A few years ago, when one of the kidlings was doing a school project on Normans which inspired a spate of educational castle visits, I was convinced into signing up for English Heritage membership. As I'm utterly useless at getting round to cancelling things, I'm likely to have this for life - which means I need to get my money's worth every year. Which means, whenever there's one nearby - I visit a castle!
At the end of last month we had a lovely weekend stay away near a very pretty little town called Barnard Castle. It didn't seen to much of a stretch to imagine that there'd be some nice old ruins for me to explore!
We were there the weekend of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch so on the way in we were asked to keep our eyes peeled in in the sensory garden and report back to reception if we saw anything. We saw some really lovely little tweeters, but - knowing very little about birds - I can't actually tell you (or the lady keeping the tally) what they were... but even I could recognise this little cutie!
Barnard Castle is situated high above the River Tees, offering grand views over the river and surrounding areas. It was build in the 12th Century by Bernard de Balloil (hence the name), though ownership has passed through many hands over the centuries (including Richard III's) before English Heritage became responsible for it.
I don't know why I'm such a castle nerd... it's not like I really know much about History or anything. I guess I just like that a lot of the English Heritage properties are quiet and peaceful,.. and very pretty! Nice places for picnics, and I do like picnics! (Even thought I didn't bring one on this occasion and despite the occasional blue skies, it was a bit chilly!) Maybe I should crack open my history books for a deeper understanding and appreciation of these historical spots. In the meantime though, I'm happy to just potter round them taking pictures and buy fudge from the gift shops!
I do feel a little for poor long-suffering KC though, who has very little interest in castles but will bravely accompany me whenever he doesn't have an excuse not to!
Are you a castle nerd too? Do you have a favourite English Heritage site you can recommend? I know I've still got a lot to get through!