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Ruined Spofforth Castle near Wetherby is one of North Yorkshire’s best-kept secrets and a real off-the-beaten-path treat. Hidden away in plain sight on a sleepy street in the quiet village of Spofforth, it would be very easy to miss out on this fascinating slice of English history.
This guide shows you exactly how and where to find Spofforth Castle, plus how to get the most out of your visit. You’ll also discover the castle’s history and what you need to see when you visit, including a surprising connection to the Magna Carta and all about the Spofforth Castle ghost!
Spofforth Castle History
Before you plan your visit, here’s a quick look at Spofforth Castle and its history.
Where is Spofforth Castle?
Spofforth Castle is located in the pretty village of Spofforth that was first mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. The village is just 6 miles away from the elegant spa town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England.
How old is Spofforth Castle?
Spofforth Castle dates back to the 11th century when it was recorded as a fortified manor house. The castle was built by William de Percy, one of the favourites of King William I (William the Conqueror): de Percy chose Spofforth Castle as his headquarters.
Why was Spofforth Castle built?
The manor house, which was extended and fortified over the years, was originally built as a family residence rather than for defensive reasons. In 1124, King Henry III granted the Percy family the right to hold a weekly market in Spofforth every Friday.
While some records differ, it’s believed that Spofforth Castle is where the rebel barons met to draw up the Magna Carta in 1125.
Who lived in Spofforth Castle?
The de Percy family lived as feudal barons in the castle at Spofforth for over 300 years before Henry Baron Percy was killed at the Battle of Bramham Moor (1408), in rebellion against King Henry IV and the castle and estates became the property of the Sheriff of Yorkshire.
Who destroyed the castle?
The castle’s fortunes declined further when it was plundered and defaced during the Civil War between Henry VI and Edward IV, which led to the long War of the Roses.
While Spofforth Castle was occupied until the early 17th century, it was reduced to ruins during the English Civil War that followed the execution of King Charles I.
Who owns Spofforth Castle?
The castle in Spofforth is an English Heritage property, but it’s 100% free to visit (unlike many of the larger English Heritage sites).
Spofforth Castle Map
After walking up the castle green towards the castle, you’ll see an information board with a brief history of the site and a basic map of what remains of the castle. You can also download a floor plan of the castle from the English Heritage website here.
You’ll also find another information board at the farthest point of the Hall Undercroft that shows more about the site’s topography and the rooms you will see.
Visiting Spofforth Castle
Here’s everything you need to help you plan your visit.
How to get to Spofforth Castle
It is easy to access Spofforth Castle by car. While there is no dedicated car park, you can easily park (for free) in Castle Street. Set your Satnav for Castle Street, Spofforth, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 1DA.
The nearest train station is Harrogate – you will need to take the number 7 bus towards Wetherby to visit the castle (approx 20 minutes).
Sadly, this is not a place that’s suitable for visitors with accessibility needs. Here’s why:
- The castle is built into a rock face. The only way to approach the castle is to walk up the castle green (a hill), which doesn’t have a path.
- The site is on multiple levels, with uneven and slippery steps.
- The main entrance to the castle is down steep stone steps. Half of the steps have a handrail – the ten steps towards the bottom do not, and they are very uneven.
The sunken area at the front of the castle leads down steep steps to the entrance – make sure you wear sturdy shoes, as it’s quite steep!
What to See at Spofforth Castle
When you visit Spofforth Castle, here are some of the things you can see.
The Castle Green
The first part of the castle you will see after passing through the wooden gate on Castle Street is the sloping castle green.
From this area, you can see what would have been the castle’s first floor – the ground floor is completely hidden from this viewpoint.
The Remains of the Great Hall and the Hall Undercroft
After carefully descending the stone steps, you will arrive in the atmospheric Hall Undercroft. Look up to see the windows that would have graced the Great Hall before the floor between the two rooms collapsed.
You can also see the base of three stone columns that would have supported the floor to the Great Hall.
There are plenty of nooks and crannies for you to explore here, with lots of evidence of what the castle would have looked like in its prime.
In the northeast corner of the Hall Undercroft, an arched doorway takes you through a small subsidiary chamber into a large lobby/chamber.
In one corner, you’ll find a (blocked) doorway that leads to a newel staircase up into the corner turret, known as the “Round Tower”.
The walls still bear the marks of the vaulted ceiling in this chamber!
The Round Tower
Things you need to know before you visit
Before you visit castle in Spofforth, here is some essential information you need to know:
- The castle site is large and tranquil, with many open green spaces. It is a popular picnic area if you fancy an al fresco bite before or after exploring the castle, and there are a few picnic tables and chairs provided
- The castle green is a popular area for walking well-behaved dogs – on a lead.
- There are no toilet facilities at the site, and no cafe, although there is a little convenience store at the end of Castle Street
Where to Eat Near the Castle at Spofforth
The Spofforth Castle Inn is a lovely pub just a 4-minute walk from the castle. It’s dog friendly, serves very good food, and has 12 lovely guest rooms.
The Castle’s Half-Ghost
Of course, every castle needs a ghost (or two), and Spofforth is no different.
Local legend tells of a bluish-white “half-woman” who appears fleetingly on top of the tower before throwing herself towards the ground. The strange thing about this phantom is that only the upper half of her body is visible!
No one knows who the ghost is or was, but you’ll find more details about the Spofforth Castle ghost in this useful guide.
Wrap Up – Visiting Spofforth Castle
If you’re ready to explore Spofforth Castle for yourself, bookmark this page or pin it using the link below so you can revisit this guide!
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Until next time
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