Cumbria lake district edge guide
VACATION & HOLIDAY GUIDE TO
CUMBRIA & THE LAKE DISTRICT


THE CASTLES OF CUMBRIA



Brougham Castle


Appleby
Castle

Brough
Castle

Brougham
Castle

Carlisle
Castle

Dacre
Castle

Dalton
Castle

Egremont
Castle

Kendal
Castle

Muncaster
Castle

Pendragon
Castle

Penrith
Castle

Piel
Castle

Sizergh
Castle

Workington
Hall

The history of Cumbria is long, and more bloody than any other county of England. As a consequence there are many castles, forts and ancient earth works to be found dotted around the countryside. The more ancient defences and the Roman influence in the county are dealt with separately (see History Index).

When the Romans left Britain after 350 years of occupation the country was in chaos: different Celtic kings fought amongst each other and the invading Irish and Anglo-Saxons for control of the pre Roman tribal areas. This was the time now known as the Dark Ages, so named because there are little or no written records of the period and its history is mostly speculation.

Most of the castles dealt with here were built after the end of the Dark Ages though many of them are sited on or near the sites of long-abandoned Roman forts. There may have been defensive positions at these sites, however crude, without interruption for many centuries.

The condition of the castle structures varies dramatically: those lived in down the years have fared best and of those Appleby is a good example. Others have fallen into disrepair. It seems strange that having invested so much money in the building of these often huge (for their time) castles, the local noblemen (if they could be called so), should let so many of them decay despite their importance as defences against the Scots.

The answer is cost. Though the owners were rich men, even by their standards the cost of maintaining these great buildings would have been insupportable. As time went on the number of castles maintained in a defensible state fell. Those considered of less importance were robbed of stone to build towns and private dwellings. In consequence the areas previously defended by these castles were open to Scots raids.

As the Scots raids lessened after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 most of the castles became obsolete and forgotten until they were once again called into service in the English Civil War and the Rebellions of 1715 and 1745.

Even so, apart from the great work of Lady Anne Clifford in the mid-1600's, most of these magnificent buildings were allowed to fall into ruin. Not until the present time has any concerted effort been made to save them. Happily most are now preserved from further ruination thanks to organisations such as English Heritage who open most of them to the public. You should certainly visit as many as you can. With the exception of Pendragon Castle all those listed here are open to the public.

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