Visiting Skipton Castle – A Great Yorkshire Castle

Skipton Castle is located in the charming market town of Skipton, first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Rurally situated in England’s beautiful North Yorkshire, Skipton is located about 35 minutes North-East of Leeds by train. It’s also a 30-minute drive from lovely Harrogate, which makes visiting Skipton Castle easy both by train and by car.

This 900-year-old Norman castle is Skipton’s most iconic landmark, attracting over 100,000 visitors a year as it’s one of the most intact medieval castles in England!

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 learn about Skipton Castle’s history and Royal connections and discover what you need to see when you visit.

Related Post: Discover Lovely Things to Do In Skipton

Skipton Castle Yorkshire

Skipton Castle FAQs

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 it was a timber motte and bailey fort designed to defend Skipton against the raiding Scots who supported King Malcolm III.

The timber structure was replaced by the 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 and 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. 

After the siege of Skipton Castle, Oliver Cromwell‘s punishment was that the building be slighted (deliberately damaged to remove its military capability). After the civil wars, the ruined 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 added the elaborate Gatehouse; plus, she planted the yew tree that still thrives in the central courtyard, but 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.

Is Skipton Castle accessible?

Like many old Yorkshire castles and buildings, many areas are not suitable for wheelchair users or for people with mobility issues because there so many steep, worn and uneven steps. The castle grounds are beautiful, however, with stunning views to enjoy.

Skipton Castle seen from Skipton Castle Woods
Skipton Castle seen from Skipton Castle Woods

How to get to Skipton Castle

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 three ways to get to the castle:

  1. A 12-minute walk. 
  2. Take the bus (approx £1 – £2)
  3. Grab a taxi (approx £6)

If you prefer to drive, 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.

Skipton Castle Prices

Adults: £10.20
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)

The Best Things to do at Skipton Castle

1. Check Out The Main Gate

On arrival at the castle, the first thing you will see is the imposing Main Gate, flanked by four strong towers.

Look up to see the Norman-French word “Desormais” (meaning “henceforth”) carved high into the battlements above the gatehouse.

Pro Tip: The carving is repeated twice so that it faces both north and south. You can read it from both sides of the gatehouse.

Skipton Castle Gatehouse
View of the Skipton Castle gatehouse and the carving of the word Desormais

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

Along with your ticket, you’ll get a useful guide and Skipton Castle floor plan to help you navigate your way around the castle.

Skipton Castle Yorkshire
First view of Skipton Castle from the gatehouse

As you look through the archway of the gatehouse, you’ll see the dominant Watch Tower of the inner ward and, further to the right, the private apartment area.

2. The Lady Anne Steps

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.

A Trip To Skipton Castle – we visited this most well preserved and complete castle in Northern England - in Skipton, North Yorkshire. The castle has a rich history, including a 3-year siege during the English Civil War. See why the castle is perfect for a day out with a teenager and a dog. Great place to visit when in the Yorkshire Dales. #castle #northyorkshire #skiptoncastle #daysout #daysoutinyorkshire #daysoutinnorthyorkshire #tripout #daysoutwithatoddler #daysoutwithasmallchild #history #historiclandmark #englishcivilwar #wellpresevedcastle #skipton #yorkshiredales
The Lady Anne Steps leading to the inner castle

Turning right from Lady Anne’s steps, you’ll see the archway that Norman soldiers would have used more than 900 years ago. This entrance was approached via a drawbridge over a moat.

You can still see the grooves in the wall here where the old portcullis was raised and lowered.

3. Admire Conduit Court

The picturesque Conduit Court, with Lady Anne’s yew tree in the centre, is through the archway. The area was named after the spring water supply (the conduit) that is piped into the castle.

4. Snoop Inside the Castle

Stone steps lead up to the fascinating maze of 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 creepy 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 ancient marks carved by masons in some places – to make sure they were paid for their work! You might spot some medieval graffiti too.

The great views from many of the windows show you exactly why this castle could withstand a siege for so long.

5. The Ruined Chapel

st john the evangelist skipton min 2
The ruined medieval 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.

Chapel at Skipton Castle

Is Skipton Castle Dog Friendly

Well-behaved dogs are welcome at Skipton Castle. There are just three things to remember for a great visit with your furry friend:

  1. Keep your dog on a short lead during your visit (in all of the areas within the castle walls)
  2. Clean up any mess
  3. 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 every 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.  

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.

Places 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 and Skipton Castle Woods far below.

In Conclusion

Skipton Castle is a beautiful place to visit, in a lovely Yorkshire town. nd we cannot wait to go on another trip to Skipton Castle soon!

If you love historic buildings and castles, why not read this post on Britain’s best island castles or visit nearby Spofforth Castle or Fountains Abbey?

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!

Until next time Grey Globetrotters

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view of the towers at Skipton Castle

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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.

4 thoughts on “Visiting Skipton Castle – A Great Yorkshire Castle”

  1. Oh what a lovely place to visit for a day trip, and it’s dog friendly too! It’s a wonder when you visit places like this with so much history. I love the pro tip about the entrance way – “Desormais” – a detail that might not be caught by all.

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