Middleham Castle is a large and splendid castle guarding the entrance to Wensleydale, with its central keep and curtain wall.
Built at the end of the C12th, it replaced an earlier motte and bailey castle to the south west. The walls still stand to nearly their original height.
In 1270, the castle passed into the hands of the powerful Neville Family who also owned Raby, Brancepeth and Sherriff Hutton Castles. Richard Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III, acquired the Castle through his marriage to Ann Neville and it became his stronghold in the north of England. Their son was born here and also died here, aged only ten.
The castle is surrounded by a ditch, now crossed by a bridge rather than a drawbridge. Guardrooms protected the gateway. Inside the gatehouse is the keep with a series of service quarters built round the inside of the curtain wall. These are in ruined condition, but the remains of ovens and a horse mill used for grinding grain can still be seen. Rooms on the lower floors were used for storage, workshops or servant accommodation. Rooms above, reached by an external covered stair were larger and would have housed more important members of the household or guests. A wooden bridge now long gone, would have connected the upper rooms to the Great Hall in the keep.
There is ramped access into the bottom of the keep with the cellar and kitchen with its huge fireplaces and a well. A spiral staircase gave servants access to the Great Hall above.
The Great Hall was originally reached by an external stone stair, now replaced by a modern wood staircase. This was the chief public space in the castle. It was used for eating and the judicial court was held here. Off it and above the cellars were the private family quarters of the Great chamber and Inner Chamber.
The inside of the keep is now a roofless shell. The modern wooden staircases leads to a viewing platform at first floor level. It is possible to continue up the original spiral staircase to the top of the keep with its views across to the original motte, Middleham and a training yard for race horses.
We didn’t find the exhibition about the Middleham Jewel.
There is some parking outside the castle, but no dedicated disabled parking. Failing that there is plenty of parking around the Market Place. Disabled visitors can be dropped off at the entrance. Carers are admitted free.
The castle is wheelchair friendly inside with well mown grass and ramped access into the base of the keep.
There is a small shop in the ticket office.
There are no toilets in the castle. The nearest public toilets (not brilliant) which have a disabled toilet are 75 yards away and in a narrow lane off the market place. There are tea rooms and pubs in Middleham.
There are more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/castles/england/middleham/index.html