Bolton Castle near Leyburn North Yorkshire DL8 4ET 01969 623 981
For a snapshot of noble medieval life – flying falcons to flying arrows – seek out Wensleydale's Bolton Castle, which really brings history to life in an entertaining programme of events and activities. Built (1379–1399) by Richard Le Scrope, Chancellor to Richard II, and later a place of imprisonment for Mary, Queen of Scots, Bolton could pretty much rest on its laurels as an important part of British history. But alongside a series of halls, chambers, kitchens and dungeons – decked out as if still inhabited – you're presented with all sorts of medieval entertainment, craft sessions, dressing-up days, re-enactment battles, bird-of-prey displays and archery competitions. The hawks, owls and falcons tend to fly daily, unless poor weather intervenes, and the wild boar get fed every afternoon, so there's always something to see. As you might imagine, it's perfect for children – everyone gets a costume on admission and there are all sorts of games and places to explore. The gardens are a delight too, from roses to herbs, though you can't help thinking that the vineyard is a trifle optimistic. If you're looking for a walk, it's worth knowing that there's a nice circular route here from nearby Aysgarth Falls (six miles, four hours return) – and that you don't need to pay to visit the castle café. Bolton Castle, incidentally, also appeared in several scenes in the Cate Blanchett film, Elizabeth, standing in for the Tower of London and other royal locations.
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