How to Find Harewood Castle – A Yorkshire Hidden Gem

Beautiful Yorkshire, in the North of England, is a treasure trove for castle lovers, with plenty of famous fortresses to visit. While some of these Yorkshire castles are vast, needing a good few hours of your time to explore them fully, others like Harewood Castle in West Yorkshire are fascinating hidden gems!

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Harewood Castle

A 14th-century stone fortress hidden from view isn’t quite what you expect to find seconds from the road connecting the City of Leeds to the thriving North Yorkshire town of Harrogate. This Grade I listed Yorkshire castle is so well hidden that few of the commuters passing by every day even that it exists!

In this guide, you’ll discover how to locate Harewood Castle, where to park, and the best time to visit, plus, what to do during your visit and there’s some insight into the fall in fortunes of this intriguing Yorkshire hidden gem too!

Harewood Castle
The massive stone walls of Harewood Castle

Quick Facts

Admission charge: Free

Location: Harewood Estate, West Yorkshire (about 8 miles north of Leeds).

Where to park: Harewood Village Hall car park (a modest fee is payable). navigate to Church Lane, Harewood, West Yorkshire LS17 9LJ, but note that this is a small car park and it can get busy.

Public transport: The number 36 bus runs between Leeds and Harrogate and stops at Harewood Village.

Walk time: approximately 10 minutes to the castle from the village hall car park/bus stop. Expect the return walk to take longer, as it’s all uphill!

Accessibility: This is not an accessible location due to the terrain.

Facilities: There are no facilities at Harewood Castle! The nearest toilets are at the Harewood Arms Hotel – located almost opposite the entrance to the Harewood estate.

About Harewood Castle

Harewood Castle was constructed in the 14th century by Sir William de Aldeburgh. It’s the oldest building on the Harewood estate – predating Harewood House by about 400 years.

Officially a “fortified tower house”, Harewood Castle is hewn into a steeply sloped site, with commanding views across the Wharfedale Valley.

The portcullis at Harewood Castle
The portcullis at Harewood Castle

The castle has a massive portcullis defending the main entrance, narrow arrow-slit windows and the remains of huge metal grills over the larger windows, which suggest that it was designed for defensive purposes, status, and as a family residence.

A castle ruined…

When the family fortunes waned, one descendant died in penury in Fleet Street Prison in London. The Castle was sold to clear debts and ceased to be used as a main residence, although it was probably occupied for another century, before it fell into disrepair.

Related Post: Discover the Secrets of Skipton Castle and How it Escaped Ruin

What’s The Best Time to Visit Harewood Castle?

Technically, the castle is accessible all year-round, but the paths can become slippery after rainfall, and they are treacherous (but beautiful) after it snows!

Spring is perhaps the most stunning time to visit when the woods are full of spring blooms and dainty tree blossom. May is especially pretty as swathes of bluebells carpet the woodland floor and perfume the air.

Related Post: Beautiful Places in England to See Bluebell Woods

When is it Not Safe to Visit?

The caste is located in a remote wood, where paths are steep, making it unsafe to venture here when the ground is icy. It’s also not safe to visit during periods of high winds as a there’s real danger of falling trees.

How To Find Harewood Castle

Located just off the A61 from Leeds to Harrogate, Harewood Castle is not signposted, so you need to know what to look out for!

The Harewood Village Hall car park is located in Church Lane – on the left side of the road (just after the entrance to Harewood House) if you’re approaching from Leeds.

After parking your car, walk back to the A61, turn left, and then left again into Bondgate. Ignore all the incredibly cute little stone cottages and walk straight ahead until you see a signpost for a footpath.

Keep walking straight ahead, even though it feels like you’re walking down a private drive!

Opposite the double gates, you’ll make out an overgrown entrance to an unmade foot path – this is the path you need to take!

The path slopes down quite steeply and it can be very muddy and slippery, even in the summer. You’ll need to watch your step as you walk down the path and through the tunnel.

The Path to Harewood castle

After the tunnel, the path curves round to the right and a woodland path opens up in front of you. Don’t look for any signs to the castle though – there aren’t any!

Walking along this path, you soon forget how close the road is. The only sounds you’ll hear are the wind whispering through the trees, the trickle of the brook, and joyful birdsong – lots of birdsong! It feels like you’re miles away from anywhere!

The woodland walk to Harewood Castle
The woodland walk to Harewood Castle

Looking to the right as you walk, you’ll be treated to incredible views through the trees across Yorkshire’s fabled rolling green hills.

In the far distance, the towering rocky outcrop of Almscliffe Crag stands high above Lower Wharfedale, between the tiny villages of Huby and North Rigton..

Almscliffe Crag peeping through the trees on the path to Harewood Castle
Almscliffe Crag peeping through the trees on the path to Harewood Castle

On your left, a shallow brook gurgles along in the ditch (except after rainfall, when it’s a lot more enthusiastic), and it’s easy to lose yourself in the serene magic of this space.

How to See The Upper Level of the Castle

Look out for the crossing over the brook/ditch. The only sign of this when I last visited, was a few roughly hewn steps leading down the bank, painted wood strewn across the boggy ditch, and more steps leading up the bank on the other side, with a path leading up the hill.

It doesn’t look remotely like a crossing, but yes – this is where you need to cross the ditch! Very carefully!

The crossing over the boggy brook - on the path to Harewood Castle
The crossing over the boggy brook – on the path to Harewood Castle

Scramble up the stone steps protruding from the bank and take the steep path to the top of the hill. Catch your breath and follow the path to your left, even though you still can’t see the castle at this stage.

The first glimpse of Harewood Castle
The first glimpse of Harewood Castle

Then suddenly, the light changes, and the massively thick stone walls of the castle appear through the dense trees.

How to See The Lower Level of the Castle

The best (and safest) way to explore the lower area of the castle is to retrace your steps to the path by the tunnel and walk further down the path (away from the tunnel) until you see the castle. There’s a second place here where you can cross the ditch.

I found it much easier (and safer) to scramble up the paths at the side of the castle from this second crossing than attempting the steep descent from the upper path.

The crossing over the ditch to the lower level at Harewood Castle
The crossing over the ditch to the lower level at Harewood Castle

Caution: I wouldn’t cross here if there was water in the ditch, as it’s impossible to see how deep it is. I also wouldn’t recommend this route in reverse. Climbing up the steps up from the ditch was challenging, but I think they would be perilous to descend! Take the path at the side of the castle instead.

What To Do At Harewood Castle

Harewood Castle is an incredibly peaceful and scenic. Here are some ideas for what you can do during your visit:

1. Bring Your Camera

Views of Harewood Castle
The Upper Level at Harewood Castle

Harewood isn’t the biggest castle in Yorkshire, but it’s quirky and you can explore freely, with a lot of opportunities to get great photos. While you can’t go inside the building (it’s too dangerous), there are plenty of views to capture.

Caution: Watch your step as the paths around the castle are perilously steep and there are warning signs about the dangers of falling masonry!

2. Try Forest Bathing

In addition to exploring the castle ruins, the woods around Harewood Castle are the perfect place for forest bathing or “shinrin-yoku” – where you enjoy a couple of hours of mindful exploration among the trees to unwind and feel completely refreshed.

3. Have a Picnic

Harewood Castle is a lovely location for a light picnic among the trees! While there are plenty of fallen trees to perch on, you might prefer to take a lightweight folding chair with you, so you can relax and just listen to the sounds of the trees and birds.

Fallen trees abound in the woodland at Harewood
Fallen trees abound in the woodland at Harewood

There are no bins, so be sure to leave only footprints and take your rubbish away with you.

4. Spot the Deer

The 4,000 acre Harewood Deer Park, just beyond the castle, has hundreds of red deer, roe deer and fallow deer. If you’re in luck, you will get to see these graceful animals grazing nearby as they have done since medieval times.

5. Enjoy Bird Watching

The tranquil setting of Harewood Castle is idyllic for bird watching. One of the most magnificent birds you’re likely to see is the impressive bird of prey – the red kite. Don’t forget your binoculars!

Visit Local Attractions

View of Harewood House on day trips from York
Glorious Harewood House, viewed from the Parterre garden

Why not extend your trip and visit Harewood House? This stunning stately home has an incredible “below stairs kitchen”, gorgeous state rooms and fabulous gardens to explore, plus, there are some rather lovely tea rooms with very good cake.

Related Post: How to Visit Harewood House – Exactly What to See and Do

Conclusion

Did you enjoy this guide to visiting Harewood Castle? Has it inspired you to visit this hidden gem when you’re in Yorkshire? Here are some more ideas to inspire your Yorkshire explorations:

The Most Beautiful Towns in Yorkshire
Things To Do in Skipton
Day Trips From Leeds
Things to Do in Ripon
Visiting Ripley Castle and Quaint Little Ripley Village

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Coralie Thornton

Coralie is an over 50s travel writer based in Yorkshire in the UK who writes engaging travel tips, destination guides, and detailed itineraries about the UK, Europe and beyond to inspire boomer travel. When she's not travelling, she's either planning a new trip, exploring locally in the UK, visiting castles and cathedrals, or finding somewhere new to enjoy afternoon tea.

18 thoughts on “How to Find Harewood Castle – A Yorkshire Hidden Gem”

  1. I love the idea of visiting a hidden gem like Harwood Castle when we visit Yorkshire. Always sad to read about castles that fell into disrepair over the generations. Great directions on how to get to the castle. Definitely a spot to get some good views across the Wharfedale Valley. Or to stop for a picnic.

    Reply
  2. I can see why the Harewood Castle is considered a hidden gem. I just love how it’s an adventure in of itself to get there. From the tunnel, to the footpaths and then the opening up of those lovely vista views. What a great find!

    Reply
  3. What an amazing castle to explore for free! I LOVED this kind of place when I was a kid, when you can explore freely and find your own route. The countryside around Harewood Castle is beeeautiful too!

    Great post!

    Reply
  4. oh I just love how this place is hidden, and I love Yorkshire! I’m hoping to add it to my retirement trip itinerary. I think I’ll save it for later because this looks like a true hidden gem!

    Reply
  5. When you said “hidden gem” you really meant it… literally! What a cool place to explore. The Harewood House looks lovely too. Yorkshire seems to be full of castles and treasures.

    Reply

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