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Castles to Visit in Eastern England: Castle Rising, Norfolk

Updated on December 28, 2014

A Splendid Example of Medieval History

Although I live in Norwich, which is within easy reach of the splendours of North Norfolk, the first time I made the drive to Castle Rising was in August of last year. In fact, we were staying at the nearby Searles Holiday Resort in Hunstanton for a short break, after promising the children a camping trip. One hot and sunny morning we decided a visit to the castle was in order - we had some time to spare and thought it might be worth a look.

We were not disappointed. Castle Rising is one of the best preserved castles in England, and to be in the area and never make the trip is surely a sacrilege. The setting itself is more than perfect - nestled away in the quiet and peaceful Norfolk countryside at the village of Castle Rising, with little around except birds and trees, it is easy to imagine bygone days of battle; a throwback to another time. The castle itself is surrounded by a huge grass ditch - my ten year old son decided this was to be climbed immediately upon arrival (you can see his efforts on the photos, right - the true enormity of this defensive dticht is best portrayed on the pictures by the very small figure of my son). Relatively small numbers of visitors appear at the castle at any one time - this is a good thing as it adds to the peace and tranquility. In any case, Castle Rising is not a full day trip - you do not need more than an hour or two to appreciate this historical landmark. We spent about two hours altogether, but part of that time was passed indulging in a picnic in the grounds while the kids ran amok.

Castle Rising, near King's Lynn, Norfolk
Castle Rising, near King's Lynn, Norfolk
Climbing the grassy banks of the defensive ditch, as we approached the castle.
Climbing the grassy banks of the defensive ditch, as we approached the castle.
Standing on the edge of the earthworks.
Standing on the edge of the earthworks.
Entering under the arch
Entering under the arch
The stone keep
The stone keep

Entering the castle itself, up the large stone steps, was fun for the children who had spent many a Saturday night hooked on the BBC Drama Series, Merlin. It's the perfect setting to let young imaginations run wild. A history book can teach the facts, but visiting a real place of historical significance can bring with it a sense of the past. It has been said that Castle Rising was based on the much larger Norwich Castle, also Norman. However, while the popular Norwich Castle has long since been transformed into a museum (it first became a museum in the Victorian era), Castle Rising remains largely unspoilt and true to itself. With little to distract and absorb visitors other than the building, surrounding earthworks and picturesque scenery, Castle Rising has kept its authenticity - and, at least to me, it is this that makes it feel special.  As the old saying goes, sometimes 'less is more'. 

The construction of the castle at Castle Rising began during Norman times in the twelfth century (around 1140 ad). The stone castle keep is one of the most famous and well-preserved in the whole of England. Certainly, it is an important part of British history. The castle is surrounded by defensive earthworks, and the ruins of a Norman chapel lie just across from the castle - in fact, the church was constructed before the castle and is believed to be the first church of the village of Rising.

Castle Rising History

Castle Rising was originally built for William 'Albini II who married Alice of Louvain, widowed by King Henry I. In later times (and perhaps rather notoriously) it was the royal residence of Queen Isabella, who, as the story goes, allegedly murdered her husband, King Edward II, with the help of her lover. She apparently was exiled at the castle by her son, Edward III, but enjoyed a life of relative luxury and contentment whilst at Rising. After her death, the castle came into the hands of Edward III's son, the Black Prince, who restored it. In 1544, Castle Rising was passed onto the Howard family, who still own it today.

There are several points of interest inside the castle. Carved roof supports, ornate decoration, intact rooms, passages and stairway, mural gallery and the guarderobes (castle lavatories) are all worthy of note. There is a small chapel, and a decorative frieze on the stairway wall. The old stone keep actually had three levels originally, and the grand hall was spread over two floors. Whilst visiting the castle today you can use the stairs to reach the top area, but the second floor of the hall itself no longer exists - information given at the castle explains how the top level collapsed and remains of doorways etc. can be seen suspended.

Our whole family enjoyed the trip to Castle Rising, a true step back into time.  I'm certainly pleased we made the effort - I'll aways remember the mix of forbidding stone and tranquil peace that is the essence of this historical landmark. 

Further Images of Castle Rising

The Castle from an alternative angle
The Castle from an alternative angle
Ornate decoration - small pictures are apparent which unfortunately were not picked up by the camera.
Ornate decoration - small pictures are apparent which unfortunately were not picked up by the camera.
The stone step entrance
The stone step entrance
A well inside the keep.
A well inside the keep.
Passage to the guarderobes.
Passage to the guarderobes.
Little boy on a step.
Little boy on a step.
Standing before the collapsed floor of the Grand Hall.
Standing before the collapsed floor of the Grand Hall.
Ruins in the grounds.
Ruins in the grounds.
The castle kitchen
The castle kitchen
Walking around the castle earthworks
Walking around the castle earthworks
The inside wall of the keep.
The inside wall of the keep.

Comments

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    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      7 years ago from UK

      Leni - Hi there, I always love hearing from people who have actually been to the places I write about - I hope you enjoyed the walk down memory lane! Thank you for reading :)

      @ Hello, hello - nice to see you here again, and thanks for your lovely comment :)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      I enjoyed reading you wonderful hub and the beautiful pictures. Thank you.

    • leni sands profile image

      Leni Sands 

      7 years ago from UK

      I used to live and work in Norfolk some years ago (in my youth) I visited Castle Rising and from your photo's it certainly took me a walk down memory lane. We own a chalet in Norfolk and it'll be fun to re-visit next time we are in the area - thanks for the reminder!

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      7 years ago from UK

      Hi, Phillbert - thanks for stopping by and reading. If you visit England one day then you know where to go!

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thanks, Robin. Yes, we are lucky in England to have so much history to explore - you really don't have to go very far at all to find a castle. There are lots of things I'd love to see in the States, though - always fancied doing a big road trip as I love the idea of being on the open road with lots of space (something we are definitely missing here!). We nearly did it once, but then the kids came along and it all became more complicated! Thanks for reading :)

    • Phillbert profile image

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Very cool! I would love to get to visit an old castle like that!

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Wonderful photos and summary of the Castle Rising! I always love touring the castles in England; it's something we just don't have very much of here in the U.S. Thanks for sharing!

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