castle, OS 184/ST 939-263 Wiltshire England, is this months wallpaper.
The picture was taken in September 2008 and the view is looking south at the sides of the castle most damaged by the Civil War sieges. A nice Christmas looking tree covers this side, making it a good wallpaper for this time of the year. The site is owned by English Heritage and is open in December and January, Saturday and Sunday 10:00-4:00pm.
Aldourie Castle
Aldourie Castle, OS 26/NH 601-372 Inverness-shire Scotland.
Was originally a 15th century stone fortified laird's house, founded by the Dunbars. A mansion house of the Frasers, which consisted of a main block with a round tower on the south-west angle, was recorded here in 1626. In the mid 19th century, Sir Robert Lorimer added a west wing and absorbed the house, in the construction of a three storey Victorian Gothic Baronial mansion.
The castle is available on an exclusive use basis and also provides holiday cottage accommodation. Also visible from the A82, across Loch Ness at Lochend, so if you go on the Inverness to Drumnadrochit road and who doesn't, take a look there's a small pull in.
 Coxton Tower
Coxton Tower, OS 28/NJ 262-607 Moray Scotland.
Was originally a late 16th century stone tower house, founded by the Innes family. In 1584 after a family dispute, the newly build square tower of Coxton was torched by the Laird of Innes. Alexander Innes rebuild the tower in the early 17th century and in the south wall over the first floor entrance, is a heraldic panel dated 1644.
The site is private, only being open to the public by appointment, the view from the road is very restricted, you can just about see the roof.
Duffus Castle
Duffus Castle, OS 28/NJ 189-672 Moray Scotland.
Is a mid 12th century earthwork motte and bailey fortress, founded by Hugh de Freskyn. Completed by his son William, Duffus stands on one of the major landed fiefs granted to Anglo-Norman and Flemish immigrants, by King David I. Destroyed by the Scots in 1297 during the Wars of Independence, in the 14th century it was rebuilt in stone, possibly by Sir Reginald Cheyne or the Sutherland Lord Duffus.
The site is owned by Historic Scotland and is freely accessible in daylight hours. Well for us this was castle hunting heaven and the best castle of the hunt, top draw earthwork motte and bailey, crowned by fine stone work. Plus it's big and you can still walk across its ancient bridge over the outer ditch and up the cobbled causeway into the inner bailey, like so many have done before, a very special place.
Inverness Castle
Inverness Castle, OS 26/NH 666-451 Inverness-shire Scotland.
Was originally a 12th century earth and timber enclosure fortress, founded by King David I. In the early 14th century during the Wars of Independence, English troops under King Edward I occupied the castle, which was taken and destroyed by King Robert the Bruce in 1310. In the early 15th century Alexander, earl of Mar, founded a stone castle on the hill and in the 16th century George Gordon, earl of Huntly added a high square stone tower.
The site is freely accessible in daylight hours, funnily enough this is the most clicked Scottish castle on the site and I'd got the Drum Tower open in the summer. So a visit and a bit of shopping for the castle spotter was a must, soon found out that only the Sheriff Courthouse and County Hall are open but there's a panel giving its history on the wall. That being said there were a good number of people milling around the place and I think like us where looking for something that's not there anymore, pity.
Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle, OS 26/NH 531-286 Inverness-shire Scotland.
Was originally a 6th century fortified Pictish residence, founded by Emchath. Dominating the summit of a rocky promontory that juts into Loch Ness, it was replaced in the late 8th or early 9th century by a broch. In the mid 13th century, the Durwards founded the motte and bailey fortress, which is still defended by a wide deep ditch on the open side. During the Wars of Independence King Edward I captured the castle, which then passed back and forth between Scottish and English control until 1308.
The site is owned by Historic Scotland and is open daily, April to September 9:30-6:00pm, October 9:30-5:00pm, November to March 9:30-4:30pm. The magic of Loch Ness is here to be seen by all and you can look around a top draw castle, while you take it all in. Great visitors centre, with plenty of Nessies for sale and a theatre showing the history of the castle site, the scenery is fantastic and the loch and castle are sites to behold.

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