Clifford’s Tower

1128 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

April, 2015

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with


Reasons for trip

Clifford’s Tower high on its motte dominates the southern end of the walled city of York.

The north was the centre of resistance to William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings. In an attempt to subdue the area and impose discipline, he built two castles on either side of the River Ouse. Clifford’s Tower still stands. All that is left of Baile Hill Castle on the west side of the river opposite, is a wooded mound next to the city walls.

The original castle was built of timber but was burnt to the ground twice before being replaced by a stone castle in the C13th. This was the site of one of York’s Bloodiest moments when 150 Jews were massacred here in 1190. The event is commemorated by a plaque on the side of the motte.

Tensions had been increasing between Christians and Jews in the C12th. Many people were in debt to the moneylenders and crusading propaganda was directed against the Jews as well as Muslims. The Jews had taken refuge inside the wooden castle from a rowdy mob and rather than renounce their faith, decided to committed mass suicide and set the wooden tower on fire.

The central tower was originally called the King’s Tower and is thought to have become Clifford’s Tower after Roger de Clifford was executed for treason by Edward II and hanged in chains from the walls.

The tower is an unusual quatrefoil design with four overlapping circles, a bit like a four leaved clover. It had two floors linked by spiral staircases in thickness of walls. It was originally surrounded by a moat and linked to the walled outer bailey by a drawbridge. This again was moated and had a massive gatehouse.
As well as housing the king when he visited York, the castle was the administrative centre for the north of England.

All that remains of the outer bailey wall is a short stretch by the Raindale watermill attached to the Castle Museum

In the C15th, the castle was also used as a jail for local felons and political prisoners. In 1596, the castle’s jailer Robert Redhead, began demolishing the tower and selling the stone for lime burning ‘for his own profit’. He was only stopped after prolonged protests by the city council.

The castle was in poor condition at the start of the Civil War and was reroofed and refloored at start of hostilities to provide storage rooms for ammunition and a gun platform on the roof. The gateway was reinforced and enlarged. Above the doorway are the arms of Charles I and the achievement of Henry Clifford, 5th Earl of Cumberland.

It was used as a garrison by Royalist troops until York fell to the Parliamentary Army and continued to be garrisoned until an explosion in 1684 destroyed the interior.

The interior is now an empty shell. The remains of fireplaces and latrines can still be seen in the walls. There is a small shop and display boards covering the history.

Spiral staircases (one way system) lead to the top of the walls. Above the gatehouse is the chapel, with blind arcading round the walls and a small aumbry cupboard. By the C14th this was also used as a store room, referred to as the Treasury.

The views from the wall walk round the top of Clifford’s Tower give marvellous views across the city of York on a clear day.

There isn’t a lot left to see inside Clifford’s Tower, although the views from the top are good. As with many other ruined castles, this is most impressive when see from outside.


There are more pictures “here.”:


Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.