On our family road trip to Wiltshire last month, we had a few spare hours and were armed with a picnic. We are English Heritage members and wanted to make good use of our subscription. Looking through the English Heritage pack, we spotted a castle close to our location; Old Wardour Castle and made our way there.
A Potted History of Wardour Castle
Built in the 1390s by the 5th Lord Lovel, Old Wardour Castle sits beside a beautiful lake. The hexagonal shape of the castle is rather unusual; it is the only one of its kind in Britain but was rather fashionable in France and in other parts of the Continent in the fourteenth century. The changing fortunes of the Lovel family led to the castle’s confiscation in 1461 and was eventually purchased by the Arundels in 1544. During the English Civil war (1642 – 1651), Old Wardour castle saw its share of conflict. In 1643 the 61-year-old wife of Thomas Arundel (a Royalist) had charged his wife, Lady Blanche Arundel, with protecting the castle with a small force. The castle was subsequently besieged by Parliamentarians who inflicted much damage to the castle. After a five-day siege, Lady Blanche was forced to surrender. The Arnudels then besieged their own castle and following a long three-month siege, an accident in which gunpowder running through a drain tunnel under the castle was set alight demolishing two of the towers. The Arundel’s once again took charge of their castle. Rather than rebuild the severely damaged castle, the family eventually built a country house in the grounds known as New Wardour Castle, leaving the original castle as an ornamental feature on the family estate. A grotto was also erected in the grounds in 1792 using stones from the original castle. The final Lord Arundel passed away in 1944 and the castle is now in the care of English Heritage.
Our visit to Old Wardour Castle
Old Wardour Castle set in its picturesque grounds was the perfect spot for a family picnic.
We investigated the castle, many of the rooms are accessible and audio guides available from the entrance are useful in explaining the history of the castle and the significance of each room. My children and I climbed to the second floor where we enjoyed a magnificent view from the romantic ruins.
There are multiple winding staircases (many of which I am always too scared to climb). Kerri and Aurelia had a wonderful time exploring the higher levels of the castle whilst I took time to appreciate the elegant architecture on the lower levels. We then went on to explore the grotto.
The girls really enjoyed playing hide and seek in the grotto, with its little passageways and hidden rooms. Although Kerri was rather afraid of the spiders!
Although it was a rather cloudy and wet day, it was an excellent afternoon out. There was plenty of room for Aurelia to run around and burn off some we energy and we all had fun exploring the ruined castle as well as the grotto. There was ample parking just outside the grounds and a small shop where drinks and souvenirs could be purchased. The toilets were down some incredibly steep steps, however there was a disabled toilet at the entrance of the grounds. We spent a total of 90 minutes here ,we probably would have stayed longer had it not been raining, but overall a lovely afternoon well spent.