Thursday, January 1, 2009

Medieval Castles Today

Most people interested in medieval history spend time looking back into the past, into historical records and books but there is a wonderful, medieval experience they can enjoy today in the 'here and now', the present day - visiting a genuine medieval castle that is still maintained and open to the public.

Medieval castles today enjoy a wide variety of uses and having visited many of them myself I speak from experience.

Take for example Naworth Castle in Cumbria - crenalated in 1335 it is still lived in by the castle's owners who are happy to occasionally allow couples to hold their wedding reception there or for business people to hold a corporate event there. Read more about Castle Weddings.

Then there is Eastnor Castle in England's beautiful Hereforshire countryside (only 2.5 hours from central London). Although not medieval by date of construction, it was built in a mock medieval style and is a stunning piece of architecture. Once again, the castle is still lived in by its owners but for several months of the year it is also open for public visits both to its interiors as well as its grounds and gardens. The arboretum is a particularly special attraction. In the deer park many special events are held each summer including the annual Big Chill Festival which attracts thousands of people from all over Britain and Europe. This year Leonard Cohen was one of the special guests at the 3 day festival.

At the other end of the spectrum you can visit medieval castle ruins. This is an entirely different experience as you have to use your imagination to fill in the gaps of what was once there. However, thanks to the likes of English Heritage, The National Trust and Historic Scotland, many of the medieval castle ruins open to the public today have excellent information facilities on site. So it's possible to learn a great deal about the castles, their owners and the medieval life that went on in them. Great examples of this are Scarborough Castle and Brougham Castle.

There are so many fantastic medieval castles to see that a lot of people consider doing castle tours. Whether you are in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales or France, Germany and even further afield, there is a castle tour itinerary waiting for you! I once went to Bavaria and did my own little castle tour taking in the fantasy castles of Ludwig II including Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace. Incredible memories that will stay with me forever! Read more about the greatest castles in Europe.

Whatever your plans are for 2009, if you love anything about history then try and visit a medieval castle or go on a castle tour. Promising yourself to do something like this at this time of year may be just what you need to re-stimulate your, and possibly your family's, interest in history. There's so much tangible history to enjoy after all!