Day out IOW: Carisbrooke Castle

28 Jun

So far, my favorite castle visit has to be Cardiff Castle in Wales.  But give me a bit of sunshine and some more time to look around, and Carisbrooke makes my top ten.


Why should you know about Carisbrooke Castle?  When anyone mentions it, just nod your head (or shake it sadly) and say “Ah, yes, the martyr king, poor Charles I.”  They’ll all think you’re brilliant, and you won’t have to go to the trouble of reading the trial proceedings that decided his death (like I did).  For good measure, you can add in a fist shake and a growling “Cromwell!!” like a good royalist cavalier.

Of course, like any castle worth its garrison, royalty and nobility have been hanging out here for ages. Queen Victoria’s daughter Beatrice lived here with her husband — so she could be close to her mother who was established just a bit down the island at Osborne House.  (Queen Victoria refused permission for her youngest daughter to marry unless she promised to stay in England.  It’s freaky to be the Queen.)  When we visited during the Jubilee celebrations, there was a savenger hunt through the castle ground to find all the kings and queens of England with connections to the castle — represented with these cute cartoon posters.

From Princess Beatrice’s garden, where she reported enjoyed a nice stroll, sometimes with her mum.

(Do I need to mention my feelings about heights again?  The walk about the castle walls was an effort for me, but paid off.)  Here is a view from the top of the Norman motte-and-bailey castle, built here in about 1100, after the Norman invasion.  Carisbrooke has remained a castle with a primary focus on the defense of the Isle of Wight, access to the Solent, and southern England.

Walking the walls.  Don’t make the mistake I did, of telling your children in a very serious voice, that the green over there to the left is the parade field for the soldiers to practice.  It was the bowling green built for the entertainment of Charles I when he was incarcerated here.  It’s good to be the King in jail.  Until they chop off your head, of course.

Another view from the top of the Norman tower, toward the remains of the medieval and tudor hall.  Did you know the richest women in thirteenth-century England was Countess Isabella de Fortibus, who lived here at Carisbrooke?  Now you do.  It’s good to be the Countess.

Keep walking.  Every time we walk a castle wall, I wonder how anyone who had any vision problems survived their medieval life.  Then I remember that they didn’t.  Thank god for optometry.

View past the formidable gatehouse, which has a cozy interior reminiscent of the Victorian version of MTV Cribs.

Maybe ‘cozy’ isn’t the right word for a 900 year old gatehouse, even if it was restored and renovated in the 19th century.

View from the wall over Beatrice’s garden.  On the day of our visit, the tents held living-history actors playing the lute (!!) and discussing Tudor weaponry and war.  I had a slightly nerve-wracking discussion with an apparent partisan of Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III.  I really really didn’t want to ask him about the princes in the tower, but it was like one of those inappropriate questions you just can’t help wanting to ask.  We moved along.

What a view this would be, when the Isle of Wight is not swollen with rain and mist.  I don’t know these purple flowers, but they were everywhere, bringing a bit of cheer.

This is Jack, showing us how the medieval well house was used to keep the castle defensible.  (In 1136 the well in the keep failed, and the castle was forced to surrender to a seige.  So embarassing.)  Carisbrooke is famous for its donkeys, who walk the wheel to pull water from the new well dug in the twelfth century. The current well house and treadwheel were built in the sixteenth century — although water is now supplied by pipe and the donkeys work for only a few minutes a day giving short demonstrations.   While we watched, Jack hopped off the wheel and wandered into the crowd of children looking for pats and snacks.

The bedroom of Charles I during his imprisonment at the Castle.  In a move of questionable taste, Princess Beatrice turned his chamber of imprisonment into her dinning room.  For visitors now, it is furnished in a style close to its appearance during Charles’ enforced visit.

A little known sadness of history.  Charles I’s daughter Elizabeth was forcibly brought to Carisbrooke, became ill on the boat ride over, and died at Carisbrooke. Read more about her sad story.

The Chapel of St. Nicholas within the castle complex dates to 1904, but a chapel dedicated to this saint has been here since Norman times.  Today the Chapel is a parish church and the church commemorates the war dead of the Isle of Wight, as well as the ‘martyr king’ Charles I.

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day …

Stairs back up to the walls and the gatehouse.  And more of those purple flowers.

Beatrice’s initials still grace the gates.

The exterior fortifications are extensive and well-preserved, but as the rain began to pour down we didn’t have the spirit to explore them.  But what a great day out! Entry to Carisbrooke Castle is free to English Heritage members, has plentiful parking, and if you are on the Isle of Wight it is an easy drive from anywhere.  Do you see some wall walking in your future?


12 Responses to “Day out IOW: Carisbrooke Castle”

  1. Zazamataz June 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    I really enjoy your pictorial stories of your visits! I almost feel as if I’m there with you, listening to you describe your walks and reactions. Plus you generally trigger memories of some place I’ve been – although they have nothing to do with the place that you’re visiting.

    • Monique June 30, 2012 at 10:08 am #

      Oh, so now I wonder what Carisbrooke Castle reminds you of? Thanks for going for a walk with me! 😉

      • Zazamataz June 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

        Well I didn’t say it made sense… Your photos of the walkways on the walls strangely reminded me of the walkways across and around the pools at the hot springs in Thermopolis, Wyoming. They have no hand rails and they’re right on the water, about 3 or 4 feet wide or so and they give me terrible vertigo. They really were quite safe and your walls look perfectly safe as well, but they make me dizzy just looking at them. 🙂

  2. Helen June 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    The purple flowers are valerian, they grow wild out of walls all over the southwest of England, Devon and Cornwall. I believe valerian is an herbal remedy for insomnia!

    • Monique June 30, 2012 at 10:06 am #

      Wow, that’s good to know! Valerian is good for anxiety, too, so next time I see some while walking a castle wall, I can pull a bunch and take a sniff — or a chew — or brew a quick tea — lol

  3. Tesni June 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    That looks like a fantastic castle. I adore castles and I’ve not been to this one, so I must correct that soon.

    • Monique June 30, 2012 at 10:04 am #

      An easy ferry ride over and then not far across the island. Very cool place.

  4. Lisa June 30, 2012 at 6:41 am #

    I love your day out photos!!

  5. satnavandcider July 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Great photos and an interesting and informative tale. Thanks for sharing! I’ll have to go for a visit one day.

    • Monique July 3, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      Find a *sunny* weekend and you’ll have a great visit!!


  1. Mont Saint-Michel | Crumpets in Camelot - March 11, 2013

    […]  We thought donkeys might have been used to power the massive pulley (as we saw at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight) but prisoners were apparently walked to death here.  A rather despicable […]

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