Castlegate Helmsley YO62 5AB 01439 770 442
All you see of the castle from Helmsley itself is the pointed finger of the twelfth-century tower, set high on the mound behind the town square. You might be tempted to think "is that it?", a reaction that's soon dispelled the minute you enter through the walls and discover its true extent. One of the most significant fortifications in the north – a true medieval powerhouse – it has at various times also served as royal hunting lodge and luxurious Tudor mansion, which explains the separate house within the walls (full of historical exhibits) and encircling towers, gates and deep moat. It positively begs to be charged around, preferably with sword in hand (available in the gift shop, naturally, well done English Heritage). Views for the grown-ups, meanwhile, are across the rolling lands of the Duncombe Estate – the castle itself once formed the backdrop to great staged deer hunts, with the lords and ladies lined up along the battlements to watch the day's sport.
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