Spending days out exploring Yorkshire’s incredible historical buildings is one of my favourite things to do. Often I can’t take my beloved spaniel Bertie with me, so I was thrilled to discover that Skipton Castle is a dog-friendly place to visit.
Skipton is one of the most beautiful towns in Yorkshire and a real treat to visit. The Norman castle is Skipton’s most iconic landmark, attracting over 100,000 visitors a year.
This guide shows you exactly how and where to find Skipton Castle; plus, how to get the most out of your visit. You’ll also discover the history of the castle, its Royal connections, and what you need to see when you visit.
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Where is Skipton Castle?
Skipton Castle is located in the charming market town of Skipton that was first mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. Rurally situated in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, Skipton is about 35 minutes North-East of Leeds by train and a 30-minute drive from the elegant spa town of Harrogate.
How old is Skipton Castle?
The first castle at Skipton was built in 1090 by Robert de Romille – one of the trusted Norman barons of William the Conqueror.
Why was Skipton Castle built?
Originally built as a timber fort to defend Skipton against raiding Scots supporting King Malcolm III, the first structure was replaced by a stone castle on high ground in the 13th century to provide better defences.
Who lived in Skipton castle?
The de Romille Family
The de Romille family died out in the early 14th Century when both of the grandsons of Robert de Romille both died without male issue.
The Clifford Family
King Edward II granted the castle to Robert Clifford, making him the first Lord Clifford of Skipton and Guardian of Craven. Clifford set about improving the castle’s fortifications and he commissioned the six drum towers of the inner ward. Unfortunately, he was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, without seeing his work completed.
The Cliffords were staunch supporters of the Lancastrian kings and during the turbulent, bloody Wars of the Roses, Skipton Castle was confiscated several times. King Richard III also owned Skipton briefly. After the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the Clifford family regained the castle and prospered in the Tudor years.
King Henry VIII elevated Henry Clifford to the rank of Earl of Cumberland and Clifford modified the castle again to reflect his new status. He added the Long Gallery, then the Octagonal Tower in 1535.
When Civil War erupted in 1642, the castle was rapidly refortified for King Charles I and it withstood a 3-year siege by the Parliamentarians from December 1642 until December 1645.
When the castle surrendered, Oliver Cromwell‘s punishment was that the building be slighted (deliberately damaged to remove its military capability). After the civil wars, Skipton Castle was returned to the Clifford family.
Lady Anne Clifford fought to take over the family seat when her father died without a male heir, as he had left his estate to his brother. Eventually, she succeeded to the title and wanted to return the ruined castle to its former glory.
Lady Anne also added the elaborate Gatehouse; plus, she planted the yew tree that still thrives in the central courtyard. She was the last of the Clifford family, as she died in 1676 without a male heir.
The Fattorini Family
Today, the castle is the private home of the Fattorini family, who bought the castle in 1956. Their family business began as jewellers in Skipton in 1827 and they hold a Royal Warrant for making medals, swords and regalia.
The Best Things to do at Skipton Castle
On arrival at the castle, the first thing you will see is the imposing Main Gate, flanked by four strong towers. .
Pro Tip: Look up to see the Norman-French word “Desormais” (meaning henceforth” carved high into the battlements above the gatehouse. The carving is repeated twice, so that it faces both north and south. You can read it from both sides of the gatehouse.
The ticket office is located in the intriguing Renaissance Shell Grotto and Shell Room, created for Henry Lord Clifford around 1626. It’s one of only two such grottos in England – the other surviving example is in Woburn Abbey!
Look through the archway of the gatehouse, to see the dominant Watch Tower of the inner ward, and further to the right, the private apartment area.
The main entrance to the inner ward of the castle is via the wide, sweeping Lady Anne steps. Medieval visitors, however, would have crossed a bridge over the moat to enter the castle.
Pro Tip: Look up to see Lady Anne’s stone tablet above the entrance
Turning right from Lady Anne’s steps, you’ll the archway that Norman soldiers would have used more than 900 years ago. This entrance was approached via a drawbridge over a moat.
Pro Tip: You can still see the grooves in the wall here where the old portcullis would have been raised and lowered.
The picturesque Conduit Court, with Lady Anne’s yew tree in the centre is through the archway. This area was named after the spring water supply that is piped into the castle.
Stone steps lead up to the fascinating main rooms of the castle, including the Banqueting Hall, Kitchen (complete with its old “Long Drop” privy), Day Rooms and Bedchambers. There’s also a Dungeon, Watch Towers and the Muniments Room where the castle archives were stored.
Pro Tip: Take a close look at the walls throughout the castle. There are marks carved by masons in some places – to make sure they were paid for their work! You might spot some medieval graffiti too.
There are great views from many windows, which show you exactly why this castle could withstand a siege for so long.
The Ruined Chapel
Within the grounds of the castle, you’ll find the ruined remains of the 13th Century chapel of St John the Evangelist. Take a moment to look up at the old wooden ceiling and the intricate stonework here.
How dog-friendly is Skipton Castle?
Well-behaved dogs are welcome at the castle. There are just three things to remember for a great visit with your furry friend:
- Keep your dog on a short lead during your visit (in all of the areas within the castle walls)
- Clean up any mess
- Don’t let your dog pee on the (beautifully manicured) grass
The castle is super dog-friendly (and safe for small people too). It’s primarily undercover, and there’s no awkward furniture to snag your dog’s lead. While there are some steep, narrow staircases, it was easy to manage these with Bertie. He loved poking his nose into very nook and cranny, and sniffing his way around the castle!
Pro Tip: Don’t forget poop bags and a supply of wipes in case of any doggie accidents. All internal floors are stone or wooden, so you can clean up in a jiffy if necessary.
Is Skipton Castle accessible?
Like many old castles and buildings, many areas are not suitable for wheelchair users or for people with mobility issues, because there are lots of steep, worn and uneven steps. The castle grounds are beautiful, however, with stunning views to enjoy.
Where to eat at Skipton Castle
There’s a lovely, safe picnic area with tables and chairs set out around a well-kept lawn. When we visited, several families were tucking into their picnics while their children let off steam – playing on the grass.
There is also a tea shop serving lunches and snacks and a gift shop. However, we didn’t visit either as they are the only two places in the castle that are not accessible with a dog. It was no hardship as we ventured into the town for a bite instead.
Top Tip: Check out the view from several points in this area – both over the town and down the very steep escarpment to the river below.
How to get to Skipton Castle
By Train: Skipton has its own train station and is well connected. Travel time from London stations is between 3 and 3 1/2 hours, while trips from Manchester Airport take about 2 1/2 hours, and trains to/from Leeds take 35 minutes.
The train station is 0.6 miles away from the castle, and there are 3 ways to get to the castle
- It’s an enjoyable 12-minute walk.
- Jump on the bus (approx £1 – £2)
- Grab a taxi (approx £6)
By Car: There are several places to park in Skipton. Find complete information here.
Pro Tip: The Bailey long-stay car park (Satnav BD23 1UA) is the best (and cheapest) place to park when you’re visiting Skipton Castle.
Children (5-17): £6.90
Children under 5: free
Over 65s: £9.20
Family Ticket for two adults and up to 3 children over 5: £34.00 (saves up to £7.10)
Skipton is a beautiful place to visit, and we cannot wait to go on another trip to Skipton Castle soon!
Before You Go
If you’re heading to Skipton for a short break, be sure to bookmark this page for later! If you love England as much as I do, sign up for my weekly newsletter for even more adventures and tips for travels in England!
Until next time!
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