A Castle Fit for a Captive Queen Revisited

We seem to have been to Castle Bolton quite often recently. It reminded me that shortly after we came back from France, one of our early walks was here. Maybe it’s time to revisit my blog post about it, to remind myself, if nobody else, about its history.


October 2014

We travelled the road in thick white mist, fearing a dank and gloomy day.  But the higher we climbed, the more the mist fell away, and the brighter the sun shone.

Looking down over Wensleydale from Castle Bolton

As we began walking, Daphne shared some of the castle’s history with us.  It has belonged to the Scrope family since the time it was built in the 14th century, and has always been admired for its high walls.  It’s a proper castle, looking exactly like the ones you will have drawn when you were eight years old.

Bolton Castle

Tudor history is largely about the constant religious and temporal battles between the Catholic  and the Protestant church, which Henry VIII had made the Established Church, with the king as its head: the Fidei Defensor – Defender of the Faith (unbelievably, Henry hung onto this title, awarded him in his pre-Protestant days by Pope Leo X, in recognition of his book  Assertio Septem Sactramentorum which defends the supremacy of the pope).  His son Edward briefly succeeded him, and then his daughter Elizabeth, and both were Protestants.

But Elizabeth’s rule was threatened by the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, and she was held captive first at Carlisle Castle, then at Bolton.  Here she was attended by 51 knights, servants and ladies-in-waiting, not all of whom could be accommodated in the castle itself.  She also had cooks, grooms, a hairdresser, an embroiderer, an apothecary, a physician and a surgeon, while furnishings fit for a queen were borrowed from nearby Barnard Castle.  She went hunting, learnt English – for she spoke only French, Scots and Latin – and spent time with local Catholics.  She made an unsuccessful bid to escape from captivity.  It’s said she climbed from an upstairs window in the castle, and fled on horseback past the nearby market town of Leyburn.  It’s here she dropped her shawl and so was discovered and recaptured.  And that is why, so they say, the long escarpment above the town, nowadays a playground for walkers and sightseers, is still called ‘The Shawl’.

As we enjoyed our history lesson, we passed a field of Wensleydale sheep.  We very much admired their sultry fringes.

Wensleydale Sheep

And onwards. Autumn colours.

A completely pointless stile in the middle of a meadow.

Then Aysgarth Falls.  What a wonderful lunch spot.  The crashing waters made conversation quite impossible, but we sat enjoying the surging waters, the coppery leaves above our heads, and the all-encompassing percussion of the tumbling River Ure.

And then it was time to turn round and head back by a different route.  Another great day’s walking, with an added history lesson.

But wait! This post was all for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, when we’re invited to dig up a Post From the Past. But Becky’s Past Squares demands a look at the past too: here’s Bolton Castle, square style:

Then there’s always Jo’s Monday Walk

Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

48 thoughts on “A Castle Fit for a Captive Queen Revisited”

  1. A great tour and a reminder of how amazing Tudor ladies were to be able to embroider in the cold and gloom of piles like Bolton Castle. Although, I expect Mary, as a Queen, was optimally positioned in front of a well tended fire with good light from a window.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh no, no, no – hand sewing is only ever a means to an end for me. A dragon of a needlework teacher in primary school made sure I gained a lifelong aversion to hand stitching anything.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Gosh, what a castle and that stunning historical episode. Mary having to learn to speak English was a revelation. And why should I be surprised. But it adds to all the rest of her dislocation doesn’t it. So glad you gave this post another outing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tish. Yes, Bolton Castle is worth a visit on so many levels, especially when summer theatre companies come to do outdoor performances with the castle as backdrop.


  3. Ah, we visited Bolton Castle about three years ago! There was some pretty amazing falconry going on on the day we went. (I think we may also have done some bad Game of Thrones impressions re Lord Bolton, but the least said about that the better…)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. With all that, it’s the sight of fog in a valley which makes me want to stand up and cheer. I don’t see that often, and in any case, with a current heat wave here, I would love the weather which can bring a fog

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fascinating story 🙂 We visited Aysgarth Falls a couple of years ago but so far Castle Bolton has eluded us on our recent visits to Yorkshire. Must try to include it if we’re up next summer!


  6. hee hee was just beginning to wonder where the square was!! A marvellous castle indeed, and what an entourage for one person.


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